The benefits of living free from alcohol, big and small

I sometimes imagine conversations in my head where a person asks me why I don’t drink. I have thought a lot about the answer I would give because there are so many reasons. And they are not doom and gloom reasons, I didn’t hit rock bottom. I came to the decision not to drink because after years of drinking, I finally realized there is no benefit. So that is what I would say, there is no benefit to drinking alcohol.

There is, on the other hand, huge benefits to NOT drinking alcohol.

Sleep. Long, glorious childlike through the night sleep. Going to bed after a nice hot bath and a cup of tea. After reading an excellent book. Having washed my face. That feeling of stretching out in the bed free from a buzzy haze. The gratitude. Knowing I will sleep well and wake up feeling healthy.

Alcohol disrupts the patterns of sleep, depriving you of both REM and Non REM sleep. Good sleep is vital to good health. When I was regularly drinking wine, I would always wake up around 2:00 A.M with racing heart and mind. Even if I did not drink that much I would still feel guilt. Always the shame, whether is was one glass of wine or a bottle.

Energy. Waking up without a hangover is a beautiful thing.  I start my day feeling vibrant and healthy. I don’t hit snooze,  I’ve actually become a morning person. I get up before any one in the house, have my coffee and write in my journal. I dry brush and add a little eucalyptus oil to the shower. Hell, I even oil pull. I attend early morning yoga classes and take walks on the beach before 9:00 A.M.

When I was regularly drinking, I was making myself a little (or a lot) sick most days. I was willingly putting ethanol in my body, the same stuff we put in our gas tanks.

Health. I feel amazing!! I feel younger, healthier, more engaged in my life.  Not drinking has reduced my anxiety and led me down a path of self-care that I fully embrace. I find myself looking for new workshops or vacations steeped in wellness. My diet has changed with little effort. I no longer crave greasy food. I juice, make smoothies and generally enjoy food that is good for my body.

Alcohol has been linked to several types of cancer. Stop imbibing and you will automatically reduce your risk of cancer. Alcohol is dehydrating, which can reduce your energy and make you feel sluggish. Your liver tries to expel the alcohol immediately after you drink because it is poison and harmful to your body. This process is taxing on your liver. Alcohol can cause irregular heart rhythms. Alcohol can increase anxiety and depression.

Money. Obviously you will save money if you stop imbibing. Alcohol is expensive.  Instead of giving my money away to multibillion dollar booze companies to make myself ill, I spend my money of yoga, massages, vacations, books….guilt free.

Beauty. There is a noticeable  difference in my appearance. You can lose weight for sure, because alcohol is loaded with empty calories. But it’s the skin that I think is most noticeable. Not drinking alcohol is better than the best skin care regimen. Wrinkles diminish, eyes get bright, face loses its redness, its bloat. More than that though,  I’ve taken back my self respect. I’m calmer, happier and full of gratitude for this beautiful life. It sounds like a ridiculous cliché, but I feel more beautiful inside and out. I am more myself than I have been since childhood.

Time. I am simply amazed by how much more time I have everyday. Time to do all the things I love. Spend time with my family and friends, hike, practice yoga, read, write, take new classes, travel, paint, play my guitar. And I even manage to keep my house relatively clean. And yes, I have a job.

Drinking is a time suck. And something else, it’s boring. I like being social, but I’d rather take a hike and chat than sit on a barstool. When I was regularly drinking, I wasted a lot of time drinking wine and watching bad television.  Now, I fill my life up with beautiful moments. This life is just too damn short to waste.


The beginning

I have been sober for six months, but I have been on the path to sobriety for two years. Before I stopped drinking for good, I was moderating my intake to once a week and only when I was out to dinner. But, I found myself wanting to go out to dinner more often and choosing restaurants with a heavy pour. I knew alcohol would continue its hold on me until I broke free for good. I had to find a way to be held accountable.

Inspired by One Year No Beer, I challenged myself to quit alcohol for one year and donate the projected money I would save to a local hospice. Before I posted my intentions on Facebook, I was terrified. I knew this was it, I was about to give up alcohol for good. There would be not turning back.

I said, fuck it! and hit post.

The challenge has held me accountable long enough that I have changed my mindset about alcohol and sobriety. I no longer romanticize it. Occasionally, I still get a little blip of longing.  When that happens, I follow the story through to the end. That “nice” glass of wine that becomes two or three. How I am already thinking about the second glass before I’ve finished the first. The feeling of trying to control my speech and wondering if I am starting to sound like an idiot. The imbalance, the sleepiness and eventual incapacity. The guilt.

What I’ve come to understand over these past six months is that life without alcohol is full. It’s full of second chances, full of benefits, full of opportunities. Waking up feeling energized and healthy is wonderful. No longer feeling shame is life changing.  I feel like I’ve been sprung from a trap and I want to scream from the rooftops, “I’m sober and it’s amazing! ”