Two years ago I was exhausted, injured, overworked and suffering my fourth cold in six weeks. I was grumpy a lot of the time and don’t imagine I succeeded in hiding this from my kids.
Though there was a touch too much of it, I was excited by all the work and wanted to be able to bring my best self to it. I also had big running goals and wanted to be able to fully commit to training, but 50+ mile weeks make big energy demands, while my energy levels were through the floor. Something had to give.
I spent hours scanning everything on my plate trying to figure out what could be taken off it, and when the answer came it was obvious: if I cut out booze for a few months, I’ll get better sleep, recover from exercise better, preserve energy, and generally remove an unnecessary stress from my system. Like everyone, I’ve cut out the booze loads of times before, and although I think I once managed a month, most of those times it’s lasted less than a week.
This was different. It wasn’t “I ought to”, it was “I want to”. It was “if I do this, I might be able to manage everything else”. It might sound daft to excise such a pleasure from life in order to work and exercise harder, but these things, when I can do them well, they’re what bring me pleasure. If I didn’t do what I do for my job, I’d want to make space in my life to do it anyway for my hobby. I’m privileged to get to do what I do full-time, and I don’t want to piss away that privilege in hangovers. And I don’t know about you, but when exhausted, injured, hungover and ill I struggle to be good-humoured when the kids get me up at 6am.
So I was all-in, but after a week I was still knackered, and turning down drinks after gigs felt like I was hosting an alien. Three weeks in I caught another cold, which turned into a migraine, but I’d committed to this and I was going to give it a go and miracle cures probably don’t happen overnight.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started to feel better, but I do know that I ran a decent half marathon that December, then a week later won a race for the first time since school sports day 1996 (Hartlepool ParkRun, 19:something, not a stellar time but you can only race the people who show up, right?). Until March 2020 came along and detonated everyone’s plans, I was doing all the things I wanted to and giving them my best. Through that time I wasn’t always buzzing with energy – it comes and goes – but I was never ill or injured.
The plan had been to stay sober until June 3rd 2020, my fortieth birthday. When that date rolled around, instead of gathering in the function room of a pub with all my nearest and dearest, I was at home on a zoom quiz. Having a drink just seemed daft. Why not see if I can manage a year? When November 11th 2020 duly rolled around, an awful Wednesday in an awful month in an awful, when I was as unhappy as I’ve ever been, there was nothing whatever to celebrate and having a drink seemed totally absurd. So I quietly went from “I’m not drinking” to “I don’t drink”.
Two years on, my life feels eerily similar to November 2019. I’m at full capacity and fully committed. But I’m not exhausted, I’m not injured, I’m seldom grumpy, and I’ve had one cold in two years. The evidence is in. Two years, no beers: bring on the next two.
Running with an idea
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