For six months, I didn’t take a sip of alcohol. I didn’t plan for my hiatus to be for that long. But one morning, not even one where I had a particularly bad hangover, I just woke up and thought, “I am going to stop drinking fo 30 days. Just… because.” I didn’t know that I was going to enjoy it so much that 1 month would turn into 6.
If I am being brutally honest, with myself and with you, it wasn’t “just because.” After seeing some family members and friends struggle with alcoholism and addiction, and noticing certain concerning patterns in myself, I decided it couldn’t hurt. I just wanted to test it out– to see what my life would be like without it, and maybe, more than anything, just to prove to myself I could do it.
And I’m so glad I did because the lessons I learned have been invaluable and ones that have forever changed the way I view alcohol and my relationship with it. Below are just some of them.
1. It wasn’t helping me like I thought it was.
By cutting alcohol out of my life I realized just how much I was drinking and, perhaps more importantly, how heavily I was relying on it for a variety of reasons. There always seems to be, especially in our twenties, a good reason to drink. “It’s the weekend, and I deserve it.” “Red wine is good for your heart.” “It makes me feel more comfortable in social situations.” “I’m so stressed out right now, I just need to let loose.” “I’m upset and just want to forget about my problems for the time being.”
The thing is, any reason I used to give to justify my drinking pretty much disappeared from my life. Money troubles, relationship turbulence, nameless anxiety creeping in unannounced for no particular reason. Feeling so tired. Feeling unhealthy.
Everything I thought I was using alcohol for, I got effortlessly while I was sober– more confidence, less anxiety, energy, motivation, etc. Plus, a lot of my financial burdens melted away when I wasn’t spending so much money at the bar every weekend or picking up a bottle of wine on the way home from work.
2. You can have fun without alcohol.
I didn’t just give it up for 30 days. I gave it up for 6 months. Yes, this isn’t forever. But you know what events passed during this period that I had to endure– completely sober? Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years Eve! My 25th birthday.
I had better conversations with friends and family while I was out. I still went to bars and parties, and had fun. Sure, some nights I decided to go home a little earlier than everyone else, but there were very, very few times in the span of those six months that I looked at everyone all around me and felt like I was missing out. After the first month, it was like I didn’t even see the alcohol anymore.
Sometimes I forgot people were even drinking; my mind wasn’t fixated on the alcohol; it was on people, conversations, the experience.
A lot of people asked me how I was going to do things like tailgating or concerts and still have fun? Well, I have learned that if it is something I can only enjoy by getting drunk before, it probably isn’t something I should be doing anyway.
3. People are either all for it, or uncomfortable with the idea of it.
I noticed just how many celebrities are sober, either because they have never really drank or because they had too for problems with addiction. While out, I noticed people didn’t get nearly as drunk as I thought they did, and the ones that did made me never want to get sloppy in public again.
Another thing that happened a lot was people immediately began subtly defending their own drinking habits with comments like, “Yeah, I barely drink anymore, tonight is an exception…” as if I am judging them. They also asked me a lot of questions like, “Is there something medically wrong with you?” and “Wow, so this must be awful for you, being out right now.” None of which were true, but it was hard for people to wrap their heads around the concept that, for some people, it can just be a lifestyle choice and nothing else.
On the other hand, I also noticed that not as many people even noticed I wasn’t drinking like I thought they would. At first, I was hesitant about going to bars or pregames because I was sick of talking about my decision, but I quickly learned that as long as you have a cup in your hand, regardless of what is in it, people just assume you’re drinking.
4. It changes your perspective on, well, everything.
I have learned that the best decisions I make, the best experiences worth having, let alone remembering, happen with a clean mind, a lasting memory, a fastened confidence that anything and everything you do and say isn’t because you are intoxicated, but because you mean to, because it’s what you want to do—it’s a choice.
Unlearning any habit is a process and it doesn’t come easy. But that discomfort quickly turns to gratitude. Alcohol was a quick fix, causing accumulating damage in ways I didn’t even realize.
5. It’s a lot easier than you think.
I know my experience is mine, and mine alone. But one of the surprising things that happened was that I turn what was meant to be a 30 day break from booze into a 6 month sobriety. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and that is why I think so many people should give it a try at one point in their lives.
Most of start drinking as teenagers just because it is what we assume we’re supposed to be doing, and, unless something tragic happens or we’re forced to for whatever reason, a lot of people don’t even consider what it would be like living without it– because people assume you only do it if you are a raging alcoholic and are destroying your life, because they don’t want to be associated with that stigma, because they want to fit in, or because they just assume it would make their lives more difficult and inconvenient, less manageable and more stressful– when actually the opposite is true.