Before getting sober I always viewed giving up alcohol the way I thought of eating kale. Everyone knows you should do it. It’s good for you. But practically no one does because it sucks. I was gobsmacked when I kept having the realization over and over – “Hey… This is actually better! Wait, do people know this?”
The answer is – kind of. There are plenty of people who know this to be true in their experience, but our culture (along with hundreds of millions in advertising dollars) has convinced us that alcohol is supposed to make everything better. Peer pressure doesn’t go away just because you’re not in high school anymore. It just gets subtler.
Here’s me being not so subtle – you can expect to be richer, thinner, hotter, and happier. So if you need a little boost to remember why you’re doing this, or want to see what’s just on the horizon, here are some of the cash and prizes you can expect.
1. Lose weight
This was a big payoff to me right up front. Yes, you may know booze is fattening, but do you realize the extent? Looking at one glass of wine at 120 calories it doesn’t sound that bad. But that’s a pretty small glass. And if you are someone who only has one, you probably aren’t reading this blog. If you consider that a bottle of wine has more than 600 calories, that’s a bit more daunting. If consumed daily, that’s enough to put on 1-2lbs a week. Take it out of the equation and guess what starts to happen?
Something else of note – your liver is in charge of turning food into energy for your cells. But even if you are working at a calorie deficit while drinking, your liver has to deal with the alcohol first to detoxify it so you don’t, well, die. So while it’s busy doing that, any food you ate can’t be processed as fuel and so is stored as fat instead. And then just for fun, alcohol makes your blood sugar drop, which makes you feel hungry. So you eat more but can’t burn it off.
Some people do find that they indulge in sweets a lot when they keep drinking. I did too. It helps with the cravings and you know what? I still lost weight. I don’t recommend living on gummy bears or anything, but don’t worry too much about the sugar thing early on.
Who doesn’t want more money? If you don’t I’m happy to take it off your hands. Alcohol is brutally expensive. When it’s a regular part of your life you don’t really think about it, but when you remove alcohol from the equation all of a sudden you look at your bank account and start wondering where that extra zero or two came from.
Sometimes I get bummed when I look back at what I could have saved if I never started drinking. Could I have a down payment for a house by now? Have my student loan paid off? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t linger there because it’s just pointless. You can only go forward from where you are.
I am a fan of using a little of your newfound money for a treat. Something like a massage or a couple of great audiobooks, or some craft supplies. Just a positive rewards system. But have milestones for this. First week, first month, first season etc. that way it doesn’t become a problem of its own.
I still can’t get over this one. My husband and I used to go out for dinner and it would easily cost $150 or $200 for a nice dinner in Manhattan. Roughly 75% of profits restaurants make is from alcohol. They mark-up bottles of wine around 300%. It’s bananas. Now, our bill usually tops out between $60 to $80 at a very fancy restaurant. That’s with multiple courses. I feel like I’m getting away with something every time I see the bill.
Now, add to this that your taste buds actually start working better! Alcohol not only dulls your taste buds while you’re drinking it. Over time it can cause damage to the nerves responsible for your sense of smell and taste. The good news is, those return once you give up alcohol and a good meal becomes a full experience.
So if you’re counting, when you go out to dinner, it will now cost less, taste better, and won’t make you gain weight. I honestly the only place I would find that would be in heaven.
4. You look hotter
Sobriety is honestly the best beauty tip I’ve got. Within a month my skin got back its glow and my eyes were brighter. When I look at pictures of myself in which I was drinking, I can see that my eyes were never fully open. I can see it in others’ photos too now. They’re just not all there.
Similarly to the weight issue, when your body is busy processing alcohol, it can’t be bothered with free radicals (which cause dull skin and wrinkles). You are also chronically dehydrated which saps the glowy quality from your skin. Never mind the fact that if you come home drunk you probably aren’t focused on a skin regimen, or putting on sunscreen in the morning when you’re hungover…
There is also just something more poised and happy looking about someone sober. Over time it gives you a stronger sense of self-confidence. Which is pretty ironic since so many people start drinking because they feel self-conscious in social situations…
5. Productivity – and maybe a better job
When you aren’t constantly recovering from a hangover, you move more quickly and efficiently. Your brain works better. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted studies that found being hungover impairs working memory by five to 10 percent and slows reaction times to such a degree that people in their 20s react at the same speed as people in their 40s.
There is also something subtler here. Alcohol is a depressant. If you are drinking frequently, a sort of fog settles over your life. Even if it’s not full-blown depression, you just aren’t operating at full capacity. When you take away that fog, all of a sudden, you start thinking more efficiently. You don’t want to be stagnant anymore. You start taking the initiative. I can’t tell you how many people I know who’ve gotten big promotions since they got sober. They just naturally started doing more at work and doing it better.
6. More free time
Along with this productivity comes a lot more free time. Both the time you spent drinking and the time you spent recovering from hangovers are now freed up. This is time you spent sitting in a chair essentially doing nothing. Sure if you were out with a friend or something that counts as an activity, but you can still do that without alcohol and you don’t lose the rest of the night and the next day because of it.
In the same way that you didn’t realize how much money you were giving up, it can be shocking to see how much time you get back. But that isn’t always comfortable. If you find yourself wondering what to do with all this time, I highly suggest picking up a hobby. Maybe something you did years ago, or something you always wanted to try. Learn to knit, or bake or how to do a handstand. Yoga is a favorite with the sober crowd because it can give you the relaxed buzz we tried to get with alcohol without the negatives.
7. Your relationship
We say and do stupid things when we drink too much. Sometimes we use being drunk as an excuse, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t hurt the person we love. The fact is, when you are in your right mind all the time, you treat them better, and they treat you better.
Now it’s true, there are some out there that worry when their partner stops drinking. What will it do to our social life? Can I still drink?
These are questions that you will have to figure out together. Initially, it is often helpful if they don’t drink in front of you, or if they want you to spend time at a bar, it might be best to skip that until you are more sure-footed in your sobriety. It can have a learning curve, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting dumped because they didn’t get drunk.
8. Sober Sundays
Having a hangover every Sunday is like having the flu once a week. You are miserable and pretty useless and can’t do much. Even if you manage to pull yourself out of bed to drive the kids to their 800th birthday party that month, it takes all your will just to get it done, and most likely you won’t have the level of patience that kids require. Their brains aren’t fully developed yet. We have to be the ones with patience and maturity, and it’s hard enough to do that all the time without feeling like crap.
When you stop giving yourself that weekly flu, a whole day opens up. You can get things accomplished, hang out with your family, or maybe sneak in a little relaxation time. There is a big difference between relaxing and recovering. I usually use some of that day to batch cook something like chili or some other one-pot meal for the week so that I can free up my weeknight evenings which are otherwise a blur.
9. Not having to think about alcohol
If you are removing alcohol from your life for a period of time or long-term, I’m guessing it’s something you think about. A lot. If you didn’t it wouldn’t be a problem. I heard it likened to having a problem with sandwiches. Do you lie in bed at night and wonder if you have a problem with sandwiches? Do you wonder if you have them more often than others? How many sandwiches do other people REALLY eat? Maybe you could just have one sandwich a week… I’m guessing not. It sounds a bit silly attached to something else, but that’s how you know you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If you’re thinking about it, that’s not a good sign.z
Sometimes you don’t realize how much mental energy you were giving to thinking about drinking until you take it off the table. All the how much and when and who might care… that’s answered. It is a freedom that anyone who has been sober awhile doesn’t take for granted. On days where I’ve been tempted, I realize – I don’t want to have to think about it. It’s too exhausting.
I’m not saying that anyone who drinks is a bad parent. But if it is something you tend to go overboard on, there is no way to keep it from your kids. They may not know it’s the drinking per se, depending on their age, but they know when you are watching the clock waiting to get to something other than them. They know when you are cranky in the morning and won’t play with them.
When you feel better and are more present, both of which are a natural benefit of going alcohol-free, you honestly enjoy your children more. You can be silly with them, and trust yourself with them. They aren’t magically perfect or without their exasperating moments, but those things just get to you less and you have more of those moments where you are completely overwhelmed with love for them. Even when they are awake.
Bonus – Basically everything
Now that I have a few years under my belt, I can honestly say that there isn’t a situation or event that would have been better if I was drinking. I was sober at my wedding and could not have had a better time. I was sober through six months of unemployment, and while it wasn’t fun to be present for that, I think it would have turned into a bad spiral pretty quickly if I had been home all day with nothing to do but drink. Even situations where I have to tolerate people I don’t like were never actually improved by alcohol.
So keep going and take your hot, rich, productive ass out to dinner. You deserve it. You deserve everything.