Alcohol was a big part of my life socially for nearly 20 years — it was the common bond that connected me to others. It was fun, and I had some great experiences.
But by 34, my lifestyle was catching up. I was existing and directionless. My sleep was erratic, my face was weathered, and my relationships were mediocre. I also had to suck in my gut.
After waking with an intense hangover, I made a personal bet: quit alcohol for 30 days. I have chosen not to drink since. Maybe I’ll drink again one day but at the moment an alcohol-free life works for me: I’m 20 pounds lighter, feel terrific, have quality relationships and purpose. And a lot of free time.
Here are some productive things you could do, if you want a break from drinking.
1. Nature Hike/Run
Get outside! Being in nature is great for dropping the stress hormone, cortisol. If you can, walk barefoot – I always feel more present and productive afterward.
Most cities have parks to walk or exercise. I often go hiking, or run through the Hollywood Hills with friends. Being part of a healthy tribe feels awesome. Look for local groups on Meetup.com.
2. Embrace The Inner Nerd
The love of learning may have destroyed through “forced reading” of books in school and college. Before I quit alcohol, my brain began to die because I’d closed off my mind to learning.
I now read four books a week, sometimes a book a day. It’s changed my life.
No money? Join your local library.
No time? Many people on the Internet offer book summaries.
Hate reading? Sign up for Audible. I double my productivity listening to books when cooking, eating, cleaning, and driving.
I’ve been doing it daily for five years, including 10 days of Vipassana. If I miss a session, I notice that I’m off-balance. It’s improved my stress tolerance, confidence, sleep, acceptance, balance, and happiness. Most importantly, I view life differently – there are few things that are going to kill me so I don’t sweat the small stuff.
4. Start A Side Business
Are you thinking of starting a business? 70% of people that I meet want to run their own business but fail to start. Maybe it’s too hard to find the extra time, or they don’t know what to do.
I recommend avoiding extreme ideologies like burning the boats or waiting for the perfect plan before you sail. The answer lies in between.
Make an 18-month transition plan, and stick to it. Research successful entrepreneurs in your field — find out what makes them successful. Replicate what worked for them — Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
View your current job as the investor funding your business. You may have to work late or weekends, but it won’t matter if you’re on the right path. You won’t care about “sitting in the chair” for at least an hour each morning if your dream is to publish a book.
5. Take On A Life-Changing Challenge
As a society, we have to “toughen up”. A crucible experience could assist. I spontaneously did the Oslo Half Marathon last weekend with no training–at 40.
You may want to take on something even more intense like an Iron Man, SEALFIT Kokoro, a Spartan Death Race, or the Sahara Marathon. Yes, you can run a marathon in the desert.
Working towards something that may be unobtainable will transform your character. Whatever, you choose being tested in life can only make you a better person.
6. Nourish With Quality Food
With the money you save from not drinking alcohol, you can invest in quality food. It doesn’t have to break the bank. Learn how to cook — there’s so much free information on the web. Develop a relationship with a local farmer. I recently learned how to grow my own herbs — there’s something wonderful about being connected your food.
7. Take Time To Think
Nothing else. Sit, think, and ponder. Strategize about important things — health, wealth, love, happiness — not what color car or size of TV you should buy. These won’t help your long-term happiness.
Visit an old folks’ home. Volunteer at an animal shelter or food bank. Take someone’s dog for a walk. Play with someone’s kids. Plant a flower or a tree. My life became fulfilling when I expanded it beyond myself.