I have spent some time now wrestling with whether or not share about this journey and about these books. Apart from slightly slipping it in a couple of blog posts, I have been relatively quiet about my alcohol free journey. I gave up alcohol for lent and I am a believer that what you do for lent should be between you and God hence why I kept this to myself. However, while time will tell, these books may have changed my life so how can I not share about them?
After my Emmaus retreat this past December, I knew that I needed to work on my relationship with God. For the first time possibly since I was a child in Catholic school, I have taken lent very seriously. I had never really seen the benefit in giving something up for lent. Nonetheless, I was honest with myself and I chose to give up the thing that would be hardest for me to give up. If you were following along on Instagram when I did my ‘30 kinda hard’ challenge last year, you may know that this sacrifice was not taken lightly!
I am not sure how I came across Annie Grace’s books but I somehow had heard about The Alcohol Experiment. I knew it was meant to be read over 30 days and had questions for journaling at the end of each chapter. I figured since the plan was to give up alcohol for 40 days I might as well check out this book. The idea behind it is that you stop drinking alcohol for 30 days as an experiment and see what happens. You are even encouraged to take before and after photos to note changes in weight and skin. The chapters are short and you are only supposed to read a chapter a day so I fit this into my prayer/journaling time in the mornings. I ended up finding the topic so interesting that when it was time to choose a new book for leisure, I chose Annie Grace’s first book, This Naked Mind. They do share similar information so I am just writing one review, however, I will share the differences on them as well.
We know that alcohol, especially in excess is not good for our health. If you’ve ever had a hangover, I don’t need to tell you about some of the negative effects of alcohol. We know it can cause us to blackout and not retain some of our memories. We know it can cause some to become aggressive or sad. Consciously, we know it is just not good for us. Subconsciously though, many of us believe it does have its benefits. Alcohol relaxes us! It makes us more fun! It makes us more glamorous! It helps us fit in! There are studies that show a glass of wine a day is good for you. The list can go on and on. There is a lack of agreement in our minds. The idea behind these books is to inform ourselves on the science and psychology behind alcohol and how it affects us so that we can make an informed decision about how we really feel about alcohol and so we can ultimately reconcile our conscious and subconscious minds and end this battle within us.
I want to share some of the things that stuck out to me and that really made me evaluate my relationship with alcohol.
- When I analyze it, much of what I believed to be beneficial about alcohol, really is not. Yes, it will relax you…. For 20-30 minutes. After that first drink, 20-30 minutes later, without a second drink, your mood starts to deteriorate. This is why many of us cannot stop at one drink. We are not broken. There is science behind this. Alcohol causes an imbalance in our brains. You feel amazing at first but your body needs balance so it sends chemicals to the brain that will bring your mood back down. It will actually bring it lower than where you were before you had that first sip. Another drink will bring your mood back up but you’ll never achieve that initial euphoria again. Each drink will bring your mood lower and lower. That amazing tipsy feeling in realty is only good for 20-30minutes.
- Alcohol is fun! Honestly- yes alcohol is fun! Haha We can’t deny that…. BUT- is the hangover the next day fun? Or is it fun if you are an aggressive drunk? Or a sad drunk? Or the type of drunk who picks fights? Yes I’ve had times where luckily all ended well but if you are a drinker, I am sure you can admit to having times where drinking didn’t end all that well whether it was because of getting sick or some kind of fight or altercation.
- Alcohol affects your sleep big time. Have you ever drank, fallen into a deep sleep, and then woken up in the middle of the night with your mind racing and not able to go back to sleep? Yeah. It’s not just you. When you drink, your body has a hard time achieving REM sleep. As you may know, we go through sleep cycles, some light and some deep. The light cycle is referred to as REM sleep. While we don’t know why, our body requires REM sleep and the imbalance alcohol causes in our brains does not allow us to go into REM as often as we should. This is why when we drink, we are so tired the next day.
- Alcohol causes us to lose our senses. One of the journaling questions that really struck me was- how would you feel if you actually did lose one of your senses? Don’t get me wrong, over the past 45-ish days I have had situations where I have been in a loud place with others around me drinking and I have wished for a bit of an impaired senses of hearing! Haha Joking aside though, this did really make me think about why I would want to do something that would impair my senses.
There is a ton more information in the books but the above are just some points that stuck out to me. I was very open about my ‘30 Kinda Hard Challenge’ journey and I was very honest that I felt extremely deprived every step of the way. Things have been different this time around because I had an extremely different mindset about it. First and foremost, it started off as something I did because I made a promise to God and I have turned to him every time it feels hard. Secondly, these books completely reframed my mindset on alcohol. I want to share a few things I have learned while on this journey.
- Mindset is EVERYTHING. If you head out with a bad attitude deciding before you even go out that you are going to have a bad time because you aren’t drinking… you are going to have a bad time! Likewise, if you decide you are going to have a great time despite not drinking, you are most likely going to have a great time! The cherry on top is that you will have all your memories, get home, go through your skincare routine that some of us skip when drinking, and wake up the next morning feeling great! We actually have gone out more than we usually do over this time period because of outings that have come up and I ended up having way more fun than I expected!
- That being said, whatever feelings you may be trying to numb with alcohol are going to resurface. The books warn you of this and encourage you to face these feelings. I know I have things to work on but the reality is we should not be trying to numb our feelings whatever they are. We need to face them and work through them.
- This one was actually very surprising to me- more people question their relationship with alcohol than you think! As I started to realize that I did not really want to drink anymore, I started to open up more about it to those I spend time with regularly and was surprised when others would admit to questioning their relationship with alcohol.
- Most people are going to be supportive of your journey. Not everyone will understand it though and that’s ok. I also found that oftentimes people may not say the right thing or words that feel supportive but they may also not know or understand your journey.
I initially took before and after photos just for me so they are a bit raw, but I will share them. If you look at my forehead you will note I took theses initial photos on Ash Wednesday. I know the results are not as drastic as when I did my ‘30 Kinda Hard Challenge’, however, remember all I did here was remove alcohol.
That being said, when alcohol is removed and inhibitions are not lowered, I realize that I do make better choices. I limited cheat meals to about 1-3 a week rather than having whole cheat weekends. Nonetheless, I have not been to the point I was with the ‘30 Kinda Hard Challenge‘ where I was carrying around zip lock bags with hard boiled eggs and raw carrots in case I ended up in a situation where I did not have plan approved foods available. Also, while I have always been consistent with my workouts, sometimes especially on Saturdays, if I drank Friday night I was not exactly waking up early and fresh Saturday morning to workout. I am also not 20 years old anymore so there were definitely times where I’d have a few drinks the night before, wake up feeling fine, and suddenly feel those drinks in the middle of a workout. To be honest, this happened to me the morning of Monday, February 28th and while I’d been entertaining the idea of giving up alcohol for lent, this was when I made a decision to do it.
The alcohol experiment also had me take photos of my face so I could note any changes in skin. Again, initially these were just for me so they are very raw. The point is also to see changes in skin so they are 100% makeup free!
I see my skin a bit clearer, however, the biggest difference I notice is less bloat and puffiness. I took the before photo on Ash Wednesday as well, before makeup and Mass! I had already been alcohol free a couple days at that point and I am not sure if the idea was to take this photo after a night drinking, however, I do note some differences. By the way, I meant to have a little wine on Fat Tuesday as my last hurrah but realized I was going to drink just to drink so I refrained.
To be honest, I also saw the changes in skin in some photos I took for my blog post on Osteria Vecchio Piemonte . I took the initial photo I intended to use for the post on January 28th on a Friday when I’d had a few drinks and when I looked at it a month into my alcohol free journey, I cringed. I re-took a photo on March 29th.
I realize the lighting is totally different. Nonetheless, I see such a difference. Alcohol reduces the collagen in your skin. Furthermore, I have not skipped any nights of my skincare routine while on this journey.
Obviously, the main difference between the books is that The Alcohol Experiment is meant to be done as an experiment and read over a 30 day period. You also need to be ready to answer journal questions. I found the journaling to be an important part of the journey. This Naked Mind is a book with similar information but without the prompts to take photos or journal. In fact, when you first pick up This Naked Mind, Annie’s recommendation is to continue to drink as you usually would…. just make sure you are sober when you read so you absorb the information! haha A major difference I found between the two books is in This Naked Mind she does not appear to think moderation is possible whereas in The Alcohol Experiment she actually gives tips for those who wish to moderate. This Naked Mind was her first book so I do not know if maybe she changed her stance on it by the time she wrote The Alcohol Experiment.
There are a couple of views she has that I don’t quite agree with. She believes that in reality we do not like the taste of alcohol. Her argument is that most likely the first time you tried alcohol you did not like the taste. This is because alcohol is poison and this is our body’s way of rejecting it. It is an acquired taste. I feel there are other things that are acquired tastes though which aren’t as bad for you such as black coffee. I love my black coffee but this was an acquired taste. I know coffee isn’t great for your health but I also don’t think it’s as harmful as alcohol. She also feels the argument that alcohol pairs well with foods is not valid because we do not make this argument for non- alcoholic beverages. Maybe these are totally weird but I love orange juice with bacon and eggs or a glass of milk with macaroni and cheese. I do not drink soda but pizza and soda is definitely a thing. Bottom line- you aren’t going to convince me a good steak doesn’t pair well with red wine and that wings don’t pair well with beer! Finally, I also do feel calling alcohol ‘poison’ is a little extreme.
As mentioned, in This Naked Mind she preaches that moderation is not possible. I think for some people it is and for others it is not. I know many people who can have a couple of drinks and know when to stop without getting wasted.
Annie also believes that alcohol, because it is an addictive substance, is the problem, not the person. Furthermore, will power is not enough. Annie’s view on this is if you watch people’s drinking patterns they tend to drink heavily the college years and then they grow up and slow it down. Over the years though, they will steadily increase their tolerance and the amount that they drink. As I mentioned above, I personally know people who I just have not seen this happening to. I want to agree with her because her view is that we are not broken. We are just dealing with an addictive substance which has been normalized and glamorize to consume in excess.
I do not want this post to come across as if I am judging anyone or as if I think alcohol is evil. If you know me well you know I am in absolutely NO position to judge! That being said, my Lenten journey, the information in these books, and the questions posed in The Alcohol Experiment have really opened my mind. At a certain point in the last 45 days I went from ‘I gave up alcohol for Lent’ to I don’t really want alcohol right now. I am not saying I will never have a drink again because never is a really long time but at the moment, I just don’t want to. This is also the author, Annie Grace’s position by the way.
I am not going to sit here and tell you that this is an easy journey for someone who loves to drink like me because it’s not. It’s HARD. You know what though? Hangovers, not feeling great for my workouts, the bloating, the weight gain, the bad sleep and all the bad that comes with drinking, that’s HARD too. When I analyze it all, I am bringing all this negativity to myself to only feel good for 20-30 minutes because the reality is when you drink, that amazing feeling only lasts that short amount of time. I am choosing my HARD.
Needless to say, I highly recommend these books to anyone who is just curious on the subject, is interested in learning about the science and psychology behind alcohol, and especially for anyone who is questioning their relationship with alcohol. These books are not for those with an alcohol dependence issue who should seek professional help. Below are the links for the books if you are interested in checking them out!
Thanks for visiting!