I wouldn’t know myself to the extent that I do, had I not decided to quit drinking alcohol in 2013. Years of drinking turned alcohol from a social activity to a crutch for me.
I’m far from alone in that, but many people never make it to that moment of clarity.
Substance abuse indirectly kills roughly 12 million people each year. About 350,000 of those deaths are the direct result of an overdose. Men are more likely to abuse substances, and 50% of overdose deaths happen to people 50 years old or younger.1
I’ll be honest. Even if you have a problem, you probably aren’t allowing yourself the space to recognize it enough to make the necessary changes.
This is why I’m a big fan of Sober October.
If alcohol is taking from you the way it did me for so many years, the challenge is the first liberating step on your sobriety journey. If this is just a time out for you, a month of sobriety will still bring life-changing clarity and health benefits that can springboard you toward becoming the best version of yourself.
This article will explore Sober October and how this hard reset of abstaining and wellness can change your life.
Watch my Ted Talk on what I learned about the relationship between addiction and identity.
Your body gets a break
Make no mistake about it – alcohol takes from you.
Now, I’m quick to remind you that I don’t advocate total sobriety and zero alcohol consumption for everyone. I recognized that to be who I need to be in life, I had to be completely alcohol-free. If you can responsibly have a beer, cocktails, or a glass of wine with your friends, I encourage you to enjoy it.
But even infrequent drinking and substance use does unmistakable damage, at the very least in the short term.
That is… unless you think waking up dehydrated and hungover with a throbbing headache is your body’s way of working at its best.
In the long-term, alcohol causes memory problems, liver damage, depression, a weakened immune system, and various forms of cancer.2
Putting the drinks down for an entire month lets your body’s systems work the way they’re supposed to.
You might find that you’ll wake up with less pain, more energy, and better blood flow. This might make you realize just how much damage alcohol does to you, even if you only drink on the weekends.
A month of clear thoughts can change your life
When you free your mind, you free your life.
Stop introducing alcohol to your bloodstream for a month, and I’m willing to bet that your thoughts become clearer than ever.
MRI studies showed that people that stop drinking recover a significant amount of brain gray matter in the first three weeks.3
Recovering this gray matter can help you get your memory back and put your emotions in check. You’ll be able to use this clarity to make positive changes in your life, like:
- Making decisions about your professional and financial life
- Starting a meditation practice to help with anxiety and depression
- Pinpointing other coping mechanisms
- Reading books about strategy and philosophy
- Unpacking your thoughts by journaling and self-reflection
- Ditching negative media for self-improvement podcast subscriptions
- Go on a journey of life education and fulfill goals you set last year
I lied to myself for a long time before quitting alcohol, but the fact of the matter is that we’re the sum of our thoughts and actions. If you’re constantly tampering with your brain chemistry and motor skills, you become these habits over time.
Pairing Sober October (Ocsober) with a meditation practice gives your brain the space and neural connections to undo your alcohol-induced triggers, replacing them with positive habits and thought processes.4
This makes it easier to attack your goals and become who you’ve always wanted to be.
Binge drinking aside, I found that people who smoke too much weed have low impulse control and difficulty achieving their goals. Read here to learn how to quit smoking weed.
Sobriety creates a trickle-down effect
I like to think of positive changes in my life as moves that generate compound interest, or as bets on myself that continuously pay off.
Building these positive habits will make you shine a light on other areas of your life that need improvement. Nutrition is a great place to start for most people. Making healthier decisions at the lunch and dinner table can have tremendous effects, such as:
- Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Helping you stick to workouts and reach your weight loss goals
- Building muscle and regulating your testosterone production
You might also find yourself getting to bed at a decent hour so that you get the full rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles needed to restore your health after a long day. This reset is especially helpful if you routinely find yourself sleep-deprived and dealing with brain fog.
Fasting, intermittent or otherwise, can also offer huge benefits in terms of spiritual growth, insulin resistance, and making your body less inflamed.5
Small actions create entire perspective changes that lead to lasting self-improvement.
Don’t wait around for it to feel good.
It’s the perfect accountability project
One of the biggest benefits of Sober October is that it can be a social commitment that builds accountability.
You’ll likely see people posting about it on social media. You might also have people in your friend circle, or family members, who decide to cut out alcohol and join in. Iron sharpens iron, so this is the perfect opportunity to help each other get better.
Having an accountability partner is proven to make you 95% more likely to accomplish your goals.6
Social drinking is a fun way to blow off steam but consider for a moment how much more rewarding it can be to instead use that same energy to change each other’s lives for the better.
You’ll know you’re in control
Sober October is also worthwhile because you’ll know for sure that you’re the one in control.
I couldn’t say that for a good portion of my life.
Since I know that choosing to drink or not to drink is completely up to me, it’s easier to take full ownership over the rest of my life.
Allowing yourself space to choose sobriety tests your willpower and puts you in full control, even if it means something as simple as declining the happy hour or going to happy hour and drinking water instead.
The break ultimately lets your brain’s prefrontal cortex recover. This is the part of your brain responsible for willpower and putting long-term goals over short-term gratification.7
Working these muscles will teach you that you’re always a simple decision away from any path you take in your life.
An October to rewire
Whether you’re completely addicted or just want to take a brief timeout, participating in the Sober October Challenge is the epitome of a no-lose situation. Going sober for these 31 days allows you to:
- Give your body a break from the alcohol intake
- Get your brain back on your side
- Create other positive habits
- Form an accountability circle
- Take control of your life
It’s a physical and mental health rewire that teaches you strength and discipline. When you master these principles, it might shock you to see how different your life can look when November arrives.
Most importantly, recognize that you can do it any time of the year. Whether you decide to go sober for October or bring in the New Year with Dry January, the same principles and benefits apply.
The rest is up to you.
A different way to get sober
Sobriety terrified me, but ruining my life scared me more. I did it, but I wish someone had warned me about the emotional challenges I’d face when I quit drinking.
I wrote this book for people who want to get sober but don’t have any support. Here’s a free chapter “The 3 Things Keeping You From Getting Sober.”Read a free chapter here
Ritchie, Hannah. Roser, Max. Our World in Data. Drug Use. December 2019. https://ourworldindata.org/drug-use. (Accessed May 22, 2022) ↩
Centers for Disease Control. Alcohol Use and Your Health. April 14, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm (Accessed May 22, 2022) ↩
Muller, Angela. Meyerhoff, Dieter. National Library of Medicine. Frontocerebellar gray matter plasticity in alcohol use disorder linked to abstinence. August 13, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34438322/ (Accessed May 22, 2022) ↩
Powell, Alvin. _The Harvard Gazette. _Researchers study how it seems to change the brain in depressed patients. April 9, 2018. (Accessed May 23, 2022) ↩
Link, Rachel. Healthline. 8 Health Benefits of Fasting, Backed by Science. July 30, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fasting-benefits (Accessed May 23, 2022) ↩
Kraft, Haley. Better You. The Power of Accountability Partners. https://www.betteryou.ai/the-power-of-accountability-partners/ (Accessed May 23, 2022) ↩
Lino, Catarina. Positive Psychology. The Psychology of Willpower: Training the Brain for Better Decisions. March 28, 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/psychology-of-willpower/ (Accessed May 23, 2022) ↩