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I drank too much in 2021. That’s the realization I had about a week before Christmas. I had fallen into a daily habit of unwinding with a couple of drinks when I got home from work. It wasn’t helping me be my best self, so I’m taking a break from booze.

What was I unwinding from every evening? I suppose, like a lot people, I was trying to numb the stress of navigating another year of pandemic life. Nothing has been very comfortable for any of us since March of 2020. It’s no wonder mental health professionals have been busier than ever. My wife picked the right time to get a master’s degree in counseling.

Numbing doesn’t work for the long term. Not for me anyway. A drink or two (or three) might have made me feel temporarily better, but it was always an illusion. And I knew better. I have other coping skills that have worked far better in the past. I had simply neglected them out of laziness.

Exercise has never failed to relieve stress and make me feel better. Even just thirty minutes of jogging can do the trick for me. Lately, I’ve also returned to spending regular time in prayer, although, I’m not great at it. Some days, it might not qualify as prayer. It’s more like sitting quietly with my thoughts. Either way, it helps.

Two things happened during my Christmas vacation that caused me to take stock of my relationship with alcohol. One was a bout of what was likely food poisoning but that prompted me to take a COVID test. Thankfully, the test was negative. However, it served as a reminder that I shouldn’t take my health for granted, especially as I drift deeper into my 40s.

The other eye-opener was spending time with people for whom drinking is part of a routine. I felt like I was looking in a mirror and I didn’t like what I saw. That made me wonder what other people, like members of my own family, might have been seeing in me.

No one ever said anything to me about the drinking that I did, and I’m glad it didn’t get to that. This wake-up call came from within. I’m not saying that I’ll never have a drink again. In fact, I’m sure I will. I still appreciate the simple pleasure of an ice cold beer on a hot afternoon, or savoring the complex flavors of a good whiskey by the fire. But I need to treat those things like birthday cake. For me, they should be enjoyed once in a while. Not every day.

Many people have similar thoughts about drinking after the holiday season. It’s why “Dry January” gets more popular every year. According to Good Housekeeping, there are all sorts of benefits to taking a break from booze. The two I noticed almost immediately is improved sleep quality and increased energy. Other benefits can include weight loss, stronger immunity, and saving money. You can read more about how and why to take a month off from drinking HERE.