I never thought I'd say "I don't drink," but this past Sunday marked six months since I've had a sip of alcohol.
The most surprising part of it all? I'm happier sober!
And I don't say that lightly.
I've dealt with depression most of my life. But after my brother died by suicide 9 years ago, I made it a priority to take care of myself.
Taking the plunge into sobriety has been a major milestone in my healing. A breakthrough. The gift of a fresh start.
I'm not a recovering alcoholic (you don't have to be one to be sober), yet every decision to cut back inevitably led to drinking more, and I always found myself back to where I'd been before I cut back.
Alcohol is sneaky like that.
I got frustrated with the pattern I was living, so I made a decision, out of the blue, finally: no more saying "yes" to what didn't really help me.
No more liquid courage; I wanted real courage. No more short-term stress-relief; I wanted to handle my stuff in a way I could feel good about. I wanted to love my decisions.
Cutting alcohol out of your life isn't the easiest decision to make.
When you decide to drink less, or not at all, you realize just how strong of a hold alcohol has on you. Or, anyway, how much a part of your life it's been.
It's the one drug that people don't have a problem pressuring you into taking. It's more than socially acceptable: it's expected that you drink.
No, cutting out alcohol isn't the easiest decision, but it's easier if you know the bigger "why" behind your decision.
I finally came to the conclusion that drinking started to take more than it was giving.
It started hurting more than it was helping.
Quite frankly, I was tired of being tired.
And I think, quite frankly -- whether it's a substance or a habit or a relationship -- there comes a point in time when you have to ask yourself, Is this really worth it?
Here are six reasons why I decided alcohol wasn't worth it anymore:
4 Reasons Why I Stopped Drinking + The Perks of Being Sober
1. Better relationships.
One of the worst feelings in the world is not being on good terms with the people in your life.
Life is relationships.
Since removing alcohol from my life, I've seen my relationships grow stronger, healthier, more secure, drama-free, and happier overall. I've seen to it that they've grown.
Myself, I've been a better sister, friend, girlfriend, and daughter. I'm more other-focused and less hung up on my own insecurities because I'm more present and "there" for the people I care about.
That's mostly because I'm more present and "there" for myself.
When the alcohol is gone, it's easier to make a serious commitment to your own mental health. There's nothing to filter or numb your tough emotions. Yes, it's hard to face what you've been avoiding all these years -- insecurities, depression, resentment, the roots of your anger, the source of your sorrow -- but when you start to work through your own stuff, you can be more available for other people.
Along with being a better person to your people, you might notice what I've noticed:
- No dumb arguments.
- No words said that you wish you could take back.
- No guilty mornings.
- No false promises.
Or at least fewer of them. Which makes for healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
Which makes life a whole lot better.
Plus, you get to be a positive influence for the people around you. Specifically, the people around you who need or want to stop drinking, but don't know how or don't have anyone to talk to about it.
2. Better mental health.
Your decision to be alcohol-free is such a powerhouse commitment.
It's amazing how many people believe alcohol is key to having a good time. I was one of them.
But the truth is that I've been enjoying life a lot more, sober.
Since I deal with depression, and alcohol is a depressant, it's no surprise that my mood and emotional health are in a much better place since taking alcohol out of the equation.
If you think about it, you're ingesting something that's counteracting all the other things you do to support your mental and emotional health.
It doesn't feel good to rely on something outside yourself to feel good about yourself.
It feels good to be in full control of your internal environment.
It feels good to be the guardian of your body, head, and heart. To be committed to your growth and healing in such a powerful way. To have boundaries. To say "yes" to what helps you and "no" to what doesn't.
Without a substance to rely on, you can start appreciating things for what they are, including yourself.
You learn to be more other-focused and more fully yourself in social situations.
You learn how to be yourself. How to believe in yourself. How to belong to yourself.
You get familiar with what your boundaries are. With what your trigger points are. With the inner work that still needs to be done.
You learn that alcohol isn't key to getting through hard times, either. It's a band-aid versus medicine.
In some ways, quitting alcohol helps you reach a new level of peace, compassion, and joy.
In other ways, it stirs up all your old pain, stripping it down to its raw and original form, without alcohol to filter or numb it out. But you're fully there for your pain, just like you're there for the joy, for others, and for yourself.
You're there for Life, for better or for worse.
And you learn just how resilient you are, how brave you can be, how much love you have to give. You learn that by facing the hard times with a clear mind and an open heart, you can walk through the fire and come out, a phoenix.
3. Better physical health.
This one probably isn't a huge surprise, but I thought it worth mentioning.
Beyond feeling more mentally and emotionally stable, my body is a lot happier sober.
I feel more radiant and alive, more hydrated and nourished, healthier and stronger.
I have more energy. My chronic neck and shoulder pain has eased up considerably for the first time in 8 years. The part of my body that I've been the most insecure about all my life, my stomach, I can finally be friends with (read: less bloating and belly fat, and less inflammation overall).
And let's not forget about hangovers, the antithesis of a good time. No more of those is reason enough in my book to stop drinking.
I just have so many other, more important things I'd like to be doing with my time...
4. More time and space for what you care about the most.
Whenever I drank, I knew the next day was going to be rough. My productivity shot to bits. Struggling just to make it through. Forget about exercise.
When you give up alcohol, you'll notice some pretty interesting things too:
- Your mornings and weekends are more productive.
- You DO have willpower.
- You're more motivated to make changes in other areas of your life.
- You have more time for the people, rituals, and events that light you up.
- You have more money for the things that make you smile.
Without alcohol, you have the time and space to explore new hobbies and aspects of yourself that've been dormant or ignored.
If you're like me, you realize that you don't have time to feel like garbage anymore.
I don't even mean that in the sense of being too busy, because we're all busy.
I mean that we have other things that are more important to us than booze: things we enjoy being busy about.
Me, I have my little nephew, my relationships, my job, my house and my writing to care about. And when it comes down to it, I care more about being "there" for these things than I do being able to party hard.
And you know what?
You can have fun without alcohol. You can love your decisions and you can love who you are because of them. You can enjoy life even more, sober. You can be sober and still be cool.
That's something I learned this year.
. . .
If you stopped drinking (for good or for a while), what benefits have you noticed?
How do you want to feel more often, whether you keep alcohol in your life or not?
Tell me in the comments. I'd really love to know! Plus, you never know who might need to read what you write.
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