I never would have thought I would be writing something like this. If you know me in real life, you probably have known me at some point as a heavy drinker. Throughout my four years of college I partied and drank regularly, as is common for many college students. It was well known amongst my friends that I had an insane tolerance and also made strong drinks for friends when I was drunk so, needless to say, lots of people thought I was really fun. I thought I was really fun, and maybe I was.
Post grad, I didn’t drink as often simply because there wasn’t as much opportunity, and I was living with my parents again after moving back home so there wasn’t as much freedom either. They aren’t tea-totallers by any means, but they aren’t huge drinkers. I would drink at friends’ houses, and could still drink a lot of my friends under the table but I noticed that hangovers were getting worse as I got older. Eventually I started thinking about how the hangovers didn’t feel worth it anymore, and I got to the point where feeling drunk wasn’t even really enjoyable anymore.
So I started drinking less and less, which brought me to 2020. Over the course of this past year, I haven’t remained completely sober, and it wasn’t even too much of a conscious choice, but I have had very little alcohol in 2020.
New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2019, I had a few drinks but didn’t even get drunk and left our annual gathering shortly after 1 am rather than spending the night.
I believe we drank mimosas for my mom’s birthday but I only had maybe two. I had one beer that I can recall sometime over the summer, one or two mixed drinks spread out over months’ time. I got tipsy on a friend’s birthday in October, had two bellinis on election night, and two mimosas on Christmas. When I list them all together like that it may sound like more than “very little”, but this was a total of maybe twelve drinks over the course of an entire year, when often I would have close to that in one night in the past.
The thing about this, and why I’m writing about it, is that I did not set out for sobriety…rather it sort of just happened to me and I don’t want this to come off as braggy like, oh look what I did I’m better than you because I don’t drink. And that’s why I started off with the story of my history of drinking, because this wasn’t something I ever thought about for myself.
I started choosing, more often than not, to not drink simply because it didn’t hold much appeal for me anymore. And I definitely wasn’t thinking about this at the time, but looking back, I have felt so much better. Now, some people will say you’ll lose a ton of weight when you stop drinking which wasn’t the case for me. I’m still fat, I still partake in other “non-sober” experiences, I even still have a drink every once in a while. But I haven’t been truly drunk since December 7th, 2019 and it feels fantastic.
All of the things people try to tell you about not drinking that I believed to be bullshit, sober mumbo jumbo, I’m finding are actually true. My head is so much clearer, even though I’ve actually gained weight over the past year, I feel healthier. I feel more in-tune with my body, I wake up feeling much more energized, I’ve had less headaches – even my chronic headaches and migraines I get regularly from a shoulder/neck issue have decreased in frequency and pain level. I’ve been more creative and present in my life, I’ve been a happier person, even with mental illness ever-present.
I am not anti-drinking, and I never will be. But I have also realized that I may have had more of an issue with alcohol than I ever thought. I don’t have an addictive personality, and I’m not an alcoholic by any means – alcohol is a serious disease that I wouldn’t take lightly. However, looking back on a large chunk of the time I was drinking the most, I realize that any time I drank it was to excess, I never had just one drink because I figured ‘if I don’t get drunk, what’s the point?’.
If you have had serious thoughts about trying out going without alcohol for a while, I say go for it. Don’t let friends pressure you into drinking when you don’t want to. A lot of my close friends still drink quite a bit, but I easily stood my ground by saying I wasn’t interested. If they are your real friends, they should support you and not push it, even if they don’t understand why.
I think too many people have this misconception that it will always be a hard thing to do, and that it always has to be all or nothing, but it doesn’t. Sure, alcoholics typically need to stay away from 100% of alcohol. But even if that’s not you, and you want to try backing off of drinking, it can be easy. I still (in the time before COVID) hang out with friends, go to restaurants and bars, maybe even have a drink sometimes. You don’t have to give up hanging out with friends, and if they make you feel like you do, then you need new friends.
So this is how my unintentional pseudo-sobriety has changed my way of thinking in the last year. I would be really interested to hear any stories you would like to share about sobriety or changing your relationship with alcohol. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, if you or a loved one are suffering with addiction and alcoholism, please seek help. There are tons of resources out there.
- Find a local Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association) has a hotline 1-800-662-4357, a free, confidential, 24/7, 365 day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English & Spanish) for those facing substance use disorders
- And many other hotlines and facilities throughout the country