It hasn't been easy.
Sticking to anything out of your comfort zone for a full year is never easy, but for me it has been necessary in my growth as a man, a leader and a spiritual force. For a guy like myself who's been smoking weed and drinking beer regularly for over a decade - it has been a major shift in my awareness. It has also been a discovery in my social behaviors.
I've never had a "problem" with substances. I always saw social drinking and regular cannabis use as tools in my life. I always saw them as a positive thing in my creativity, consciousness exploration and stress management.
"Man, I really need to chill-out and de-stress" was often followed by a few beers or a hit from the vape pen. But at the same time, I've maintained a regular meditation practice as well as a 2-3 times-per-week floatation therapy practice. I really saw beer and weed as tools to either connect with my friends, or disconnect from the rigors of daily life.
But when I made the decision to take a year off, I was in the middle of a very stressful business situation where the fate of my businesses really hung in the balance. I'll spare the details, but I'll tell you, it was the single most stressful time of my life. And choosing to abstain from beer and weed (things I could previously reliably turn to) was both extra-challenging and extra important. Of course, the conflict was ironed out, and everything has returned to homeostasis, but not without massive impact in my life.
There have been countless times where I caught myself thinking about how nice it would be to end the night with a joint and some stupid TV. There have been countless times where my body and mind would ache for substances like Pavolv's dog during a bout of nausea, or soreness, or mental disruption.
FROM A PHYSIOLOGICAL STANDPOINT: It has been a process of un-teaching myself to rely on substances to regulate my physiology. I had to go through a process of re-programming myself with breath, meditation, exercise and plain old mentality. During moments of stomach discomfort, I'd hammer some pro-boitic food like sauerkraut or kimchee, or drink ginger and lemon tea, or take a scoop of Prebiotic+ from Natural Stacks. For body pains from sports I rely even more on Epsom Salt soaks (in float tank or at home) and Arnica Ointment. I even went as far to abstain from CBD creams just to make sure that cannabis was not in my system.
As for my mood. Cannabis had always been there for me as a way to relax, or stoke creativity. o it may come as no surprise, that this year has been more emotional. I'm experiencing my own emotional tendencies at a deeper level. I've become more aware of my feelings and of my mental chatter, and the result has been more balance, and more in-tunement with my higher self. (More on that in a minute).
FROM A SOCIAL STANDPOINT: - It has been similar. Going to bars is not easy when you're not drinking. Going to concerts, or sports games, or Hawaiian vacations, or weddings aren't easy when you're not drinking, especially when your friends and family are. There are a few reasons why it's tricky.
1. If my friends are familiar with a version of me that drinks, they have to deal with that shift. Often times, your choice to abstain from drinking is often met with some friction.
"Not drinking...so you're better than me?....Just kidding"
"Why would you do that? Why don't you just have one, one is ok right?"
I've had to find graceful ways to talk about it, and explain clearly that it has nothing to do with everyone else, this is for me.
2. After being used to drinking with others, or smoking with others, I've had to re-visit how I am in social situations where imbibing is the norm. Can I still be loosey-goosey? Can I still have fun? Do I cheer as loudly at Sounders Games? The answer is, sort-of. I have the same level of enthusiasm and looseness, but without alcohol or cannabis to fuel the party, I tire faster and am more ready to call it a night. And in that moment where I realize that I'm not as engaged as the folks around me, I have to make a decision of HOW I want to be? If I'm not drinking at a concert, I'm dancing. If If I'm smoking weed with the homies, I'm...still just standing laughing and talking about aliens too.
It has taken some adjustment for sure.
But here's 1o things I've learned:
1. Not drinking or smoking saves money.
2. Not drinking or smoking makes it easier to maintain a healthy body. I've lost about 20 pounds, and have a noticeable decrease in inflammation. Ice cream is easier to say NO to, when I'm not stoned.
3. My friends are still my friends, and I still like to do the same stuff, but with more intention and presence. Bars are way less fun if you're sober.
4. I can stay more connected with my wife. Not smoking weed after the kids go to bed, has kept me more present with her, which makes for better connection and honesty.
5. I'm more aware of my emotions and I can process those emotions with greater clarity and purpose. I can use those emotions to my benefit, and raise my vibration.
6. Productivity increases. I've always struggled with organization. So running businesses, and juggling all the things that go along with that takes hard work. But it's a lot easier to cross things off my to-do list when I'm clear an focused.
7. I can stick to something hard. Giving up something can be just as hard as starting something, but now I've reinforced to myself that I can stay disciplined. KEY: Telling people that you're going to do something has lot of power. The more people I told....via blog or whatever....has made my resolve stronger.
8. With less preoccupation around, "Am I gonna drink? Am I gonna smoke?" I have more time to daydream, which I love.
9. The few times this year that I've stayed up really late (which for me is like 2am) I've woken up tired and cranky. And thinking back to all the times I woke up with a hangover, or in a weed-fog, I don't miss that at allllllllll. And, since I have a lot of shit to do, it's been nice.
10. The increased clarity has made for a deeper connection to Spirit. One of the major catalysts for abstaining has been for the spiritual elevation. I have a lot of things I'd like to accomplish in this life, and one of those things is to raise my level of consciousness so that I may better serve humanity. Well, it's percolating. The successes and failures (LIFE MBA) of this past year have given me insight on what I can do to serve. And with this clearer insight, I can be more and do more with more conviction.
Almost a full 52 weeks sans booze and weed, I get this question a lot.
"So, now what are you going to do?"
To be honest, I don't really have a plan. Perhaps I need to be more intentional about how I will or won't use these substances going forward, perhaps this is a topic for my life coach :). It's pretty likely that I'll continue to abstain from cannabis, or use it very sparingly. I've learned that despite the fun I have when I'm high (plus the chill effect and the creative introspection), it's not something that I really need. I continue to think deeply about simplifying my life, and in a very stoic fashion, I strive to strip down my attachments both physically and materially.
That said, I have made the decision to extend my period of abstinence an additional two weeks to prepare for a plant medicine ceremony in mid-January. As part of the preparation for these ceremonies, one is supposed to abstain from not only drugs and alcohol but also from salt, garlic spices, pork, sex and negative thought patterns. So, I'll definitely continue into the new year, and re-assess after my trip.
ADVICE: For those of you considering taking some time off from the green goddess, or the fire water, I say go for it. The new year is sort of a perfect time to do it. It's an easy start date to keep track of and it's during a time when all of us are trying to better ourselves.
Here are some tips for those of you who are thinking about taking a break from substances.
1. Find an alternative hobby. If you're not drinking socially, replace that time spent in a bar with something else that you know will fill your cup. Simplify your life, sell stuff on Offer Up, Open an amazon store, start knitting, start that home renovation you've been putting off, exercise.
2. Exercise. You're going to have more energy, so take advantage of that extra boost and use that energy to your benefit. Join a bootcamp class, buy some kettlebells and work out at home, start running. You may as well double-down on your lifestyle improvement and, since you're going to go through an adjustment period as your system detoxifies, you'll want to keep the engine running clean.
3. Drink Soda water. When you're at a bar or restaurant or event, order a soda water in a tall class with lemon and lime. It looks like a cocktail, it fulfills that need to be holding a beverage and it tastes good.
4. For beer fans - drink kombucha. Kombucha is fermented, it has a little vinegary flavor and the probiotics in it are great for your gut.
5. Take notes. During this process, it's going to be fun (or just interesting) to track your thoughts, behaviors and emotions during this time. Watch what sorts of stuff comes up, so that you can have a clearer picture of how you react. Your base level is without beer and weed...so what is that base level like?
6. Clean out your cupboards. If you like to snack, there's a chance that your appetite will change, and that you may gravitate toward food to fill that spot where beer or cannabis used to be. So, clear out the garbage food in your house, and you'll be less tempted to switch one habit for another non-awesome one.
7. Drink water. Duh. But it will only help with the toxin flushing effect that you're going through.
8. Have more sex. Yeah, have more of it. Plan for it, talk about it with your partner. And, if you're like a lot of men I know you may have to re-learn what it's like to have sex sober. It's going to be a process. It's worth stoking that libido with intention.
9. Start following people online who advocate healthy lifestyles. Mark Sisson, Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece, The Rock, Wim Hof, Paleo Chef, me :). These people are excellent people to model behavior after. If you're watching really fit people lead happy, active lives, it'll continue to remind you why you're doing what you're doing. ON THE FLIP-SIDE, stop following people and sites that advocate the party lifestyle. I love the Chive too, but seeing pictures of people partying isn't conducive to sticking to your guns.
10. Breathe. Everything....like...everything starts with breath. When you have moments of stress, or wanting to drink or some, breathe deeply. Let that be your first step toward dealing with that energy. Try a box breath.
11. Extra credit - Meditate. It will be (and continues to be for me) the greatest tool for self-improvement. During times of want...meditation is the cure-all for your internal friction. If you have questions about how to get started, email me or DM me and we can chat about it.