9 Things I Learned When I Stopped Drinking in College

Ah college. The beer flows freely and there’s never a time when it’s not appropriate to drink. Tuesday night, why not? Sunday evening, I mean, we’ve got a big week ahead of us so yeah….

After a few too many (time) wasted weekends and growing concern for my liver, I challenged myself to 30 days without alcohol.

*I would like to note that I am a relatively normal 21-year old college student. I’m social, in a sorority, and have an incredible group of friends. So yes, I know how to have a good time.

This was by no means an easy 30 days and there were definitely times I felt tempted to drink. Nonetheless, I stuck with my self-imposed experiment and finished it out. Here’s what happened.

1. I had more money and didn’t have to stress about paying my credit card bill. It was wonderful to reach the end of the month and have more than $1.50 in my bank account — you know you’ve been there too. Even with college bar prices, it’s easy to drop $30 or more on a few drinks. Combine that with pregame liquor store runs and it adds up to a serious drain on the finances.

2. I became happier. We all know that alcohol is a depressant. Not having it in my system resulted in fewer mood swings and being generally more pleasant to be around. My roommates can attest to this! I felt happier overall and was less cranky and irritable.

3. I worked out more. Not drinking resulted in a huge increase in free time. Have you ever thought about how much of a time suck being hungover is? Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to get motivated when exhausted. I’ve hit the gym almost every day this month. Before, I rarely made it once a week.

4. I ate healthier. Not drinking automatically reduced my junk food intake. Usually the only time I let myself have it is when I’ve gone out to the bars with friends. My mom was right: nothing good happens after midnight. Not eating late night pizza or Jimmy Johns has been great for my waist and my wallet (see #1).

5. My sleep was better. Not staying out until the wee hours of the morning resulted in a more consistent sleep schedule. Feeling well-rested meant I didn’t even mind waking up early! The rest that I did get was of higher quality because I wasn’t tossing, turning, and trying to sleep off whatever I drank the night before. Plus, I made it to all my 9am classes.

6. I was way more productive. The extra time and energy I had meant I got a ton of stuff done. I started working on assignments a week before they were due (gasp) instead of the night before. My grades went up. I even had time to read for pleasure, clean out my closet, and sell stuff on eBay: all things I always meant to do but never seemed to get around to.

7. I realized what I actually like. I didn’t miss shots at all, but I longed for a glass of red wine. A lot of times in college, we drink whatever is available and/or cheapest. Taking a break from alcohol forced me to think about what I actually enjoy. I no longer feel obligated to drink what’s in front of me, especially if I don’t like it.

8. I figured out who my real friends are. It’s no secret that it’s brutal to be around drunk people when you’re not on their level. I avoided it when I could by going to pregames but not bars or meeting people for coffee instead. I came to realize that some of the people I had previously spent a lot of time with on weekends were not who I wanted to spend time with sober. Evaluating the relationships in my life helped me realize who’s important to me. The time spent with them became that much more valuable.

9. My confidence increased. It takes a lot to stick to not drinking — even if it’s only for 30 days. Andy Ramage puts it best: “Alcohol is the only drug in the world that, when you give it up, people berate you.” I experienced this first hand. People didn’t get what I was doing and often seemed threatened by the fact that I wasn’t drinking. I would either a) smile and continue to refuse the offer of a drink or b) bring tea or something else in a tumbler so I didn’t have to explain. It was a good exercise in doing what I wanted to do rather than what others expected me to do.

I’m proud of myself for making it the full 30 days. It was definitely a good exercise in self-awareness! While I’m not giving up alcohol forever, I’m happy with what I learned from the experience. Not to mention how pleased I am to have wine back in my life…

Has anyone else tried to give up drinking for a period of time? I’d love to hear about your experiences!


Originally published at clairemariecarter.com on May 17, 2016.