The hidden benefits of sobriety

Imagine being in a beautiful hotel suite, in Hawaii, surrounded by your closest friends, toasting to two people you love who are dedicating their lives to one another. The fifth of such toasts.

That very same weekend, the party continues over an authentic 6-course Japanese meal, as a bottle of Soju gets passed around. Your friend who used to live in Japan hand-picked it, and everyone’s oohs and ahhs demonstrate his good taste.

The next weekend, you head to an annual Blues and Brews festival in a picturesque northwest town along the Columbia River gorge, where twenty different beers and wines are flowing, on tap.

Five hours later, you’ve ended up at a packed bar with half of the festival-goers, where everyone is already three sheets to the wind.

And through all of these situations, you are stone cold sober.

It’s been 16 days. In this time, I’ve faced some of the most alcoholic of festivities, including a wedding reception open-bar and girls night out. I’ve downed more virgin cocktails and red bulls than I can count.

16 days feels like two months.

There are 74 more days to go. I took this 90-day challenge as a way to get back on track. Instead of feeling motivated each day, I found myself waking up later and accomplishing less after nights drinking with friends. So, why not stop drinking for a while?

The bonuses and insights that have come from such a impulsive decision are numerous. For one thing, hanging out with a bunch of drunk people when you’re sober is like holding up a fun-house mirror to yourself. People fight with their favorite people over amazingly stupid things. Excessive flirting sparks jealousy. Girls are crying, guys are frustrated, and you are in the middle trying to console both sides. From the other side, you see how unnecessary it all is.

It’s also pretty easy to blend into the drinking crowd simply by ordering drinks that look alcoholic. Order a tonic water with lime, and you can almost trick your own mind into thinking you’re on the way to a buzz.

Then there’s the unexpected bonus of weight loss. Instead of drinking all those empty calories, indulging ‘drunken munchies’ that night, then the ‘obligatory’ greasy food the next day… you just skip all that. And things fit better. I look and feel better, too.

And I can’t say enough good things about waking up without a fuzzy memory, painful headache, and nausea. It’s pure bliss.

Another powerful insight: I never thought I had a problem with alcohol. The fact that I could easily take a few days off at a time, or enjoy just one drink without needing more, was proof enough for me that I had complete control over the situation. I thought that I drank because I worked so hard, or that I drank because I was just cutting loose on the weekends. The truth is, ever since I turned 21 I don’t think I’ve gone more than 4 weeks without drinking. I can’t think of a single wedding where I haven’t gotten hammered. And it’s not just after a long day of work that I want a drink… It’s after a day of painting, or writing, or meeting new people. I’ve noticed that when I accomplish something impressive, the way I want to celebrate is with a drink.

So, yes, not drinking is hard for me.

I’m excited to see what else I learn on this sobriety streak. I wonder if when September 10th rolls around, I’ll celebrate with a big glass of wine … or grape juice.

With courage, love, intensity and sobriety,

Kristen

Photo credit: Helga Weber / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

9 thoughts on “The hidden benefits of sobriety

  1. I think family gatherings are the hardest. I just made the 6 month bench mark for sobriety. It is hard but so rewarding. It’s worth it not to feel hung over every day. I recently went away with a group of girlfriends and was nervous about the sober nights. It ended up being fun watching my friends drink too much wine and get loopy. And there I was at the crack of dawn each morning, drinking coffee and doing yoga.
    Like you, I’ve been drinking habitually since I was 21. At 42, ready for a change. Granted, I have taken breaks in the past but the longest I had gone before was 5 months. Thanks for your blog and humor.

    • Ness, that’s awesome! Congrats on your 6-months, and now I’m guessing you are about to hit 8-months. Now that I’m at the end of this 90-day challenge I’m making a pledge to myself to drink much less. Like you, I learned so much and loved being able to wake up early on weekends when everyone else was nursing hangovers. 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  2. It’s a whole new world… but it’s an incredibly rewarding one. It’s even better when you have the guts to dance like you’re drunk while completely sober… I promise.

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