I started drinking when I was 15 years old. In some fashion I lived life for the weekends until I was 25.
I befittingly went to one of the biggest party schools in the country where I drank 4-7 nights/days a week. After college I got a job, moved across the country and was living the postgrad party lifestyle in the ideal beach town of Pacific Beach, San Diego.
It was fun.
On the surface, it seemed pretty normal.
Two years ago, I made the decision I was going to stop drinking. It was a decision I never thought I could commit to let alone wanted. What was most shocking to me was how I came to make the choice.
I didn’t make it after some drunken stupor of a night (although there were plenty in my past).
I didn’t decide after I was arrested and thrown in jail (I got the charges dropped).
And it didn’t happen after waking up unconscious in a hospital bed. (you get the drift)
While I’ve had many bottoms during my drinking days, my decision to stop came at a point in my life where alcohol was no longer an issue- at least not in comparison to how I used to drink.
I made the decision to stop drinking simply because I finally realized it was holding me back. If I wanted to be the best version of myself, it was no longer something that I could choose to do.
It seemed like an insurmountable challenge at the time but I can say from this vantage point, it was the best decision I’ve made in my life.
So what happens when you stop drinking?
Your true friends come to the surface
Life teaches us that friends come and go. We’re close with someone for a little and then things change- life happens. When I stopped drinking it was clear some friends I had that were more like associates while some were close, but just didn’t vibe with my new choices.
There were two types of friends I lost.
Party Friends- When you are together, a drink is in your hand, and you only engage with these people at a party. You find a sense of comfort in the familiar face, but don’t really share any decent conversation beyond that. These friends are the first to fall
Bro Friends- This is the most disappointing. They’re your good friends that you’ve known for a while but similar to your party friends, the best times you share together are getting drunk and losing yourself.
Unlike your party friends, you guys are tight. You live together, you laugh together, and you really like each other. It’s your bros. Your bros are pretty comfortable with you and how you used to be. Bros don’t like change.
When I stopped partying, I was spending less time with these types of friends because, well, they like to party. Many people didn’t understand my new revelation that alcohol was holding me back, and missed the party-go-lucky person I was.
What I’m so grateful for are the friends who stuck by me. The friends whose relationship was beyond what we were doing for the weekend. I started losing touch with my college friends and re-connected with some of my core friends I grew up with.
I was becoming a better person and the people who could see that stood by me.
If you ever do something that is bettering YOU, and your friends have resistance, it might be time to question if that’s a friend you want in your life.
You are on a consistent upward trend
It’s Monday at work let’s say, day after the super bowl. You drank and ate unconsciously all day and now as you wait for the K-Cup in your office to fill, you’re feeling it. You feel like shit. You’re hoping you can get away with doing a little as possible so you can go home asap.
Now it’s Tuesday and you’re feeling a little better. You got to the gym, but your workout sucked. You couldn’t lift as much and couldn’t last as long. You thought you shook off the weekend but it’s still there.
Wednesday- Humpday. Alright, things are starting to straighten out. You have more motivation, your workout was great and you’re eating better. You feel like you straightened out the weekend and are now back in full force.
Thursday- it’s on. No question you’re feeling great. You’re in your stride and you can smell Friday coming. You’re excited, happy, and finally fully back!
Friday comes and goes in a flash. Time for the weekend again! Guess what you’re doing? That’s right. It’s time to party and celebrate this great feeling.
You drink Friday night away and now it’s Saturday. You wake up slightly hungover, but you don’t have work so you feel good. Time for brunch. Time to go and drink all day.
Now Sunday comes and you’d rather not drink but some of your friends talk you into it. Easily peer pressured, you’re in but you know you’re going to pay for it tomorrow. Nothing you’re not used to by now.
Sure enough Monday comes around and your back where you started- Hungover, lethargic, and wanting to crawl into a dark cave. It’s “worth it” you say. How else are you supposed to have fun?
You’re back on the routine, pulling yourself up during the week only to watch it come down on the weekend. I was on this track postgrad. The middle of the week gives you the false sense that you’re actually progressing towards something.
Unfortunately, if you look at this graph below, you’ll see you’re actually going nowhere.
Once I stopped drinking and no longer endured the weekend hangover, I could then use that time productively. I’d get up early on a Saturday, go for a run, read a book at a coffee shop and feel freaking amazing. Not to mention it would only be around 10 AM by this time. I had the whole day ahead of me.
When you feel good, good things happen. I no longer give up that feeling to the fleeting excitement of heavy drinking. I stay focused on the realness of life, not the unconscious. I am becoming the best version of myself a little more each day. I’m no longer suppressed by the physical and emotional repercussions of drinking.
You forget what a hangover feels like
Get this, when you don’t have 10 beers, 7 shots and 3 cocktails before finally passing out at 3 AM, you actually feel good the next morning. I know, groundbreaking stuff here. But seriously, I haven’t felt hungover in 2 years- 2 years!
This is coming from a guy who used to nurse a hangover for a week. In college I would have the kind of hangovers were you can’t sleep because your body is going through alcohol withdrawals.
The best (or worst) hangovers come after you wake up still drunk, so it doesn’t feel like a hangover yet. So what do you do? You start drinking all day Saturday. You think you’ve outsmarted this hangover, but sure enough Sunday comes with a thumping vengeance.
Piercing headaches, weekends in beds, and days & brain cells lost are no longer a part of my life. I can’t say I miss them.
Even towards the end of my drinking when I’d have 2 beers at night, I’d wake up and could feel it. It wasn’t a full blown hangover but there was a clarity of mind I lacked that I now really value.
Besides physical symptoms there is one thing that is lost during hangovers that’s way too precious and you can never get back- time.
I can think of a thousand more productive activities than sitting in bed all day nursing a hangover and watching re-runs of Bar Rescue.
I understand the value of this limited resource and now have much more intention with my time. As Anne Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
You save a lot of money
How you spend your money (energy) will come back to you. What you invest in is an investment in the person you’re going to be.
I was spending all of my disposable income on alcohol, drugs (different blog post), clubs, and not to mention transportation to get everywhere.
I was not aware of how little importance I paid to saving my money, and choosing to spend it consciously. Instead, weekends would come and go to leave me mulling over the hundreds of dollars I wasted on getting wasted.
The sad truth is that at a point I thought that’s why I had a job in the first place. I needed to make the money so I could have a good time- they went hand in hand. It’s all I knew and what I was surrounded by, so it wasn’t ever a second thought.
Now the thought of spending $15 on a drink makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
You remember everything
“Do you remember what you said to me last night?”- Not at all.
“Do you remember taking your shirt off dancing?"- No sir.
“Do you remember buying 3 rounds of jager shots.”- Fuck.
How nonchalant we are with not remembering a thing someone said because we were drunk. Blacking out is so normal and I was at a point in my drinking where it only took a few drinks to really take down the power of what I could remember.
Forget about the good conversations you can’t remember. How about the bad/weird/inappropriate/aggressive stuff you did? While some of the things I’ve done are downright shameful, when you have no recollection of it, it just doesn’t sink in how it’s supposed to.
I like to think I’ve repaired some of those brain cells over the past 2 years of sobriety. My attention span has increased, and there is not a conversation I have that I’m not fully aware. I’ve regenerated my brain into the highly capable tool it’s blessing was meant to be used for.
Relationships are better
As a result of all these steps, the relationships I have in my life are real, wholesome and they involve meaningful conversation with a pursuit of higher ideals.
I’m very conscious of the people I surround myself with and the influences I let in my life because I know that my environment is shaping me. Who I surround myself with I’m becoming.
My relationship with my parents have gotten better as I no longer feel like I’m living a separate life which has to remain a secret. I can instead just be myself, and know that they will respect this self.
While the relationships are fewer with my long time friends, they are much stronger. I no longer have to put up barriers or ask myself “how can I look/do/be so this person will like me.” Instead I can enjoy being who I am and relate to people on a deeper level. Quality is truly better than quantity.
That’s why for the people I do let in, it’s automatically a relationship that’s deeper than most any of the relationships of my past. I’m attracting these relationships based on who I am now and they are people who tend to see things as I do. It’s become my new normal.
If you would have told me 4 years ago I’d stop drinking and be talking about things like high ideals and meditation, I would have said you must be drunk. But change happens. Who we once were isn’t who we have to be. Who we are can and is meant to evolve.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your wine and movie night with your girlfriends. I’m not judging people for drinking alcohol at all.
All I’m saying is to know yourself. Know what’s serving you and know what’s holding you back.
For me it was alcohol. For you it may be food, toxic relationships, or a job that’s draining. Take inventory of everything you do in your life and ask if it serves you. Does it add positive or negative energy into your life? It’s only then can you view your life from a higher perspective and make choices to change what you see.
It’s taken me a while to get here, but I am finally proud of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol. I no longer miss it and I can see how my life has transformed since. I also know this is just the beginning.
I look forward to how far I can go.
If you think alcohol may be holding you back, feel free to reach out with a comment. I’d love to chat.