I hit 6 months alcohol-free on April 27th. If you would have told me 7 months ago that this would be my life now, I would have told you to F-off. There was NO WAY I was going to give up beer. Sometimes life has a funny way of slapping you in the face and telling you to wake up, though.
These 6 months have been tough at times. It’s never easy to just give up something that you have become so dependent upon. Mostly, though, this period has been rather wonderful. I have gotten back in touch with that happy-go-lucky person that I was before. I have looked my demons in the eyes and have dismissed them. I have realized what is truly important to me, in my life. I have forgiven myself for the mistakes that I have made, but I won’t forget them. I have grown to be a genuinely better person. I do regret becoming so indulgent upon alcohol and for acting the way I did, but I wouldn’t change my past. I don’t think I would be who I am or where I am today if it weren’t for the lessons I have learned along the journey.
I wanted to come up with some information regarding how I feel and what has been going on with my mind and my body since I have quit. I have noticed quite a few things that have happened, and I look forward to welcoming even more changes going forward. Read on to catch a glimpse at what one can expect when abstaining from alcohol!
Peer pressure is real. All the people that I regularly hang out with drink. When I made the decision to stop drinking, peer pressure was one thing that I was worried about. I have made half-assed attempts at quitting before and usually all it took to break my “commitment” was one comment directed my way indicating that “one won’t hurt!” Lucky for me, I have a great group of friends and a wonderful support system, so I realized quickly that I wouldn’t have to worry about the peer pressure aspect of not drinking.
Generally, I think when someone tosses ideas around about quitting, social situations are what give them anxiety the most. The good thing is, once you have made the decision to stop (and by that, I mean whole-heartedly deciding to, not one of those half-hearted attempts), that obstacle is about as hard as it gets. As humans, we are hardwired to want to follow the crowd and when most of the crowd drinks, it’s scary to be the only one not consuming alcohol. But trust me, after the first time or two, people really don’t care if you’re drinking or not. And if someone does give you a hard time after a while, typically by that point, your brain has already adjusted itself into not caring what other people think. For me, it was quite liberating going from using alcohol to cover up shyness to being someone confident enough in myself to not need it.
I will be the first to admit that I have not made the best decisions while drinking. It’s one of the driving factors for why I decided to quit. If I am that embarrassed by decisions that I can remember, I don’t even want to know what I have done that I do not remember. I have participated in many unsafe situations while being black-out drunk and I finally realized that continuing that behavior would only result in bad outcomes. It’s nearly impossible to “control” the way alcohol affects your brain. It slows down our brain function and releases multiple chemicals that affect our ability to coherently make decisions. For some scientific information on why alcohol does this, check out this post on alcohol.org!
Since I have stopped drinking, I have been way better at making decisions. I mean, some of them come with the territory, though, I guess. Like, I haven’t been behind the wheel while drunk. Well yeah, but I haven’t been drinking, so that wouldn’t be possible. I’ve made decisions to start a side hustle in order to make extra cash. I’ve made decisions to NOT drink, even when I am in a situation where everyone else is. I’ve made decisions to save some money so that I can afford to travel once this quarantine is over. Some of these might not seem like a huge deal, but to me they are. They, along with many other things, never would have happened for me if I had continued my downward spiral with alcohol.
It’s a given that having a clear head is going to allow you to make better decisions. When you start to abstain from alcohol, you start feeling the fog lift. It’s hard to explain this fog to someone that hasn’t experienced it (because maybe you are super in control of your drinking habits – I’m envious, by the way – or maybe you do drink regularly enough but don’t see the fog because you are so used to it that you simply think that you’re supposed to feel that way). It’s as though the fog is holding you hostage. That fog was clouding my judgement. It’s amazing how different I started to feel and how I started regaining focus of previous goals that I may have lost sight of. But sorry, babe, I still won’t decide where to eat. That one is on you.
Alcohol has a huge impact on overall health and well-being. Generally, when people quit drinking as much, they lose weight because they aren’t consuming as many empty calories as they were when drinking each day (unfortunately this one really hasn’t happened for me yet because after I quit, I got a crazy sweet tooth). Usually, you’ll even start to look better when removing alcohol because your skin will be more hydrated. I mean, JLO doesn’t drink and looks half of her damn age! It’s been proven that moods and energy levels can be elevated when quitting alcohol. One thing I for sure noticed was that I was sleeping so much better! Alcohol usually disrupts the two most important parts of our sleep (NREM and REM sleep). And remember the fog I mentioned? Yeah, alcohol can affect our cognitive functions for up to three days. So, when you quit, that fog lifts, and you are actually more intelligent! Alcohol also raises blood pressure both temporarily and permanently, so prolonged and excessive use can cause a multitude of heart issues. Even your immune system will thank you if you quit drinking!
My memory is so much better. And that goes deeper than having no recollection of what happened the night before. Alcohol affects the functioning of the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating and saving memories. So even if you aren’t directly under the influence of alcohol at the moment, those drinks you had the day before are still inhibiting your ability to remember things. This is funny, but I honestly thought I had gotten dumb, because I was really smart throughout school. I started drinking at 21 and not long after that it seemed like I couldn’t recall things as quickly as I once was able to. I had never put it together that alcohol was what was affecting me negatively when it comes to my memory and intelligence. After a few months of being sober, it finally hit me!
My mood is much more consistent. And generally better. Alcohol may temporarily put you in a good mood, but it is in fact a depressant. Ever feel depressed the day after an alcohol binge? I did all the time! I never thought it was the after affects of the alcohol… until I stopped drinking. It’s amazing how much better you can feel when your brain and body start to heal!
Productivity. Holy cow, I am so much more productive than I was before. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still like to be lazy occasionally (who doesn’t), but I get way more done on a daily basis now. I complete things at work in a timely manner, rather than procrastinating everything. I do household chores more often than I used to, as well. Our kitchen is almost always spotless, now. And I am always caught up on laundry. I’ve been writing more. I even submitted a poem of mine into a contest! I have been reading more. I’ve even been more productive when it comes to fun things, like painting, photography, and riding my bike. These are things I used to say I loved doing, but never had the “time.” Well, really, I was just so hungover and down in the dumps all the time I just didn’t feel like doing anything.
I want to say that I am NOT trying to be preachy and push my newfound views of not drinking onto people. I have zero issues with people consuming alcohol. Like I stated earlier in this post, almost all of my friends drink. I envy the fact that they know their limits and are able to control themselves. If I were that strong, I wouldn’t have to be abstaining and I wouldn’t be writing this. What is not okay is when someone loses that control. I know it’s a scary thing to acknowledge that you may not be in control, but that is what must happen before any changes will be made. If someone doesn’t want to change, they won’t. There must be some initial ambivalence there that causes the thoughts of possibly making a change. What I hope to get out of writing about my experiences is that if ANYONE relates to the lifestyle that I was living, they open up to the idea that maybe taking a break from alcohol isn’t such a bad thing.
If any of this relates to you and you want to talk to someone free of judgement, please reach out to me. It sucks going through things alone. But you don’t have to. Thanks for reading! And I will not drink with you today.