We’ve come to the last step in my Drive Your Own Change Bus series. However, this isn’t the last step in creating change. Change is something that continues to grow and evolve and challenge you. I am nearly two years without alcohol in my life and I am still finding new revelations about it and its role in my life, both past and present.
Step Four: Time to Grow
How Will You Spend Your Extra Free Time?*
One of my favorite aspects of giving up something that wasn’t serving me is having more time to do the things that do serve me. Until I quit drinking, I didn’t realize how much time alcohol was sucking out of each and every one of my days.
It wasn’t just the time spent putting glass to mouth, it was the days ruined by hangovers, lethargy, and anxiety. My fuzzyheaded thinking, low energy, time spent ruminating on drunken behavior and the lack of decent sleep robbed me of quality free time.
Once I gave up alcohol, I had more clearheaded and energetic days to do what I wanted. I exercised more, cooked more, and took Spanish courses online. I attempted a couple hobbies that didn’t take but that’s okay! It was fun to try them.
I also decided I wanted to find out what alcohol does to our bodies and minds and why it held so much power over me for 35 years.
*Giving up alcohol gave me an abundance of free time. Extra free time may not apply quite as much if the change you’re making is to your diet or to minimizing your possessions. I did, however, find lots of free time when I gave up social media for a month and when I significantly reduced my online shopping.
Research, Read, and Learn
Losing 90 pounds in a year, becoming sober, reducing clutter and adopting a plant based lifestyle led me to learning so much these last couple of years. As a layperson, I feel rather knowledgable about the lifestyle decisions I have made. Thankfully, in this day and age, there is endless information available to us and it’s literally at our fingertips.
Take Noom, for example. Part of Noom’s program includes reading articles every day about the behavioral psychology around weight loss. Often something I read in my daily Noom articles would lead me to research a topic online.
Alcohol was the most mysterious to me so I dove headfirst into reading and researching and learning everything I could about it. I found some helpful books to read and several Instagram accounts that I could relate to and be inspired by.
As far as creating change goes, knowledge is a powerful tool. Learning about diet, alcohol, and clutter has fortified my foundation. The more I know, the more I am committed to my lifestyle choices.
Evaluate Pros and Cons
Make an honest list of the pros and cons that pertain to the change you’re making. As I told a friend the other day during a walk, “Giving up alcohol is not all puppies and rainbows” and that’s true. There are many wonderful things about being sober but there are a couple things that are difficult about it too. Mainly those things are: finding new ways to have a rip roaring good time and being social with people who drink. While those are just two things, they are big things to me. I am still finding my way in these areas.
Impacting my social life was what prevented me from quitting alcohol well before I actually did. It was my #1 fear and it’s real. Although I do believe the pandemic has made a much bigger dent in my social life – everyone’s social life – than alcohol.
You will probably find, like I did, that when you make your Pros and Cons list about what you’re changing, your Pros list is much longer than your Con list. It’s about what you value. A social life is important to me but my health is more important. I trust that in time my social life will sort itself out, I just need to be patient. I can’t say the same about my health. That needed my proactive attention.
Like your WHY list, use your Pros and Cons list to guide you in making your decision to continue on your journey or not.
Let’s say you’re coming to the end of your 30-day trip, driving your own bus. Do you want to make a u-turn and go back to your former lifestyle? Or do you want to keep traveling on your journey? Thirty days is a long time but it might not be long enough to really know if this new change is temporary or permanent. Think about how long a month is compared to your lifetime. Not much!
I decided that after 30 days of not drinking, I needed more time. Because of the pandemic, I was home all the time and I couldn’t experience what sobriety was like in the outside world: at restaurants, with friends, while traveling. I also experienced so much change, both mentally and physically, I wanted to see what 30 more days of not drinking alcohol would reveal.
After 60 days, I added another 30 and another 30, and so on, until I reached a year. As the months ticked by, I continued to learn more about myself. And somewhere in 2020, I realized I wasn’t learning about myself as much as I was learning to like myself.
By early 2021, it was clear that letting alcohol take root in my life again would be a self-destructive act. I would risk everything I had worked so hard for if I returned to drinking. And plus, I was happier and freer than I had every felt in my adult life! Why would I ever want to be held hostage by my alcohol habit again?
Questions for me?
Part of me hesitates to write posts like this. Mainly because I am not a therapist, medical professional or addiction expert and the topics I discuss are important.
I am an ordinary person who went through extraordinary changes in my 50s. I want to share what happened with others who may want to make significant changes too. Another reason is less altruistic. I want to put these experiences in writing – for you and for me – while it’s still somewhat new.
Also, I recognize that we all have our own lifestyles and unique challenges. We want different things out of life, we approach things in different ways and what works for me, may not work for you.
If you have a specific question for me but you don’t want to ask me in the comments, please feel free to email me (address in the Contact tab).
Thank you for reading!