You realize who your real friends are.
It's the default social activity in our culture. It's almost weird if you don't do it.
My friends party a lot, and alcohol has become a staple in my life -- more so than I like. When you work as a writer and your job is to think about the state of the world all day, a drink at dinner time does more than a little to assuage your existential dread. Yet it also drains your wallet, impairs your thinking, dampens your intellect, and detracts from your creativity.
I decided to take a break from alcohol and hit the reset button on my habits. Not forever -- maybe just for a few weeks. But things have already started to look different.
Here are 15 amazing changes I've already noticed in my life.
1. You save money.
My love of craft beer was draining my wallet. I don't drink liquor, and I don't drink cheap beer, so drinking was putting me out between $10 to $20 a week. That ... adds up, to say the least. When you don't spend that money on alcohol, you can spend it on ... well, anything.
2. You have way more energy.
I basically got used to feeling sick and run-down every morning. It amazes me how much physically better I feel when I don't drink.
3. Your skin looks better.
Drinking makes your face bloated and puffy. Your skin dries out, and you age more quickly. Without alcohol, you notice your face has that youthful glow again that comes from -- well, not being chronically dehydrated.
4. You have more time in the day.
That's the first thing that amazed me. When you don't start feeling foggy around 8 p.m., you find yourself with way more time to do anything you want.
5. You're better at keeping your commitments.
When you drink a lot, your body is basically chronically sick. You don't feel good, and recovering takes time. Those random wine nights on weekdays take a toll, and that toll is your time, your health, and your reputation for keeping your daytime responsibilities. Alcohol doesn't help you with those responsibilities. It doesn't help make you better at those things, and it doesn't help you better yourself. It gets in the way.
6. You have better judgment.
Do you really want to argue with your boyfriend over that? Do you really want to tell your life story to that person in the elevator? Do you really want to spend $17 on gourmet cheese at 2 a.m.? Probably not. Like ... probably, definitely not.
7. You can pursue other hobbies instead.
Remember before you used to drink? You used to do all kinds of stuff. You loved painting, stargazing, documentaries, reading, and lifting weights. You still do this stuff, but when was the last time you started a new hobby? Now you have all the time in the world to pursue and develop your creative interests.
8. You're forced to think about the problems of the world instead of avoiding them.
The problems you drink to avoid will always still be there when you get back. When you cut out alcohol, that soothing moment of chill which relieves your worries is not there, and you are forced to look these problems in the face. Contemplate the state of the world. Create art. Remember your passions. Talk to your friends. Check in with yourself -- you can't avoid anything forever.
9. Alcohol is a bad best friend.
Alcohol leads you to bad choices. He makes you happy when you're with him, but only when you're with him -- he doesn't build up the person you are without him. He likes to keep you up late, and he likes to keep you in bed early in the morning. He is needy and expensive. If he were a boyfriend, you definitely would have broken up with him by now. It's okay to break up with alcohol.
10. Doing something for yourself is a confidence-booster.
No one is particularly proud of drinking alcohol (unless you're a 20-year-old frat boy). But it does feel really cool to decide to quit drinking for your own self-improvement. It's something to be proud of, it's something that's good for you, and it's something that's brave and honestly really, really cool. People might think you're weird for doing it, but other people will respect it -- and, most importantly, you will respect yourself for it. I don't always respect myself for drinking alcohol. But I feel much more proud of who I am without it.
11. Drinking is boring.
Honestly, it just is. There's only so much to it. You know those groups of friends, and literally, all they ever do is go out and get drunk, and that's it? I've always thought those people were so boring. Where is the meaning in that life? Where is the fun? You just do the same thing over and over, and there's nothing really rewarding about that.
12. You realize who your real friends are.
You know those friends who are only fun when you drink together? Like, the ones you don't think you could really tolerate sober because you just don't have that much in common? Yeah -- they're not really your friends. Also, if you don't drink, those friends will ditch you fast. Your real friends stick around because you could talk to them in any state of mind -- meaning they love you for who you are, not the opportunities for "fun" you provide.
13. Alcohol is literally everywhere in our culture.
This kinda blew my mind -- you will notice it once you stop drinking. It's in every other song on the radio ("Put your drinks up!"), every other commercial, every TV show (from New Girl to It's Always Sunny to Mad Men to House of Cards), and every movie. It's also the predominant social activity. Most activities revolve around alcohol. Didn't this ever strike anyone as ... weird?
14. Quitting is easier than you think. And after that first hump, you don't even miss it.
When I decided to take a break from drinking, I was prepared for a long, super-difficult battle, so I was shocked when it actually wasn't that hard. Unless you are a chemically-dependent alcoholic, in which case it's important to seek outside help, quitting drinking is most likely way easier than you think. The hardest parts will simply be breaking the habit (which isn't hard if you've got the commitment) and the social pressure (as alcohol is involved in almost every aspect of our culture -- see above). But despite the normalization of drinking, you've decided it's something you want to take a break from, and everyone who loves you will respect that. And seeing it depicted all over our culture will be strange at first, but it won't hold you back. Your life is so much more rewarding now. You'll soon find that it's something you honestly don't miss.
15. Nothing can stop you from being your best self.
Think of all the things you want to be -- your dreams for the future. Does alcohol make you more of any of those things? Does alcohol help you achieve any of your dreams? Or is it maybe just a habit you've outgrown that is honestly holding you back? The answer is different for everyone, but most people seem to find that drinking makes you less you -- and without it in the way, there is nothing holding you back from achieving any of your dreams.
Society tells us that it's weird to not drink. That just shouldn't be true.
Choosing not to drink is a personal choice, and it's a healthy one. You don't have to be an alcoholic to decide to take a break from drinking -- you might just be bored of it, or you might want to try out the health benefits, or you might just feel like it's not for you. And you don't have to stop forever, but taking a break from alcohol is okay, and even an awesome thing to do. If you're looking for new ways to self-improve, try it.
Alcohol is a dangerous drug, and it pervades nearly every aspect of our culture. We don't even realize how much we use it or how much it affects our lives until we make the conscious decision to stop. You've got nothing to lose by trying, and you might find that, in the process, you like your life even better without it. Either way, you'll learn something, and isn't that what growing up is all about?
Do your friends drink often? Share your experiences in the comments.