I’ve been having amazing conversations lately! I think whenever you are doing something extraordinary or out of the norm, people are intrigued and that’s when real conversations start to happen, none of that small-talk BS. For awhile after I stopped drinking, I was hesitant or fearful of telling those I was out with that I wasn’t drinking because I didn’t what to make other feel uncomfortable or I wasn’t quite sure what to say. But lately, I have been feeling strong in what I’m doing and welcoming the tough, thoughtful conversations around it. And I’m even getting more positive responses than I once used to. I also I get a lot of people saying that they’ve never gone more than a few days to a month without alcohol, but are curious about living alcohol free. I know it’s a challenge, anytime we change our habits it is uncomfortable. But getting uncomfortable is always where change starts and happens. Jason Reynolds says it best, “Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can't put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable, then you will never grow. You will never change. You'll never learn.”
I often talk to people about the year I took off drinking, and challenging people to think about or try taking a year alcohol free and see what they learn and how much they grow. There are so many benefits to not drinking, and I am not even talking about just about being sober, but even taking am extended break.
Here’s 10 benefits of going Alcohol Free (AF):
1. Quality Sleep - Everyone knows this one, right? No? Maybe you think that glass of wine helps you sleep? Well, have you ever woken up a few hours into your sleep, maybe even with a racing heart, feeling of nausea or sweating? This isn’t coincidence. When we drink it inhibits us from getting into our restorative REM sleep, hello tired and shaky mornings. Sleep is so important for every system in our body, so when we get that good AF sleep, we can wake up restored, revitalized and ready to go in the morning, and what other way is there to get off on a great foot!?!?
2. Increased Energy – So this is a direct result of the above, if you sleep better you wake up with more energy! Who knew? Plus, did you read that new study that said no level of alcohol is good for you? Well, it was no surprise that alcohol in inflammatory, basically helping to tear down most systems in our body. So when we aren’t literally pouring poison into our bodies we can actually support them in healthy ways and as a result have more vitality, productivity and energy for the day!
3. Better Eating Habits – Aside from the fact that alcohol increases our appetite by causing cravings, when we aren’t drinking we have more awareness around our hunger levels and we may even want to cook!
4. Weight Balances – Many people that drink often talk about struggling with losing or gaining weight. But when you’re not drinking empty calories and start nourishing your body with whole foods your weight can balance out.
5. Glowing Skin – We all know alcohol dehydrates us, but something we don’t acknowledge much is what that can do to our skin health. Often it means a red, puffy, rosacea or acne-filled face. Alcohol also imbalances our blood sugar, which will throw our hormones off balance, as well as congests our liver so it can detoxify properly, which will show on our face and skin. This was a big part of healing my own skin and I wrote more about skin health and natural remedies here.
6. Improved Immunity & Memory – As I mentioned above, alcohol affects pretty much every health system in our body. A few big ones include how it can destroy our immune system by not allowing our body to detoxify optimally, it can destroy our microbiome and led to leaky gut. The other is how it affects our brain. In the short-term, alcohol alters the level of neurotransmitters, which can immediately be seen in the fact that our mood seems to improve at first then quickly go downhill with our inhibitions, judgement and other mental behaviors. In the long-term, alcohol destroys the cerebellum, cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which helps with balance, memory, vision and learning. Without alcohol, you will feel and be sharper, more alert and efficient!
7. More Money – How much do you think you spend on alcohol daily? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly? According to this article by the Huffington Post, “If you have three drinks a day, five days a week, at an average of $10 a pop, you’re spending $150 a week, $650 a month or $7,800 a year just on alcohol ― not including any additional costs, like server tips or taking a taxi instead of driving. Even if you drink only on weekends, at two drinks per day you are spending about $2,500 a year.” Don’t believe it? Just try tracking your alcoholic purchases for a week or a month or this cool calculator. What else could you buy with a cool $2,000 - $8,000 a year?
8. More Free Time & Productivity – We often don’t think about drinking alcohol as a time sucker, but it is! Have you ever tried to knit a sweater or read a novel while drinking? It doesn’t usually work out to well. When alcohol is not involved we can think clear, stay focus on work, school, reading, and fun projects we always wanted to do but never found the time to. There’s not a lot of studies out there on this specific point, but one said the average college student (I know most of us reading this aren’t but just bear with me) spend 10.6 hours a week drunk! Think of how much better their grades would be if they ditched the alcohol!
9. Improved Relationships – How many times have you had to apologize to someone you loved the day after a night of drinking? I know I can’t even count. I was not the person I wanted to be when I drank and those around me suffered too. When I stopped drinking I could actually have meaningful conversations, stop apologizing for behavior I no longer displayed and was actually able to be the only people relied on instead of the other way around.
10. Happier & More Self-Confidence – People tend to think of alcohol as this great stress reliever or a way to loosen up, relax and have fun. Most people think this because when you have that initial drink it increases your dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the happy-feel-good-pleasure neurotransmitter. But the thing is there’s a limited number of dopamine your brain can produce and alcohol is a depressant, which leaves you feeling, well, depressed. When you stop drinking, your brain can function properly, produce the dopamine it needs and that literally means it leaves you happier.
Additionally, I learned that when I stopped drinking I was able to wake up feeling good (aka not hungover or dehydrated) which directly translated to a better day. Plus, just look at all the things listed above, how could I NOT be happier?! And instead of ignoring problems and emotions through alcohol, you can solve these problems, grow and work for what you really want! That’s some self-confidence baby!
Going even 1 year without alcohol will allow you to experience what it mean to not rely on alcohol in social situation, celebrations, holidays, etc. You’ll get to really feel and deal with your problems and emotions and get to know the real you and make a conscious decision on the type of person you would like to be.
Aside from the 10 things above, two things that always keep be going:
Spiritual guru, Gabrielle Bernstein said, something to the effect of, alcohol having no role in spiritual growth. And Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety, of once told me “you’ll never regret not having that drink” and I’ve never found her to be wrong yet!
No matter what your relationship is with alcohol, I challenge everyone to go a year without drinking. It will make you a more kind and sensitive person, and you will grow more that year then you will know! It will help teach you that living without alcohol doesn’t mean living a boring life. It’s challenging, thought-provoking and requires a lot of self-awareness rather than functioning on auto-pilot and conforming to societal norms. Ad it will make you a happier and better human!
Image: myself out to eat with my mocktail!