By Jimmy Warden
I’m not doing Sober October this year. I made the decision about halfway through the month of September. It mostly boiled down to two facts. One, I genuinely didn’t want to do the challenge this year (whereas in other years I’ve been excited for it) and two, I came to the realization that depriving myself of substances that I enjoy (i.e caffeine from coffee, the occasional craft beer or two, and processed sugar) wouldn’t actually help change my behavior. My older brother actually asked me one year, “Why do you even bother if you just go back to doing what you normally do on November 1st?”. To him I’d say, “Other than being a little masochistic at times, I really don’t know”. However, upon reflecting, I have some more thoughts.
Deprivation and Appreciation
One reason that I really enjoyed doing Sober October was a reward. Being able to sip that coffee, really enjoy its flavor, and have a profoundly greater energy burst was spectacular. Being deprived of it for thirty-one days really made that first sip of coffee a borderline out of body experience. It was like having coffee for the first time, but already having the acquired taste buds for it. The same could be said for beer. The first sip of a small batch craft beer from a local vendor just tastes differently after not having had one for thirty-one days. Not to mention, if my girlfriend Rachel were to take me out for drinks, I’d be a cheap date! Those were all fantastic awards for persevering through the month, that I appreciated on November first.
However, with deprivation can also come a sense of haste. A lust to want to have more of the substance because it’s been out of your clutches for far too long. That was something that I had a bit of a challenge with. The last time I did Sober October, I made myself a cup of coffee on the morning of November 1st, and enjoyed it. I had been drinking decaf throughout October, but true coffee drinkers know that decaf doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t cut it with its flavor and it definitely doesn’t cut it without the caffeine. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy that first cup of caffeinated coffee, I also enjoyed a subsequent “red eye” when dining out at a local restaurant with Rachel for brunch. A “red eye” is a coffee drink that is two shots of espresso and 8-12 ounces of drip coffee depending on how large your mug is. Needless to say, I was pretty high on caffeine. This is the haste that I demonstrated towards caffeine after not having had it for thirty-one days.
Moderation and Appreciation
After doing some reflecting, I’ve started to understand myself a bit better. I am a person that really has been an “all or nothing” type of person in a lot of areas of my life. All or nothing meaning that I’m “all in” and putting my best foot forward, or “I’m out” and not putting any effort into it whatsoever. I’ve realized that this also is a reason why I have had a lot of ups and downs throughout my life. This was helpful information because it has helped me find a greater appreciation for moderation.
Moderation really is a great concept to have a hold on. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever go “all in”, but rather be thoughtful about what you go “all in” on, and moderate in other places. For example, I’m “all in” when it comes to my family, my girlfriend, my own personal needs, and my professions. I’m a bit more moderate now in some of the aspects of my life, such as caffeine usage, food intake, and screen time. By putting a limitation on how I use these important pieces of my life, it actually has created a deeper sense of appreciation because of the limitation. By limiting my caffeine intake, I’ve created a much calmer, more mindful version of myself. Having too much caffeine just gave me too much energy and made it hard to focus on one thing because I was trying to do too many things in my perception simultaneously. I also had trouble waking up in the morning because I’d have large dinners and my body would spend energy digesting, while I was sleeping. This never made for a great night of sleep or for an energized wake up. Not only that, but I would always feel regret after wasting up to an hour and sometimes over an hour in one sitting when scrolling through social media.
Since finding moderation I’ve actually found a sense of peace. A sense of presence and connection with the world. In some cases, I’m just literally more sober, but in others, it’s in a metaphorical sense, and that is refreshing. It is a knowledge that I can engage with the world in a more earnest way and experience it the way that it should be. It’s an appreciation that I mindfully enjoy. Just know this experience can be yours too.
It’s a choice of living. It is a choice to have the approach of appreciation for the things that we can often take for granted. However, the more that we can engage in the approach of appreciation; we’ll be less overzealous and more self-aware. We’ll know when we’ve had our fix and be okay with it.
And it’s okay to toast to that; have just enough.