I was at a friend’s super fun annual Christmas party. Everyone was laughing, smiling, and having a great time. Drinks and conversation were flowing. Toward the end of the night when it was clear the party was nearly over, me and a couple of friends swore we were going to start a bookclub. To make it official, we sealed our promise with a clink.
Oh, those empty drunk promises; the ones you make when you’re feeling a little tipsy and say things like, “let’s go hiking tomorrow!” or “let’s start a book club and trade books!” They’re good intentions, but fruitless. The only thing everyone is going to want to do the next day is get more sleep! I hugged my friends and went home.
Indeed the only thing I wanted the next morning when my 9 month old baby woke up at the crack dawn was sleep! The last thing on my mind was coordinating a Read List and organizing a book club, never mind hiking. Plus, Christmas was right around the corner. All of my friends already dedicated what little time they could spare to weekly spin classes in which we all would carpool 40 minutes into town together. Fruitless.
That’s when it hit me. Not a hangover, just exhaustion. I never sleep well when I drink, so I don’t know why I do it, even if it was just the two glasses. But that familiar feeling came over like an old frenemy I never wanted to see again. So I said what every person says when they feel like shit after a night of drinking, “I’m never going to drink again.” Sound familiar? Well, I said it, and the difference this time is that I have kept that promise ever since.
Everything was going easy and smooth at first. I didn’t have a drink with dinner when we went out. I didn’t have a glass of wine at home on the weekend. I didn’t pour a glass of craft beer from our growler to enjoy with my husband after a hard day in motherhood. Those were all relatively easy things I didn’t do very often anyway. But man oh man when that first social function came up and I knew I was going to be around a bunch of people, it had me thinking. I’m not a total introvert, but I do like to feel people out before I open up. I don’t need or seek the attention of other people, but I’m not turned off by it either. Sometimes I’m the first to strike up conversation, sometimes I’m not.
When we finally walked in the door, there were all these faces I didn’t know. Usually in this type of scenario, like most people, I would just grab a drink which would serve as my wingman. And if I were having a conversation with a group of people, I could just take sips in between when I didn’t have anything to say. You know, to fill in the awkwardness of my non-contribution. And luckily, after about an hour, I would have been given the gift of feeling relaxed and bold enough to strike up conversation with total strangers and make them laugh. And, I was very good at making people laugh. Once the alcohol loosened me up of course. I was convinced I couldn’t be funny otherwise (a lie I no longer subscribe to).
But not this time. No, because this time, I had no crutch. I wasn’t doing that anymore. It no longer served me. I had to endure the growing pains that came with this new lifestyle. Thankfully, this event was a family affair, at a brewery no less, and I had my adorable baby to tend to. My husband made his rounds of introductions, and I greeted everyone I met. After making rounds, I sat with my daughter and just watched the party go on. I studied people and watched them smile and laugh. I started to feel a sprout of jealousy creep in, I wanted to socialize and make friends, but I was distracted by Jade’s fussing. She was hungry, so I grabbed some snacks from the diaper bag and she was happy again. Then, I went back to people watching. That’s when it hit me. As I panned the room, I noticed every single person was standing in small groups, each with a drink in one hand, sometimes both. I played with my daughter and noticed how the energy in the room shifted. I witnessed the habit of people arriving to the party then heading straight to the bar before doing anything else. They’d be a little stiff at first, not saying much, and then, they would transform. The once moderately audible music was now drowned by an uproar of voices.
First, everything was calm, then after a while, it wasn’t. I could clearly see how the alcohol had easily made its way into the room by penetrating people’s bodies too. Normally shy people became social butterflies and false confidence floated around doubtlessly. Cheeks were flushed and eyes became heavy.
After a few more gatherings like this one, I concluded that alcohol served as an escape for most people. Sure, beer and wine lovers proclaim they love to sample unique creations; that they simply appreciate the craft, and it’s a hobby. And I know that is true. I also used to treat alcohol like it was an adventure. But, I also know that many people appreciate alcohol for its ability to lubricate otherwise stiff social interactions. To put it simply, people are afraid to be themselves. They like who alcohol helps them to be. Except this is a facade. It’s a lie. If you think it helps you be you, then I got some unsettling news for you.
I know lots of people will agree that they don’t need it. But, if I were to ask those same people to give up alcohol for a year, they’d reply that sobriety isn’t necessary to prove that they in fact don’t need it. In other words, they don’t need the action to prove that they’re words have meaning. Isn’t that ironic?
It’s been five years since I’ve sworn off alcohol, and I’ve learned so much about how it influences other people, but more importantly, who I am without it. So, I’ll share the profound lessons I’ve learned since giving up alcohol and how my life has transformed.
- I have more confidence. In the early weeks of my abstinence I felt like an outcast. People would ask me why I wasn’t drinking and when I responded simply that I quit, there was an obvious level of discomfort on their end. They were sorry they asked. My not drinking at a party made some people uncomfortable. They felt like I was judging them, or that I didn’t want to bond with them. Some made jokes, and others tried to pressure me into having a drink with them. Not I, nor you, needs alcohol to bond with another person. Alcohol isn’t a requirement for friendship, and if somebody is challenging your sobriety, be bold enough to walk away.
- No more hangovers. Imagine if you could never have another hangover ever again. My mornings are mine again. I no longer need to spend a day recuperating from a few hours of partying. My days are busy enough as it is. Children have zero chill, nor will they go easy on you because you don’t feel good. Also, I sleep better, I have more energy, my body is healthier, I don’t get that gross bloating feeling, I save money, and my skin is sexier than ever.
- My circle of friends has tightened up. I bet if you invited friends over to have a few drinks you’d get way more responses than if you invited them over for tea. What does that say about your friendships? People that used to hit me up to party don’t anymore. I’m sure in their mind I’m the No-Fun-Mom who doesn’t drink, is asleep by 10, and doesn’t always want to be the designated driver. And they’re nearly spot on. Just because I’m abstinent doesn’t mean I am the on-call chauffeur. I’d still love to hang out and dance and have fun, and sometimes I don’t mind driving, but I will not let that be the reason I’m invited. And don’t get me wrong, if my loved ones needed a safe ride home I would without a doubt pick them up, but I’ve been through it enough times to figure out who really wants me there and who is looking for a free ride. I spent a lot of lonely nights crying about this, but let me make this clear right here and now: Giving up alcohol is one thousand times better than fair-weather friends. Oh, and but the way, I am fun. Just ask my kids.
- I don’t care about it anymore. It feels like a brand new world on this side of the fence, friends! I don’t even think twice about it. I have successfully made it past the awkward stage. I can show up and be social all on my own without liquid courage. Turns out, that confidence I thought only alcohol could extract was in there all along. Now, it doesn’t feel like a mask, but rather a part of me that has been set free. Not like before when my confidence needed special permission from a glass of wine to come out and play. My true self is on full display and it feels so damn good!
- I have more time to do what I love. Now that I don’t have alcohol as a stress-reliever, I get to utilize healthier outlets. I go for a walk, practice yoga, lift weights, meditate, write, paint, organize, tidy up, chat with a friend, go for a scenic drive with the volume up, go shopping, paint my nails, craft, take on a home project, bake, and so many other things that I enjoy. All of these alternatives add value to my life and are a hundred times better for me than drinking.
So now I’m curious about YOU! Could you go 365 days without a drink? Even when life gets hard, or there’s a celebration, or someone just poured you a shot when you didn’t ask? It’s easy to find a reason to have a drink, but could you find a better reason not to? The most common response I get when I ask someone if they could make it a year without a drop is “that’s too long.” Look, you said it, not me. You just openly admitted that alcohol has that strong of a hold on you. I’m not judging you, I’m just wondering if you can see the value in giving it up for a little while. If maybe there are some dependency issues your ego won’t let you face. How do you manage awkward social gatherings? What’s your go-to coping tool for difficult moments? Just some questions to really be honest about. And if you don’t mind, I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, be well.
6 thoughts on “5 Ways My Life Changed for the Better After I Made This 1 Change”
Love this. I’ve quit my six-pack a day habit too, and the thing that I love most about this new lifestyle is I get to wake up in the mornings without feeling that dread, and the danged alcohol fog.
Also, every time I feel the desire to drink, I just ask myself: why do I want to alter my mental state? Why isn’t my present not good enough? What am I doing wrong in real life?
That usually gives me a better perspective and allows me to just ride the desire out.
Anyway, wishing you all the best!
That is amazing!! Those are all great questions to ask too. When is your soberversary?
I didn’t really keep track, because it wasn’t as if I had a hard quit. I decided to stop and that period just lengthened indefinitely. I’d guess that I stopped about one or two years ago, in which time I touched alcohol only once.
Well congratulations! It’s a proud achievement.
I never liked how alcohol made me feel, I drank socially to be fun really and “have fun” as it loosened me up more. Over the years of growing more spiritual I have found myself staying away from those situations and when I’m around family on holidays, I reject taking a shot with everyone else no matter how they may look at me. I know its no good for me and I dont want to feel yucky. I think it always scared me as I’ve seen it destroy families around me and I never wanted that to be an option for me. I never looked to alcohol to forget my problems, I just felt and dealt with them. I agree with your point on how people want to get away from life or they want to fit into the mold and not be an outcast. Im at a point that I enjoy many things and don’t need some liquid to have fun and keep friends.
I hear you. I think alcohol is definitely one of those things that is inherently social. It’s sort of just expected, but we all know it doesn’t always make us feel great. It’s so weird!