Sobriety Challenge: Midway through what many have taken on as Sober October, let’s explore how taking a month off booze can help bring physical and mental health back into balance. But, of course, this challenge doesn’t limit itself to October. Although the holidays may be a bit more challenging to stay away from alcohol, why not get a little inspiration to participate in a Dry January?
Alcohol and Health
The CDC states that two alcoholic drinks a day or less for men, and one or less for women, is moderate drinking. Statistics show, however, that despite these numbers, two-thirds of adult drinkers report drinking more than those levels at least once a month 1. But what does that really mean for health?
When we take a step back to examine what health is all about, we cannot ignore our relationship to our habits. For example, someone who drinks two glasses of wine a night may be significantly “healthier” than someone who drinks one or doesn’t drink at all—because health is more than the sum of its inputs. Why we do things cannot be ignored when considering mental and physical health. Someone who drinks two glasses of wine in celebration of life during a home-cooked dinner, surrounded by loved ones, is in a much different space than someone drinking one single glass alone at home to escape the woes of a breakup or bad day.
Sobriety Challenge: The Benefits of a Month Without Alcohol
Exploring how taking a break from alcohol may serve you can put things into perspective. Whether you have an “unhealthy” relationship with alcohol (or any substance) often requires taking a step back and seeing how life unfolds when you don’t have it around.
A month offers a nice amount of time to examine our relationship to our habits. Whether it be caffeine or alcohol: 30 days without substance use can help you see how reliant you are on it in many different ways.
- Learning to Sit with What’s Real
When alcohol is used as a coping mechanism for difficult situations in life, it takes on a more problematic role. This is just one of many, many ways in which people outsource their pain. Whether it be shopping, sex, TV, food, and even “healthier” habits like exercise or meditation: when we escape, we prevent our bodies from facing and overcoming the reality of a situation 2. This happens for many reasons, a big one being that many of us haven’t been given the tools to navigate hardship properly, so we rely on coping mechanisms to feel good in the short run.
Without alcohol to numb out or “unwind” from hard situations, we are allowed to sit with what’s real. Facing these situations is not easy, but it does require a degree of sobriety so that we can see what’s in front of us that is not working in our life. Alcohol can encourage us to stay in a fundamentally wrong situation for our well-being, like staying in a job or relationship that doesn’t truly fulfill us. Taking a step back from the habits we use to numb out or distract gives us a chance to see more clearly what needs addressing in our daily life.
- Keeping Our Good Habits, Good
Even if your relationship with alcohol has typically been healthy, life has been difficult for many throughout the pandemic– leading what may have been an otherwise good habit into a bad one. One study examined people’s relationship to alcohol in the eye of the pandemic, showing that over 60% had increased their consumption of alcohol. At the same time, a third reported increasing their levels of binge drinking 3.
Problematic drinking isn’t black and white; it lives on a spectrum. Taking a month-long break can act as a tuning fork, ensuring that you don’t accidentally start leaning on alcohol as more of a crutch than serving you. In addition, checking in occasionally allows you to reflect before anything gets too out of hand. The past couple of years have been difficult, but opting for other tools to cope more healthily can serve you better in the long run.
- Health and Weightloss
Although some alcohol may be associated with longevity markers and well-being (especially when paired with social and community bonding), overall: alcohol is not where you’re going to find health, especially weight loss. When it comes to losing body fat, alcohol can derail you in various ways. First of all, empty calories promote weight gain with no satiety. Having even a glass of alcohol also opens the door to snacks, less mindfulness around portion size, and late-night eating 4.
Regarding health markers, regular consumption of alcohol is linked to various ailments, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems 5. These health hazards apply even to moderate drinkers.
When it comes to “detoxing,” one of the biggest factors is ensuring that your detox pathways are clear and working properly. Two of the major detox organs are the kidneys and liver, both of which are burdened by the consumption of alcohol 6-7. Abstaining from alcohol for a whole month allows both organs to focus on detoxing from the wide range of everyday toxins that our body is naturally exposed to by living in a modern world.
Whether you are abstaining from drinking alcohol or if you aren’t, using a binder can help support the body’s natural detoxification processes. Ingredients like activated charcoal help bind to toxins, enabling your body to safely and effectively remove them from your body. When taken with alcohol, products like BIND can also help buffer the impact these toxins have on the body. In fact, charcoal is one of the ingredients given to alcohol-poisoned patients in hospitals!
Alcohol can be a part of a healthy lifestyle, but checking in with our habits often requires taking a step back to see the situation more clearly. Taking a 30-day sobriety challenge can benefit you in many ways, including learning to sit with the reality of your life, making sure your “good” habits are indeed serving you, promoting health and weight loss, and supporting your detox pathways.
- “Facts About Moderate Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Apr. 2022, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm.
- Howard J. Shaffer (1997) The Most Important Unresolved Issue in the Addictions: Conceptual Chaos, Substance Use & Misuse, 32:11, 1573-1580, DOI: 10.3109/10826089709055879
- Grossman, Elyse R, et al. “Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,24 9189. 9 Dec. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17249189
- Battista, Kate, and Scott T Leatherdale. “Estimating how extra calories from alcohol consumption are likely an overlooked contributor to youth obesity.” Health promotion and chronic disease prevention in Canada: research, policy, and practice vol. 37,6 (2017): 194-200. doi:10.24095/hpcdp.37.6.03
- “Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Apr. 2022, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm.
- Osna, Natalia A, et al. “Alcoholic Liver Disease: Pathogenesis and Current Management.” Alcohol research : current reviews vol. 38,2 (2017): 147-161.
- Epstein, M. “Alcohol’s impact on kidney function.” Alcohol health and research world vol. 21,1 (1997): 84-92.