July 6th was day 186 of 2016. That was my first full day on this sober journey.
The weekend leading up to that day, was around the pool, munchies, hanging with family and inactivity (other than yardwork) and a number of beers.
The wife had declared that she was quitting alcohol a few weeks before the fourth of July. I’d been curbing my intake for a while and experienced some minor improvements, mostly corrections to some self inflicted issues (more on that later), so I said I would join her after the holiday weekend.
Did I find it hard? Not exceptionally. I was a habitual drinker. I didn’t feel any sense of addiction. I never felt that it had affected my long term judgment and had never been significantly destructive other than a slow start from hangovers with extra cups of coffee, diarrhea and the occasional acetaminophen. Or at least, that’s what I thought going into it. Like any habit, the biggest challenge was just not falling into the same routines that I typically drank around.
What were my drinking routines? Friday nights vegging out in from of the TV with the wife. Dinners out, not many, but generally at least one, that led to more when I got back to the house. Time around the pool, where you want to turn the time at home into a miniature vacation. Yard works gritty sweaty challenges were always refreshed with an ice cold beer cooling the back of my throat. Sometimes even an icy tequila shot with lime and salt. Any time that I was on a vacation. A fire pit going on a cold day was always topped up with a beverage. Of course, there were times when just being alive was enough or the anniversary of some kind whether positive like a wedding or negative like the passing of a parent or friend.
I will say that the first two weeks the thought occurred to me to grab a beer once in awhile around those triggers. But I fought that by reminding myself that doing so could further screw with my heart and I want to be around for a while. I have too much still to do.
What were the first benefits of being sober that I can remember?
Sleeping: I slept through the night, fell asleep easier and began dreaming.
In my regular drinking days, even when I slowed down, sleep was superficial and not restful. I would frequently take melatonin to take the edge off. And typically my nights were interrupted with a couple trips to the restroom through the night or drinking water to fight back the regular dehydration that goes with drinking. And getting back to sleep was never easy.
Somewhere around the three week mark of ‘being dry’, it occurred to me that I’d slept the entire night through. No water wake ups. No bathroom breaks. No headaches.
And then somewhere around four to five weeks, I started dreaming again. And not the nightmarish kind, just the normal weird meandering but oddly enjoyable and occasionally memorable kind. Based on what I’ve read in the past (I’m no expert by any stretch) but this is an indicator that I was experiencing REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which, albeit not scientific indicates that my sleep patterns were more restful.
Don’t get me wrong, I recall having a dream or two during my drinking days. But nothing as restful as what I began to experience and when I did dream while drinking they were generally nightmares.
Along with the improved sleep, of course, I woke feeling better to start the day. At the time of this article, after nearly five months dry, my sleep routines are so much easier on me, I feel more rested in less time and periodically when circumstances require, I’m able to handle extended hours in spite of stressful circumstances. My joint aches and muscles are significantly reduced and primarily related to physical exertion than an overall general malaise with dehydration and alcohol. Just a few more benefits of being dry.