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What I’ve learned from a year of sobriety

It’s been a long 12 months, in the best way possible.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Like anybody else who’s spent a morning on the bathroom floor after a night at the bar, I’ve sworn off drinking countless times. And also like everybody else, those attempts were easily cut short by a birthday, holiday, or some random Thursday that I definitely had to get drunk for. But it was fun. As much as I said I wanted to quit, I can’t honestly say I wanted to.

I’d never say I had a drinking problem, but I definitely developed a problem with drinking. Drinking a 12-pack a few times a week was normal in college, and I carried that habit forward after graduation. However, as school moved further behind in the rear-view, that lost its appeal.

So what changed? Why did I finally kick it?

Honestly, I was just tired. Tired of hangovers. Tired of being a shit employee. Tired of being tired. I wanted to take control of how I spend my time and to do work I was proud of. Not for status or to impress anybody else, but to challenge myself and find out what I was capable of doing.

And from day one, it was a rough go.

Alcohol is the glue that holds people together. It’s an immediate common ground and helps us bond. Cutting booze put me in a position where I literally had to learn to socialize again, both with new people and the friends I’ve known my entire life. That was especially difficult having built a reputation as a bit of a drinker.

There’s also a weird shame attached to sobriety. When people find out you don’t drink, you’ll get some puzzled looks. And those looks have a funny way of making you self conscious in a hurry.

Are you an alcoholic? No? Come on then, one beer won’t hurt.

A year later, I still struggle with that. And while I may be projecting that on myself, it’s there.

My biggest concern though was about my girlfriend. No more sharing a bottle of wine on the porch on a summer evening, or spending an afternoon having beers in the park. How would my decision impact us, both individually and as a pair? Would she think differently of me because of it?

After making the decision to actually quit, I knew I faced an uphill battle. Christmas was right around the corner, it’s no-good pal New Year’s Eve would shortly follow, and I had a trip to California booked for early in the year. There were plenty of opportunities for me to fail or fault, but it was also a good chance to really test myself. And here’s what I learned:

  • People will ask “why?”. A lot. My standard answer was ‘just taking a break’. That seemed easier than explaining that I was trying to quit, and also gave me wiggle room in case I decide to start up again. In other words, it was a total cop out.
  • Soda + lime is an easy go-to that most people won’t question. Is there gin or vodka in there? The suspense will eat them alive.
  • The confused looks don’t stop, but you do get used to them and gain confidence in your decision.
  • Most bartenders will gladly make you a great mocktail (and yes, you should still tip regularly.)
  • r/stopdrinking is a great resource, forum, and support network.
  • Your friends might be uncomfortable with the change. But if they don’t support your decision, find new friends.

Getting through the first few weeks was fine. It was still new and novel. But the following few months were hard, and that’s when it really turned from being a thing I was trying out, to really changing my habits and how I chose to interact with the world.

And so far, despite the challenges, the benefits have been amazing. I’m sleeping so much better, my memory is razor sharp, and my energy levels would put a 9-year old to shame. I wake up bouncing off the walls, turn on a record, and dance around the bedroom until I’ve annoyed my girlfriend enough to kick me out for the day. It’s great.

My relationships feel more genuine than ever before, my productivity is through the roof, and it’s forced me to face issues head-on, both personally and professionally. I’ve also saved a metric tonne of cash. Bar tabs add up, and the Uber rides and late-night poutine can really screw up your bank account.

More than anything though, I’m just fucking happy.

Obviously, it’s not always easy. There are some pretty heavy downsides. It’s weird being sober in a bar full of people drinking, to the point where I avoid going out to certain events, which is definitely a drag. Fomo, right?

Another thing I’m often asked is if I miss drinking. And yes, of course I do. But do I feel like I’m ever missing out? Absolutely not. If I need to drink to get through an event or party, then why the hell would I want to get through it at all?

I’ve still got a lot to learn and lot to figure out. And even now that I’m a year in, in no way do I think drinking is inherently negative. It just ain’t for me. And as difficult as it’s been, this is one shot I’m glad I took.

Cheers.

Have you ever considered giving up drinking, or anything else for that matter? Did it stick? Give me a shout and let me know how it went.