Having recently just ended a 9 month period of alcohol-free living and stepping into the ‘moderation’ game, it’s only fitting that I feel a re-birth of sorts.
Emerging with a new sense of self, of identity, of habits and ideas after a warm and fuzzy sober incubation period, I feel like a tiny, screaming, distressed little baby, entering a scary new world again.
It’s been a fascinating process full of ups and downs.
But before I get into my experiences of drinking again, I thought I might share a few of my thoughts and experiences of common things to expect after giving up alcohol for 9 months (spoiler alert – LIFE GOES ON!)
- You will try avoid bars like the plague – These places become boring AF. You do not have any patience for them anymore – and although you will join your mates for a few (non-alcoholic) bevvies – it’s not easy to stay in these places for very long. Instead you prefer going to events that feature other forms of entertainment, which in my case were music concerts, visiting markets, doing cooking classes and one of my favs – roller skating 🙂
- You win some, you lose some – I’m talking about friends, or more specifically your ‘drinking buddies. Don’t expect the gang to call or message as often as they used to, and when you see them – don’t be surprised when conversation is strained. For me, I lost a few of these ‘buddies’ when I realized that our friendships did not sustain themselves outside of the pub. It’s OK. New faces emerge. Personally, I have been fascinated to see that there is in fact many who don’t really drink. I thought it was totally normal to be black out drunk every weekend. Having stepped outside of this – I can see how this really wasn’t normal or functional and how many more meaningful friendships and relationships have emerged outside of these drinking spaces. I mean, when was the last time that drunk dude you met in the bar called you up for a classy dinner, or that girl that you made ‘BESTIES’ with in the bathroom called you up for that coffee? That’s right. Like never.
- You will feel lonely – Although some interactions become more meaningful – a lot of the times you can feel lonely and isolated. Maybe for those who go the
AA route it’s different – but that never really sat well, or appealed to me. At most social settings, I was the only one not partaking. I opted out of the ‘tribe’ so-to-speak. During these times I gained support from a really great community of folks from the social platform Hello Sunday Morning where individuals take 3/ 6 month or 1 year alcohol-free challenges.
- You will save a shit ton of money – I calculated that each month I saved around R2000 on alcohol drinks and another R1000 on Uber and alcohol-related junk food. That’s R3000 per month for 9 months which makes me R27 000 richer. I leave for Vietnam in a few days time, and this entire trip has essentially been paid off by making simple lifestyle changes.
- You do EVERYTHING on the weekend – Previous weekends of hangovers, regret, junk food and binge watching series become weekends of exploring hobbies, hikes, markets, walks in the park, coffee dates, attending workshops, yoga and dancing away at festivals. It’s amazing how much you can fit in and how fulfilling weekends become.
- You become Judgey McJudgepants – After quitting booze it’s like someone has lifted a very heavy veil off of your reality. You start to see alcohol for what it is – and especially for what it isn’t. You get annoyed at the media’s portrayal of alcohol, other’s drunken behavior, the slurring, the same old events and hangouts. You get angry. I know I did (and still do). Mostly about how we allow ourselves to be treated when drunk, and how we treat others. Ironically…thinking about some of these times is enough to make me want to drink to forget them, which is exactly why I think we keep doing it.
- You will lose weight a lot easier – After stopping drinking initially you are going to want to eat EVERYTHING (especially sugary food) and might pick up weight initially. However after some adjustments and dietary changes it becomes a lot easier to lose weight and stick to fitness and eating goals (that 3am McDonalds burger suddenly become a lot less appealing). Although I was skeptical of this initially, eventually the weight started coming off and I lost 8 kilos in the last 7 months. Definitely a nice perk 😛
- You feel BADASS – It starts becoming pretty cool telling people that you don’t drink. Sure, there are a few asshats along the way who will probably try force you to drink and make your life difficult (like the time I was pinned against the wall by a guy I barely know who tried to pour a shot down my throat). But there were also many people who supported the decision and also many who asked for my help and support along the way in their journeys. Times are changing and health conscious, sober lifestyles are becoming more acceptable, and even ‘trendier’ today.
- You ‘find yourself’ – OK it’s cheesy as all hell, but when was the last time you went to a party and didn’t have a few drinks, or meet up with your mates and knock a few back, or celebrate something without a glass of something? Have you ever been on a date without drinking? I hadn’t. Ever wondered how you might be in these situations? And wow has it been an interesting process seeing how I react in these situations. For example, I really thought I was the life and soul of the party naturally – an extrovert. I was wrong. Remove alcohol and I am actually pretty introverted, calm and collected. I like comfortable spaces, and not being around too many people. But although I became I lot more quiet and composed, I have experienced a confidence that no ‘dutch courage’ has ever given me. Conversation is easier, I am smarter, my wit and my memory sharper.
So given all of the above you might ask why stop now? The decision to start drinking again (albeit in a moderate and deliberate fashion) was made after weeks of weighing up the many pros and cons. Whilst many approaches tend to be black and white when it comes to to treatment of alcohol use – there is also a strong body of evidence coming out to support the success of moderate drinking strategies. In that for certain people it does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach (this article is a pretty fascinating read on the matter). However, that being said, I do feel a period of abstinence is vital before diving into moderation.
I am not sure where I stand yet on any of it to be honest and so far my drinking experiences in the last few weeks have been unremarkable. One drink makes me instantly tired and gives me a hangover the next day. I have not enjoyed the taste, it makes me ravenous for fast food, and I have naturally found myself spending more time in drinking environments which I do not enjoy. It’s also hard for yourself and others to draw that line when you are having a ‘few’ drinks as opposed to none. On the positive side – it feels nice to be able to partake in a drink from time to time, even if it means I have a few sips of a drink, and choose to put it down. I guess the goal of it for me is that alcohol becomes secondary, and not the reason, or point of going out or as a replacement for those those activities I would rather be doing.
The jury is still out at this stage on whether I will find a happy middle ground.
But ultimately as this year comes to an end I look back with pride at the person I have become, what I have accomplished thus far, the journey I have taken, and the challenges that have forced me into places of extreme discomfort and joy.
It’s been far from dull…that’s for damn sure.