Have you ever tried or contemplated quitting alcohol? I would bet my bottom dollar that if you’re a regular drinker, you have considered quitting alcohol at least once in your lifetime, especially after a bad hangover or after some less than ideal decisions made in a drunken state.
I had previously sworn off alcohol several times for the same reasons, but as it usually goes, it just wouldn’t stick. I would find myself drinking again on almost every other night I was out. And I wasn’t one of those people who always had a cap on it. It wasn’t always pretty. Sometimes, it was more like a college freshman drunk, you know, blackout drunk.
My history with alcohol is somewhat complicated. Growing up, most of my close family members were heavy drinkers, and I did not admire the lifestyle at all. Besides, I was a loner and was never the popular “it” or “cool” girl who started partying as a teenager. Instead, I was the dork who barely left the house, the kind whose mother would force to go out and socialize. My idea of fun was burying my face in Nancy Drew novels and binge-watching movies. I was also an active member of an anti-alcohol and anti-drug club.
All that changed when I turned 19. My sociability increased, and I found myself lured into the party life, which is almost always accompanied by alcohol. I inadvertently became the poster child for “preaching water and drinking wine,” the complete opposite of my anti-alcohol stance. I began to enjoy the pleasant company of a drink more often than not.
I vividly remember my first drink was the popularly coined “women’s drink,” Smirnoff Ice, at a concert.
For a recluse person like me, drinking was the best comrade. It provided an effortless way for me to socialize and be more “fun.” Unfortunately, I internalized that when you go out, you HAVE TO drink, and, I abused it profusely. I had a pervasive fear that I would be boring at social events if I’m not drinking and that fear reigned supreme, unsurprisingly, leading to an almost dependent relationship. I became dependent on it for all my social situations.
However, in November 2016, I did it. I embraced the teetotaler life entirely and stuck to my guns.
Without going into too much detail, I decided to abstain from booze entirely because of a string of bad decisions, an illness, and some overdue self-reflection. So almost overnight, I went from being a social drunk to an overnight, stone cold sober teetotaler. I became the judgy, holier than thou, people that I didn’t like very much. We all know them, the “I don’t drink so I’m better than you” people, with the “so I’m better than you” being implicitly implied rather than directly stated. No. I am just kidding. But don’t you just hate when people do that?
I experienced an influx of amazing, positive changes upon giving up alcohol. Below, I underline my most important changes.
Just as a disclaimer, this is not a NACADA or an anti-alcohol campaign to get you to stop drinking. Not at all. This article is just me sharing with you what changed in my life, and in me, because of this decision to put a halt to drinking and if in any case you are contemplating doing the same, some of the changes you might experience on your journey as well.
1. I Make Better Decisions
Whether you agree or not, the fact is that there is a direct correlation between poor decision-making and alcohol. Alcohol has mind-altering properties that target your emotions, moods, and actions. Sometimes the effects can be negative, making it the perfect recipe for those regrettable moments.
While I cannot necessarily blame all my bad decisions on alcohol, a good chunk of them directly relate to it. Granted, I still make bad decisions sober, but it was on a whole different level when I was inebriated.
Cutting alcohol out of the equation has inadvertently led to better and informed decision making as well as a calmer, less aggressive approach to any challenges and issues that I face.
2. I Feel Wholesome
It’s all fun and games when you’re out chugging that Hennessy, Sambuca, or Kenya Cane down your throat, that is, until the next morning when the feeling of death, also known as a hangover, hits you. Undoubtedly, one of alcohol’s biggest downsides is hangovers and poor sleep. After a night out of heavy drinking, alcohol interferes with your body’s processes; your functionality and general wellness.
Being a diuretic, alcohol causes you to lose a lot of fluids through urine and vomiting, leading to dehydration. Aside from that, it also reduces rapid eye movement (REM,) which is the most restorative type of sleep pattern. So the next day after a night out of heavy drinking, you are faced with a double whammy. You battle the sick feeling of dehydration plus the effects of poor sleep, ending up with you wasting your whole day trying to nurse yourself back to health.
The beauty of not drinking is that you don’t have to deal with any of that. Now, after a night out, all I need is sleep to wake up feeling restored, my mind cleared and calm, ready to enjoy the day.
3. My Mental Health Has Improved
As highlighted earlier, alcohol directly affects your moods and brain functionality. It is a depressant that interferes with the balance of chemicals in the brain, which is the cause of most mental illnesses.
While people turn to liquor to boost their moods, in the long term, it has adverse effects on brain chemistry. So as much as it can provide pleasurable effects, it is an unpredictable chemical. Instead of experiencing the happy go lucky feeling, you may end up with an adverse emotional reaction and whatever you were trying to mask, may heighten.
Over the last couple of years, my mental health has been a crucial factor for me, and I go to great lengths to protect it by watching what adversely affects it, be it people, situations, or lifestyles. I ensure to stay away from what doesn’t serve it, so I am mindful of the amount of alcohol I introduce into my body and know my limit.
4. I Save More Money
Money spent on alcohol isn’t something you notice much when you’re a drinker, but in actuality, alcohol is not easy on the wallet. When you quit, it becomes clear because you notice that your cash is stretching a lot longer than it used to be.
For example, the average premium beer in Kenya retails for Kes. 200 (USD2) to Kes. 300 (USD3). You’d need about 5 to 6 beers to get the desired effect, so that’s about Kes. 1,800 (USD18) per day. If you go out every weekend, Friday to Monday, that’s Kes. 5,400 (USD 54) per week. That’s a lot of money that you can utilize in other productive activities.
I especially noticed this change in the first few months into it. I have a lot more left that I could invest in hobbies such as travel.
5. I Look Better Physically
Being alcohol-free is excellent for your physique. Regular and heavy consumption of alcohol can take a toll on your outward appearance. At one point, I looked like a wreck. My skin was dull, and my tummy started to bulge more than usual.
Alcohol contains hundreds of calories, therefore, leads to weight gain. But more than that, it’s highly toxic to the liver. The liver’s primary job is to detoxify and metabolize chemicals. When you introduce it into the body, the liver metabolizes it with the enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These enzymes release a substance known as acetaldehyde, which is a toxin to the body’s tissues; it dehydrates your tissues, making it prone to wrinkles and pimples.
Your skin has a much better chance of thriving when you exclude or reduce your alcohol consumption. I had visible differences in my skin tone, and people who’ve known me throughout the journey noticed changes as well.
My sober life lasted for about two years as I do drink again now as of October 2018, but I haven’t been drunk ever since 2016 and I have a two-drink minimum. The break served its purpose, a healthier relationship with the alcohol. I’m no longer dependent on it to socialize. It’s now a fun, optional, sociable activity and not a necessity for a good night out.
If you’re thinking of giving the sober life a go for a while, I would say, go for it! You’re sure to experience the benefits I’ve highlighted and even more.