March 11, 2010, is a significant day for me: it's when I started a 30-day no alcohol challenge, which turned into a permanent lifestyle change of healthy habits.
I was never a big drinker. I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week. Most weekends I’d go a little harder and got drunk on a handful of occasions over the years.
Social drinking was a fun habit. I wasn't alcohol dependent. But over time, this habit was making me unhappy.
The rock bottom moment came on that March morning in 2010. I awoke with a shocking hangover after a fun night at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. So, I walked to an International House of Pancakes (IHOP) for a “hangover breakfast”.
The IHOP menus have photos of the food you can choose – big, bright, bold colors. The sight of those scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes on the menu and overweight people sitting next to me made me ill.
I decided at that moment to see if I could go 30 days alcohol-free: a personal bet to test my self-discipline. I didn’t plan to go more than 30 days.
The first two weeks were hard. I went out with friends, ordered water, and they’d give me a hard time. “You’re un-Australian!” they’d say.
But I survived those two weeks and was off to the races. I felt better, slept better and had more mental clarity.
After 30 days, I’d lost an incredible 13lbs (5.9kg) of fat around my stomach. Just from not drinking. My bank balance was rising, my skin looked better, and I started to enjoy getting out of bed for early morning exercise.
So I said, “Bugger it. I feel great. I’ll just keep going and see how far I can go.” Little did I know just how far I would go.
After 60 days, I craved a cold beer. Or a red wine. Or a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic with a dash of lime.
When it was hot outside, I started dreaming, “I would smash a cold beer right now!” But I breathed deeply, downed a tall glass of water and the feeling passed.
After three months, I felt terrific. I’d dropped a few more pounds of fat and was starting to put on lean muscle in the gym. People complimented me on my improved looks.
Despite not drinking, I still managed to have wildly entertaining nights out – even with my drunken friends slurring their words around me. Conversations with women became much more meaningful and they complimented me on my self-discipline.
“Beautiful,” I thought. “I can stop drinking and still be fun, entertaining and attractive to women.”
Guys were always suspicious of my story, though. They thought I was a recovering alcoholic who “obviously” had a problem. They'd call me a “Pu$$y!” or say, “Just have one!” Or, “An Aussie that doesn’t drink?!?! F$%k off!”
I laughed, pointed to my head and gave them my stock response, “I’m too strong in mind!” Or, “No thanks, I'm driving.” Some idiots even tried to slip vodka into my soda. I had to make a point of always sniffing the drink they'd ordered for me.
Between three and six months I was in the zone. I felt energetic and healthy. I thrived on telling people I had temporarily stopped drinking.
It became easy to socialize without alcohol. I could still burn the midnight oil until 5 am but didn't want to. My body returned to its natural circadian rhythm, and nothing good happened after 1 am anyway.
So I would party hard – alcohol-free – until 1 am. I was the life of the party and most people weren’t aware I wasn’t drinking. Then I headed home to be asleep no later than 2 am.
I slept like a baby. Studies show that even a small amount of alcohol messes with your sleep. I started wearing blue-light blocking glasses to get to sleep faster and woke rejuvenated.
I was up at 8 am or 9 am to hit the gym, shower, have breakfast and be ready to tackle the day by 11 am when my mates were just dragging their lazy hungover backsides out of bed.
Six to 12 months was fairly easy, to be honest. And this is where I noticed the most dramatic changes.
My relationships became considerably better – romantic and platonic. I was constantly thinking about how I could help others rather than how they could help me. I was calmer and made better decisions.
My work productivity soared. After reading Get Up! by James Levine, I realized that sitting down all day was killing me. Now I set my standing treadmill desk at one mph for five hours a day = five miles walked.
More opportunities, like winning an ESPN SportsCenter audition and being personally mentored by Tai Lopez came my way. Because I was clear in mind, I had the energy to make the most of these incredible experiences.
I've become a learning machine. I keep three sets of earphones: one in my gym bag, one in my house, and one in my office so I can always listen to a podcast or business training wherever I am. I've replaced my TV with a bookshelf. Now whenever I sit down to relax, the visual cue is there to instinctively pick up a book. The result? I used to read maybe two books a year. Now it's at least four a week.
The result? I've gone struggling, making $38,000 a year to creating multiple successful businesses.
I also work out five times a week. How? I've created the habit. Each night before I go to sleep, I carefully lay out my gym clothes at the foot of my bed. When I wake up, immediately I see the shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, water bottle, headphones, and towel. Instinctively I put my gym clothes on. My chances of going to the gym are now 100%. And I'm in the best shape of my life.
When I reached the personal milestone of one year without drinking, I found myself back in Austin at South by Southwest. I went to a pub, ordered a Budweiser, and put it to my mouth.
It smelled good.
I had every intention of drinking that beer. But something stopped me from taking a sip. I paused for a minute and considered how my life had transformed.
The pros of an alcohol-free life outweighed the cons of an alcohol-filled life. So I said to myself, “Just keep going.”
I put the Budweiser down and haven’t picked up a drink since.
I’m 20lbs (9kg) lighter today than I was when I started on March 11, 2010. Drinking definitely kept fat around my waist. This is likely due to three main things.
1. Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories.
2. Drinking makes you eat a lot more food, especially junk like fries and desserts.
3. Quitting drinking gives you the energy to be more active.
Now, I'm not saying you should quit drinking forever. But my story clearly shows some of the positive benefits of taking a short break from drinking.
Feel better, look better, work better, act better, be better, have more money, attract better quality friends, and create new habits.
Want to feel the same way? Set yourself a short goal of joining my 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge. Test it. See how you feel and if it works for you. Or go for a year.
Your perfect cocktail will soon become: Water, ice and a piece of lime.
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Turns out, life is just better without alcohol