On July 8th, 2021, I will be sober for 4 years. I never imagined what an important change it was to quit drinking and all the benefits I now enjoy from that important decision. I’ve read several books on the topic and the one that resonated the most is Holly Whitaker’s Quit Like a Woman. Whitaker takes on our drinking culture, how advertisers’ market to women and she gives a raw narrative on how she healed herself. This book is a great reference guide as to why I gave up alcohol even though I read it after over three years of sobriety. It doesn’t hurt to keep the rationale behind my sobriety real or, as my boyfriend Roy would say: “green.”
When I look back over the last four years, I really am so much better now that my Chardonnay habit is in the rear-view mirror. I had no idea when I made the fateful decision to give up ethanol that my life would be transformed by the decision. Instead of me telling you why ethanol, a poison, the main ingredient in antiseptic wipes is so bad for you, I am going to tell you why it’s so terrific to give it up.
6 surprising benefits of being alcohol free:
- Sleep. I have never slept better in my life. This seems completely counter intuitive to my Chardonnay evenings of crawling into bed and falling asleep immediately. As written on Sleep and Headache Solutions, “Alcohol might make you drowsy at first, but it actually decreases your sleep quality. Alcohol dehydrates the body and also blocks REM sleep. While it might help you fall asleep, you will be far less rested overall.” I wake up completely restored and ready to go. I can remember when I was teaching at night that I would have a glass of wine “to take the edge off” before going to bed. Now, even after working in the evening, I can easily transition to sleep and wake fully rested and restored. I had no idea that giving up alcohol would make me feel so much better and restored in the morning.
- Savings. I have never saved this much money in my life. Granted, I’ve never been earning this much money in my life, but wow, have I saved a bunch of money without alcohol on my weekly grocery bill, and, even better, restaurant bills. I know being vegan is inexpensive as well, but I can remember paying $20 for a glass of Pinot Noir. Now I can focus my money on things that enhance my life, like hiking and travel.
- Time. My time is my own. I don’t need to earmark my day with where my first glass of wine will be. My schedule is wide open without parameters. I don’t need to know if it’s 5 o’clock or if the restaurant serves alcohol. I’m not dragging out of bed unrested and with a hangover. Every day is a clean slate. I can spend my time on a puzzle, or writing, or walking my dog, or finding a new trail to hike. I own my day without alcohol.
- Feel the feels. I gave up alcohol at a pivotal time in my life when my ex walked out on our flooded home. I had to confront my feelings once I stopped numbing out with alcohol. Initially, it was uncomfortable and painful at times but now four years later, I am so grateful that I was able to feel the feels. As Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.” I was unable to go through until I was sober and it’s made all the difference.
- Thinking. My mind is never altered. Ever. Being alcohol free has increased my brain matter. As written on Workit Health, “Your brain will get bigger. Oh yes, we’re talking about literal brain growth here. Chronic heavy drinking can cause a reduction in your brain matter. Bad news, right? But no, wait! The brain can recover in as little as two weeks once you stop drinking. Think you’ve done some permanent damage? Your brain begs to differ.” I have found a dramatic difference in my ability to synthesize information and reflect.
- Health. I am dramatically increasing my odds of fighting the seven major cancers affected by alcohol: breast, throat, mouth, stomach, liver, colon, and rectum. Alcohol is a carcinogen. In my health screenings since giving up alcohol (but also meat), I have lower cholesterol, better liver enzymes — across the board I am healthier. As Whitaker writes, “Alcohol leads to loss of collagen and elasticity. And it depletes us of minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants vital counter free radical damage.” As I mentioned in #1, I have never felt so refreshed in the morning.
I have to say that the biggest struggle with giving up alcohol is navigating a culture that is so obsessed with it. Once you give it up, you see how pervasive the alcohol industry is. Being on the outside looking in, it can get uncomfortable at the first event you attend like a baby shower where everyone is drinking Bloody Marys and mimosas. I have chosen to block all the alcohol-related ads on Facebook and Instagram. No, I don’t need a wine glass the size of my head, or membership to a wine club. If I knew four years ago how much better I would feel and how my life would change, I would have given it up years ago.