My Experience of Sober October

My experiences of sober October

After a particularly heavy night at a wedding in Devon, I made the decision to take part in Sober October. I had drunk too much the previous night and was feeling incredibly sorry for myself, and the hangover was in full effect. I didn’t like the way I felt after drinking, the anxiety, embarrassment and shame I would feel after overindulging.

What are my drinking habits like pre-Sober October? 

Whilst I don’t drink all that regularly, I definitely drink more than I should (or am comfortable admitting, even to myself and especially to my GP!). I was chatting with Teri about how Tom and I hardly ever drink at home or if we’re just for dinner on our own, however when at weddings, dinners with friends, or at the rugby, then we’ll both drink too much. 

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I often don’t handle my alcohol all that well, and have memory blanks (and bruises) from more nights out than I am willing to admit. It was actually admitting that I couldn’t remember parts of the Devon wedding that made me realise I needed to address my drinking habits, and take a break from the booze.

What have I learned from the experience? 

I’ve realised that all too often I order a wine or G&T by default. Or have used a drink as a crutch to relax, or reduce my social anxiety. Only for the anxiety the following day to be even more crippling. There’s certainly a happy medium for me, in terms of quelling some of my anxiety without creating yet more!

I really enjoyed having over a month of no-hangovers, no alcohol related migraines or ‘beer fear’. And I feel like its been a great re-set to remind to slow down and enjoy one or two drinks, rather than knocking them back!

My experiences of sober October

Have you noticed a difference in your skin? 

Instead of craving alcohol, I’ve noticed that my sweet tooth and chocolate cravings are worse (I definitely had more desserts at the end of the evening, while everyone else would have another glass of wine, I would have a pudding and tea!) and possibly as a result of this, my skin hasn’t been great. In fact, breakouts on my chin have been worse than ever. However, I think that given the change in temperatures, central heating and a fair amount of travel, it was always going to get worse before it go better. I recently invested in a new skincare routine (throwing money at the problem!) and am hoping that will bring back some of the glow!

Did I save money? 

Probably, although I don’t actually count how much money I spend on alcohol, it isn’t cheap and I’m sure it adds up each month. I did note that when I went out for dinner with friends, my portion of the bill was substantially lower than those that had wine.

Have I lost weight? 

NO! But probably due to the aforementioned sweet tooth, increased chocolate and dessert intake. I know this is a very controversial topic, but I have a post planned about weight etc because it’s been something I’ve thought about a lot recently.

My experiences of sober October

How has the social pressure been? 

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that October was a typical month in terms of my social life… I was in Chicago surrounded by runners who totally get it for the first weekend, Qatar (a dry state) for the second weekend, at home for the third and away with Tom’s family for the fourth. We did have an evening with friends last week, who although Tom and our friend George tried to convince me to have a tipple, the others were supportive in sticking to all 31 days!

Weddings and other social gatherings I think would be trickier, and especially if it were to last longer than the just the month, I think it may have been different. Furthermore, I think with a time limit and a label (Sober October), it was more socially acceptable and if I’d given up alcohol for running/training, it may have had more negative opinions.

Did I feel like I was missing out? 

Honestly, no.

But I think I probably would if we’d had weddings/parties during the past month.

How has it affected my sleep patterns? 

My sleep patterns have been pretty erratic for a while, and I know that it is intrinsically linked to my anxiety. I do think that I’ve had less anxiety with reduced alcohol intake, especially at the weekends (no beer fear!), and I have noticed that I sleep better on the nights that we’ve been out, certainly there have been fewer mornings when I’ve woken up at 3am with my heart racing. However, I think I drank quite infrequently during the week so overall I haven’t had a huge change in sleep.

Best non-alcoholic tipples? 

I loved Seedlip for a non-alcoholic G&T, and I also drank a lot of Diet Coke and sparkling water!

Is it sustainable? 

It certainly could be, however it’s not something I’m planning on keeping up. Whilst it has shown me that I do not need to drink on occasions when I thought I did, it also reassured me that I found it pretty easy to give up entirely and hope that this means I can readdress my relationship with alcohol going forward.

My experiences of sober October

Let me know if you have any other questions…

Have you ever tried to give up alcohol? Do you give up the booze when marathon training? 

10 Comments

  1. Leah
    31st October 2019 / 4:09 pm

    I’ve never drank, not even a sip, and I want to keep it that way. I admire the people who are able to drink and not go overboard with it, but it seems to me those people are few and far between, and for me, I just don’t want to risk it. I’m really looking forward to your post about weight because I think a lot about this myself and how it affects me as a runner.

  2. Catrina
    31st October 2019 / 4:09 pm

    Well done on Sober October! Thanks for that post. A while back I noticed that when I drank alcohol my heart rate was through the roof (I wear my Garmin during the night). So I reviewed my drinking habits and now go by the following 2 rules: two consecutive days with no alcohol every week and never 2 days of alcohol in a row. That seems to work well.

  3. Lisa barnhart
    31st October 2019 / 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the honesty and openness of your posts! You are authentic and genuine and concerned with things on a deeper level, not just superficial stuff, and that’s why I continue to read your stuff after a few years!

    I’m here to remind you, as the mother of an adult son who also suffers from anxiety that has paralyzed his life, you have a TON of good things going on in your life! So many amazing accomplishments! Your parents must be very proud of you! I am very proud of you – and I don’t even know you!

    Back in the day, here was my alcohol approach when out dancing with girlfriends or at a wedding- I would stick to 4 light beers, then switch to a (literal) pitcher of water, no ice, at midnight. And hopefully finish with dancing until 2am. I would stick with only the very boring Miller lite — with its very predictable alcohol content. And no ice in the water – so that I could chug it a full glass at a time. If I ever got drunk, it was because I violated my own set of rules.

    Don’t worry so much, Charlie. You are wonderful!

  4. Liz Johnson
    31st October 2019 / 4:40 pm

    I did dry January this year and it was a nice way to reset after the festive period. Definitely showed me I don’t need a drink to enjoy myself and I now often choose zero % beers, or beer juice as I call it, when I’m out. Good work.

  5. 31st October 2019 / 5:03 pm

    Three years ago I simply just stopped drinking. I used to be a social drinker, but even at events or at dinner with friends, I really only ever ordered just one. Despite the fact that I never had any issues with alcohol, I realized that the only reason I was ordering a drink in the first place was simply to fit in: to have something in my hands or—as you noted—to take the edge off my social anxiety. Giving up drinking was my way of confronting these fears head on and learning to exist in social situations without any sort of crutch. I know this would not be a feasible or desirable solution for everyone, but it was a way of forcing myself to get better at something that used to make me uncomfortable.

  6. W. Purves
    31st October 2019 / 7:21 pm

    Well done – keep up the moderation. G.

  7. Rick Nielson
    1st November 2019 / 1:51 pm

    I could never be moderate in drinking beer and wine so I gave it up completely, that was 38 years ago. Have never looked back or missed it actually. Hard alcohol never appealed to me, it’s like swilling petrol. Yuck.

  8. kristi O'Donnell
    1st November 2019 / 5:08 pm

    I did a sober January this year (except for five days in which I knew would be hard for me to not drink). However, I had them marked on my calendar. I loved it. After a full month of drinking nonstop in December, my husband and I needed it.

    I also learned that my sweet tooth was almost unbearable to handle.I learned about the kon mari method and basically redid our house. I ran better. Most times, if I’m running three miles with my girlfriends, I don’t care about pounding the booze. So, when I stopped, my running was faster and I lasted longer. My skin did look a little better I think, but like you, I didn’t really notice much due to the increased sweet intake.

    Good for you! I’m actually thinking of doing the rest of November (except thanksgiving day) sober. We went to Japan and indulged and then we have had friends in town/world series baseball going. So, lots of late nights and drinking.

  9. Kate
    1st November 2019 / 9:32 pm

    I’ve been forced to give up alcohol (as I’m on a two-year course of chemotherapy) and to be entirely honest, whilst I missed it for about 6 weeks, I now can’t imagine drinking ever again at all (and I’m only 32.) In the past year I’ve been to hen-dos, weddings, balls and parties and haven’t felt that I’ve missed out – more that I’m just lucky to be there!

  10. 3rd November 2019 / 12:05 pm

    Being careful of alcohol is critical to health. A small glass of wine per day increases breast cancer risk by 6-9%.

    It is also very calorific and one can easily put on too much weight which adversely affects ones running performance. An excellent book ‘Racing Weight’ by Matt Fitzgerald explains how important it is to have a lean body weight to enhance running times.

    Like others have commented, complete abstention from alcohol is probably the most optimal route for health and running. And these days there are good non alcoholic options available.

Leave a Reply