Thinking of going TeeTotal?

 When you visit Spain on holiday or come to live here as an ex-pat you're probably more than aware that Spain has a history of producing quality wine, with a selection of memorable Reds, White and Rose wines which don’t just taste wonderful, they are very inexpensive too! Vino and Tapas are a marriage made in heaven and nothing can successfully replace an awesome Rioja, Viejo, or Cune with my favourite Tapas dish of goats cheese (sorry meat eaters!) So that makes my latest challenge that little be more challenging. For many years I've set myself a personal challenge. Be it a 100km ultra walk, an abseil, a dry month, going veggie, moving abroad, getting married (LOL). I decided on a biggie to celebrate my 50th birthday. I am going alcohol free for a year #TeeTotalFor2022 No alcohol for a year!
When I first started telling people in the Nov, the most common reactions were...
  • "What? Why on earth would anyone go TeeTotal? Why put yourself through that?" 
  • "You're bloody mad!"
  • "You know wine is cheaper than water, and healthier for you?" (Yes, someone really said that)
My responses were generally 
  • "Why not?"
  • "No, I'm not crazy"
  • "That's debatable. It's only 365 days, do you want to do it with me?!" 

I've successfully completed #DryJan numerous time over the last 12 years and I have even slotted in the odd #DryNov too. But since moving to Spain, I have found these month-long challenges harder.  When the sun is out 350+ days a year, with booze uber cheap and more opportunities to be social, it's REALLY hard. When I finalised the decision to give this challenge a try, I put it out on Facebook and made as many people know as possible. 

Knowing my personality, I needed to be accountable. I knew this was the right move for me. Overall the reaction I got was really positive and supportive, not only did I have some great encouragement and words of wisdom, I found that several friends offered to do #DryJan to help me through the first month, and to my delight a couple of other friends said they would attempt the whole year with me. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only mad one!

I started a Facebook group and couldn't believe that 20 people became members within the first week. If you are thinking of moderating or stopping your drinking of alcohol, then please do consider joining us. You don't have to have started your AF (Alcohol free) journey yet. Initially I called the group TeeTotalFor2022 but It's morphed into a great platform for those thinking of becoming AF and is now called Intermittent Teetotaler. We support each other through our own challenges and goals with alcohol. Whatever they may be.

I thought I would also blog about my progress. Please feel free to comment below with your experiences and tips. I look forward to reading them. Or come and join our Facebook group.

JANUARY - No Alcohol #DryJan

Traditionally I would be starting a dry month knowing it was a temporary break from alcohol, and I'd already be looking forward to the end of the month for an ice-cold glass of white, or a warm red that had sat breathing by our open fire. This time, I started with my head in a different place. With confidence and feeling more in control. There was an air of excitement to see how my experiment would go. Was this a challenge too far?  

My last dry month was in November. I struggled. I struggled a lot. That's never happened to me before, and alarm bells started ringing. In December, I drank because there was a party, a dinner, Christmas, my birthday weekend away, the sun was out, or it was cold outside. I used any excuse because I knew I would be stopping on New Year's Eve. Like a child, I overindulged on a daily basis. A bottle of vino most days and even followed by a large glass of Baileys. By Jan 1st I was actually glad I was giving my body a break. It needed it. 

My immediate aim for the first month was to drink more water and to eat and drink as nutritiously as I could. But why is it so easy and quick to drink a bottle of vino, yet water is much more difficult?! 

Alcohol affects every organ of the body, but most of the impact is on your liver. Alcohol raises Bilirubin levels, which can give some nasty symptoms for us with Gilbert's Syndrome. I wanted to address this and get my liver working properly for me.

I am thrilled to read in my Facebook group and personal messages of the progress the members are making in the AF journey. There are stories of people not drinking during really special personal events, where normally the champagne is popped. There are reports of stressful days being endured AF when the wine would be opened almost as the first steps are taken over the threshold after a difficult day at work. Even some of their partners have curbed their enthusiasm for drinking as much.

What are the reported benefits of giving up alcohol for 30+ days  

  • Weight loss - See my table below for my weight loss in the first month.
  • Better sleep - I have definitely noticed a difference, and I am thrilled with a deeper sleep.
  • Better skin - My skin isn't as dry, but still is. This could be due to eczema flare-ups.
  • More energy - Hmmmm. This is a difficult one. Some days are better than others when it comes to energy.
  • Better mood - I found that my anxiety was better managed. I know that alcohol, no matter how small a quantity, certainly made my worries seem more and helped with a general low mood. They haven't disappeared, they are still there. But they are better managed.
  • Boost in brain power - As the first week came to a close, I already found I was being a lot more productive. My memory is still shocking!
  • Increase savings - It's so inexpensive out here in Spain, that there wouldn't have been much difference to my bank balance. My husband says a round at the bar is actually cheaper if I drank wine or gin, instead of water or AF options!
  • Enhanced awareness - I became more aware of the negative influence alcohol had on my life, that my relationship with it was not a positive one. I now realise I used it to help with my confidence in a group situation and to mask the unhappiness I felt being so far from family during the pandemic. I am aware that I don't need alcohol to have fun and a giggle. In fact, I am less likely to put myself in situations where I don't really want to be there in the first place! 

Negatives of giving up alcohol for 30+ days

  • None from a health prospective. I became more judgy. I've begun to inwardly judge those having beer or wine before midday. And I find that I am less tolerant  with loud and crude drinkers. But hey, that's my problem to get over, right?!
  • I didn't lose as much weight / fat as I had hoped, but I'm in this for the long game, and look forward to what the future brings.
What results did YOU experience by giving up for a month?

FEBRUARY - 2 months of no alcohol

One day is 86,400 seconds. In the whole of January that's 2,678,400 times I didn't drink, when I could have. I'm proud of that. I am proud of everyone else who achieved that. And I'm going to keep on going! I am just as excited as when I began January.

I'm now in unchartered waters, and I'm really interested to see how another month without drinking alcohol feels. This month, I am also focusing on my protein intake. I am a pescatarian and know that I need to be careful. By logging my food I am ensuring that I get a min. of 60g a day, but because I walk so much, I realise that needs to increase. So, with not drinking and by upping my protein, I am hoping that this will help with my body recovery, and my energy levels.

Some may see this as obsessive, some unnecessarily "life is too short" bla bla... but I love taking control of something that is actually within my control, for a better healthier life.


MARCH - 3 months of no alcohol

Well, I have done it. In the past I have completed many 'Dry Months' and even two in one year (spread out) So doing 2 months back to back, and entering a third month is unknown for me. I'm really proud of myself. I still haven't seen a change physically, as much as I would have hoped. But I'm sleeping deeper, and I am starting to feel a little more refreshed, but again, I thought this would be much more obvious by now. Maybe I need another month for this constant tiredness to go, or maybe this is my norm and I need to look at other lifestyle changes?

I managed to go back to the UK for a family visit and not been tempted at the airport to steady my pre-flight nerves, and I was suprised how much support I received there. I was offered non-alcoholic wine, and when I saw on the back that it was 1.5% vol I refused this. I was at risk of upsetting the person who went out of their way to purchase it, and there would have been a time I would have drunk it to please them, and prevent them from feeling awkward. Something has changed, something has shifted inside me. I think my confidence is growing at the same rate as my need for wine is shrinking. I like this feeling!

Quote of the month
The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need tomorrow


APRIL - 4 months of no alcohol

This is the month that I changed the name of my Facebook group to THE INTERMITTENT TEETOAL. This is because I didn't want to restrict the page members to just those who were giving up alcohol for the year. I asked my members for suggestions of a name change, then put it to the vote. I think that the new name is idea! 

I gave myself a big high five this month. Not drinking alcohol was the challenge I gave myself for this year, but I found myself also agreeing to, and completing a 40mile walk for charity. At the end of Day 1 I resisted the urge to join in with the evening drinks as we ate a celebratory meal, before hiting the hay...I did have to explain myself a fair bit, but I didn't mind that. I chose to skip the celebrations totally at the end of Day 2. Celebrations usually went hand in hand with bubbles, and as I knew it would be harder to resist. I immediately got in the car and went home. Another milestone in my sober journey.

This is also the month we had to unexpectedly move. We'd only been in the new rental 9 months into our 3 year contract when we were told the landlady wanted to sell and she gave us notice. So, it was time to pack again and find a new home in a shrinking pool of rentals, and increasing fees. Sometimes life likes to throw a few curve balls your way, without warning, and when they are least expected. Stress can be a trigger to reach for a bottle of your favourite tipple. You know, to help relax through it. To help you sleep. Or to blot the feelings out. This is the month I was collecting milestones!

Quote of the month 
You can't change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.


MAY - 5 months of no alcohol 

Oh Oh. It's the start of BBQ weather! I hosted a BBQ for friends to say thank you for helping us move. It was a very enjoyable day. As a pescatarian it was assumed I wouldn't be cooking at the BBQ (that and being female) ...but I say, why not? I also served alcohol and didn't drink a drop. Now, admittedly that was harder. It is possible not to partake in something, yet be around others that do. I'm not saying that it's easy, I am saying that its possible. In fact, If I shrink away & hide from those situations, it just make my journey worse. I have found that the more I put myself in those situations, the more I'm out of my comfort zone, the stronger I get. Do you feel the same way about your journey? Let me know in the comments below.

Before giving up alcohol, I always thought it was the culprit for my poor memory. It would appear not. I have no excuse LOL. So this months quote is an appropriate one.

Quote of the month
Alcohol is not the answer, it just makes you forget the question.


JUNE - 6 months of no alcohol 

This will be short and sweet. I agree with Ringo Starr, alcohol DOES cut off your emotions. What I have found since cutting alcohol out of my life is that things are coming to the surface that I haven't had the strength to face until now. This is a good thing. It doesn't always feel like it. But it's a possitive step forward in self awareness and healing.

Quote of the month
That’s all drugs and alcohol do they cut off your emotions in the end — Ringo Starr


JULY - 7 months of no alcohol - past the 200 days alcohol free!

I am celebrating the fact I have whizzed past 200 days alcohol free, but at the same time I'm also on a bit of a downer. This is because I have updated my stats and there is STILL no significant changes in my weight and fat bla bla bla. I would LOVE to say I feel healthier for all this, but truth be told I am still struggling with tiredness and I am still as forgetful. However, I had visitors over from the UK this month who asked if I had lost weight. They aren't the only ones to have asked. So I am assuming that I have lost the puffiness that can come with drinking alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates you, and as a result your body loses water, and that's when your natural defense kicks in and tries to retain as much water as it can. This is why you can become bloated! It can take over a week of not drinking to have your skin start looking healthier. 

I still want to lose 10lbs. But I will take this....for now! I am trying so hard to ignore the little voice that's telling me that ONE drink isn't going to hurt me. What difference would it make? I'm not feeling any different anyway!

Quote of the month
Alcohol is a very patient drug. It will wait for the alcoholic to pick it up one more time. — Mercedes McCambridge

Facebook INTERMITTENT TEETOTAL group = 57 MEMBERS


Weight stats whilst being Alcohol Free 

Stats provided by the 1byone health app
Results
IDEAL JAN
(start)
JUNE
(midpoint)
DEC
(end)
Overall
loss/gain
Weight 130 to 157lb 166lb 168.4lb (+2.4) 
BMI 19 to 25 24.1 24.1
Body Fat 21 to 35% 32.9 32.9
Body Water 45 to 60% 47.9 47.9
Bone Mass > 6.2lb 6.4lb 6.4lb
BMR 1580 1260 1263
Muscle Mass 81 to 93lb 106.4lb 106.4lb
Protein 16 to 20% 11.6% 11.6%
Visceral Fat < 9 7.0 7.0
Skeletal Muscle Rate 49 to 59% 36.4% 36.4%
Subcutaneous Fat 19 to 26% 29.8% 29.8%

Key
BMI = Body Mass Index
Body Fat = Body composition fat tissue ratio
Body Water = Water weight, which includes the blood, lymph, extracellular fluid etc
Bone Mass = The weight of bone tissue in the human body
BMR = Basal metabolic rate. The minimum energy consumption required by all the organs 
Muscle Mass = The total muscle weight of the body
Protein = The important components of all cells and tissues in the human body
Visceral Fat = Fats distributed in the internal organs and abdominal cavity of the human body
Skeletal Muscle Rate = The ratio of muscle of the human body
Subcutaneous Fat = The ratio of fat stored in your skin to your body weight

Come back to read my progress - If you wish to add your thoughts, hints or tips, please feel free to comment below - Thank you, Tracey x


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