In his thirties, overweight and unhappy with his drinking habits, Jay Oza decided to stop drinking as part of his bigger fitness goals. With the help of Reddit and family support, he gave up alcohol and got into the best shape of his life. Here he explains, in his own words, how he did it.
I was a pretty normal college student who drank at parties, but when I graduated adult life, I didn’t stop drinking. At first he only drank on weekends. Then it crept up to drink more over the course of the week. Even when I didn’t really feel like drinking, I did it out of habit. I would store beer in the fridge the way one would store milk, eggs, and bread.
I was never in danger of losing my job, but I love my job and have always been good at it. As a perfectionist who expects a lot from myself, I realized that drinking was taking up a lot of time and energy in my life – keeping me from a full eight hours of sleep, making me dizzy and less efficient at work. And it kept me from practicing the way I wanted; I didn’t take everything to the gym.
My father had traveled a similar path and died of complications from cirrhosis. When I was 30, about six months after my wife and I had our first child, I decided to quit.
I had already started intermittent fasting and saw some positive results. I wondered how much better I could do by cutting out all the extra calories from alcohol. So intermittent fasting was really the main catalyst that gave me the motivation to quit drinking for good. And I’ve incorporated quitting into my fitness plan.
A few things helped from the start. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness and Change Your Life, a book by Annie Grace, really helped me understand the psychology of alcoholism, including how your brain rewards you with dopamine that makes you feel good. That understanding boosted my confidence to quit; I thought I could get my dopamine from exercising instead of drinking.
The power of support
When I started, I was on my own. After a few months I realized I needed help. I told my doctor what I was doing, usually as a warning. The first part of my recovery plan was a referral to a men’s recovery group. Then I started going to AA once a week for the first year. I meet my therapist every month or two. I also joined the StopDrinking subreddit for daily advice and support.
For anyone who thinks they can do it on their own, I really recommend seeing a doctor you trust (find one, if you don’t already have one) and work out a plan. Everyone needs support and backup, or just someone to bounce ideas off of. I go to a weekly group therapy session for men. We became very close and it helped a lot to know that I wasn’t the only one trying to quit. Not to mention the pandemic – talking to these guys during the pandemic was a life saver. My wife also stopped at the same time and we support each other every day.
How I dealt with desires
I’ve developed some simple tools to help manage my cravings. I have a SodaStream machine and over the weekend I made myself seltzer so I had something non-alcoholic to drink. Decaffeinated coffee also helped. I would jump into some physical exercise or video games. You just have to have a plan for them. For me, who has been sober for three years, a craving can last 30 seconds, but in the beginning it can be 15 or 20 minutes. Little things like chewing gum, sunflower seeds, and flavored water would go a long way; breathing exercises work when you’re on the go. And I looked in the mirror and consciously reminded myself of all the progress I had made.
Once I stopped drinking, I promised to exercise every day and eat a good diet. Before that I had lifted weights, but never with a specific routine. I ran several marathons, but treat myself to beer, vodka and unhealthy food. I am 6’8″ tall and weighed 185lbs when I stopped drinking – overweight and unhappy with my athletic abilities.
I started with the 5/3/1 lifting program and loved it. Since then I’ve added 105 pounds to my deadlift, 40 pounds to my bench press and 45 pounds to my overhead press. I’ve dropped my weight to 128 pounds; I think I was actually underweight for a short while before bulking. I will continue to run competitively. However, I mainly work on my physique with dumbbell exercises. And drumming. I love drumming – I’m very proud to have a drumming YouTube channel with over 40,000 views and 140 subscribers.
By staying sober, I have also been able to follow a good diet. My wife cooks a lot, but I also like to cook classic bodybuilding meals like burgers and vegetables. Every night I have a bowl full of spinach with grilled chicken, feta cheese and other vegetables.
Mentally I feel at the right time and physically at 34 I feel in the best shape of my life. I feel like I have constant mental clarity: I am more efficient at work, I finish tasks easily. I am never distracted by the desire to have a beer or stay up late. I used to stay up late drinking, but now I go to bed at a normal time, which gives me energy to exercise.
Breaking a bad habit is difficult; I certainly had temptations and desires along the way. A support system and a real “recovery plan” helped – I didn’t have to go it alone. Being sober is such a different life from the days I drank. I’m never going back.
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