I quit drinking in the beginning of 2019 and I can easily say that my life is better without alcohol. Being alcohol-free has improved my mental health by reducing anxiety. Who knew that after getting rid of most of my stuff, becoming debt free, downsizing and leaving a job that wore me out, the thing that would simplify my life the most would be quitting alcohol.
For a long time, I questioned my drinking but thought I needed a rock bottom reason to quit or thought that quitting meant people would think that I had a problem, or maybe it meant that I had a problem. I also worried that my life wouldn’t be as fun without alcohol and that my relationships would change. When I decided to take a break from drinking on January 20, 2019, I didn’t know that weekend I’d had my last glass of wine, my last hangover and that I would end a decades long journey of managing alcohol.
I questioned my drinking habits and wrote about my concerns about alcohol in 2011 and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t addicted/didn’t have a problem/wasn’t an alcoholic or heavy drinker. If I could go back and send a message to the me who wrote those words, I would have asked her, “Is that a good enough reason to keep drinking?” and “Is alcohol contributing to the full, healthy, intentional life you say you want?” For me, minimalism is removing the things that remove you from your life. Alcohol removed me from my life so I removed it.
10 Cool Things Happened When I Stopped Drinking Alcohol
1. I never had a hangover again.
When I was drinking alcohol, I would google things like, “hangover remedy” or “what should I drink to avoid a hangover” and other similar phrases. I hated waking up with a headache, fuzzy brain and cravings for fast food. As it turns out, if you don’t want to be hungover, not drinking alcohol works every time. It seemed like the older I got, the more easily I ended up with a hangover. Even one or two glasses of wine made me feel crappy the next day.
2. I saved lots of money when I put down alcohol.
I didn’t often drink the cheap stuff so dinners out were twice as expensive, holidays and vacation drinking was pricy and I just spent a lot on alcohol even when I wasn’t drinking a lot. Since I don’t buy drinks for myself or friends anymore, and don’t have to buy wine or other alcohol for any reason, I’ve saved money. This was a very cool thing that happened when I quit drinking.
3. There aren’t any more decisions about drinking.
Surprisingly, this is one the things I love most about not drinking alcohol. I never have to decide what to drink, when to drink or how much to drink again. I don’t have to wonder if I’m drinking the right thing, drinking too much, or wasting any energy searching for hangover cures, cocktail recipes or what wine goes with seafood. In fact, the only time decisions pop up about alcohol or drinking is when I am deciding what to share or write about.
4. I sleep so much better without alcohol.
Ahhhh sleep. Even a little bit of alcohol interrupted my sleep and I want all the sleep I can get. Even though I didn’t struggle with insomnia, alcohol caused restlessness and fatigue. In this article (NYT Gift Link) you can learn more about how alcohol can get in the way of a good night of sleep. It says, A night of drinking can “fragment,” or interrupt, these patterns, experts say, and you may wake up several times as you ricochet through the usual stages of sleep. “You pay for it in the second half of the night,” said Dr. Jennifer Martin, a psychologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Alcohol is “initially sedating, but as it’s metabolized, it’s very activating.” I’m glad I don’t have trouble sleeping anymore.
5. Since I don’t drink anymore, I get to be myself all the time.
I’m an introvert but drinking made me feel much more social and outgoing. I really wasn’t myself when drinking which made me feel bad later. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t have as much fun without alcohol but I have even more fun now because I am spending time with people doing things I actually enjoy. Even though I was more sociable and chatty when I was drinking, without alcohol, I’m more confident in who I am and I trust myself more.
6. Zero regrets.
I never wake up and think, “what happened?” or “what did I say or do?” I never feel bad for drinking too much, staying up too late or anything else I did when I was drinking. Simply not acting like myself caused regret. Now when I say or do something out of character, I know I’m probably tired, hungry or stressed. Without alcohol I can pay attention to what my body is telling me instead of shutting it down with a drink.
7. Since I quit drinking I have more clarity and better memory recall.
Alcohol makes things fuzzy and not just when you are drinking. I think it affected me more than I thought it did. There is plenty of data out there on how alcohol affects memory. This study shows that, “alcohol can have a dramatic impact on memory. Alcohol primarily disrupts the ability to form new long-term memories; it causes less disruption of recall of previously established long-term memories or of the ability to keep new information active in short-term memory for a few seconds or more.”
8. My life is simpler since I quit drinking.
Decluttering simplified my home and when I quit drinking, I simplified my mental and physical health along with many other parts of my life. I didn’t do it for a simple life though. I did it for a happier, healthier more present life. Because I had simplified so many other things before I stopped drinking, I didn’t expect to notice a big difference. I did though. My life is simpler, calmer and more peaceful without alcohol.
9. Not drinking means less risk for multiple health issues.
Not drinking alcohol lowers my risk of cancer, cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, depression, memory loss and other neurological issues. Recommendations in the past included drinking healthy levels of alcohol but now, based on current data, the American Cancer Society says there are no safe levels and recommends not drinking alcohol at all. When I was drinking, I loved to cite studies that showed how drinking a glass or two of wine was healthy so I had to pay attention when the new data said otherwise. This is not why I stopped drinking but it is a very cool benefit.
10. I get to show up for my life.
This may be the one I’m most grateful for. I get to choose presence anytime I want. I am here … for all of it. I never have to worry that I can’t drive, can’t pay attention or can’t make decisions (for myself or my loves). I really love being all the way here for my life, even when it’s hard.
I don’t share this because I think everyone should quit drinking but instead to encourage anyone who is tired of hangovers, regrets and alcohol related drama and decisions. Becoming alcohol free didn’t solve all of my problems but like simplifying my life, it gives me the capacity and clarity to work through those problems with more peace and ease.
For more on my alcohol free journey read:
- Why I Decided To Stop Drinking and How I Did It
- The One Thing I Did That Simplified My Life The Most
While I didn’t go to alcoholics anonymous (aa) or other support groups, here are some of the resources that helped me stop drinking:
These women on Instagram:
This book: This Naked Mind
This practice: Transcendental Meditation
Every single person who commented about their journey on this Instagram post.