Okay, so just going to warn you, this is the LONGEST blog post ever! And it’s also the best because, I’m GETTING MARRIED!!! I know! Can you believe it?! There will be a whole other blog post about that so don’t you worry your pretty little heads off. This is also the best blog post because I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in 7 months and I’m going to dish ALL the dirty deets about it. For some people this wouldn’t be such a massive feat, but for me, it’s a pretty big deal.
I’m totally one of those people who LOVES to drink. Like, loves to drink. Mimosa at breakfast? Yes please! Cocktail at lunch? Yes please! Glass of wine at dinner? Yes please! Another round? Yes please! Most of the time I would try and refrain from drinking during the workweek and then I’d end up having 16-20 drinks over any given weekend between brunch, dinner, and lounging on the couch at home. That may sound like a lot, but think about it like this, 2-3 mimosas at breakfast, 2 cocktails at lunch, then 2-3 glasses of wine at dinner multiplied by 2 days. It adds up quick! Other times I’d have a glass or two of wine at night during the workweek to unwind. So now we’re talking 25-30 drinks per week. PER WEEK. I constantly craved it. Looking back I can’t believe that was my life. I was shackled to alcohol and I was so sick and tired of it.
I also couldn’t get through a social event without alcohol. Going to the beach? Not without a bottle of chardonnay in my purse. Going to the movies? Let’s go to one of those fancy ones where we can drink cocktails while we watch. Going to a concert? Not before pre-gaming somewhere. Going to a friends house? BYO-Booze. Sound familiar? I’m definitely not an introvert by any means, in fact I’d say all signs point to extrovert. I’m very outgoing, and I love to talk, but sometimes when I find myself in certain social situations that I’m not particularly comfortable with (large groups/crowds, certain family events, work events, etc.) I would have to have a drink just to get through it. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty fun to be buzzed and talk to people. Right? Until I’ve had too many and my filter is gone, and then it’s a bit dicey to say the least!
It was a never ending cycle though. I knew I wanted to cut back on drinking because it was just starting to spiral and I really wanted to lose some weight for my Caribbean trip in August. I’m going with Juli from PaleOMG and have you SEEN her abs (Chandler from Friends voice)?! Having to be in a bathing suit at all times for a week straight will do that to you. Last December at dinner I drank 5 glasses of wine and was barely buzzed. Not cool. And let’s do the math, 5 glasses of wine multiplied by 120 calories a glass = 600 calories. 600 calories! For what?! Do you know how much food you can eat for 600 calories, that’s almost half of what I should be eating in an entire day, and that was just a normal dinner out. SMH. That’s also wine. 120 calories is pretty low for a glass of booze. Beer and cocktails have way more calories, so on a typical night out you can easily add 1000 calories to you day just in alcohol alone. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather house some gluten-free pizza or a bomb-ass flourless brownie sundae with all those calories than drink them. AMIRIGHT?!
Another thing that happened was I read this REALLY good book that a friend recommended called, This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, & Change Your Life by Annie Grace. It has completely transformed how I think about alcohol. Like completely. I highly recommend it! But I will also give a strong warning with it, once you read this book, you can’t go back. Every time you drink you will think about what you read in this book and you’ll see alcohol in a completely different light. It’s actually really scary at first. Something that was once so comfortable, familiar, and such a close friend, like a warm fuzzy blanket, then becomes a stranger. And to just walk away from it, when you really don’t want to but know you need to, like a bad boyfriend, it leaves you feeling unsure and entirely exposed.
Alcohol is a very interesting part of our society. It’s so glamorized. It’s like the smoking of the 70’s and 80’s. Like remember when smoking was “cool”. Then we found out it causes cancer and prematurely ages you, etc. etc. What do you think alcohol is doing to your body? “But what about all those fun Facebook articles my friends share about how a glass of wine is good for your heart health and high in antioxidants?!” Who do you think pays for those studies? Can I get ‘Alcohol Companies’ for $500 Alex. There is absolutely no nutritional value in alcohol that your body benefits from ever, PERIOD. In fact alcohol is a toxin and your body doesn’t like it at all. As much as we wish wine was a fruit serving because it’s made from grapes, it’s not.
So what did I do? I learned… A LOT! I gave up alcohol for 7 months and this is what happened…
The Pros of Not Drinking
1. No hangover
You don’t realize how awesome hangovers aren’t until you stop having them. Prime example, I just went snowboarding with all my shred friends over the weekend. I listened to them plan for a good solid 20 minutes on how they were going to navigate the night of drinking so that they weren’t too hungover in the morning to be miserable snowboarding all day (been there). I’m talking serious details and planning going down! I was expecting them to pull out an Excel spreadsheet or blueprints or something. I realized with glee that I didn’t even have to spend 1/10 of a second thinking about it. I’d be up and at em’ and ready to send it!
2. You Lose weight without doing anything
I gave up drinking on December 31st. So the “Holiday 10” I gain every year like clockwork was gone within the first month. From not really changing anything except not drinking (and probably from not shoving Holiday cookies down my throat, let’s be real). Again refer to the 600 calorie minimum as stated above.
3. You Don’t lose all your stuff
Yes Pavel, I’m talking about you. After drinking all day while we were snowboarding the other weekend, my friend Pavel couldn’t remember where he left all his snowboarding gear. Did he accidentally leave his helmet, googles, gloves, and season pass back at Main Lodge where they were drinking before they left? Or was his stuff in the car somewhere? Or the room? He couldn’t find anything or even remember where he’d last seen his stuff. How many nights out drinking have you lost your phone, your credit card, your ID, your decency? Too many to count.
4. You save money
Like, SO MUCH MONEY. When I go out to eat with my friends, my portion of the bill will always be around $10-$17 and theirs will be at least $45, sometimes up to $65. When I go snowboarding with all of my friends we like to share an Airbnb so we can cook and hang out together. We all get together to go grocery shopping for meals and booze. When it comes time for everyone to Venmo, I owe $6.28 for the whole weekend and they owe $29.33. That’s a pretty big difference. My hot chocolate break on the mountain is $4 with tip. Their drinks are about $14 a pop and they end up usually having about 2-3 drinks in one sitting, so with tip, about $45. I spend $4, they spend $45. EVERY TIME we stop at the lodge. Alcohol is EXPENSIVE.
5. Better sleep quality
This one trips me out! I have the craziest most vivid dreams that I completely remember, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! Most people think drinking makes you sleep better, but the exact opposite is true. It doesn’t allow your body and brain to get to the deeper levels of your sleep cycles. This would lead me to feel exhausted ALL OF THE TIME. I would walk around like a zombie and couldn’t figure out why I felt so drained all the time. I was eating right, exercising, going to bed at a decent hour and I even thought I had a thyroid problem or something at one point because it was so bad. I feel awesome now and it’s super far and few between that I have a day where I don’t feel rested. Another pro is when my alarm clock goes off, I’m up immediately. I don’t curse my existence and I can’t remember the last time I hit the snooze button.
6. Mental clarity
You remember stuff. I used to ALWAYS forget stuff. In fact I would have to set alarms on my phone and leave post-its everywhere to remind me to do stuff and I’d still manage to forget it. Now things just come to me. If I’m in the grocery store and forget my list, I manage to remember everything I need. At work, I can remember little things I need to and get my job done more efficiently. I can also multi-task a lot better which my life and work requires me to do constantly.
7. My skin looks so much better
Like SO much better. A nice dewy glow has replaced the dry leathery suitcase skin I used to live with all the time. I look way younger too since my wrinkles aren’t so imprinted into my dry-ass face. My color is so much more rosy and it just looks super healthy! I get compliments on my skin all the time now. It could also be my Primally Pure Skincare of course. Maybe a combo of both? (Read my blog post about skincare here.)
8. You make better choices
This comes to all areas of your life, food, people, exercising (because you’re not too hungover to skip it), not peeing or vomiting in public, not waking up in strange places, and don’t even get me started on drunk shopping! Better choices means less regrets too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up the next morning after a long night of boozing so embarrassed by something I said or did. Luckily my friends love me and know that drunk Vanessa has NO filter.
9. Alcohol is addictive
Not in the 12 steps, give me power to control that which I cannot control way, although YES that is absolutely a HUGE reality and completely stems from the fact that alcohol is addictive. But what I’m talking about here is in the way that sugar is addictive. You eat sugar, your brain pleasure centers light up with a dopamine response, your insulin levels rise, then your blood sugar falls and your body craves the sugar and the pleasure, then the cravings are too hard to control, so you give in and eat it, and the cycle continues and continues. Alcohol is the exact same way. You become addicted to it. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this, could you go to dinner, brunch, a sporting event, a wedding, a BBQ, or to the club this weekend with friends, and not drink? The thought of doing that sucks right? Trust me, I get it. Does that mean you’re an alcoholic? Not in the terms that we’re used to, but alcohol is so addictive that you can’t imagine going without it and won’t even consider giving it up. It’s even used as a treat for getting through a challenging task like putting the kids to sleep or making it through a rough day at work.
What I Learned
1. You don’t need to drink to have fun
You really don’t. If you honestly enjoy the company you’re in, you’ll have fun regardless. I have a close knit group of friends, and each one of them I love to spend time with regardless of whether or not alcohol is involved. We still laugh just as hard and have just as much fun, if not more, because we can hang longer and not having to worry about passing out or how we’re going to stay sober enough to get back home. I can say with complete conviction that I have not missed out on a single experience because I wasn’t drinking. In fact I probably ended up enjoying my experiences MORE.
2. Alcohol is everywhere
The next time you watch TV, a movie, or go out in public, just take the time to notice how prevalent alcohol is in our society. The bar is strategically placed to be the first thing you see when you walk into a restaurant, so alcohol is in your subconscious before you even sit down at your table. The alcohol bottles are made to look gorgeous with their fancy under lighting and pretty reflections to get you to order one (or 5) and in turn spend more money. Alcohol is everywhere and everyone associates it as a positive experience even though puking in the toilet has never once felt positive to me.
3. People will pressure you to drink
Not because they don’t love you or support you, it’s just that they want to drink and they don’t want to drink by themselves. My friends know I’m obsessed with Moscow Mules, so they will buy my favorite Moscow Mule fixings (Ketel One, Bundaberg Ginger Beer, lime, mint and even copper cups!) to try and get me to drink with them. Honestly, I’m more impressed by this than anything. I admire their perseverance and the fact that they just get me on that level.
You will also notice that sometimes people will get uncomfortable when you say you aren’t drinking, especially at a dinner table when they are about to order a drink. It’s nothing against you, it’s just them questioning themselves and why they need to have a drink in order to enjoy the meal and why you don’t. Then they’ll wonder quickly if they should continue with their drink order despite this new information. It really has nothing to do with you so don’t worry about it.
4. You will feel incredible
I cannot stress this enough! My sleep is better, my workouts are better, my food choices are better, my quality of life is just BETTER. Not being hungover, or constantly exhausted, or always feeling like I’m on the cusp of depression is great. I feel awesome!
So you’re probably wondering how you are supposed to navigate life with no alcohol, well here are some of the tips and tricks I learned along the way that helped me the most.
Tips + Tricks
1. Never Go Empty Handed
When you’re at an event where alcohol is served, carry a drink in your hand at all times. Whether it’s a soda water and lime or a huge HydroFlask full of plain water (what I carry to get all my daily water in), just carry it. No one pays attention to what you’re drinking like you think they do and just the simple act of being able to mingle and still drink something puts you at ease.
2. Don’t Tempt Yourself
The first 2 weeks will be the hardest. I recommend not to put yourself in any tempting situations. This means don’t keep any in the house and don’t go to your favorite steakhouse that serves your favorite wine or craft cocktail on Happy Hour. In fact I recommend not going out to eat at all in those first 2 weeks unless it’s a quick spot that doesn’t serve alcohol. I don’t know about you, but I have all my favorite cocktails at all my favorite spots memorized. Why put yourself in the path of temptation? After the first 2 weeks the cravings will subside and it will be easier to pass on drinks.
Exercise is your body’s answer to pretty much everything. Depressed? Exercise. Tired? Exercise. Need more energy? Exercise. Want to sleep better? Exercise. Stressed? Exercise. Want to quit drinking? Exercise. Seriously. Take all the money you’ll save from not drinking booze and try out a cool new workout class in your area or grab some friends to go hike on Thursday/Friday evenings and make that your Happy Hour.
Just for Fun Facts
Events I survived this year without alcohol:
- New Years Eve
- New Years Day
- Too many après snowboarding to count
- Valentine’s Day
- Countless brunches and dinners out at great restaurants
- One Graduation Party
- Two weddings, one at a winery
- Three birthday parties, one at a winery
- Four BBQ’s
- Five work Happy Hours
- Brad’s birthday
- Mine and Brad’s 7-year anniversary
- Our engagement
The point being – IT CAN BE DONE regardless of what events life throws at you.
So that begs the question, why do we drink so much? Is it because everyone else is drinking? Or because it’s just expected in certain situations? Or because we’ll feel left out if we don’t? Or will we miss out on the experience? What is it? Let’s get to the real question you’re probably wondering. Will I ever drink again? Absolutely. (See 9. above.) I will drink on my Caribbean vacation in August and I will probably drink during my birthday week in September, and you know what, I’m okay with that. I’m being realistic with myself. But I also realize that I’ve learned so much during this little experiment that there is a real possibility I might not actually even like alcohol anymore and I may not want to continue drinking. It might not be as fun and familiar as I remember it. It might actually be horrible. I might decide that I don’t want to continue drinking because I know exactly what it’s doing to my body. I really just don’t know at this point.
I also realize the second that I re-introduce alcohol to my body again, I will have to fight off the terrible cravings that come with the territory. I will also most likely have to endure hangovers. Neither of which I’m particularly looking forward to. Could I enjoy my vacation without alcohol? Of course I could. Could I go the rest of the year with out drinking? Absolutely. Could I go two years without drinking? I definitely think so. So why give in now? Why not just stay strong and pass on the booze? Because honestly I’m just not ready to commit to never drinking again at this point. The reality is at the end of the day drinking a great glass of wine, having a good craft beer on nitro or a well made Moscow Mule, brings me simple joy and life is just too short.
What I do know is how great I feel right now living an alcohol-free life and that might actually outweigh everything at some point. By my vacation I will have been sober for 8 months, that’s the better part of a year. I may get back from vacation and not drink for the rest of the year. Or maybe I will fall into a spiral again and have to re-read This Naked Mind, or go over the “Pro List” I’ve written above and quit all over again. I just don’t know. I’m okay with figuring it out though in my own time and in my own way. I’m definitely a little scared because I don’t want to go back to the place where I was, but I also want to be able to enjoy alcohol from time to time as I see fit. Ideally, I’d like to be one of those drinkers that only has alcohol on super special occasions or when it’s really worth it. I will definitely have an update to this post after vacation and stuff to let you know what happened!
So what’s the point of this blog post? To judge and condemn you for drinking? To try and convince you that alcohol is the devil and you should quit immediately? Nah boo, do you. I just wanted to share my experience as someone who felt shackled to alcohol and was able to free themselves from the chains. Also as someone who tries to do the best they can for their body. My experience was very eye opening and a lot different than I expected it to be. It was very challenging, but ultimately worth it in the end and I feel like I’ve grown so much because of it. I wanted to share that.
Are you trying to quit drinking? Have you already quit drinking? Share your story with me in the comments below! Oh, and here’s your recipe as a prize for making it through this incredibly lengthy, and perhaps preachy, blog post! Here’s the recipe for my favorite cake that I’ve ever made, because I’m getting married and weddings call for cake! I would love to remake this for our special day. Not only is it perfection, it’s absolutely mouth watering! This cake recipe was first featured in my cookbook, Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind, along with dozens of other cake recipes. So if you like cake, you may wanna grab yourself a copy! Just saying. I hope you enjoy!
- 2 cups (184 g) sifted fine-ground blanched almond flour
- ¼ cup (34 g) tapioca flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- ½ cup (65 g) maple sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup (115 g) palm shortening, plus more for greasing
- ½ cup (120 ml) canned full-fat coconut milk
- ¼ cup (60 ml) light-colored raw honey, melted
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup (64 g) maple sugar
- ¼ cup (35 g) coconut sugar
- ½ cup (120 ml) canned full-fat coconut milk, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/56 g) salted butter or ¼ cup (55 g) ghee
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 16 tablespoons (227g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (130 g) sifted maple sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1 tablespoon milk (regular or dairy-free type)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 figs, quartered
- Handful of fresh blackberries and blueberries (optional)
- Fresh flowers (optional)
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line the bottom of two 6-inch (15-cm) or one 8-inch (20-cm) springform cake pan(s) with parchment paper, then grease the paper and sides of the pan liberally with palm shortening; set aside. (If making cupcakes or the cake shown in the photo, see the Variations below.)
- Prepare the Salted Caramel Sauce and place in the refrigerator to let cool while preparing the cake layer(s). The caramel sauce will be easier to spread when cold.
- In the bowl of an 11-cup (2.6-L) food processor, combine the almond flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, maple sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Pulse 30 times or until combined.
- In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat using a hand mixer set to high until eggs are very foamy and soft peaks are about to form; set aside.
- Next add the palm shortening, coconut milk, honey, almond extract, and vanilla to the bowl of the food processor, followed by the beaten egg whites. Process until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed and process again for another 30 seconds until a smooth and creamy cake batter is formed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform cake pan(s), and use a rubber spatula to help scrape all the cake batter in to the pan(s). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife along the edge between the cake and the pan to loosen from the sides. Remove and let cool completely.
- Once the cake(s) is completely cooled, prepare the frosting.
- To assemble: If making a single-layer 8-inch (20-cm) cake, place the cake on a cake plate or cake plate and spread a layer of caramel across the top. Then spread a layer of frosting on the top, completely covering the caramel, and the sides. If making a multilayer cake, use a serrated knife to cut away any uneven places on the top of the cake. Place the first cake layer on a cake plate and, using an offset spatula, spread a layer of caramel across the top of the cake. Then spread a layer of frosting over the caramel layer. Place the second cake layer on top, upside down, and cover the top and edges of the cake with the remaining frosting. Use plastic or wooden dowels to secure the cake and keep the layers from sliding (these are helpful because the caramel tends to spread as it comes back up to room temperature). Garnish the top with quartered figs and berries or fresh flowers, or both, if desired. If using one of the cheese-based frostings, store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If using buttercream, store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic for up to 2 days.
- In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugars, coconut milk, and butter. Over low heat, whisk gently in one direction, so the butter doesn’t separate, until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved, and the mixture is combined. Then turn the heat up to medium and bring to a soft boil, then add the vanilla extract and salt and whisk until combined.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk gently until the mixture becomes a smooth liquid again. Place back over heat and boil for an additional 2 minutes to thicken further. Remove from the heat, whisk until mixture becomes a smooth liquid again. Repeat this process for a total of four times. The caramel should be the consistency of thick soup.
- Remove from heat. The caramel will continue to thicken as it cools. Refrigerate to cool and thicken completely or freeze for extra-thick caramel. As the caramel comes back up to room temperature it will begin to thin slightly and return to a pourable state. Store in the refrigerator or freezer in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, maple sugar, and salt. Beat, using the whisk attachment, on medium speed until combined. Then add the milk and vanilla and continue to beat on high until the butter has lightened and the mixture has become fluffy and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk as needed. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with desired tip or use with an offset spatula. Store any remaining frosting in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 2 days. Do not place in the refrigerator; the cold temperature will cause the butter to harden. If you don’t have a stand mixer this recipe can be made with a hand mixer; follow the same process using a large mixing bowl.
- To make the batter using an electric mixer: In a large mixing bowl, put the almond flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, maple sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together using a fork until combined. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a separate medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat using an electric mixer set to high until eggs are very foamy and soft peaks are about to form; set aside. In separate bowl, put the palm shortening, coconut milk, honey, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until combined. Transfer the palm shortening mixture to the dry ingredients, add the beaten egg whites, then beat together on medium-low speed until mixed and combined. Transfer to greased and parchment-lined cake pan(s) and bake as directed.
- Caramel Maple Fig Cupcakes: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-well cupcake pan with paper liners. Use a spoon to transfer the batter into the lined cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to let cool completely. Pipe the frosting on top, then drizzle the caramel sauce on top of the frosting. Garnish with fig slices, berries, or flowers.
- *Caramel Maple Fig Cake (as pictured, 4 layers): To make the four-layer cake shown in the photo, line the bottom of four 6-inch (15-cm) springform cake pans with parchment paper, then grease the paper and sides of the pan liberally with palm shortening; set aside. (If you only have two 6-inch (15-cm) springform cake pans, you can still make the cake; you will simply need to wait to make the second batch of batter until you’ve removed the first two cakes from the oven.)
- Prepare a double batch of the Salted Caramel Sauce and place in the refrigerator to let cool while preparing the cake layer(s).
- To make the layers in this cake, prepare one batch of the batter at a time following Steps 3 through 5 above. Bake the cake layers, following Step 6 above. If you have four 6-inch (15-cm) springform cake pans, you can begin the second batch of cake batter while the first two cakes are baking and pop the second set of cakes in the oven as soon as the first two are removed. If you have only two pans, begin the second batch of batter after you’ve removed the first two cakes from oven. While the second set of cake layers are cooling, make the frosting. To assemble the cake, follow the instructions assembling a multilayer cake in Step 8 above, repeating the process for the four cake layers. Serves 8 to10.
- Cake Layer(s) – 1 day