A year without alcohol – tick!

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Last year was a different sort of year for all of us. My year began with an intentional change that started well before COVID19 came on the scene with a year-long challenge called the “Year of Zero”. As part of the challenge, I planned to go a full year without alcohol. In my post, in May 2020, I said I’d report back on how I went. Here’s that report.

I won! I did ditch the alcohol!

I went the whole year without alcohol! It ended up being less of a challenge than I had thought.  The hardest part was actually deciding if I would start drinking again. I had concerns and doubts because I was feeling fabulous! No hangovers, no missed days spent resting on the couch, more money, feeling clear-headed, and all the benefits you’d expect to gain from not putting poison into your body.  My joints ached less; I had fewer cold sores. My gut was more settled. I slept better. A repeat liver function test came back with excellent results. I didn’t lose weight which I thought I would. I didn’t lose friends. In fact, my social life didn’t suffer at all! It’s a bit hard to get a good handle on this aspect because my dry year coincided with COVID lockdowns. 

My friends got over hassling me about drinking, although one actually said “welcome back” when I had a glass of wine with them.  There’s something a bit off with the state of the world if that’s the perception of giving up the booze!

I used the app Habit Bull to keep me on track.

I’ve starting drinking alcohol again.

As the end of the year approached, I spent a lot of my mental energy deciding what to do. Would I drink? Wouldn’t I drink? Was my obsession about making this decision proving I was or wasn’t an alcoholic or, at best, someone with alcohol abuse disorder. (Something I have only just discovered is a “thing”).

WHAT SHOULD I DO!!

In the end, I decided I would have a few drinks on social occasions.  Soon after “breaking the drought”, I overdid it and woke up with a horrendous hangover! One of the worst I’ve had. Even though I had drunk much less than I would have normally have had on a “big night”. Out of practice, I guess. I imagined my poor liver shrivelling up and keeling over. It was scary. 

After that night, I had a stiff talk with myself and set down some internal rules. I would only drink when I was out.  I wouldn’t drink at home alone. Ever! And then I would never have more than two.

It didn’t take long before I started to argue with myself and the internal dialogue was very persuasive. 

You’re an adult and you can have a drink when you feel like it!  Relax! You’re on holidays!

Robyn’s brain!

I quickly fell back into my old habits, albeit with more moderation.

Giving alcohol the flick for good?

In the vein of “when you’re ready to learn, the teacher will come” platitude, I have noticed more and more articles both in print and on the net about people being sober-curious and stepping back from our alcohol-laden society. I know I am not alone in this state of confusion about what our culture deems normal and acceptable and consideration for our own health. The stigma of being a non-drinker is nearly as bad as being a heavy drinker! For example, look at Charlie Hale’s article in Wellbeing’s Issue #190 about mindful drinking.

Charlie Hale writes about the new ‘sober-curious’ movement in Wellbeing.

Sober Curious

The term sober curious was coined by Ruby Warrington in her books Sober Curious and the Sober Curious Reset. The book’s marketing blurb describes exactly how I’m feeling – without the green juice!

It’s the nagging question more and more of us are finding harder to ignore, whether we have a “problem” with alcohol or not. After all, we yoga. We green juice. We meditate. We self-care. And yet, come the end of a long work day, the start of a weekend, an awkward social situation, we drink. One glass of wine turns into two turns into a bottle. In the face of how we care for ourselves otherwise, it’s hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel… terrible.

How different would our lives be if we stopped drinking on autopilot If we stopped drinking altogether Really different, it turns out. Really better. Frank, funny, and always judgment free, Sober Curious is a bold guide to choosing to live hangover-free, from Ruby Warrington, one of the leading voices of the new sobriety movement.

Booktopia’s blurb about the Sober Curious Book

What next?

I’m ready to have a good talk with you Alcohol!  You’re not working for me anymore! 

Having the whole year off the booze and then three months drinking alcohol again, has been like completing a controlled experiment. The results of the study show that I prefer the no alcohol condition. I’ve decided I don’t need booze, and although I do really like a glass of wine, I’ve learnt it’s better for me not to “break the seal”. I have ordered Ruby’s books, and I’ll write a review after I have read them. In the meantime, I know I am not a moderator and do better at abstaining.

So abstain I will. 

Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip Part 3: A minor inconvenience.

The Great Southern Road Trip had the guts pulled out of it after the Victorian Government’s snap 5 day lock down on 12 February. While the lazy amble down the NSW Coastline happened, the sharp right turn  into Victoria and the mosey on over to Melbourne, didn’t. The lock down necessitated a quick and blunt reconfiguarion of the itinerary. 

I decided to go back to Eden, a NSW border town, and spend a few days there. Staying out of Victoria altogether until the day I was due to sail to Tasmania seemed like a sensible idea. COVID being what it is, I was not sure if I would be able to get into Tasmania without the need to quarantine if I re-entered Victoria. This meant staying in NSW,  essentially going around in circles. 

The anticipated spike in Victorian COVID numbers did not happen and the Tasmania Government reclassified most of Victoria as low risk. With the benefit of hindsight, I could have gone to Victoria after all. I could have stayed in Victoria. The question that plays out in my mind is when do you draw the line? (On changing and rearranging) How many times do you pivot?

Plan B was a solid plan. Accomodation in Southern NSW was getting very tight as people spilled out of Victoria. In the end, I visited friends in Berridale, then Batemans Bay, finally retracing my steps back to Culburra Beach to catch up with family. Culburra beach was the first stop I made on Day 1 of the road trip. I was nearly back to where I started. Sigh.

Right now I am sitting on Deck 7 of the Spirit of Tasmania to start the southernmost part of my Great Southern Road Trip. Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Devonport and then I’ll join the walking tour I’ve booked from Launceston. Things are back on schedule! My spreadsheets are reconciled!

The view out the salt encrusted windows shows the sea is turning black as the sun sets. The waves are small and calm, the fabled swell of Bass Strait is still a few hours away. 

In contrast, my gratitude swells. How lucky am I? I might be sitting here with a mask on  and I may have been inconvenienced by a government taking a strong response to a serious problem, but I am on a ship and I am healthy. The people around me are healthy. I am travelling. (Technically overseas!!)

In comparison, my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are stuck at home, both by the weather and the virus. Living on a big island 12,000 km from anywhere is a burden when you have to fly 22 hours to get “somewhere”. But right now, my island home, with it’s slightly nanny-state stance, is a god send. There’s plenty to do and see right here!

I’ll stop whinging now. 

Year of Zero – End of Year Review

We have made it to the end of this mad, bad, sad year and here I am with the Year of Zero – End of Year Review. At least in Australia, things have returned more or less to “normal” with no community cases for COVID for X days. The US and Europe are in mid-winter and things are getting worse. (I wrote this piece in mid-December and since then Greater Sydney which now includes Wollongong, has been hit by another bout of COVID19 with partial lockdowns and borders re-closing. My return to normal prediction was a little early!)

End Of Year Review

Over the last three months, (October – December) I feel like I have taken my foot off the spending brake and not stuck to my plan well. I did reach my savings goal but I think I could have done better. I have made a few purchases in preparation for my Great Southern Road Trip and although I am putting those on next year’s balance sheet, it has led to a change in mindset. I have been less frugal and more ‘spendy’. I have succumbed to some unnecessary purchases and while for the most part, they were second-hand op shop finds they were still not essential. AND of course there was Christmas! Although I don’t need to buy many gifts there was some outlay.

On top of that, in late November I discovered that I have to do a very expensive plumbing job on my home as the roots from a large tree have cracked and blocked my stormwater pipes. The build-up of water is flooding my neighbours’ yards. It’s going to cost several thousand to fix. Thankfully, I can split the bill with the other strata owners and most will come from the Strata funds. However, I think it will be more than we have set aside. 

My ultimate financial goal is to pay down my mortgage debt so I can retire by 2023. As a result, next year and the year after will need to be Close to Zero Years as well.

My self-report for the Year of Zero – End of Year Review follows.

1. No overseas travel

A stunning success! All year I have not stepped off the continent of Australia! 

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

I did go to Broken Hill in late September which I included in the last quarter review. I also went to my Mum’s for Christmas. Only cost being the train fare so all good on this front too. 

Score: 10/10

3. No New Stuff

My goal is to buy no new items and only replace things that have broken or worn out. 

Allowed items

  • My phone screen needed to be replaced. This was expensive – but the repair was ¼ the cost of a new phone so worth doing.
  • The zip on my wallet broke so I had to replace that – 2nd hand. 

    Items not on the list

  • A book “Designing Your Life” by Burnett and Evans
  • I got my 2021 wall calendars printed but have sold enough to cover the cost so this does not really count. 
  • Gifts for family members including (too much) Lego for my Grandson. 
  • I spent a fair bit buying some unnecessary clothes from Op Shops this quarter. I justified it by clearing out some other stuff from my wardrobe but I really could have done without it. At least it was not new!
  • Not “stuff” but I did pay for a subscription to Future Crunch and The Guardian.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in expenditure on groceries

This category is back on track. I have been making good savings on food and usually have some leftover cash at the end of each fortnight. I have been squirreling this away to use as a food kitty for the upcoming festive season. I also have been stocking up the freezer so will be able to have a few “free weeks”. For those of you who might say why don’t you cook less? Well, it’s a bit hard to make a single serve of spag bol!! I think next year I could investigate cutting back the allocated budget a bit more.

Score: 10/10

5. Side Hustle Happening

I actually made some progress here. As I said above I have sold enough of my calendars to break even and cover the cost and I sold some of my beeswax wraps. I’m not ready to list myself on the stock exchange yet but at least I made a bit of cash! (BTW there are still some calendars left if you’d like to buy one!)

Score 8/10

Buy one!

6. Only sign up for free courses

I didn’t do any courses free or otherwise this quarter.  I have been snowed under with the day job! 

Score: 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

No, no action here

    Score: 0/10

8. Concentrate on free activities. 

I think I have done OK in this category. I went on a few adventures with my grandson which required only train fare and food. We got free tickets to the Australian Museum when it reopened. I did a long walk (31 km) with some friends in place of the Seven Bridges Walk, this was “free” although we did make a donation to the Cancer Council. I went out for dinner once with a friend and although I went to trivia several times, my expenditure was very low as I ate before I went and I stuck to one non-alcoholic beer. 

Score: 7/10

9. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

I am still using more plastic-wrapped foods than I‘d like as I am having trouble finding suitable replacements. I made a one-off investment bought some salad vegies and herbs. I think I could grow those in summer at least. Apart from this, this goal is going well. It’s become ingrained, rather than special now. 

Score: 7/10

10. Year of Zero Booze

The day before this post is published will be the 365th day of my Zero Alcohol challenge. I made it right through!  It is no longer a challenge and it will be a big decision as to whether I start drinking again. 

Score 10/10

and the final score is…..

This quarter, my frugal-o-meter score is 76%. The highest so far, so despite feeling like I let the side down buying clothes I didn’t need, I have ended up OK!  

Here end-eth the Year of Zero 2020. I’ll let you know at the end of 2021 if I have stuck to my savings target despite not having a declared Year of Zero. I intend to remain frugal but will be doing some extended travel! Stay tuned for the Great Southern Road Trip!