Dan Triumphantly Completes His 30-Day Cleanse – Reflection and Wine (12 of 12)

After thirty days with no alcohol, I was hoping for some dramatic changes.  Just not in the cards.  I now realize that to go from one glass of wine per day to none, which I basically did, is not likely to yield much of a change as would be, say, going from a six pack or four scotches per day to none.  Let’s recap.

My liver? Probably happier, though we haven’t talked recently.

Cleanse - Hannah

Hannah on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park (Day 27 of my alcohol-free experiment)

Hannah?  She is definitely happier not having to drink a glass of wine alone each evening.

My sleep?  Little difference.  The usual pleasing combination of mostly good nights with some okay nights.  I’ve learned that if I have a few margaritas (the impetus for this 30-day experiment), I’ll lower my expectations for a good night’s sleep and revel in the evening I just had!

My energy?  Good before the experiment, good during it.  No obvious change.

My weight?  About the same.  I never did weigh myself before or after, so who really knows?  That said, I still use the same belt hole as before to keep my pants up.

My sense of satisfaction?  Yeah, it’s been cool.  I always thought that I could go without alcohol.  Fact is, the alcohol fast did become a little tedious after Day 20 since I realized there were no big changes in the offing.  That said, it wasn’t hard to complete my mission, just another 30 days at the office.

Cleanse Beddeck River

From Laverne and Gordon’s front porch overlooking the Baddeck Riviere in Cape Breton, Canada

There were a few times when a beer, some wine, or a margarita would have hit the spot.  One was a brew after an afternoon playing ping pong with George Derby (Day 8), another was wine with Laverne and Gordon on their front porch in Cape Breton, Canada (Day 27) and finally margaritas at Ruby’s in York with Molly and Tip (Day 30).  Even so, to complete and learn from this experiment was not a sacrifice.

My Big Takeaway!  I realized that when I sit with Hannah each evening, it’s a time for us to reflect: reflect on our day, reflect on the people we dealt with, and reflect on our days ahead.  I know I could sit in reflection without wine, but for me, wine and reflection go hand in hand.

For those keeping score, on the first day after, I had veggies and humus rather than a glass of red wine with Hannah.  The second day I had wine with Hannah!  And the next day, too, and on this past Thursday a fine Tributary craft beer with my ping pong playing buddy George.

Do it again?  Nope.  Been there, done that!

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 29-30 – Crossing the Finish Line (11 of 12)

August 8 Day 29 – It’s a travel/pickleball day as I am ready for the checkered flag.  Leaving Fredericton, New Brunswick in light rain at 530A, Hannah and I have 360 miles to our home on Chases Pond Road.  Midway, we break for two hours of pickleball at the Armstrong Tennis Center in Bangor.

Once home, we get a mid-afternoon call from Carolyn to play even more pickleball here in York Harbor.  Jumping at the chance to whack the yellow wiffle ball with Milt and Bob, we play for ninety minutes more.

After showering, I sit with Hannah on our front deck in what has become our routine for the last month – red wine for Hannah and air-popped popcorn for me.  Believe it or not, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.   Of course, Day 1 of What’s Next is just two days away!

August 9 – Day 30 – If you don’t think the Universe has a sense of humor, you haven’t been paying attention.

Cleanse - Ruby's

Pickleballers (Molly, Tip, Hannah, Water Drinker) celebrating at Ruby’s

Six weeks ago, before any of this 30-day experiment stuff, Hannah and I set up a Friday afternoon of pickleball with our daughter Molly and her husband Tip, followed by happy hour half-priced margaritas and dinner at Ruby’s, a local pub.

Being my final day, I sip water while Hannah and Molly have a margarita.  It’s one final test.

I passed.


Note bene.  Next Saturday, I’ll post what I learned and what the future holds.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 27-28 – Coming Around the Far Turn (10 of 12)

August 6 Day 27 – Stunningly distracted by hiking in the Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park in Nova Scotia with Hannah, 800 miles from home in York, Maine, I think little of the grape or the malt. After three hikes today, we return to our friend Laverne’s B&B for evening wine, no wine, and dinner.

Cleanse Beddeck River

Looking to the Baddeck River from the deck of Laverne’s Baddeck Riverside B&B

You know, it’d be nice to celebrate our return to Cape Breton with a glass of wine with Hannah, Laverne, and her husband Gordon.  But I’m so close to my goal, so I enjoy their company and sip my water happily.  Funny, within five minutes of sitting together, I forget about their wine and enjoy our evening on their front deck above the Riviere Baddeck.

August 7 – Day 28 – On our last day in Nova Scotia, I wake before Hannah after seven hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Hold the presses!  Could it be the no alcohol regimen is having an effect?  Perhaps, it’s yesterday’s exhausting day of hiking in Cape Breton?  Maybe it’s the comfortable B&B bed with Hannah?  Probably a muddle of all three.

You tell me if this would be a legitimate variation on my 30 days without wine. And did I blow it by not invoking this option?

Cleanse Beddeck H, Laverne, Gordon

Here’s the set up.  Arriving this late afternoon back in Fredericton, NB after a 400 mile drive from Cape Breton, NS, we are again offered wine by friends Bill and Karen.  In fact, this is the fifth night in a row where we are/would be sharing wine with rarely-seen friends from Au Canada.  (You see, we meet up with Bill and Karen once every two years and haven’t seen Laverne and husband Gordon in five!)

What if I had taken a five-day break in my 30 days of no alcohol to celebrate evenings with long lost friends and then picked up the challenge upon our return to York?  Make it a 35-day challenge with a five day friendship hiatus?  Though that’s not technically a 30-consecutive-day experiment, these are unusual circumstances, yes?

What do you think?

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 23-26 – Au Canada (9 of 12)

Cleanse veggies on the deck

Veggies and humus on our front deck

August 2 Day 23 – Hannah and I leave early tomorrow for Au Canada.  It’ll be Canada Dry for me (You see what I did there?)

This evening it’s Just another day at the office -veggies instead of red wine.

August 3 – Day 24 – When on the road, opportunities abound to celebrate with a beer or a glass of wine.  Looking for reasons to celebrate can become a way of life.

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For example, on our way to Canada, we pickle at the Armstrong Tennis Center in Bangor, Maine.  By early afternoon, we arrive at the visitor center in Houlton, Maine, the Gateway to the Maritime Provinces of Canada.  Later, breaking for lunch, we usually have a beer with our Subway subs.  Today, Hannah carries on the tradition while I celebrate with my sparkly water.  Party on, Dan, party on!

Arriving at the home of longtime friends Bill and Karen in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, we usually toast our friendship with a glass of wine or two.  You know where I am going with this, don’t you?   I’m so close to my 30-day goal with no alcohol, it’s not hard to sip my sparkly water while the others enjoy the grape.

Cleanse - daring greatly

August 4 – Day 25 – Chilling on a day in Fredericton, the provincial capital of New Brunswick, we walk, sit over conversation, and read.  Finishing reading of Daring Greatly (2012) by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability to make us all more compassionate, connected, and have a sense of belonging, I find the excerpt below by Teddy Roosevelt with which she opens the book speaks to me.

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles; or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes up short again and again.

There is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows if he fails, he at least fails while daring greatly.

In my modest way, I step into this arena of a month of no alcohol.  Still going strong, with no certainty that I’ll prevail over Demon Rum (metaphorically speaking).

Cleanse - Hannah and Laverne

Hannah and Laverne in Cape Breton

August 5 – Day 26 – On the north coast of Nova Scotia prior to our hike at Cape George on the Northumberland Strait, we lunch on Subway subs, sipping, as I have for the last 3+ weeks, a cool fresh sparkly water.  Not feeling tempted by the Red Hook brew of Hannah’s, I can see the finish line at midnight on August 9.  Then later I reminded of the place for friendship and wine in Cape Breton.

Arriving at the Baddeck (Nova Scotia) Riverside B&B where Hannah and I stayed five years prior to biking the 190 miles Cabot Trail, we are offered wine before dinner by our friend/innkeeper Laverne Macrae.  I do miss toasting the bond of our friendship with their red wine.  Thankfully I have Hannah, ever the trooper, who for five more days will be drinking for two!  Someone’s got to do it!

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 15-18 – The Dog Days of My Experiment (7 of 12)

July 25Day 15 – I’m in the Dry July doldrums (30 days without alcohol).  I feel none of the energy and daily positive reinforcement that came with each previous day of successfully not drinking alcohol.

That said, without a second thought, this morning I again have sparkly water with Fran and Sue after pickleball when he has a brew and she ice coffee (Ever the thoughtful hostess, Hannah keeps Fran company with 12 ounces of Flat Tire beer.).

Still, I feel no weakening in my resolve to see this 30-day experiment though.  Hell, I am half-way through!

Cleanse Reticular AS

July 26 – Day 16 – Ever heard of your reticular activating system (RAS)?  As I understand it, it’s the part of your brain that notices things that you ordinarily might miss because now you have read or been told about them. In my case, I am more attuned to articles/information about alcohol than a normally might have been.

Yesterday in this past Sunday’s New York Times, I read a mini-article on Here to Help: How to Indulge (But Stay Healthy) on Vacation – The Alcohol Factor.  Calories from alcohol are essentially empty and add up fast without filling you up.  In addition, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to overeating.

Cleanse crackers and cheese

It’s my experience that wine leads to my overeating, especially pita chips and cheese and crackers, which I often have with wine.  And what kind of barbarian would I be if I gave up cheese and crackers!  The overeating thing is something I’ll need to be aware once I figure out where wine fits into my life.

July 27 – Day 17 – Loyal reader Laurie Lee has come up with an apt observation about publishing the results of this 30-day experiment every three or four days.   Keep it up, Dan. I’m sure writing in a blog helps motivate you to be successful with your 30-day commitment. I would imagine if you are about to have a weak moment and give in to the temptation of a cold brew, the thought that you have to tell that to your fan-base must be a help in saying “No”. Maybe I need to start a blog!

To date, there has not been that weak moment.  Knowing I’m being watched does keep me on my toes.

July 28 – Day 18 – I think that sticking to the full thirty days gives my eventual plan for alcohol a better shot at one I can commit to for the long-term.  The time I am taking to come up with a plan will more likely keep me from implementing something rash.  I’m looking for an approach to alcohol that is sustainable for the next 365 days.  And then I’ll reevaluate.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 12-14 – Sober Curious? (6 of 12)

July 22Day 12 – When I google no alcohol, the first thing that pops up is “11 Benefits of Quitting Alcohol.”  Though I don’t plan to quit alcohol completely, I do wonder what these benefits are.  Among them:

One, feeling better.  I’ve got to say I do feel better.  Lots better? I wouldn’t go that far.  I think that I had the misconception that with no alcohol I’ll have dramatically more energy.  Nothing dramatic, at least 12 days in.

Cleanse red wine

Six, reduces heart attacks.  That’s interesting because on the other hand the Mayo Clinic says, Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent coronary artery disease, the condition that leads to heart attacks.  Depending on your personal bias, take your pick what you want to believe about red wine.

Ten, no more troubled sleep.  Really, no more!  Sounds a bit optimistic.  My sleep is meh, some good, some less good.  I was expecting more after nearly two weeks.

This online article is focused on giving alcoholics reasons to quit, not really directed at the one glass of red wine per day drinker like me.  All 11 Benefits are listed and described at the underlined link above.  Abstinence is not my goal.  Learning how to be intentional about alcohol consumption is.

July 23 – Day 13 – Sober curious?  Never heard the term myself.  From NPR – Breaking The Booze Habit, Even Briefly, Has Its Benefits.

Cleanse sober curious 2

The “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” movement started as a challenge for those who felt they’d partied a little too hard over New Year’s weekend.  Again, that’s not me.  I go to bed by 9P on December 31 after a 5P glass of wine with Hannah.

First there was “Dry January,” when people could brag on social media about how they were taking a break from booze.  Social media bragging?  Do 71 year olds really do that!  Not this one!  I’m off Facebook, Instagram, and never have had a Twitter presence.

A 2016 British study of about 850 men and women who volunteered to abstain from alcohol during Dry January found that participants reported a range of benefits… A sense of achievementI’d say that applies to me; it’s cool, just not amazingbetter sleepA bit better, nothing fantastic…lost some weightDon’t know since I use the same notch today on my belt to keep my pants up as I did at the start of this experiment.

July 24Day 14 –As I explore my dating relationship with alcohol, I find I’m not really longing for a drink the day after my 30 day cleanse ends (August 10).  A glass of vino?  Maybe yes, likely no.  I don’t feel the crave.  By the way for those of you wondering, our daughter Molly is 19 days into her Sober Curious experiment.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 9-11 – A Framework Emerges (5 of 12)

Cleanse morning buzz

July 19 – Day 9 – I’m feeling peppier.  Could there be a connection to my no alcohol month?  Maybe, but there are so many factors that could be contributing to that extra energy, I just can’t say it’s no alcohol.  Take today.  Waking at 430A, I am on the tee at 515A at Amesbury (MA) Country Club with our daughter Molly.  After nine holes, we breakfast at the Morning Buzz in town.  Though a decaf drinker, I have one extra cup of regular joe knowing my workout at Coastal Fitness lies ahead.

At the gym, I am on fire!  So, is it one cup of joe, marginally better sleep that might be attributed to no alcohol, or the positive boost being with Molly?   Probably an unknowable combination of all three.

July 20 – Day 10 – Not drinking remains easy peezy.  Reading online about people giving up alcohol, I see there is not much agreement whether one loses weight or not.   When having no alcohol, I can see the temptation to have extra doughnut or dessert since I’m not having all those alcohol calories.  By the way, a glass of red wine has 125 calories, beer 154.

Cleanse mike's and sparkly water

An easy choice on our front deck

It’s a blistering hot Saturday here on the coast of Maine that reminds me of Arizona summers!  Though summertime in the Cactus State has none of the high humidity that we have this 92F day, I do feel the all-day debilitating sluggishness that comes with being outside on such days.

On the deck, on a day that would be perfect for an ice cold Mike’s Hard Lemonade, I choose sparkly water.  No sacrifice and no surprise, the sparkly water refreshes without a bit of sluggish mellowness.

July 21 – Day 11 – With our windows open wide, oscillating fans on each of us in our first floor bedroom, last night we went to bed with it being 83F in our house.  By morning it was only down to 80F!  No surprise that I sleep poorly.  Heat or no heat, I have seen no real improvement in my sleeping.

With a 93F day in the cards today, Hannah and I are off early for a bike ride to Ogunquit seven miles away.  Talking as we ride side by side, I believe this 30-day cleanse will be a success if I come out of with a personal strategy for alcohol consumption.  Likely, a glass of red wine and a brew will be a part of my life, but on what occasions and how often?   I feel a game plan evolving.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 6-8 – Screwing up a time honored ritual (4 of 12)

July 16Day 6 – A good night of sleep.  And by that I mean, up once and no extended awake time overnight.  I’m just feeling perky this morning.  Could it be the dry 61F morning?  Could it be looking forward to the day going to the gym, walking at the marina in New Castle, NH, then dining with friends?  Or it could be, where the smart money is, the cleanse!

Cleanse mandy, lisa, and han

Mandy and Lisa with Hannah with water and a slice of lemon

This evening we dine with our friends Mandy and Lisa at the Green Bean in New Castle, NH on a patio overlooking the marina.  Spectacular night.  Reasonably priced salads and sandwiches (and by that I mean $10).  As for drinks, notice in the picture we have water with a slice of lemon.  Hannah and I do not buy $9 glasses of wine out ever, cleanse or no cleanse.  A couple our age in conversation to our right sits with a glass of wine as the sun dips towards the horizon.  I swoon briefly, then buckle up for 24 more days.

July 17Day 7 – A fine sleep but not spectacular.  Possibly being conscious of not drinking liquids after 3P has as much to do with my improved sleep as not drinking alcohol?  In addition, I do feel lighter with more pizzazz over the past week.

Og 1C H on beach

Ogunquit Beach

As we walk on the wide Ogunquit Beach at 540A, I think on this 7th day that I’m looking forward to learning something about my future with alcohol on, say, the 25th day that I just don’t know now.

Over coffee and biscuits at McDonald’s with our California friends, Scott and Tree, I learn Scott has been “cleansing” for 19+ years.  Impressive indeed, but that’s not where I am heading.

I am figuring out where alcohol fits into my life.  I want to use these 30 days without alcohol distraction to come up with a game plan – a strategy.  Clearly, I want to be intentional about my alcohol use rather than just fall back into a habit of a glass of wine each evening.  Maybe just for celebrations?  On vacation?  Stay tuned.

July 18Day 8 – Today I’ve got another favorite ritual that I will upend with my cleanse.  After an hour and a half of ping pong with my buddy George, we usually sit with a brew, toasting life and friendship.  As an excellent opponent and a better friend, George’s company tops off my afternoon.

Cleanse Geo Derby

At the Jimmy Fund 10K Fundraiser in Boston with George Derby

By the way, George is a craft beer aficionado and I learn about good beer at the feet of a master.  But having a beer with buddy is about sharing a beer with a buddy.  I’m guessing our ritual will take a hiatus.  One drinking, one not.  That just doesn’t work.  I’d love for him to have a beer while we still sit after we play.

After our ping pong, George says, “I can’t drink alone,” and he’s right.  We don’t, but this tradition is one that is coming back in 22 days.  You can take that to the bank.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 4-5 – The Surprise (3 of 12)

July 14Day Four – I was hoping my sleep would be on a trajectory to the moon of good night sleeps as I strung together days without wine.  No such luck.  Still, into my fourth day of no alcohol, I have no waiver in me.  It’s not quite as easy (but still very doable) when the original reason (by that I mean sleeping better) is showing hit and miss results.  No one promised me it would be a bed of roses (you see what I did there!)

Sitting with Hannah in the evening is the encouraging same for me, the BA in elementary education grad from Arizona State as I munch on various veggies (green peppers, carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes).  Another small victory.

July 15Day Five – I awoke to the still darkness of the morning as our bedroom shades are only half down so the overnight cool can sweep into our room and bathe us with a comforting chill.  I lay here for 45 minutes, maybe an hour thinking, sh**, I’m not falling back asleep.

And then I notice dawn’s first light come around the window!  Hot damn, it’s nearly dawn!  Going out to the dining room to check the time, I see that it is now 445A on the microwave clock!  Victoire!  I’ve slept seven hours straight.  I’ll take that any day.  I hope it’s related to no alcohol.  Or maybe just cumulative fatigue from last night’s poor sleep?

Cleanse Family Rawding

Max (5), Molly, Owen (nearly 7), Tip

This afternoon we are in for a surprise.

Coming to Massachusetts to be with our grandsons, Owen and Max, Hannah and I find them ready to play games.  We play cornhole in their backyard, followed by card games of Uno and Zeus on the Loose at the patio picnic table.  After dinner, I read to Max from the Batman book (the boys absolute favorite) while Hannah reads to Owen.

Cleanse M and P at golf

With our first born

Once the boys are in bed, we sit outside with our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip for our usual pre-dinner glass of wine; a glass of wine, for the first time, I decline.  As I tell them about my cleanse, I notice Molly sips from her water bottle.  Molly nods and smiles.  Unbeknownst to Hannah and me, Molly has not had a glass of wine in ten days herself for she too has had trouble sleeping after a glass of wine.

What are the odds that we’d each start a July cleanse without the other knowing about it!  Go Molly Go.  Go Danny Go.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 1-3 – Piece of Cake (2 of 12)

Cleanse pickleballs

July 11 – Day One.  If any day should be a piece of cake, this is it.  But… Fran brings four cold beers for après-pickleball this Thursday morning.   I could start tomorrow and be a decent guy (i.e. sociable) and have just one?   Turns out it was easy peezy to let Hannah join Fran with a brewski, and I toast the morning with a sparkly water over ice with our pickleball friend Joy.

After an afternoon walk in town through Steedman Woods and along the Fisherman’s Walk in York Harbor, Hannah and I sit again on our front deck under the patio table umbrella as we do each evening; she with a Trader Joe pinot noir and me, ta da,  with sliced baby carrots and celery sticks dipped in garlic Organic Humus.  Not a twinge of desire to drink along with Hannah.  One down, twenty-nine to go.  I can hear my fans cheering from the sideline.

July 12 – Day Two.  My overnight sleep is better which means it enters the good category (by that I mean one time up at night and no extended wakefulness).  Still, this cleansing is a process and I will stay the course interested to learn if my sleep improves and what else might happen by eliminating alcohol from my daily life.  Might I lose weight since wine is a stimulate to appetite?  Have more energy  throughout the day?  Not be sluggish in the evenings?  Other consequences I haven’t even thought of?

Cleanse bird feeders

Our front yard bird feeders

By late afternoon, it doesn’t seem like it should be this easy.   I sit with veggies while Hannah has some fine red wine as we look out to the bird feeders in our front yard.  We talk about Brene Brown’s ideas of the importance of being vulnerable and the value of developing shame resilience to avoid the telling of self-defeating stories. All the while, I feel no urge to imbibe.

July 13 – Day Three – I’m encouraged after another decent, yet not spectacular night’s sleep.  With the windows open, our bedroom gets down to 71F, and slumber envelops me.

Then during our 715A workout on the elliptical and recumbent bike at Coastal Fitness in Kittery, I feel more energized and fired up with my heart rate rocking in the mid-120s.  Any correlation with no wine for three days?  Too soon to tell.  One energetic morning is way too small a sample size to establish a trend, but I extrapolate anyway.

Evening wine with Hannah is again no wine for Danny.  Veggies and humus.