If you read my recent post, "The Truth About Alcohol and Health - My Investigation" you know that I recently uncovered a few well-kept secrets about the negative effects of alcohol. Not only can drinking be detrimental to physical and mental health, but it can also exacerbate feelings of unworthiness, shame, guilt, and self-consciousness.
But wait - alcohol is often connected to celebrations, time with friends and family, and sporting events. How could a person could enjoy those types of occasions without a drink?! How does someone relax after a long day without a glass of wine? How do they visit their favorite restaurant or bar and abstain from ordering their usual beverage of choice?! I had similar thoughts before I started my alcohol investigation. Part of that investigation was trying it for myself. I have been a nondrinker for about 45 days and here are some of the things I learned and experienced during this time.
1. I slept soundly nearly every night
This one might not be surprising for most people. Even one drink can prevent you from entering a deep sleep phase and feeling fully rested in the morning. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but sleep quality is exponentially better when you don't have any at all - trust me! This isn't to say that every single morning I jumped out of bed with enthusiasm, but it was much more pleasant to wake up after a great, restful night's sleep, especially on weekends when I was used to the groggy post-wine night haze on Saturday mornings.
2. My body changed (a little)
When people stop drinking for an extended period of time they typically experience weight loss. They are no longer consuming an extra 400 - 2,000 calories a week from alcohol (not to mention any additional eating while under the influence). I don't regularly weigh myself but for this experiment I did. Over the last 45 days, I have lost about 4 pounds. (Disclaimer, there is not 100% certainty that this was from lack of alcohol but my bet is that it contributed.) My body responded in other positive ways too, such as no bloating, clearer skin, and more energy.
3. My workouts were better
The last thing I want to do after a late girl's night with bottles of wine being consumed is to wake up early and go for a run. And even on those occasions when I was able to lace up and go, the run felt sluggish and uncomfortable, at least for the first 20 minutes. Being a non-drinker means that waking up to exercise feels AMAZING, even on weekends. I had more energy and enthusiasm and didn't struggle with motivation. Most of all, I felt like I was working out because I wanted to not because I felt that I had to in order to sweat out toxins. I also found that my recovery time was shorter and my muscles were less fatigued and sore between big workouts (perhaps connected to sleep - see above).
4. I experienced major second-hand embarrassment
This is a big one. Have you ever been sober in a room full of drunk people? It's eye-opening. While people believe alcohol makes them more fun and interesting, the truth is that it often makes them annoying. I went to an outdoor music event and over the course of several hours the crowd got more and more inebriated and I became more and more embarrassed on their behalf. It's uncomfortable to witness just how much alcohol can negatively impact a person's personality. It made me wonder about situations in the past and how annoying I must have been while under the influence. I feel good knowing that if I continue not to drink I won't have to worry about that ever again.
5. Some things are still unpleasant
People often drink to make an unpleasant experience more pleasant. When under the influence of alcohol they are able to overlook situations that under other circumstances would have been boring, awkward, or tedious. Here's something I learned - alcohol doesn't make those things better, you just think it does. That said, some things are just boring and there's nothing you can do about it.
6. My friends are still great
I was worried that hanging out with my friends while they were drinking would make me like them less. I am happy to announce that I still really enjoyed hanging out with them, confirming that alcohol isn't necessary to have a good time. I still smile the biggest and laugh the hardest when I'm with my friends.
7. My appetite grew
I wasn't "hungrier" over the last month but I did have a stronger desire to eat. I think in some situations I replaced drinking with snacking, which isn't necessarily the healthiest choice but allowed me to stick to staying sober.
8. I went to more activities
I said yes to more activities because I knew I didn't have to drink to enjoy them. I used to say no to certain drinking-focused events because I knew that the next day I would feel horrible and it was easier to just say no to the event instead. I was wrong. I could say yes to these events and sip on a seltzer and not feel left out. The best part was not having to build in hangover days based on these drinking-focused activities. I feel like I have so much more time for hobbies, work, and relaxing.
9. I saved money (I think?)
Before I decided to become a nondrinker I was probably spending $30+ a week on drinks. It made me feel good to realize over the last 45 days I (theoretically) saved over $400. I can't say I noticed a huge change in my bank account but that could be due to changes in spending on other things. One other thing I learned is that it can be awkward to split checks at a restaurant when you aren't drinking. Everyone is eager to split costs evenly, which normally is fine with me, but is a little unfair when the portion of the bill from alcohol is $50 or more. Ultimately, I am fine with paying more for the convenience of not pointing out that I didn't drink and therefore shouldn't be responsible for as much of the check.
10. I'm happy and want to continue this lifestyle
Perhaps the biggest takeaway was this - I am better off without alcohol in my life. I am going to stick with this lifestyle as more than just a temporary experiment. I would like to continue to document changes I notice over time for those of you that might be interested in drinking less or becoming a nondrinker. The point of this blog is to talk about my experience but I cannot guarantee that this will be your experience. I also will not tell you that you need to change your drinking habits or that you can't achieve your goals if you drink alcohol. This was a personal decision that I am very happy with but I encourage you to make your own decision.
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