I never had what most people would call a “drinking problem” but I was curious about how it would feel to give up alcohol for a few months. Even though I had heard about positive experiences from other people, I wasn’t prepared for how much it would change my life. While I might not stay alcohol-free forever, I’m so glad I tried it. Here are the ways my life has improved since I stopped drinking.
My sleep is amazing.
There’s a certain kind of deep sleep that you slip into after a night of drinking. But while it may feel like you’re getting the best sleep of your life, you probably wake up tired. It turns out that alcohol cuts down on REM sleep, which is a critical part of the sleep cycle for recharging the body. I used to feel tired all the time, no matter how many hours of sleep I got. Now that I’m not drinking, I fall asleep naturally, sleep through the night, and wake up feeling refreshed.
I can handle going out more.
Alcohol makes you feel chatty, relaxed, and comfortable around strangers, but it also takes a toll on your body. When I went out on weekends, I would be almost too exhausted to move on Monday. Since giving up alcohol, my stamina for social gatherings is much higher. While it may take a little longer to get into the party mood, I don’t feel drained by the end of the weekend the way I used to.
I only go to parties I want to go to.
After one or two drinks, most people are enjoying themselves, regardless of their surroundings. When I gave up drinking, I realized that a lot of the parties I went to weren’t very enjoyable. Without the rosy filter of a strong drink, they were just a series of chaotic interactions with people I didn’t know very well. Now, I only go out with people I enjoy being around while sober.
I’ve saved a lot of money.
No matter where you live, drinking is expensive. One G + T where I live costs anywhere from $8 to $15. If you do the math (three drinks on a night out, two nights a week, for example), it adds up. There’s no point saving money by making your coffee at home or limiting your take-out meals when you’re spending nearly $100 in alcohol every week.
I waste less time on dating.
I always preferred going out for drinks as a first date instead of the pressure of dinner or the awkwardness of an afternoon coffee, but this wasted a lot of time. Sometimes I thought a date was going really well, only to find on the second date (usually in the daytime) that the person was not at all who I thought they were. These days, I always go for a coffee date first. When both of you are sober, you’re a lot better at determining whether a second date is a good idea.
My mood swings are less pronounced.
Everyone enjoys the relaxed, happy feeling you get from drinking. But there is a flip side that is less talked about, probably because it can occur hours after your last drink. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that, along with making you drowsy, it suppresses mood regulators like serotonin, which help you maintain a steady emotional state. I used to think that my low moods were entirely related to my cycle, but since I’ve stopped drinking, I no longer get frequent bouts of anxiety and low-level depression the way I used to.
I have energy.
Before I stopped drinking, I thought I was just run down from work and the general stresses of being a millennial in the modern world. But it turns out that a lot of it had to do with the stress my body was under from the alcohol I was putting into it. Now, not only am I waking up earlier and feeling more energetic, but I even enjoy exercising because my body feels refreshed instead of depleted.
I’m more assertive.
It’s easy to get pulled into drinking because of peer pressure. When I gave up alcohol, I had to get comfortable saying “No, thank you” when people offered me drinks. It felt rude and awkward at first, but now, I don’t think twice about it, and it’s made me more assertive in other parts of my life as well.
My friend group is smaller, but I like it that way.
I used to have a pretty big circle of friends. But when I stopped drinking, I realized that I didn’t want to hang out with many of them while sober. Since then, my friendship group has tightened. The people I spend time with are people I love and respect and truly enjoy spending time with.
It’s taught me to build new habits.
When I stopped drinking, I had to find the confidence to initiate conversations with strangers, say yes to new experiences, and dive headfirst onto the dance floor without the help of a chemical liberator. I did this in the same way you’d go about building any habit: practice. And because of that practice, I’ve proved to myself that I can build any skill if I put my mind to it.
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