Sober October Challenge
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Summer has officially departed Toronto. The change in temperature is almost imperceptible at first. It’s a chilled wind in the morning. A slightly grayer sky when you look outside. And then one day, you wake up at 7:15 AM, as every weekday, and you realize it’s dark out.
I like Fall, particularly in Canada. It does not rain as often as in Belgium. You get to pull out warmer clothes from the depth of your closet, and start playing with layering. The trees suddenly come to life. Deep greens start to fade in favor of yellows, oranges and deep reds.
Fall also brings about another interesting time - the Sober October Challenge. Some may know it as Dry January. When I mentioned it in the office, I also heard of a Sober September and Dry February. The month does not matter as much as the concept, which remains the same. Cut out alcohol for one month, and make a donation to a charity with the money saved. Websites promise better-looking skins, more restful sleeps and even weight loss. At the same time, you contribute to the greater good by giving back to your community. Clearly, that’s a win-win situation.
Well, yes, and no. Doing a bit of research about it, it doesn’t seem like the health benefits are so clear-cut. All in all, it all depends on your average alcohol consumption. If you are a casual drinker, it seems unlikely that cutting the little amount of alcohol you consume will drastically change how you feel. On the other hand, if you are currently a student that gets drunk a few times a week, you will most definitely see a difference.
So why do we do it? Why has monthly challenges become so popular?
It makes sense, if you ask me. Everyone likes to receive validation for good behavior. It used to come from our family and friends, the people we interact with on a regular basis. Social media changed that. In today’s day and age, validation can come from complete strangers. So now, instead of acting for the greater good and not tell anyone about it, we act for the greater good and tell everyone.
That’s not the only reason why Sober October has become so popular. 30-day challenges are not new. We are attracted to them as moths to light. It is biological. Humans like to be productive and to complete tasks. It makes us feel good about ourselves. Sober October is a wellness trend, in the same way eating kale and avocado on toast is.
Guess what? I love avocado on toast.
I decided to give it a try this year. I also set different rules. Many people do. Some decide not only to cut alcohol, but other harmful substances like sugar and carbs. Others feel they spend too much time on their phones, and put a time limit per day. The most extremes of us might even ban all electronics for the month.
I set my mind on no alcohol and no marijuana. I had to tweak the dates a little bit though, to fit with my own agenda. I cut out alcohol a week earlier than October 1 so that my end date would match the national conference of the organisation I work for. I might want to cut alcohol for a month, but we’re talking an intensive, full work week with unlimited complimentary access to wine. I just can’t say no to that, I am no superwoman.
My motivations are also more selfish. I do not plan on giving to charity, nor do I necessarily do it for my health. My alcohol consumption has definitely decreased since I moved to Canada. Less friends means a lot less reasons to go out and drink. Second, drinking is just freaking expensive. Even with my casual drinking habit - about one drink per day, either a pint of IPA or a glass of wine - I can easily spend over $100 on alcohol per month.
More than anything, I decided to cut alcohol to prove to myself that I could. Although I do not drink a lot, I drink on a regular basis. I have come to expect having a drink everyday, and I didn’t like that. I wanted to test my willpower. It has been tested. Not in a huge manner, not in the way I craved cigarettes when I quit tobacco last year, but enough to be on my mind from time to time.
I have seen a bit of change on my overall health and well being. My alcohol consumption was not high enough to make me feel different, but no marijuana has had a much more noticeable effect. I am not a heavy smoker, but I used to smoke regularly, always before bed. I used it to relax and help me fall asleep.
Now, I know that marijuana still somewhat has a stigma around it. Mentalities have changed quite a bit in Canada since legalization, thus why I am half comfortable talking about it - hello maman! I will simply say this: if you drink alcohol, then I do not want to hear even the slightest judgment from you. Alcohol will kill you. Marijuana will not.
The downside with weed, for me personally, was the munchies. Ohh could I eat! It could comfortably eat half a loaf of banana bread in one sitting, plus a full pint of blueberries, and most probably a whole pack of sour candies if I could get my hands on it. Most times I was just grateful I was too lazy to go to the store, because I knew I could not control myself.
Cutting out smoking stopped my craving for sweets, like, immediately. I have to specify that I do not have a sweet tooth to start with. I eat savory food at every meal, including breakfast and snacks. The only time you will see me eat cookies is at the office, and that’s only because one of my colleagues makes me most delicious sweets.
As a result, after just a week, I have already seen changes in my body. Previously, I was balancing my ‘excessive’ eating with regular exercises. Now that I have cut out sweets, my body quickly got rid of excess body fat. I do not own a scale, so I cannot tell you how much weight I have lost, but I am leaner, and the cellulite on my legs is almost gone.
With the saved money, I decided to buy myself a nice coat. It will be perfect for layering, just as I was telling you above. More seriously, I meant to buy a mid-season coat for a while now, but I could never justify the cost in light of my budget. Cutting out alcohol and marijuana allowed me to treat myself without going outside of my monthly budget.
So far, I am super satisfied with my choice. Sobriety feels good. But let’s be honest. I am looking forward to that first glass of wine in a couple of weeks.