I love a good challenge, and I especially love a good endurance challenge. I've run marathons and half marathons, completed Olympic distance triathlons, done Whole30, gone vegan for a year, tried 21 days without coffee (not fun), changed careers—the list goes on.
So when I heard about a 100-day no-drinking challenge, it sparked a curiosity in me, but I filed it away in the back of my head. I'd train and run a marathon and people would readily cheer me on, but 100 days without drinking? What would my fun-loving friends say?!
Let me be clear: I don't think of myself as a "problem drinker," and while there have been nights where I've "over-imbibed," I am generally a "zero to four drinks a week" kinda girl. But as a health coach, I know the negative effects of drinking on the body—so I decided to give it a try.
I've noticed that many of my clients are driven, busy, high-achieving, stressed-out people. Sometimes a couple of extra glasses of wine feels like their only escape. Clients will come to me to optimize and up-level their health and wellness, and drinking is something we talk about.
So many of us race through the week and then want to hit the brakes on a Thursday or Friday night. My challenge was this: How can I figure out how to take little breaks throughout the week so I don't need to jam on the brakes once the weekend hits? How can I continue to optimize my self-care, nutrition, fitness, and stress-management so I don't crave a drink?
Then I asked myself this: What would it feel like to wake up 14 weekends and 100 days in a row without a hint of a hangover? And how would I feel running my own business as an entrepreneur during the busiest season of the year? This was, in essence, a self-care challenge. So I didn't drink a drop of alcohol for the 102 days between December 10, 2016, and March 22, 2017. At times it was really hard. And at times, it was absolutely glorious because I felt so damn good. Here are the top 10 things I've learned along the way:
1. No drinking means more exercise.
I didn't need to plan my workouts around any "could be" hangovers or the fogginess I sometimes get now after just one glass of wine. There was no mental gymnastics counting my hours of sleep or canceling morning workout classes last-minute. I could sign up for that 9 a.m. Saturday boot-camp class and actually crush it.
2. I got better at managing stress.
During my no-drinking challenge, I learned to take mini-breaks from both my business and my social life earlier in the week, so I didn't feel the stress build in my body and mind as the week wore on and then need to blow off steam when the weekend hit. I admit I was a bit of a hermit Monday through Friday nights! I realized how badly I needed my introvert time and time to recharge.
3. I found new ways to relax.
I found new and different ways to relax, take the edge off, and indulge. A hot Epsom salt bath, reading a book in bed, going for a walk, tucking myself into bed at 9 p.m., and even doing my first puzzle.
4. I learned to confront my feelings head-on.
The good, the bad, the ugly. There were a handful of times I had to confront my feelings head-on, without the numbing effects of alcohol. Turns out, sitting through a bad feeling and crying or being sad is the best way to work it out of your system.
5. I became so much more productive.
My weeks were super productive, and I got a lot more done for my business, my clients, and my own personal life on a weekly basis. I was even able to fit in extra workouts and a weekly yoga class, and I had extra time to relax midweek.
6. My skin looked great.
Plus, my digestion was smooth—no weird tummy aches or bloating.
7. I slept so much better.
Falling asleep peacefully and waking up well-rested never gets old. It feels pretty darn magical waking up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday feeling bright and energetic and getting in a walk or some solo reading time before the world wakes up.
8. I stopped the drunk eating.
Instead of half-tasting bad pizza at 2 a.m., I conscientiously enjoyed onion rings, ice cream, dark chocolate, and the bread basket as "sober treats" during my 100 days. And I really enjoyed them.
9. I started reading books again.
I love reading. I loved reading as a child, and during my 100 sober days I read a lot of books—especially fiction and biographies of successful entrepreneurs—as a way to transport myself momentarily out of my head, my brain, and my life. It was such an escape!
10. I finally stopped making the "but I have an event!" excuse.
There's always going to be an event. I made it through Christmas, my boyfriend's birthday, New Year's Eve, our anniversary, and Valentine's Day. I found that even if I felt the urge to order a glass of wine to "fit in with the tribe," once 30 minutes passed, I'd settle into the conversation and get a social high without the booze.
Inspired by Michelle's story? Here's what happened when this woman quit her nightly wine habit.