On Sunday, the Eat Fit Alcohol Free for 40 Challenge (which is really 46 days) ends and I’m jogging across the finish line with a mixed bag of emotions. A lot has changed since those carefree days back in February, before the city was overcome by COVID-19 and sent into lockdown. Parades, open houses and dancing in the streets with loved ones and strangers is replaced by unemployment, isolation and uncertainty. People are fearful, stressed out and lonely, everyone is coping the best they can and there is no right or wrong way. It’s OK to just survive, or to have good and bad days, or to have all good days. We are all wired differently and, while yes, the world has seen its share of plagues and pandemics, most of us have not dealt with something like this in our lifetime. There’s no big yellow and black “Pandemics for Dummies,” book. (Or if there is, I can’t find the damned thing.)

As a journalist, I’ve never been busier. The team of writers and editors I work with is cranking out online stories with a fervor to bring our readers everything from helpful resources to entertaining diversions. I’m so proud of our work and of my teammates! As an introvert, I’m thriving on long days and nights spent at home, working, writing, reading, making art, cooking, listening to music and focusing on meditation and yoga practices. As a compassionate and empathetic person, I’m hurting for loved ones and strangers who are struggling financially, emotionally or physically right now and am doing everything I can to lend a hand. As an average human being, I’m just as susceptible as anyone to bouts of fear and anxiety over catching the virus, a loved one contracting it or the lockdown going on for months on end.

This all makes for a confusing gratitude/guilt/fear emotional cycle, made easier to navigate (or for me at least, since one size does not fit all) by the complete absence of alcohol afforded by this challenge. Yep, I’m confident that being dry has helped ease anxiety and provided the clarity, energy and time to focus on activities that keep me healthy and sane. My meditation practice has stayed on track, to the tune that I haven’t missed a day and am generally clocking multiple sessions. Daily walks or bike rides are joined now by a 30-day yoga challenge that began this week. Our house has stayed not only clean and tidy, but also well-organized and stocked with nutritious groceries and other essential supplies. Our tight budget has remained on track and I’m seeing greater results from my frugal ways. My creativity and productivity are through the roof, which is advantageous considering how much my workload has increased since we went remote and the company ramped up its digital efforts across all channels. Finally, I’ve really enjoyed spending time with myself and feel good about my behavior and choices sans alcohol. It’s not that I was making bad choices, rather, it was more about continuing to do things that didn’t serve me.

Jumping off the booze train for a bit gave me greater prospective on several activities and habits that I had been analyzing for some time as practices to either replace, refine or abandon. These were a combination of habits, but level and frequency of alcohol consumption was at the top of the list. I drink a lot less than the average bear and don’t find it problematic, but multiple happy hours per week and mindlessly pouring a glass or three of wine, cocktails or brunch beverages any other time were definitely adversely affecting my weight, energy, focus, creativity, productivity, time spent with other enjoyable-to-me cultural pursuits and, if I’m being honest, self-esteem. I didn’t feel good about drinking being so pervasive in my life. The challenge has been, above all, a reset.

Today, I’m 18 pounds lighter than I was in January and 12 pounds lighter than when I began the challenge on Feb. 26. In addition to going alcohol free, I’ve been exercising more and following an extremely nutritious eating plan through the Noom app, so it’s important to note that the weight loss was the result of a combination of efforts that began pre-challenge. As mentioned, my energy is higher and I definitely have experienced greater clarity and focus, as well as softer skin, but the other potential benefits outlined by the Eat Fit team have eluded me. My eyes and skin aren’t brighter, but they weren’t really dull to begin with, so no harm, no foul on that point. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our follow-up labs have been postponed, so I won’t be able to compare my biometrics to the test results from labs taken at the beginning of the challenge. I think we can all assume they are improved across the board though, especially the inflammation indicated in my earlier results.

At the mid-point of the challenge, I mentioned on Eat Fit director and challenge founder Molly Kimball’s “Fueled” podcast that I might continue into a somewhat “Sober Spring” (to use the Try Dry app lingo). I’m still of that mindset. My plan is to continue using the Try Dry app and go with the “Moderator” goal option, in which you commit to no more than 14 drinks a week for a certain number of weeks. Honestly, at this point 14 seems excessive, so, especially while we are sheltering in place, I’ll have mostly non-drinking days with a couple of planned, mindful drinking days in the mix. I’m also looking forward to taste testing more of the zero proof spirits on the market. Next up is Ritual, which claims its zero proof whiskey and gin taste like the real thing, complete with that signature “burn” accompanying those types of liquors. That said, I’m not the teetotalling type and am really looking forward to that first glass of champagne, as well as the second, on Easter Sunday. I’m not a robot, people!

Thanks for following along with me, and my coworker and co-challenger Ashley, as we tippled mocktails and shared our dry adventures, triumphs and tribulations for the past 46 days. We hope you learned a few things, tried some zero-proof beverages and recipes that will be tasty either with or without alcohol and that you were maybe even a little entertained. Cheers to all things in moderation, including moderation!