Ah, “Sober February” (FKA “Sober March”), parting is a mixture of such sweet sorrow and slight relief.
As most people in my life know, each year, for the last five years or so, I use the month of March as an excuse to take a moment, so to speak.
I firmly believe that regardless of your lifestyle, sometimes you need a break from everything. So by “sober,” I guess I mean that in the literal and figurative sense. Literal in terms of avoiding any mind or body-altering substances, and figurative in terms of avoiding any person, place or thing that can cloud your otherwise clear mind.
I have taken my sober month in February this year because I have a friend’s Vegas birthday this weekend, the first weekend of March, and I never cheat during my sober month.
There’s a chance you read the above sentence and thought: Ok, so you’re gonna do this whole empowering 30-day sober kick and then throw it all out the window in Vegas? Well, as someone who has done this many times, it’s not as cut and dry as one carefree weekend makes all of your progress irrelevant. That’s not the case at all. The point of the sober month is to get your goals and intentions in order so that you can do a “wild” Vegas weekend and then know how to come back to reality and get back to your normal life because you love the way you feel when you’re focused, working out and eating well. The goal is to teach yourself balance—something that can be difficult to manage sometimes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting loose, as long as it’s done in moderation.
Each year I go through my sober month, I learn more and more—about life, about myself, about how substances really alter our mind (way beyond the moment of their actual consumption). Taking on an entirely sober month is something I recommend to everyone. Sure it sounds hard, and if you live a fairly social life (like me) and you’ve never done it before, it will indeed be an initial challenge. But I can wholeheartedly say the good outweighs the bad, and everyone owes themselves a clear head (at least temporarily), right?
Keep scrolling to read 10 truths and experiences I uncovered (both positive and negative) while in the midst of my sober February this year:
1. You Must Mentally Prepare Yourself in Advance Hardcore for the Four Weeks That Lie Ahead
Committing to a full month of sobriety isn’t something you just do on a whim. You must prepare yourself for everything you’re about to experience. There are some huge benefits and motivating factors, and then there are also some sacrifices you will make for the next four weeks. Not everything is going to be fun, not everything is going to be social. You must truly ingrain in your head what you are going to take on. I advise telling yourself (and the people around you) at least a month in advance.
2. You Will Reassess Some of Your So-Called ‘Issues’
The biggest benefit to taking a hiatus from any kind of substance use is the clearness of the mind that the experience produces. When your head isn’t fogged you can really take a deep dive into who you are, what you want in life and what you genuinely need to work on. There are some things you’ll realize you really don’t actually need or want, but there are other things that will continue to stick out to you and you may want to take the next step and deal with them. But it’s interesting how much more clear things become.
3. Unexpected Blessings Will Come Your Way Because Your Energy Is in a Totally Different Place
You’d be surprised how much energy is taken up by the social circumstances centered around substance use. There’s the planning and anticipation (big party tonight, what am I going to wear? Will so-and-so be there? I need to pick up mixers and alcohol), the actual doing (so basically whatever time is taken out of your day or night and put into partying) and then the aftermath (being tired, lazy, hungover, anxiety-ridden or all of the above). We seriously do not realize how much energy is taken out of us from these actions! There’s nothing wrong with it in moderation, but we also need to understand that if we put even a dose of all that energy into pretty much anything else, we’d be a lot more productive in various areas of our life. And when my energy is elsewhere, I’ve gotten new jobs, I’ve met life-changing people, there’s just so much when you’re putting a different vibe into the universe.
4. You May Find Yourself Replacing One Indulgence with Another
Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a sense of (temporary) fulfilment we feel when we drink—otherwise, why would we do it, right? When that fulfilment is no longer, we obviously need something to take its place, and yes, I’ve found that, for me at least, I began spending more money just because it made me feel good and drinking coffee seriously around the clock (before bed, after a workout, didn’t matter—it really felt great). There’s got to be a better way to counteract this.
5. You Realize You May Not Actually Be the Social Butterfly You Considered Yourself
When you’re carefree and partying, nothing sounds more fun than turning up the tunes, going out, dancing and chatting it up with whomever you encounter. But when your focus is elsewhere, being a homebody actually sounds ideal much of the time. When you’re on a sober kick, you quickly realize you don’t really have that much to discuss with everyone under the sun, with the exception of the “how’s work?” smalltalk. It can be a little frustrating. Granted, you still value your quality time with the people you feel most comfortable and fun around, but you don’t really see a point in attending every social function when you could be catching up on work, organizing your living space or working out.
6. Your Energy Level Skyrockets
Clear mind + uninterrupted Zzzs + increased daily water intake + no excuse to avoid the gym = one happy camper. I went from waking up 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work, to waking up 60-75 minutes before I need to leave for work. I’m much more excited about the day that lies ahead, I put so much more effort into my appearance, I have all these creative thoughts flowing through my mind. I am ready to conquer whatever lies ahead.
7. You Are in Full Control of Your Emotions and Decisions, and It’s Incredibly Empowering
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning contemplating whether or not someone is annoyed with you about something that transpired the night before; or feeling gross because you know you stayed out too late or took part in a regrettable action. Even one measly drink can alter our actions and reactions, so to wake up feeling completely refreshed with no qualms about anything in your control is amazing. That 8:00 AM yoga class? I’ll take it! The commitment to cleaning all day? Nothing will stand in my way! Positive outlook on life? The world is mine!
8. Large Social Functions Suck the Majority of the Time
I didn’t hit a major social roadblock during Sober Feb. until Presidents Day weekend rolled around. I had one birthday on Saturday night and one on Sunday. Up until this point, I could really pick and choose what to partake in and not make many plans should I not want to. But the birthdays during this time I felt were somewhat necessary to attend. So here’s the thing: I have absolutely zero issue with people drinking in front of me when I’m not drinking. My mind is programmed a certain way for the month, so I don’t even think about alcohol and have no desire to drink during this time. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a blast to bar-hop with a bunch of drunk people and drop it low in the middle of the dance floor with a slew of sweaty strangers, when you could be reading or doing something to maximize your free time. I am all for sober fun, but when your BFFs are getting wasted, you can’t expect them to sit quietly at a table with you when they want to let loose. And I certainly don’t expect them to. That said, I really do understand why people who are permanently sober choose not to make it out to big social functions. It’s not about the temptation (at least for me)—it’s simply just not fun. And that’s okay.
9. You’re on Your A-Game With Productivity
When you’ve got nothing standing in your way, what feels better than getting stuff done? Whether it’s taking in dry cleaning you’ve been putting off forever, finally making your living space ready for visitors, catching up on blog posts or other work-related material, putting more effort in your day-to-day appearance, working out—heck, even catching up on TV shows you’ve been hearing rave reviews about for months—you get so much done when your energy isn’t put into the wrong place.
10. You Can’t Get the Most Out of the Experience Unless You Incorporate Fitness and Clean Eating Into Your Routine
Way back when, maybe in like 2009, I did a sober month for the first time. It wasn’t for the sake of clearing my mind or working on my health or fitness. It was simply because I was going out a lot and needed a breather. Because I’d never taken on the challenge, I really didn’t know I could turn this into a life-changing experience. So instead, it was merely a month of simply feeling blah. I didn’t change my eating habits, I didn’t work out, I was my then-normal level of productive (or lack thereof)—it was basically a waste.
But several years later, once this became a tradition sort of thing, I’ve really used it to jump-start healthy habits. It’s easy to see yourself waste away as the year comes to a close, and then we push ourselves so hard during January that we’re burnt out by the end of the month. I’ve learned to kind of space things out. In January, I’ll drink significantly less and start incorporating fitness back into my life. By February I’ve turned these things into new habits and routines, and then by March I’m fine taking a month to really pound the pavement with focus. When I add fitness and clean eating into the mix of not drinking, it all melds together and gives me that aforementioned energy. I really do feel great.
Bottom Line: I highly, highly recommend this to everyone. It has nothing to do with having a drinking problem or whatever the case may be—it’s simply about giving yourself a clear mind and the opportunity to have 100% control over your life for a moment in time. It doesn’t need to be a lifelong commitment, it’s simply about cleansing and starting anew.