The decision to quit drinking alcohol can be daunting. It’s so ingrained in the Australian way of life, and many other countries around the world, that giving it away almost seems unnatural. Because you’ve been doing it for so long, as have all of your friends and family members, it becomes second nature.
When the idea to quit drinking alcohol starts percolating in your mind, you’ll probably experience many doubts about your decision. Living without alcohol has wide ranging ramifications, particularly social and psychological. But the reality is, once you stop drinking and get used to living an alcohol-free life, what you thought would be big obstacles to overcome, turn out to be much easier than you would have thought.
When I quit drinking, I found leading a life without alcohol to be quite an easy adaption. Because I’d been wanting to quit for so long, and it had come to a point where I was completely over everything that I once enjoyed about drinking alcohol, I was 100% ready for a life without it.
From the moment I stopped drinking, my life began to change for the better. Here are five things I found out when I quit drinking within a matter of days and weeks.
You can still go out with your mates and enjoy yourself
I loved having big nights out with my mates. We’d start at someone’s house, smash a few beers, tell stupid stories, sing a few songs at the top of our voices, then hit a pub or club. We’d stay until the wee small hours of the morning, grab a bite to eat on the way home, and crawl into bed with the inevitable hangover to come.
When I stopped drinking, guess what? I still went out with my mates. I still told the same stupid stories and sang the same old favourite songs. Still went out to the wee hours and had a great time. But I didn’t wake up the next day with a hangover, and as a bonus, I didn’t spend $100-$200 either.
You’ll become more confident in yourself
There’s no doubt many people drink for the Dutch courage effect. I know that was one of the reasons I drank. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it depresses your central nervous system. The effect is you’re more likely to say and do things that you would never say or do sober. You’re much more likely to try your luck with someone who catches your eye with a few drinks under the belt, than if you saw them sober in the supermarket on a Tuesday evening!
However, when you quit drinking a strange thing happens. You start to really discover who you are, what you like, what you want, and who you want to become. Because there’s no alcohol altering your natural behaviour and turning you into someone you’re not, you begin to fully understand who you really are. And with that comes a confidence you didn’t know you had. You’ll soon be chatting up that hottie in the bar without needing any Dutch courage at all.
You’ll have much more time on your hands
No more hangovers means you won’t be sleeping in until midday, then spending the rest of the day on the couch. By not having huge nights on the town, you won’t be spending the next two to three days feeling lethargic and tired as your body tries to catch up on the rest it missed out on the night you were plastered. You may have slept for 12 hours, but your body certainly wasn’t at rest!
Imagine what you can achieve and accomplish with all of that extra time on your hands. Work on your career, spend more time with family and friends, start a hobby, work on your health and fitness, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
People won’t actually care as much as you think
I honestly thought I was going to get grilled about why I’d decided to give up drinking, especially from those I’d spent most of adult life drinking with. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I think because I’d been mentioning my desire to quit drinking alcohol for a few years that it really didn’t come as a shock to anyone. It was more like, “oh yeah, we knew this day was coming”, a shrug of the shoulders and then back on with whatever they were doing!
Strangers grill me about being a non-drinker more than people I know well, mainly because they find it difficult to fathom how anyone can give alcohol up. They’ve got plenty of questions about how we did and what life is like without it. Some people are really interested, while others use it as an opportunity to defend their own drinking habits. I never instigate ‘quit drinking’ conversations, but I’ll always answer people’s questions. So when they use it as an opportunity to get defensive, I’m really not interested in that. I don’t judge anyone who drinks alcohol, that’s totally up to them. After all, I did it myself for 20 years! As long as your drinking isn’t hurting anyone else, and you’re happy with your drinking patterns, go for your life.
You should have done it a long time before
Like a lot of great things you eventually do in life, you always wish you’d done them much earlier. For example, I should have shaved my head a few years before I eventually did. My receding hairline was way beyond the point where I started to look like an old man. As soon as my hair was gone, I looked much younger! The same happened when I quit drinking alcohol. My life instantly improved on so many levels, and within weeks I regretted not having quit drinking alcohol many years earlier.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed those big nights out during my 20’s and early 30’s. Some of my best memories involve drinking with my mates at home and all around the world. But it came to a point where I was just sick of it, I was exhausted and just didn’t want to do it any more. But I kept finding the energy for another few years before saying enough was enough. Big mistake, I should have quit the moment I knew my drinking race was run.
There are many things you’ll find out when you quit drinking alcohol, but these are the five that were most obvious and clear to me. For you, the journey will be different and you may experience different changes to your life. The expectations you had before quitting may be different to the reality, and chances are they will be. The main thing is you quit drinking because it’s the right course of action for you, and you embrace your newfound lifestyle. Trust me, you won’t regret it.