My Transformation: 30 Days of No Alcohol.

Via James Swanwick
on Aug 26, 2015
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Alcohol.

Most of us love a glass of wine over dinner or a cold beer on a hot summer day.

In moderation, it can make us feel good. It’s part of our culture. We enjoy sharing a few drinks with friends.

But what happens physically and mentally when you quit alcohol for 30 days? I tried this simple experiment in 2010.

Seemed easy enough. I wanted to test my self-discipline. Little did I know then that 30 days would turn into six months, which became one year. After five years, it’s now part of my lifestyle. Life is simply better without alcohol.

People often ask me about my story.

I was a journalist for 20 years, and alcohol was part of the culture. I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week and go a little harder most weekends. It all seemed like good fun.

But on March 12, 2010, I awoke with a shocking hangover after a particularly fun night at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

I walked into an International House of Pancakes for a “hangover breakfast.” The menus had photos of the food on offer—big, bright, bold colors. The sight of those scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes made me feel ill. I said to myself: “James, what are you doing? You’re a 34-year-old man who’s getting fatter and more tired.”

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. With emotions running high, I made a decision on the spot to go 30 days alcohol-free.

The first two weeks were hard. When socializing, my heavy-drinking friends would give me a hard time. “You’re not Australian!” they’d say. To make life easier, I changed my social environment. Although I didn’t fire my friends, I began to spend more time with those who drank moderately or not at all. We are often a result of the people we spend time the most time with, so I engineered this to support my new habit.

I also changed my home environment, removing alcohol out of sight. The visual cues were gone.

After two weeks, I felt better, slept better and had more mental clarity.

After 30 days, I’d lost an incredible 13 pounds (almost six kilograms) of fat around my stomach and looked better naked—just from no alcohol.

I had more money in the bank, and my skin looked considerably better. I had the mental space to integrate other positive habits into my life, such as daily exercise and reading. I now enjoyed getting out of bed early for the gym and reading whenever I had a spare moment. I began to lead a more interesting life because I had the energy to experience interesting things.

Before a night out, I always had a planned commitment with someone for the following morning. It could be yoga, hiking, running, or coffee—anything that was healthier, made me start early and kept me accountable to someone else.

“Bugger it, I feel great,” I said to myself. “Keep going and see how far it takes you.” Little did I know just how far I could go.

After 60 days, I craved a cold beer. Or a red wine. Or a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic with a dash of lime. When it was hot outside, I’d start dreaming: “I could smash an ice cold beer right now!” I breathed deeply, held my breath for 10 seconds, and exhaled slowly. I reminded myself that I was choosing not to drink. Other times I would just jump up and down—anything to the change my emotional state of feeling like I needed a drink. It was empowering.

When entering a bar or restaurant, I’d walk confidently to the bar and repeat in my head: “I’ll take an iced water with a piece of lime, please.” And that’s what I ordered. Whenever a waiter asked, “Can I get you started with some drinks?”, I’d reply, “Yes, I’d like an iced water with a piece of lime, please.” Rinse and repeat all night. I felt amazing, hydrated, clear-headed, and my final bill was a lot less!

After three months, I felt terrific. People didn’t even notice that I wasn’t drinking. Far from thinking I was an alcoholic in recovery, women told me they were impressed with my self-discipline. “Beautiful,” I thought. “I can stop drinking and still be fun, entertaining and attractive to women.”

However, guys were always suspicious of my alcohol-free lifestyle, hypothesizing that I was a recovering alcoholic who “obviously” had a problem. This was all part of the test. I smiled, pointed to my head, and gave my stock response: “I’m too strong in my mind!”

If people offered a drink I’d say, “No, thanks. I’m not drinking at the moment.” Or, “No, thank you. I’ve got to get up early in the morning.” Or “No, thanks, I’m the designated driver.” Or, “No, thanks. I’m driving.” Or, “No thanks, I’m taking a break from alcohol right now.” When people saw my confidence and conviction, they usually left me alone. If they didn’t, I was okay with it being their issue.

Some people even tried to slip vodka into my drink so I had to make a point of always sniffing the drink they’d ordered me.

By six months, I was in the zone. I felt energetic and healthy, and I started to thrive on telling people that I had temporarily stopped drinking.

The period between six and 12 months was fairly easy—and this is where I noticed the most dramatic changes.

My relationships became considerably better—romantic and platonic.

I was more considerate and started thinking about how I could help my friends—rather than how they could help me.

My work productivity soared. More opportunities—like an ESPN audition to host SportsCenter—came my way. When it did, I was focused, energetic and seized the opportunity. I got that gig and hosted SportsCenter for two years.

If you want to quit drinking like I did, go for it. If you simply want to reduce alcohol, go for it. But my story clearly shows some of the positive benefits of quitting alcohol, even for 30 days—only positive things can happen to your health, wealth, love and happiness.

 

More from James on his journey: 

I Quit Drinking 4 Years Ago: My Transformation.

Bonus: 3 Buddhist Tips for Living Life.  

~

Author: James Swanwick

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own


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About James Swanwick

James Swanwick is a Los Angeles-based Australian-American investor and former ESPN SportsCenter anchor. He is the host of The James Swanwick Show and creator of the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge. Connect with him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Comments

29 Responses to “My Transformation: 30 Days of No Alcohol.”

  1. Steve says:

    Awesome story, James. Thank you for sharing. You look really happy – it's definitely inspired me to live an alcohol-free life.

  2. Renee says:

    Cool! The advice on how to deal with social situations is invaluable. This weekend I'll be saying "I'd like an iced water with a piece of lime, please."

  3. James says:

    Awesome, Renee!

  4. James says:

    Thank you, Steve. And you're welcome. Yes, only good things can come from reducing or quitting alcohol.

  5. @ThatSonyGuy says:

    Great job, 10 years and counting for me.

  6. mikry says:

    It's crazy. I've been alcohol free for about a month and I'm experiencing the exact same things. 15 lbs so far, more money in the bank, 6 hrs of sleep and still full energy.

  7. Steven says:

    Your inability to be able to enjoy alcohol without being an ass is not something to celebrate. Good for you for stopping. Shame on you for making up the reasons.

  8. Kelly says:

    Way to be an ass without having consumed any alcohol Steven…

  9. Kelly says:

    Good stuff, James. I’ve been basically alcohol-free for a few years now, although I will have the rare glass of wine with a dinner of special occasion. Life is so much more enjoyable without alcohol. I can’t believe people would purposely try to slip you an alcoholic drink. Those are the types I avoid, whether alcohol is being served or not.

  10. Patricia says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Reading positive stories like this have a lot of power and can inadvertendly shift the way we think.
    Alcohol is a tricky thing. I have come to realize it is sort of a magnifying glass for me. It amplifies feelings, good and bad. It is not the cause of anything. It’s a symptom. I have been diving deep to understand those feelings. Whatever the reason was (and you never stated that you were an “ass” by the way) it is a very bold choice and it takes mental strength to stay on that path.

  11. Michael says:

    Making up reasons? Being an ass? Which article did you read?

  12. NSNY says:

    I've never been much of a drinker – I've always compared it to dessert when people ask why. How many of anything do you normally eat or drink?

    (My father always made my sister and I try his scotch at dinner and choose a liquor to have with our meal. We didn't live with him so we weren't doing this every night – but it normalized alcohol for us because it wasn't off limits.)

    I was never harassed for not drinking – I got an inquisition, but no one ever tried to sneak anything on me nor did they assume a was in AA. Nowadays I can add to my reasons that it's hard to have a good workout the day after having even one glass of wine – people seem to agree when I say that – and they drop it.

    I've been surprised to hear from others who are "sober" about how they've been harassed for not drinking. And for them it makes it hard to go out. I think it's a shame that there's such a culture that puts pressure on to drink and then that those who don't drink feel stigmatized. I was never phased by the inquisition, but others aren't used to it and it makes them self-conscious.

    And another good reason not to drink a lot? James' before and after photos, perhaps? Alcohol clearly does not make people look more attractive ; ).

  13. Cindy Unis says:

    Hi, I started drinking more than I should’ve several years ago when I lost a great job at 50 after 22 yrs there. (Long story). Then it turned into a habit of burying my sorrow and feelings of self worthlessness. I gained 20 lbs then hated myself more. I need to stop. Your story has inspired me. Thank you!

  14. James says:

    Awesome, @ThatSonyGuy — you must feel terrific!

  15. James says:

    Great to hear, mikry. Sounds like only good things are happening for you. Keep going : )

  16. James says:

    Sorry that you feel that way, Steven. I wish you well on your journey : )

  17. James says:

    Thank you, Kelly. I'm glad that you've found a lifestyle that works for you.

    You wouldn't believe how many members of my 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge comment that their friends are "angry" with them for giving up drinking.

  18. James says:

    That's a great analogy, Patricia and thank you for your kind words. Great courage in digging deep to understand your feelings.

  19. James says:

    Thank you, NSNY. It was great to hear your perspective. Many of my 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge members have had the exact same experiences you described — intense peer pressure to drink alcohol.

    We tend to be influenced by the people we're around the most. So in order to cut alcohol from my life, I reduced the time spent with people who drank a lot.

  20. James says:

    Sorry to hear about your story, Cindy. You are not alone. There are people out there to support you.

    I've heard a lot of cases of people in 40s and 50s who begin drinking because of "Empty Nest Syndrome" — e.g. the kids leave home, bereavement, and or marriage problems. Feeling redundant can lead to the habit of drinking.

  21. Becky says:

    Thank you James. You’ve just helped me understand what I’ve been feeling. Redundant. I was a personal trainer and bootcamp instructor one semester away from a degree in Health and Exercise Science. In one year, there was a divorce, remarriage, an injury, three surgeries, lost job, failed school, and a 40 pound weight gain that alcohol has been the biggest contributor to and roadblock in losing. The drinking to numb the psychological pain has changed me physiologically. My once toned abdominals are now covered with layers of fat. I’ve gone from having an athletic body to an apple shape. No amount of dieting changes it.

    I want my life back. I want me back. So, today I’m starting the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge.

    Wish me luck,

    Becky

  22. James says:

    Thank you for being so open and honest, Becky. I applaud you. In "Meditations", Marcus Aurelius said that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our response. Look foreward to interacting with you on the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge.

  23. Hey James, Thanks for sharing your experience it is really amazing to see the process and how your story can inpire other people. We will launch a social network based on 30Days challenge that have the same goal as yours, to inspire people, if you are interested to know more just send me a message twitter: thiagov_amorim

    Thanks

  24. Colleen says:

    I really appreciate this story. I don't know if I have a problem with alcohol, but I think the price-physically and financially are too high for what it is. It really is glorified in society but when I think of what the money can do for others(my children or someone else), I realize the insanity of it all. I have committed to not drinking for 6 months in the new year. Wish me luck and thanks again for sharing this.

  25. My pleasure, Colleen. Glad it resonated with you. Yes, drinking is glorified. A lot of it stems from advertising. Think of goofy guys surrounded by beautiful women in beer ads, or healthy looking women enjoying a romantic glass of wine over dinner. Amazing commitment for the New Year. You've got this! Loads of people in the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge are in the same boat and are ready to support you 🙂 http://bit.ly/1OX6Hy8

  26. Lisa says:

    Thank you for the inspiration James, I am going to be joining in the 30 days as well. Mine is just simply that wine has become my crutch. I’ve stayed fit, with a ton more effort (thanks to liquid calories!) however I spend my nights with my friend Chardonnay. Not a very supportive friend to say the least! I have two littles, and one has an intense neurological condition. My husband is PD and gone most always. It gets hard to deal with the emotional toll alone, and I personally feel I’ve been drinking too much in response. I want the change, and your story helped seal the motivation for me. Thank you so much for that!!

  27. Garth Howell says:

    Excellent article! I'm on day 16 of 30 and feel great! It's articles like these that really help me stay on track.

  28. vivienne clifton says:

    Brilliant, well done. Am tempted to do this myself, maybe you have inspired me. Good for you though. You must feel so happy.

  29. Akasha says:

    Day 22 today 🙂

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