Wellness Wednesday – Sober Curiosity

At some point during the spring of last year, I decided to stop drinking regularly.

I was drinking waaaaay too much – my social life revolved around what happened at happy hour, and the impacts of my alcohol intake were knocking me down. I would get pretty bad hangovers marked by nonstop vomiting, and in the past several years sustained two booze-related injuries – a knee sprain and a concussion.

At the time, I was beginning to ramp up my journey towards achieving my best health, and realized that nothing good would come from continuing to drink. So I decided to quit my regular habit; no more happy hours, no casual drinking at brunch, and no purchasing alcohol for myself at home. I decided to limit my drinking only to special occasions.

Did you know that life has a lot of special occasions?

When I went to visit my in-laws, I drank. When I went on vacations, I drank. When I visited my parents, I drank. When I got together with friends (surely, a special occasion), I drank. More and more ‘special occasions’ were popping up all over the place.

I still wasn’t drinking at home, but my alcohol intake slowly increased from ‘barely at all’ in the spring to ‘anything’s a special occasion’ by the end of the year. When the holidays hit, I had a good time drinking at Thanksgiving and xmas with family and friends. But it was excessive, and I regretted it.

The last time I drank, I had a great time! I was with close friends, we were celebrating the holidays, and I definitely overdid it. By the time I got home that evening, I had been drinking for 8 hours; all I could taste was champagne and wine, and I was so dizzy and drunk that I cried. I wasn’t sad, I was so pissed at myself! Why did I drink so much? My poor husband consoled me, and listened to me lament my choices and repeat ‘I’m never drinking again’ over and over and over. This time I really meant it.

My first drink-free day was almost a month ago, December 26th, and while I wouldn’t officially call myself sober since I still use cannabis, I am proudly and happily someone who no longer drinks.

I make all this sound easy, but it has not been that way. For me, it was too tempting to keep going out to happy hours, so I stopped. But that meant I stopped running into my friends at the bar, so it required *actual* effort to get together. As a very typical introvert, making plans is not my strong suit, but I’m working on it.

My family has not been around the new sober me yet, but I think it will take some time before my stepmom stops asking me if I want a drink when I’m visiting home. My mother-in-law will still ask what kind of beer I want from the liquor store. And my own husband just bought me a bottle of tequila last weekend, ‘just in case!’ I know everyone means well, and I’m not offended by offers of alcohol. It is an adjustment for everyone in my life.

But going booze free is not all bad, friends. It’s not all just about telling your family that you don’t drink anymore, and finding new ways to hang out with friends. Those are both necessary and extremely annoying parts of transitioning to a new lifestyle. But it gets better!

Keeping the big picture in mind has helped me kick the booze easily. I remind myself all the time – I feel better, I sleep better, overall my body is much happier without alcohol. I’m also happier, and research shows that abstaining from alcohol could be the reason.

This study, published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that those who had never had a drink in their lives (lifetime abstainers) reported the highest level of mental well-being. It also determined that ceasing the consumption of alcohol improves mental well-being, specifically among women; within 4 years of quitting alcohol, women in this study actually reported a higher level of improvement in mental well-being than those who’d never had a drink.

The study also addresses the fact that quitting drinking can reduce the amount of stressful life events that occur. Since drinking can cause conflict with family and friends, legal troubles, health issues (aka injuries, like I experienced), problems at work, and any number of other issues, naturally, removing alcohol from one’s life can reduce the number of those instances.

In the end, I’m not recommending that everyone, or anyone, go sober and quit boozing. In fact, research has shown that people in populations considered the Blue Zones (parts of the world where people live the longest) consume moderate amounts of alcohol daily, with food, family and friends. The potential benefits of including alcohol in your diet long-term are still unknown, but moderate social drinking seems to be fine.

Until it’s not.

If you’re like me, and can’t/don’t want to handle moderate social drinking, and you feel better without alcohol, stop drinking! Your body is just that, your body; not Joe Schmo’s, who was in some study that gave xyz results. Your body is perfect and will tell you exactly what it needs, so listen up. Just because your friend or your mom or your cousin feels great and still drinks daily, it doesn’t mean that’s the right thing for you. To attain optimal health, the key is in finding what works for you, regardless of what anyone else is doing.

Now that I stopped drinking, I have a lot more time to do productive things that I love, like writing this blog and working on my health coach training. I also discovered that being booze-free is a little trendy right now; I had no idea about Dry January until January started, and since I quit drinking on 12/26, I consider myself ahead of the game.

With the rise of sober-curiosity and the increasing awareness of the spectrum of sobriety, there are tons of resources out there for anyone who wants to stop drinking. I don’t mean AA (unless that’s what works for you) – I mean cool, young, hip resources for those who want quit, take a break from, or cut back on drinking. I’ve been following @wearesober, @teedoodler, @sobergirlsociety (for the womxn out there), and @sans_bar (a pop-up sober bar who may be coming to a city near you this year), but there are so many more.

If you think you need help to stop drinking, talk to a professional, or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Thanks for reading! See you next week.

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