Written By: Jeff Craig
It all started out as a way to support a friend going through a tough time, but to my surprise, my life dramatically changed in just one short month.
If you’ve ever dabbled around the self-help genre online, surely you’ve seen articles revolving around some sort of 30-day challenge. These short experiments are meant to be a catalyst for a healthier lifestyle.
I have witnessed many people tackle 30 day challenges in the past only to see them return back to their normal behaviors shortly after. I didn’t want that to be me, again. Not this time.For the longest time, I would make attempts at changing some of my behaviors, only to quit shortly after because I failed to see immediate results. It was too easy to give in to temptation and go back to the old behaviors that were holding me back.
Something had to change, and I wasn’t sure how, until now.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mind approached me for some support. He had gone through a really difficult breakup and was devastated. My friend is a master when it comes to seducing women, but when it comes to handling relationships; he becomes attached too quickly, smothers them, and scares women off.
I recommended that he take a month off from women. No flirting, no dating, no sex, and no relationships. I gave him a 30-day challenge to focus on himself instead of women.
He was hesitant at first, but deep down he knew it would be a positive experience for him. He wanted to do it, but he needed support. That’s where my own personal challenge came in.
Through my whole adult life, drinking alcohol has played a significant role. Almost every major life event I’ve had in the last 10 years has involved consuming alcohol.
I have been known by friends as the guy to count on when they want someone to grab a drink with. I was never the designated driver when I’d go out with my friends and I was usually the one encouraging others to drink more with me.
I had been in denial of a problem for the longest time because I have never really experienced any major consequences. Alcohol has never caused me to be late to work, it’s never ruined a relationship, and it never affected my schooling.
While going through my personal development journey, I have realized some truths I’ve been avoiding. I was struggling a lot financially for a while and a lot of it had to do with how much I spent on alcohol.
Although alcohol may not have been the sole cause of my relationships with certain people ending, it certainly played a factor. Alcohol has also negatively affected my health, leading to poor diet and lack of exercise.
Finally, I have had MANY close and dangerous calls. I’ve known for the longest time that I was in need of a drastic change and this was my opportunity.
I knew 30 days of no drinking would be difficult, especially with all the free time I would now have. I also knew that I would most likely seek out other poor behaviors to make up for it. I knew if I was going to do this 30-day challenge, I was going to have to put a plan in place that would optimize my chances of success.
Below are the behaviors I adopted or abstained from and how they impacted my through the process.
Daily Juicing/No Coffee
Like many adults, I start every morning with a cup (or 5) of coffee. I have never been a morning person, and coffee is typically the only thing that helps get me through the day. A lot of that had to do with the late nights I would be out drinking.
I realized that coffee was just as bad of a problem as alcohol, and if I was going to stop drinking, I would probably turn to more coffee to fill that desire. It had to go. My inner gremlin fought, “But how would I function in the morning? How would I get through the day?”
Well, I had a friend of mine who was really into juicing made the suggestion that I start juicing each morning. I did some research and found some juicing recipes that would not only provide the daily nutrients I would need, but would also give me that needed “boost” in the morning.
The first week was difficult. Every morning I woke up, I was desperate for that hot cup of black gold. Instead, I would reach in my fridge and drink a sludgy green goop.
They weren’t terrible, but they certainly weren’t coffee. I would end the days exhausted and fearful of the next day I would go without caffeine.
As time went on, juicing got a little easier. My body began getting used to not having coffee and my morning juice energizer became a predictable routine.
Sure my mouth would salivate every time a coworker brought in a cup of Starbucks, but I already knew that it was off limits and would go on with my day. Plus, the mean green juice blends I was making were starting to grow on me.
During the final weeks, I began seeing a change. I woke up in the morning excited to start my day with my juice.
It felt refreshing to sit outside early in the morning and enjoy my green blend of nutrients. There became a conditioned unconscious response that every time I juiced, I was nourishing my body.
Coffee was no longer even a thought. I didn’t need it anymore because I was full of energy every day.
Taking cold showers was an idea I got from Andrew Ferebee of Knowledge for Men. He posted an article that explained the health benefits of taking cold showers that I found intriguing.
Some of these benefits include: better immune system, better circulation, relief from symptoms of depression, testosterone increase, energy increase, and higher tolerance to stress.
At first, I didn’t quite believe it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. To my surprise, the results were almost instant. I’m not going to lie, jumping into an ice cold shower half awake SUCKS.
It is in no way a relaxing feeling, but that’s the point.
From day one and beyond, the cold showers in the morning shocked my body and instantly woke me up. My blood was pumping and I was alert.
I also found that when you’re freezing your balls off in the shower, you don’t waste much time to get clean, which meant I had more free time for other activities like meditation (in my personal opinion, the best way to follow a cold shower). I
found that the energy I got from the cold shower allowed me to be more productive earlier in the day. It took less time for me to “wake up.”
Although I don’t think I will be implementing cold showers into my regular routine, I think I will be using them on days I have to wake up early and need that initial morning jolt.
Exercising regularly has really been a struggle of mine. It’s hard to believe that I would choose not to go running every day when I have the ocean scenery as my visual backdrop.
My typical pattern is that I go running two or three days a week. The other days I choose to sleep in due to a hangover or I decide that I am just too tired or busy to run.
Now I may be a busy guy, but I am no fool.
I know I was simply making excuses for myself. My lack of exercise in combination with poor diet has left me constantly struggling with my weight. Two years ago I was 30 lbs. heavier than I have been of recent, but I knew that I was still considered overweight (the doctor made sure to break that news to me).
So for this 30-day challenge, I was accepting no excuses. I was to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
As soon as I convinced myself that being tired in the morning was no longer going to be a valid excuse, I was able to get up every day and work out.
In fact, I even went a step further and increased my workout times on most days. Instead of just running for 30 minutes, I ran for an hour. I also incorporated push-ups and crunches into my daily routine.
The first couple of weeks, I saw the weight dropping but not much of a physical change. I did however feel much healthier. My morning runs kept me energized throughout the day and helped me rest easy at night.
By week three, I began seeing physical changes. By week four, other people started noticing as well. Suddenly, I needed to start buying new clothes.
Due to the fact that exercising yielded such productive results, I will be incorporating this into a daily regimen. Over time, I hope to improve my workouts and make them more intense.
Being a big lover of all things edible, a healthy diet has always been a struggle of mine.
Being a foodie, I often venture out to new restaurants on a regular basis.
As most of us know, the most delicious foods out there are usually the ones that are the worst for you.
To top it off, working in a mall doesn’t really encourage healthy meal decisions either.
I will say that I am usually pretty good at portion control and I’m fortunate enough to not have an addiction to sweets. But my bacon pattern apron should serve as proof that I don’t always make the best food choices.
I have never heard of a really healthy person living off nothing but junk food, so I knew that I would need to change this behavior as well.
The plan was to prep all my own meals. If I went out to dinner, I was only allowed to order off the healthy menu. You know, that skinny insert stuck between the last two pages that we all know is there, but pretend it doesn’t exist? Yeah. That one.
The first part of the challenge was pretty difficult. Because I was cooking for myself, I basically had to make the same meal for myself at least three days in a row.
The other struggle was just remembering to bring my lunch to work and to make sure I had enough time to prep my meals when I needed them. It was also not easy passing up a few dinner invites knowing there would be no healthy food choices, but it was probably for the best anyways.
I did find that when I went to restaurants and ordered the healthy meals, they were actually really good.
After a few weeks, I got used to prepping my meals and taking them to work. It became a daily habit and wasn’t much a struggle anymore because eating healthy actually made me feel really good.
Instead of eating for the instant gratification of the flavor, I was eating to nourish my body. Sure I craved some junk food every now and then, but when each day I saw the number on the scale go down, I stopped missing it so much.
I will say that once a foodie, always a foodie. Making healthy choices all the time for the rest of my life is not likely going to happen. However, the amount of money I saved on eating out and after discovering that the healthy menu can also be good, I do believe that my diet will be significantly healthier from here on out.
I think the once a week cheat meal will be a new behavior I adopt instead of making it a daily thing.
Of course I saved the best for last. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a fan of alcohol. I was introduced to it in my teens and haven’t really let up ever since.
The debate of whether or not someone is an alcoholic has been something that has troubled me for years. My uncle died of alcohol poisoning when I was 13 years old.
The media always portrayed an alcoholic as someone who drank all day and all night; someone who was loud, angry and violent; someone who never made it to family events and called out of work.
My uncle was one of my favorite people in the world. I never saw him mad, he was hailed as a pioneer in his field of work, and he spent more time with me growing up than my own father.
When he passed away, I was confused. I felt like I should be mad at him, but I wasn’t. His death felt more like an accident as opposed to the inevitable climax to an addiction. His passing has stuck in my mind for years.
Fast forward to present day. Although my week long binges in college are over, I haven’t really eased up on drinking as much as I should. Just like my uncle, I am a fun loving, friendly, drunk.
I don’t call out of work because of a hangover, I still show up to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, and I still spend time with my friends.
Now that I have been drinking for several years, I have actually become a bit of a beer connoisseur. In fact, I have even brewed my own beer from scratch.
The problem though is not my love for alcohol or how it affects others. It is how much alcohol I consume and how it affects ME.
I know anyone out there who drinks knows that the feeling you get when you have a buzz feels great and you don’t want to lose it. My issue was that in order to keep it going, I would consume way more alcohol than I needed to. It also doesn’t help that I have a high tolerance.
The hangover the next day meant that I wouldn’t wake up early enough to go running like I said I would and I would eat horrible junk food to get rid of the stomachache.
I also found that the weeks where I drank often, I would also experience more depressive symptoms. And so came the opportunity for the 30-day challenge.
When I started, I was concerned I had bitten off more than could chew. My entire social life revolved around alcohol. I was afraid I would have to isolate myself and become a hermit for the next month. To my surprise, I was totally wrong.
The first day out, I went to a packed bar downtown. I did this because wanted to put myself in the most extreme environment possible to get used to being sober in those kinds of surroundings.
In therapy, this kind of technique is called “flooding” and is used on clients with phobias or anxiety.
I didn’t have an anxiety attack, but I was miserable. Being around other people drinking made me want to get drunk with them or they just annoyed me. It made me realize that I’m probably more obnoxious drunk than I realize.
After my crash course in sobriety, I decided that I should seek out activities that don’t require drinking to have fun.
I decided to start going to Karaoke at a local bar. This not only allowed me to be in a setting with alcohol, but it also forced me to be brave enough to sing in front of people stone cold sober.
To my surprise, it was very liberating. My focus was on singing instead of alcohol and once I was up there, I actually enjoyed it.
Another activity I tried was bowling. Beer and bowling was always a match made in heaven for me. I am a terrible bowler, but when I’m drunk, I don’t really care. Being sober would challenge me to not take the game seriously and just enjoy the quality time with friends.
I actually found out that I am not that a bad of a bowler when I’m sober.
To top it off, I actually remember the good time with my friends as a bonding experience as opposed to a blur.
After finding a couple activities I could do without drinking, I was out looking for more.
A few days later, I got a call from a friend of mine inviting me to join a kickball league. I was ecstatic. Not only would this be a sober activity, but it would by physical and put me in an environment with a new social circle too. So far, I have really enjoyed it.
Much like exercise, I was surprised to find that when I removed the option for alcohol from my life, it was a relatively simple transition. I was able to find activities that don’t involve drinking and still managed to maintain my social life.
An added bonus was that my beer gut decreased significantly.
I don’t think I will ever completely give up alcohol, but this experience taught me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. The days of letting alcohol hold me back are over.
I Made It
I made it out of the 30-day challenge alive and in once piece. I dropped 18 lbs., gained a ton of muscle, and feel healthier than I ever have.
A result I can get used to is that I have been getting a lot more attention from girls.
I don’t think my experience would have been the same had I chosen to do only one thing for this challenge. I believe it was the whole collection of behaviors that contributed to my success.
The problem is, the challenge isn’t over. The next step is seeing what I do with what I’ve learned. With the amount of knowledge and insight I acquired through this 30-day experience, I see a road opened to me leading to exciting new possibilities and a promising future.