Sober September 2022
For the third year in a row, my husband and I participated in the trend of spending one month sober. Due to an international trip we have planned for October, we opted to do 'Sober September' this year.
Usually it's just alcohol and marijuana that we cut out, but this year we decided to raise the stakes & cut out caffeine as well. Yea, you read that right: we cut out coffee.
Now that we are 2 days post-temporary-sobriety...here is my recap of the experience:
When we were in the middle of it all, it was just difficult. It felt exactly like what I expected it to feel like, which was: arduous. Not horribly unbearable, but definitely a prolonged challenge.
Friends and family occasionally asked me questions such as, "are you getting better sleep?", or "has your mind been more clear?"...and honestly, I never really felt a marked difference when I was in the thick of it. I answered no to all of those questions, and then added: "it's just kinda hard".
And that was okay with me. The fact that maintaining sobriety is a challenge in and of itself made it worth while for me. I didn't need a direct payoff to feel that giving up my vices was worth it in the moment. If a substance is challenging for me to give up, then I feel dependent on it, and that makes me uncomfortable. I simply cut these substances out for one month each year just to prove to myself that I can.
It was only after my first day of drinking coffee again, smoking a little marijuana & having a sweet, cold & refreshing tap beer that I felt all the lessons from the previous month suddenly surface in such clarity.
In order of the most difficult to live without, here is a breakdown of the realizations I came to for each substance....
1. Caffeine is a drug, and you can't convince me otherwise.
I feel this way because on the first day that I drank coffee again, I felt like I was on cocaine...and not just for the duration of that beloved morning buzz. Both Lukas and I felt that throughout the entire day, and even up until we put ourselves to bed at 11:30pm, that we were continually riding a coffee buzz. I mean, we were peaking all day and into the night. We both had racing minds as we tried to fall asleep, and kept waking up in the night at the slightest of sounds.
Don't get me wrong, the 'high' was great, but it did cause me to pause and consider how much stress caffeine truly puts on our nervous systems.
I'm sure I'll be back to drinking one strong cup every morning soon enough, but for now I plan on dialing it back by easing myself in with black teas.
2. Coffee really does dehydrate you.
We've all heard this before and we all know it's true. My takeaway is that I can't let myself get compliant on drinking water throughout the day...especially when I've had high levels of caffeine like coffee provides.
My mouth was dry all day after returning to the first sweet & delicious cup of jo that day. And when I say it was dry, I mean that I literally could not drink enough water. I had a super dry mouth & throat and probably went through twice the amount of water as is usual for me in a day.
3. Coffee is the hardest to cut because it's the first thing you want each day.
If you're like me, the first thing you think about when your feet hit the ground in the morning is coffee. And let me tell you, that craving didn't deteriorate for me the entire month. I never didn't think of coffee first thing each morning. I find this interesting on an addictive and psychological level. I didn't realize how much of a hold it had on me & I truly wonder how long it would take before I didn't find myself craving coffee every morning.
With alcohol you don't wake up thinking, yea I suppose I'll have a glass of wine later today, perhaps when I get off of work. Most people just aren't thinking that far ahead. With cutting coffee, first thing each day, you have to immediately give yourself a little slap on the wrist. Just like yesterday, no, we're not drinking coffee this morning.
4. Your energy levels do even out without caffeine to help you get through the day.
This one is pretty straight forward, but I found it to be true. Although I still emotionally wanted caffeine in a strong way, I don't believe that I needed it. After about two weeks, I was able to get my day rolling & keep feeling alert and energetic up until bedtime.
1. Weed can be used as a tool.
My relationship with marijuana is a hard one to describe, even for me. I take a hit when I know I have a repetitive task ahead of me, such as packaging up a series of orders. Or when I'm creativity stuck, or even just feeling emotionally bored. It really is a friend to me and helps pass the day working at home alone with only podcasts and Netflix to keep me company.
Throughout my month without it, I would say that I just missed it. I missed how it 'spiced up' my day and gave me a jolt of productive-leaning anxiety that I was able to channel into my work.
I love the motto: if you're bored, you're boring. So I do think that I just need to mind my emotions when factoring weed into my day. I want grabbing for it to be less reflexive & more intentional & useful. Being sober, doesn't have to mean I'm bored.
2. Time passes differently when I'm high compared to when I'm not high.
The downside of smoking daily is that, day after day, I find myself looking at the clock and all of a sudden the workday is over. Looking back, I knew I was there for the morning, midday & late afternoon...but I'm not really sure I was 100% present.
I'm not sure if this makes sense, but it's like the high put me so in the moment, that time escaped me entirely.
During the whole Sober September without my marijuana crutch, I felt each moment more. Sometime those moments felt dull, sometimes they felt long...but they were mine to feel. Looking back, that was a gift.
Just like with coffee, I do plan on taking up smoking again. However, my goal moving forward is to put off taking that first hit until a later point in the day. There will be no hard and fast rules here, but I'm going to challenge myself to sit in those moments for just a little longer before reaching for my beloved vice.
1. A cold & carbonated beverage can satisfy the craving for a beer.
I know this isn't true for everyone, but for me, sometimes when I think I want a beer, I'm really just looking for a liquid treat. Or sometimes I'm simply dehydrated.
Making sure that I had flavored bubbly waters, kombucha or even pop in the fridge this month was a huge game changer! Surprisingly, an ice cold, carbonated & tasty drink quelled the urge to drink a beer. It wasn't the alcoholic content that I was craving, it was the whole experience of reaching in the fridge and pulling out something exciting.
2. I don't miss alcohol as much as I thought I would.
When we think of a sobriety, our mind usually goes to alcohol as the vice that's being eliminated. For me, however, alcohol is on the bottom of my list here because it really wasn't hard for me to go without.
Normally, I don't find myself hungover very often, but it was satisfying to know that I wasn't going to accidentally have one too many glasses of wine on any given night.
3. I can survive in social situations without a drink in my hand.
This one is so valuable & I actually learned it in the first year that I participated in this challenge.
If you go a whole month (or more!) without drinking, you will undoubtedly end up in a situation where you're surrounded by other people who are imbibing. At first it may feel unnatural to not be doing the same, but trust me, no one cares or notices that you're not drinking too.
You are just as cool, funny, nice & relatable without liquid courage.
Overall, this month was a challenge, but I'm so glad that I was able to stick it out and stay strong. I was able to reassess my relationships with coffee, weed & alcohol in a way that only cutting them out completely could do.
I have so much more respect for anyone who's ever gone sober indefinitely & know now that if I needed or wanted to do the same myself, I totally could.
If you've ever thought about trying out a sober month, please know that you can totally do it too. And if you feel that you can't, then you might benefit from this challenge more than anyone, so don't be afraid of the challenge!