It’s 2020. Bottoms up!
If you’re like me, then you’ve been drinking more heavily in 2020 because of all the stress. The world is on fire (literally and metaphorically), so we desperately crave stress relief. And alcohol serves this purpose perfectly — until it doesn’t.
In this post, I’m going to encourage you to join me and millions of others worldwide for Sober October. I’m also going to give you some tips, including qigong tips, that will make things even easier for you.
But from the beginning, I want you to understand that I am not a monk (not yet at least). For most of my adult life, I’ve drunk alcohol to varying degrees, from a low of maybe 4 drinks per week to a high of maybe 30 per week when I was battling depression.
So there is no “holier-than-thou” vibe in this post.
I first heard of Sober October in 2019. I saw a post on Instagram on October 2nd and decided, hey, I’m going to do this.
So I did just that. Even though I was late to the party, I jumped in and did 30 days without booze. In fact, I felt so good that I did 30 more right after it, just because!
My Experiments Without Alcohol
During my divorce in 2018, I started to drink heavily. I felt like my life had fallen apart and so I started to drown my sorrows in bourbon each night.
Cliche much? Yes, but it’s cliche for a reason.
One night, as I was drinking alone in my apartment, I started to have suicidal thoughts. The thoughts were mild, but they were definitely present.
I’m not a stranger to suicidal thoughts. However, I’m also well aware of the dangers. In 2017, the suicide rate was highest among middle-aged white men, who accounted for almost 70% of all suicides. At the time, I was a 46-year old man with a history of suicidal depression who was also going through a tough divorce. Danger, Will Robinson!
And so, without really knowing what I was doing, I decided to quit drinking for 30 days. Alcohol, I decided, was too dangerous for me during a divorce.
30 Days Without
I did 30 days without booze, using kombucha each night instead of my usual bourbon (see the tips below). And you know what? It really wasn’t that bad.
Within a week I started sleeping better. After 2 weeks my energy levels were much, much higher. And after 3 weeks my depression had stabilized even though the divorce process was still as stressful as ever.
Most importantly, the suicidal thoughts disappeared completely. Hey, maybe they call alcohol a depressant for a reason?
Yes, I missed alcohol, but the cravings were in my mind more than anywhere else. Thanks to qigong, I was able to use mindfulness to deal with these mind cravings (more on that later).
At one point, I actually went out to dinner with a friend and watched him drink beer while I drank Perrier.
I cannot tell you how impossible this had seemed just a month earlier. Go out to dinner without drinking alcohol? While other people are drinking around me? Impossible!
And yet, I did it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.
Is Alcohol Good for You?
I’m willing to bet good money that, by now, your brain is conveniently reminding you of the many research studies showing that alcohol, in moderation, is good for you.
I’m not going to argue against that research. I am, however, going to point out one key word: moderation.
Look, you’re reading this post for a reason. You know that you left moderation in the dust a few months back, and even if you’re not ready for Sober October right now, you’re at least thinking, “maybe next year.”
Good. That means you recognize the problem. Moderation has eluded you.
If you’ve said to yourself, “I’m not an alcoholic,” then I’m going to throw down the gauntlet: Prove it. A month without booze should be no big deal, right?
I used to worry that I was an alcoholic. But now, I know who’s boss because I proved it to myself. I know that I can quit drinking any time for 30 days or more (see below).
But my kids are driving me nuts!
But the election!
But I need to support my local liquor store!
Look, you will never run out of excuses, especially this year. If you want to justify drinking alcohol, there’s nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. And I’m not judging you either. It’s been a shitty year.
On the other hand, the beauty of Sober October is that it’s just 30 days. Afterward, you can go back to drinking — just in time for the election and the holidays!
Make it Annual
I contend that we should all do Sober October every year. If you choose to keep drinking, that’s totally fine. I’m not asking you to quit completely.
But I’m telling you that 30 days off can change your life.
Think of how strong you’ll feel if you make it through 30 days. At the very least, you will have showed alcohol who’s boss.
Even Classical Chinese Medicine is supportive of an annual Sober October!
According to Chinese Medicine theory, Autumn is a great time to detox your system and let go of what isn’t serving you.
This season is associated with the Metal Element, and the energy of Metal is all about letting go. Think about the trees this time of year — they’re letting go of their leaves. The is the process of cleansing that leads to the eventual renewal in springtime.
The Benefits of Sober October
When we think about going 30 days without booze, most of us think of hardship and struggle. While it’s true that Sober October will be a challenge, it also comes with many benefits.
- Control: Quitting for 30 days will give you a powerful feeling of control over your own destiny. You will will feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat.
- Nutrition: Alcohol interferes with nutrient absorption, especially the B vitamins. Taking a month off will help you to take in the nutrients you’ve been missing.
- Sleep: If you’re not sleeping deeply and waking up feeling rested, then you will never fully heal. Sleep is critical. Despite the myths, alcohol disturbs the normal sleep cycles. Do 30 days without booze and you’ll see just what you’ve been missing.
- Insulin: After just 1 month, your insulin resistance will improve. This is a very good thing.
- Weight loss: Along with better insulin resistance, you may lose a few pounds in October simply by cutting out alcohol. Or if you don’t lose pounds, you will probably lose a few inches, which is even better because it means you replaced fat with muscle.
- Immunity: Alcohol disrupts your immune system. A month without booze will boost your natural immunity.
- Mental clarity: You’ll be amazed at how much more focused you will be at work. You’ll also make decisions more easily.
- Cash money: How much money will you save on alcohol this month? Do the math. Is it $75, $150, or even more? What will you do with that money at the end of the month?
- Energy flow: Personally, I was amazed at the improved energy flow after quitting for just 30 days. This is reason enough to do it. Your qigong will jump a level in just 30 days. How cool is that?
If You Stumble
A central part of my qigong teaching is a Japanese proverb :
Nana korobi, ya oki
Fall down 7 times, stand up 8
(I don’t speak Japanese so someone please correct me if this is wrong. I’m guilty of googling.)
This proverb can change your life in many ways. What I love about it is that it puts failure in the forefront. It tells you, from the very first word, that you’re going to fall.
That’s my kind of proverb!
The key is to get back up. And if you get back up one more time than you fall down — congrats! You’re winning at life!
If you fall and have a drink during Sober October, fine. That’s a failure, but it’s not the end of the world. Get back up and finish the month.
Even if, after 30 days, you fall down several times — keep getting back up.
The big mistake here is in thinking that you are practicing failure. Don’t allow thoughts like, “I’m such a loser I can’t even do 30 days without alcohol.”
Instead, recognize that you are practicing GETTING UP after each fall.
“I’m such a badass that I’m going to get up and try again.”
9 Tips for Sober October
So you’ve decided to give it a try? Great! Here are some tips based on my own experience:
1. One day at a time. This is the advice that AA gives its members, and hey, wouldn’t you know it? It works! For us, it’s even easier because we’re only doing 30 days. No big deal.
2. Drink kombucha. Technically, kombucha contains a tiny bit of alcohol because it’s fermented. But it’s a tiny amount. If you need to sip something in the evenings, then kombucha works great. Pour it in your favorite wine or bourbon glass. If it’s too sweet, then cut it with some sparkling water.
3. Do qigong. Most of you reading this already know qigong. For those who don’t I’m giving away a $100 course for free during the pandemic. Qigong is the PERFECT addition to Sober October because it provides us with instant stress relief. Even just 2 minutes of qigong can make you feel sooooo much better. Try it.
4. Walk. You’re going to have more energy very soon. Good. I suggest that you reinvest that energy into walking. This will help you to detox, help you to keep yourself busy, and also help you to get some fresh air, which is always a good thing.
5. Commiserate. I’ll be posting about Sober October in our free Facebook group and encouraging my students to try it. If you need to kvetch about something, or if you just need a pep talk, the post in the group. Not only will you get responses from your qigong classmates, but I’ll chime in too if you tag me!
6. Out of sight. I recommend that you put all alcohol out of sight for October. Put it in a closet where you won’t see it. Don’t trigger your subconscious cravings by keeping it in view.
7. Drink water. You probably don’t drink enough water. The rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds, divide by half, and then convert that to ounces. So if you weigh 150 lbs, then you need to drink 150/2 = 75 ounces of water each day. If that sounds like a lot, then you’re probably chronically dehydrated. This is a great opportunity to hydrate your body. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
8. Use Square Breathing. Mindfulness is all the rage, but what does it really mean? Square Breathing is a simple technique that you can use to increase mindfulness, which in turn will greatly help with your alcohol cravings. I have found that just 4 Square Breaths can kill virtually any craving. It’s like magic. Click here for a free workshop I gave on the topic of anxiety. I teach Square Breathing at the 33:32 mark.
9. Stand up 8 Times. I explained this Japanese proverb already, but I’m putting it here too because it’s so useful. If you fall down, if you sneak a drink during Sober October, then get back up.
Will you be joining us for Sober October? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.From the heart, Sifu Anthony