Day 12: Good Times Are Coming…Just Not Yet

“One of the greatest moments in life, realizing that two weeks ago your body couldn’t do what it just did.” — Mick Kremling, Fitness Guru
 
You know how when you’ve been a bit of a couch potato, and then you decide one day, this is it! Gonna get fit! First day is always exciting. Maybe you run three miles, do some squats, lift some weights, and man you’re feeling strong! Next morning you hop out of bed, ready and rarin’ to go…except not, because you are so sore you can barely move. The good news is that normal muscle soreness is a sign that you’re getting stronger, and is nothing to be worried about. During exercise, you stress your muscles and the fibers begin to break down. As the fibers repair themselves, they become larger and stronger than they were before.
 
Right. So what happens when we go on a no-alcohol, stop drinking alcohol altogether for a few weeks? What are the benefits of that new ‘exercise’ regimen? Ta da! The pounds just melt away, we are svelte and slim, our skin is brighter, we sleep like a log, we are happy and cheerful with our family and friends. All is well, the birds are singing, and here come the rainbows! Um, yeah, not so fast.
 
Just like with our new physical exercise routine, our body has to break some things down before it can rebuild stronger. Our body has made adjustments over time to deal with the alcohol we pour into it, so we have to expect that it will also take time for it to adjust to not dealing with alcohol. Here are a few things you might experience.
 
For the first few days you might feel a little sluggish, a little grumpy, a little blue. That’s because alcohol plays havoc with our dopamine and GABA levels. When we cease alcohol consumption, our brain gets a little confused and doesn’t realize that it’s supposed to make appropriate adjustments, in what direction, and how much. We’re bound to feel the results until our little brain catches up.
 
Then there’s weight gain. Whaaaat? If alcohol is empty calories, then cutting out alcohol would mean an immediate weight loss, right? Again, it’s not simple. First, alcohol is a diuretic, so our body might actually be dehydrated. Cutting out alcohol means our body gets to hold on to that life giving hydrogen dioxide, otherwise known as water. That much needed water means our body functions sooooo much better, and might come at the cost of more pounds on the scale, but it’s a small price to pay for better health. Also, when we cut out alcohol we can be tempted to reach for a substitute, like sugary drinks, chips, or ice cream (my all time favorite). It’s a natural human reaction, and I say deal with one thing at a time. Eliminate alcohol, then slowly eliminate the substitute. Again, it’s a small price to pay for getting healthy
 
And then comes my one true nemesis:  insomnia. Alcohol often tricks us into thinking it’s helping us sleep better. In fact, we may “fall asleep” (or dare I say, pass out?) quicker, but the quality of our sleep is badly affected by alcohol, and we often lie awake for hours as the alcohol dissipates and our blood sugar drops. One would think that removing alcohol would yield dramatically improved sleep right away. Well, wrong. Our brain has worked really hard, albeit not necessarily efficiently, to adapt to the alcohol we’ve given it. Take that alcohol away, and our brain needs time to adjust. It will happen, it just takes time.
 
So, ARE there actually any benefits to eliminating alcohol for 31 days? Glad you asked. While some of these benefits might take a few days or a couple of weeks to show up, rest assured you will almost surely sleep better for a longer period of time, lose a couple of pounds, gain some brain cells, feel less anxiety and more peace of mind. Your skin will look fresher, and your eyes will be brighter. I bet you will also find that the strength you gain to withstand the temptation of alcohol will cross over to become the strength you need to change your workout habit. Your mental health will sustain your physical healthy and vice versa. 
 
I don’t know about you, but I kinda like that sore muscle feeling. It lets me know I’m getting somewhere, that I’m making progress, that my body AND my brain can do something they couldn’t do before.
 
Post Submitted By: HorseLover, MM Listserv Member
 
Suggested NA beverage: Cucumber Gin Fizz Mocktail