“Wait, what?!” I hear you cry. “First you want me to go vegan, now you want to take away my alcohol? What kind of a monster are you?”
I feel you, I really do. It wasn’t an easy decision for me, either – I toyed with the idea for at least a year, but could never quite get there. Something was holding me back. Or rather, someone.
Hint: it was me.
“But I’ll be boring!” “What will I do for fun?” “Everyone else drinks!” “I’ll have no social life!”
I needed a sign that I was doing the right thing, and it came in the form of my boyfriend. He doesn’t drink, and he has the most enviable lifestyle ever! When I met him, I realised that alcohol might just be holding me back from living my best life. I decided to give this sober thing a try, and I can genuinely say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I’ve noticed that people tend to focus on the negatives of a sober lifestyle, and don’t give much thought to the benefits. Before I stopped drinking, I wasn’t even aware that they existed!
So, I’ll be your sign. I’ll be your cool, sober friend – well, maybe just the sober part. And that delicious looking cocktail up there? It’s completely alcohol-free.
Excited? You should be. Here are just a few of the ways that quitting alcohol will change your life for the better!
No More Hangovers
This is an obvious one, but I didn’t realise just how good it felt to live hangover-free until I stopped drinking completely. I used to spend at least four days a month feeling hungover – that’s almost two whole months out of the year! I would lie around feeling nauseated, tired, anxious (more on that later!) and just plain terrible.
So, why do hangovers make you feel so bad? The main culprit is dehydration. Alcohol makes you produce more urine in an effort to get rid of the toxins, which is why you have to pee so often during a night out. If you don’t counteract the alcohol by drinking extra water between drinks, you’re going to wake up feeling like you’ve been lost in the desert for a week. Want to hear something gross? Your body actually borrows water from your brain, which is why you often have a headache the next morning.
I would also get the worst cravings for fatty food after a big night. Confession: my favourite hangover food was KFC. How times have changed! My willpower was always at an all-time low after I’d been drinking, so I would usually end up eating junk food all day and feeling even worse. Looking back, I can’t believe that I kept repeating this toxic pattern over and over every week. It just wasn’t worth it!
Even three years after I stopped drinking, I still feel extra grateful on Sunday mornings. It feels so good to have the entire day stretched out in front of me, safe in the knowledge that I can take full advantage of it. There are so many benefits to being sober, but the thought of never having to suffer another hangover ever again is definitely my favourite!
You’ll Save Money
By the time I turned 24, I was spending roughly £80 on alcohol every month. It may not sound like much, but it works out at around £960 a year! That’s a lot of money. So, what did I have to show for it?
To be honest, not much. I definitely had some fun nights out, but looking back I can see that those nights would have been just as fun without alcohol. I love getting dressed up and being silly with my friends – alcohol wasn’t an essential part of that. I wish I’d known this sooner!
The money that I used to spend on alcohol is now spent on new clothes, meals out or added to my savings account (which is basically just a travel account!) These things give me so much more joy and satisfaction than buying yet another round of drinks. Now when I hang out with friends, we eat delicious food together or watch a movie – there are so many activities that don’t involve alcohol. Plus, you’ll actually remember the conversations!
If I had carried on spending around £20 on alcohol every week, I would have contributed over £38,000 to the industry by the time I turned 60. How insane is that?! I don’t know about you, but the thought of giving them that amount of money just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t agree with the alcohol industry: I think it preys on vulnerable people and takes little to no responsibility for the scary rates of alcoholism. So instead, I choose to spend my money on things that will enrich my life. Now, what to buy with that £38,000?
You’ll Feel Happier
Have you ever felt that crushing anxiety after waking up from a night of drinking? It’s rarely anchored to anything – you just feel terrible. That was me, every single weekend for around seven years.
Sundays were always my least favourite day of the week, simply because I was always hungover! I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I just felt miserable. It often took me at least two days to shake the feeling completely!
Alcohol is a depressant, and disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals in our brains. I never understood this, because I always felt happier after downing one or two drinks. How could alcohol be a depressant if it made me feel so good?
Drink Aware explain it really well: “The relaxed feeling you can get when you have that first drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol has caused in your brain. For many of us, a drink can help us feel more confident and less anxious. That’s because it’s starting to depress the part of the brain we associate with inhibition.” But that heady feeling never lasted, and by the time I woke up the next morning I felt so much worse than I had before I started drinking.
Now, life is so much happier. When I feel joyful, I know it’s authentic – not that artificial rush of pleasure that comes from drinking alcohol. I also know that any sadness or anxiety is usually down to an actual problem, which I can then take steps to resolve. I’ve taken back control of my feelings and emotions, instead of suppressing them with alcohol. It’s the most liberating feeling ever!
You’ll Be More Productive
Looking back, I can see that I was living so much of my life on autopilot. I never made many plans for the weekend – I had to keep Sunday free to nurse my hangover, and Saturday was usually spent getting ready for the night ahead. I had surrounded myself with people who thought this was normal, and as a result I didn’t even consider that there could be a better way to live.
It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when I thought I was destined for a 9-5 job, and didn’t give any thought to hobbies or other interests. I just didn’t have any ideas! Now, I’m overflowing with creativity. I love writing this blog, working on my book, taking photographs, improving my sewing skills – removing alcohol from my life has made room for so many amazing things.
Not only are my weekends more productive, but my weekdays are too! Mondays used to be a washout as I was still recovering from the weekend, and my sole focus was to survive work and get back to bed. Now, I work towards my future goals every single day. Chasing my dreams is much more fulfilling than recovering from a hangover!
You’ll Have Fewer Regrets
Alcohol really brought out the worst in me. There were so many mornings that I would wake up filled with regret about things I had said or done the night before. It was common for nights out to end in tears, and arguments with friends or boyfriends were pretty standard.
Looking back, I definitely wasn’t having as much fun as I thought I was. I’m someone who typically avoids any kind of drama or confrontation, but under the influence of alcohol I found myself in these types of situations all too often. Often I wouldn’t even remember what had happened – the pit in my stomach would be my only clue that something was wrong.
I really didn’t like who I became when I was drinking. I was loud, obnoxious and attention-seeking – completely different from my sober self! It just didn’t feel like me. I still cringe at some of the things I did back then, and wish that I had known how good life could be without alcohol.
Now I love knowing that my decisions are made with a clear and sober mind, and that I’m being my authentic self in all social situations. No more piecing together the events of the night before and wondering who I’ve offended! I have so much more self-respect, too – I used to do crazy, wild things when I was drunk just to get attention and make people laugh. I genuinely don’t feel the need to do that anymore, and I’m so much happier for it.
You’ll Look Good
This was something that really surprised me, as I hadn’t considered how alcohol was affecting my outward appearance. I was still fairly young when I stopped drinking, so it hadn’t taken too much of a toll on me, but there were definitely some noticeable improvements.
I’ve always been slim, but when I started a new job in London I began to gradually put on weight. I put it down to a few too many trips to the vending machine (which definitely contributed!) but even when I made an effort to eat healthier, the extra weight remained. So, what was I doing wrong?
Well, two glasses of wine contain roughly the same amount of calories as a cheeseburger – and I was definitely drinking more than that on a weekly basis! Combine that with the regular trip to McDonald’s at the end of a night out (plus the greasy hangover food the next day) and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain. Once I quit drinking, I lost the extra pounds without even having to think about it. How’s that for an incentive?
My skin was also starting to take a beating. I would always wake up with a blotchy, dry face after a night out and never really felt comfortable leaving the house without makeup as my complexion looked so uneven. I assumed it was a side effect of aging (at 24?) so I didn’t think much of it, but after three years of sobriety my skin has improved drastically. It feels so good to leave the house barefaced without having to worry about how I look. My complexion is much more even, and my skin feels baby soft – people even comment on it now!
You don’t have to be a stereotypical ‘alcoholic’ for your drinking habits to affect the way you look. It can happen to anyone! Luckily, it’s never too late to reverse the damage.
You’ll Feel Great
Not only will you look good, you’ll begin to feel amazing too! The human body is a wonderful thing, able to adapt to almost any situation. The downside is, when you feel like crap for long enough you’ll start to believe that it’s just your normal baseline. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that substances like alcohol and caffeine make you feel good, when you would have actually felt better if you hadn’t ingested them in the first place!
I didn’t think I felt bad at the time. I assumed that it was normal to feel tired and slightly sluggish, and that it was just a side effect of getting older. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I have so much more energy now – I can jump out of bed at 6am and go all day. Sometimes, I’m even annoyingly perky.
Also, never underestimate how good it feels to be clear-headed. I can actually think properly now, and the constant fog in my brain has disappeared. I hadn’t even realised that it was there! If you’re sitting there thinking, ‘Well, I drink fairly regularly and I don’t feel like that!’ then I totally get it – I would have said the same thing! It wasn’t until I gave my body a much-needed break from alcohol that I realised how much potential I had to feel amazing. What have you got to lose?
Life Is Just Better!
I can’t stress this enough. Sure, life was fine when I was drinking – I definitely wasn’t miserable, and I had some fun nights out. But I don’t want my life to be ‘fine.’ I want it to be rewarding, memorable, fulfilling.
Choosing to step away from alcohol can feel scary and isolating. You’re no longer following the crowd, and are forging your own path. That’s an amazing thing! It took a lot of soul-searching, but I like myself better now. You know when you just have that deep, unshakable conviction that you’re on the right path? That’s how I feel, and there’s no room on that path for alcohol.
I’ll end with one of my favourite quotes by Alexandra Katehakis: “To sober up seems to many like making life ‘so serious,’ as if seriousness precluded joy, warmth, spontaneity and fun. But there can be a delusional, blind quality to non-sober festivities. To have our eyes open soberly with all our senses and memory intact allows some of the most rewarding, soul-nourishing, and long-lasting pleasures possible.”