At some point last year I decided I wanted to quit drinking. Maybe not forever, but at least for what would feel like a significant amount of time. Which is what lead to my decision to go alcohol free for an entire year while I was planning my goals for 2017.
Now it’s the end of January and I’ve stuck to my plan so far. And the weird thing is, it was so much easier than I thought it would be.
Before I go into how quitting drinking has affected my life, let me explain a little bit about my drinking history.
First of all, I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. Part of me is scared that saying that makes me an alcoholic since so many alcoholics do deny their addiction, but a bigger part knows I’m not. Quitting drinking had nothing to do with feeling like I had to, but rather because I wanted to see who I could be if I did.
I started drinking younger than I’m proud to admit. I had my first few beers at the age of 13, and then started drinking pretty regularly, as in almost every weekend when I was 14. By 16 it became a daily thing (whiskey was my go-to drink) until I got pregnant. After I had my daughter I didn’t drink very much for the first few years. When Nick worked at a pub grabbing a pint became kind of a regular thing, for about a year anyway. But more recently, I was enjoying having a few beers on the weekend, and sometimes a couple beers during the week. I was still able to go to work, go to school and live my life without any problems (or so I thought).
The last couple months before I quit drinking I realized that my evening beer or two was becoming a bit too regular. Then that beer or two turned into three or four, and sometimes six. I’d go to bed later than I wanted – after I binged on junk food. The next day I wouldn’t feel hungover but I definitely felt depressed and anxious. I’ve been taking medication for depression and anxiety for a few years now, and I started thinking that maybe the alcohol was actually counteracting the antidepressants, as I was warned. So each morning I would wake up dreading the day because I was too tired, I was bloated, anxious and depressed. Which would make the day feel exhausting and stressful, and so I would look forward to that moment I could crack open a beer and relax. A vicious and stupid cycle.
After my friends and I had a blast ringing in the New Year, I quit drinking just like I said I would.
So, how has quitting drinking affected my life? Well, let me tell you!
I’ve never really been able to sleep well since I became an “adult.” I worry too much. I wake up a lot. I toss and turn. It’s frustrating. When I was drinking, I could pass out easily but I would wake up a few hours later and it would suck. I was also going to bed way too late.
Now I go to bed at a decent time giving myself at least 7 hours of sleep, but usually more. I still toss and turn and stress, but I don’t wake up as often and I rarely ever have a difficult time falling back to sleep.
Well, my medication is actually working now. I don’t feel nearly as stressed out as I used to. Part of that might be because the alcohol was counteracting my medication (and I assume it was), but it’s also because I’m sleeping better and actually getting shit done on time. Instead of “relaxing” all evening I do my homework and study well in advance, I have time to write and draw and blog, and I’m creating healthier habits.
I’m way more productive now than I was before! Drinking is really time consuming. I mean, the couple evening beers made me lazy every night, and the weekend parties wasted entire Sundays nursing my hangovers. Instead, as I mentioned, I spend my evenings doing shit and I spend my Sundays cleaning, baking, studying and planning for the week ahead. So now I’m actually doing more but I don’t feel as busy as I did before. It’s awesome.
Since I quit drinking I don’t dread going to bootcamp, but it’s still hard. I also got a gym membership and aim to go twice a week to work on my cardio. Surprisingly I kind of actually enjoy cooking and meal prepping. Sidney and I bake every weekend so we have healthy vegan muffins and cookies for the week. To top it off I’ve been eating healthier in general. And, do you want to know a secret? I’m slowly transitioning to a plant-based diet! It gets easier every day to cut out things here and there and I’m really excited about it! I don’t know if I’ll ever go fully plant-based, or even vegan, but every little conscious decision helps.
All of this has made me so much happier! I enjoy everything in my life now, from my workouts to my homework assignments, even cleaning the damn fish tank every other week.
It’s only been a month of not drinking so far. I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to accomplish in another month sober. And even more excited to see what I’ll accomplish this year!
What I Realized
After I stopped drinking I realized that a lot of people drink, and often. I also noticed that a lot of TV shows and movies normalize drinking, even binge drinking, and part of that made me feel like having a couple beers every night was normal. For example, one of my favourite shows is How I Met Your Mother, where this group of friends is ALWAYS DRINKING! Like every night after work! And not just a few drinks, but a lot! Not only that show though, but even on Dexter they’re constantly grabbing a beer after work. Like seriously, a lot of shows. I just watched That 70s Show with my husband earlier this evening and even Red and Kitty were constantly drinking.
Still, I can honestly say that I have no desire to drink. I don’t crave alcohol and it doesn’t bother me to be around it. I still hangout with my friends when they drink, I still hit up the pub with my husband once in a while and I’m still planning my birthday party which will involve other people drinking.
Even though I decided to quit drinking for myself, I don’t expect other people to, I don’t judge people who enjoy having a few beers, or crazy Saturday nights, and I don’t expect my friends to not drink around me. I’m just enjoying this journey for myself.
Have you ever quit drinking? What was the experience like for you?
P.S. The blonde babe in the photo for this post is my bud Sarah Vance.