I want to start Part Two of my sobriety series reiterating what I said at the beginning of Part One. These posts are in no way meant to make you feel bad or guilty for drinking. They are not intended to convince you to quit drinking. My goal with these posts is simply to discuss my own journey with alcohol and potentially help if sobriety (temporary or otherwise) is a goal of yours. I think we should all take a look at our relationship with alcohol and really evaluate the role it plays in our lives. That means the good and the bad.
So when I left you in last week’s post, I simply explained WHY I quit drinking. I made a point to discuss not only the physical effects of alcohol in my body, but the emotional and psychological effects as well. Alcohol was in no way benefiting me anymore. It hurt my body, but it also made my depression and anxiety so much worse. And that’s no fun for anyone. Drinking just wasn’t enjoyable for me anymore. So I quit. In this post, I’m going to share the good and the bad associated with my decision to stop drinking. I’m also going to share some of the tips I learned over the last year to help me stick to my guns and stay sober.
The Good Side of Sobriety
The decision to quit drinking was not an easy one, but it definitely had its benefits. Sobriety is honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. But that’s because it’s what I needed, what I wanted, and what I knew was best for me. That may not be the case for you and that’s totally okay.
The first positive aspects of the dry life I noticed were physical. Not having a hangover the morning after going out is literally the best feeling. You can wake up and actually function, not stuck in bed and chugging water and Advil. Another great side-effect was I didn’t have to run to the restroom every 10 minutes while at the bars or at a party with friends. I could just hang out, enjoy the fun, and actually hold conversations without my bladder interrupting. That’s not a freedom I’d had in a LONG time. Another positive about sobriety for me was just having more control over my body in every sense of the word. I wasn’t drunkenly stumbling around hurting myself or throwing up. I could control the choices I was making fully and take care of my body as I needed. It was truly liberating.
Another benefit (for everyone) that I’m still incredibly grateful for is that I am able to make sure everyone gets home safe! After I stopped drinking, I became the default DD and I am super okay with that. I get to still enjoy my time out with friends, have a social life, and I get make sure everyone makes it home okay. For me, that is everything. Being a DD also gives me the perfect reason NOT to drink! If people ask why I’m not drinking (which happens way more than it honestly should), I can simply answer, “Oh I’m driving tonight!” instead of diving into some long explanation about my complicated health.
The mental health side effects of sobriety have been incredible as well. Since college, I have struggled with pretty severe anxiety depression. When I would drink, it only got worse. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still had some good times while under the influence. Overall, however, I found myself more depressed and more anxious than ever. Sometimes, on not-so-fun nights, the depression in particular would rear its ugly head and I’d end up crying for hours. If you read my last sobriety post, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Anyway, I no longer have drunken crying sessions, which is always a bonus. But overall, I just feel better mentally and emotionally. I have more clarity and I honestly feel like myself again. I feel like I can enjoy time with my friends regardless of what we’re doing or where we are, and I don’t need alcohol to do it. It’s incredibly empowering.
The Bad Side of Sobriety
As I previously mentioned, this post is all about my journey with and away from alcohol. I’ve told you about the good, but it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There have been some struggles through this process as well and I’m sure there will be more in the future.
The first bad thing I noticed when I stopped drinking is how weird people can be about it. I’m not entirely sure why, but people can get very uncomfortable with your personal decision not to drink. There is a lot of judgement involved. They often believe you’re judging them for drinking while you’re staying sober. That is NOT the case at all, but people can still feel that way. It makes them self-conscious and they can be very uncomfortable with your sobriety. Their judgement of your sobriety is basically an act of self defense against the how they think you are judging them. It’s a lot of misconceptions and miscommunications. I’ve actually lost very close friends as a result of my decision to quit drinking. It makes me sad to think that a friendship can be built solely on drunken misadventures, but some are. Through this journey I’ve learned that those who are meant to be in your life will remain regardless of if you choose to drink or not.
The next bad thing I noticed about sobriety was my social anxiety. I know in the last section I said not drinking helped my anxiety, and over all it has. But when I first quit drinking, my situational social anxiety skyrocketed. “Drunk Shannon” was incredibly outgoing, social, and only slightly awkward. Most found it charming, some found it to be a little obnoxious. Anyway, she had very little concern for how those around her perceived her. There’s a level of confidence that goes hand-in-hand with inebriation that can be harder to have when you’re sober. You also have to deal with those around you pressuring you to drink, telling you you’re missing out, and honestly making you feel like you’re less fun. I’m not going to lie, that feeling sucks. But you get over it. You learn that the opinions of drunk strangers really don’t matter. Your true friends will still support you and think you’re fun when you’re sober. You might even end up having more fun because you’re able to actually experience what’s happening.
Again, choosing sobriety is complicated. I’ve spent many a dry night feeling left out, boring, or ended up sober crying in the bathroom because I felt like I didn’t belong. But if sobriety is something you choose, the bad things get better. Especially if you have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Sobriety Tips and Tricks
So, you want to try the dry life. Maybe you just want to try it for a night, or maybe a week, or maybe as long as you can. Regardless of how long you’re wanting to ditch the booze, here are some ways to help reach that sober goal:
- Know your “why”. Why do you want to try sobriety? Are you trying to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol? Trying to live a healthier life? Keep in mind what motivates your decision. Keep it at the forefront of your mind when faced with the choice to drink. If sobriety is something you really want (for however long), remember WHY.
- Support is everything. One thing I value more than anything else these days in a solid support system. Throughout life, it’s incredibly important to have people in your life who want what’s best for you. And keeping those people around you is key to reaching whatever sober goals you have. Stick with people who hold you accountable, who will remind you of that “why”, and who won’t judge you for choosing to abstain for the night.
- BYOD. If you’re going to a party, bring your own drinks! I tend to bring a fun juice and kombucha to enjoy while my friends sip on their cocktails. Bringing your own drink allows you to still enjoy something other than water, but gives you control over what you’re consuming.
- Go somewhere inclusive. Back in my college town, I actually found my favorite bar AFTER I quit drinking. It’s a super fun brewery where you can bring dogs, play games, and just hang out. Plus, they serve kombucha! I mean, come on. It doesn’t get much more perfect than that! It’s somewhere my friends can go and get their drink on, and I can go and enjoy their company. If you’re not up for going somewhere booze-centric, head to the movies or go on a hike. Do SOMETHING fun. Not drinking doesn’t mean not living. It just means making slightly different choices.
- Don’t judge others. Or yourself. Okay, this is actually a great tip for all aspects of your life, but it’s something that has really helped me stick to my sober goals. People are already so self-conscious about drinking around sober people that you judging them just makes everything worse. All you’re doing when you judge those partaking is alienating yourself, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. At the same time, don’t judge yourself for not drinking. You know your “why”, you’re not boring, you can still have a good time. It’s a personal choice that you’re making for yourself and no one else. When you start thinking you’re boring or lame, it shows on the outside, and it’s another great way to alienate yourself. Set all judgement aside and live the life you normally do, just without the booze.
Regardless of if you choose to continue or to quit drinking, simply live your best life. Don’t let alcohol OR sobriety control your life. Do what’s best for you, your body, your mental health, and your overall wellbeing. Choosing sobriety was and still is what’s best for me. Yes, I miss wine because I enjoy wine. But I don’t miss how I feel drinking it. I don’t miss the person it would turn me into if I went overboard. Sobriety was key to me living my best, healthiest life. That may not be the case for you, and that’s okay too!
If you do want to test the dry waters but don’t know where to start, feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment below! I’m happy to answer any and all questions you may have! If you want to share your journey with alcohol, I’d also love to hear that!
If you think you or a loved one may have a problem with alcohol or any other substances, don’t be afraid to seek help. There are plenty of resources available. If you don’t know where to start, try here!