11 Surprising Things I Learned from Not Drinking for a Year

You probably did not expect this post from the lead singer of a band called “Wasted 24/7” (who used to embody that name very well) but I haven’t touched a drink in 13 months.

I made that sound like some “serious, boring rehab shit”, but it was not. ? When I quit drinking, I had no plan, no specific goal to reach, no nothing.  I just decided that, starting that day, I wouldn’t drink until I wanted to drink again.  Meanwhile, I’d observe what changed in my life because of it (and what did not).

To my surprise I actually liked it and my experience was very different from my expctations. Which is why I’m sharing it here.  

If you ever wondered what life would be like without beer, here are some surprising things that you may discover:

 

1. 80% of Your Hangover Is Not Caused By Alcohol

When I was still drinking, all my non-drinking friends kept rubbing it in my face how they didn’t have hangovers.  I now suspect that that was just because they went home early.

When I quit drinking, I didn’t quit going out.  In fact, at some point I actually partied for 30 days straight.  One of the first things I noticed is that I felt just as fucked up the morning after going out sober, as the morning after 2-3 bottles of whiskey.

You know how they say that the best way to cure a hangover is to sleep through it? Well of course. When you let the beast out for an evening, you sleep less and the sleep itself is of lesser quality.  Alcohol is one of the causes for that.  But another reason is the many stimuli you encounter in “the nightlife” that makes your brain think it’s still mid day and it should stay awake:

• Continuous social interaction

• Flashing lights

• Loud music

• Getting hyped up

• Dancing

• Walking around

On top of that there’s the obvious fact that you usually stay up later than you do on regular days, which fucks with your circadian rhythm.

In the end I discovered that getting rid of alcohol did not get rid of my hangovers.  Only sleeping early did.

 

2. You Become a Superhuman on Non-Hangover Days

This is the good part. I never realized how much the consumption of alcohol continued to affect my body on days when I wasn’t drinking.

It takes a while for this effect to kick in (I’d say about 1-3 months). But all of a sudden you start to notice how different your body feels when you consume less toxins (similar to when you start eating healthier). Some of the things that started improving rapidly after that point were:

• Strength

• Energy

• Mental clarity

• Concentration

• Alertness/Reflexes

• Productivity

• Motivation

• Restfulness

• Consciousness

• Depth of connections with people

• Honesty & openness

• Peacefulness (less anxiety)

• Emotional Stability

• Self-confidence

• Self-control

• (Self-)awareness

The tricky part is that when you stop drinking, for the first few weeks a lot of these areas seem to get worse..  Because you’re adjusting to a new way of living and possibly experiencing some mild detox symptoms (as with anything your body is dependent on).  But if you stick with it, the difference is night and day.  That’s probably the biggest reason I’m still not drinking.  It’s just not worth the trade-off for me at the moment.

 

3. You Don’t Save Any Money By Quitting

Really, you’d expect you’d do. But you don’t.  Unless you get anal about your expenses, that is.  And as much as we all love getting anal, when you’re going out you should be having fun instead of counting pennies all the time.

The thing is that non-alcoholic drinks often go down why quicker. And they don’t manage to distract you from the fact that you’re thirsty (which alcohol often does).

 

4. You Could be Shocked by How Dependent You Were On Your Drink to Get In State

There’s something to be said about the power of alcohol as a social lubricant / mood enhancer.  It can really help you feel like you’re smooth talker who says or does exactly the right things at the right time (whether that’s true or not is debatable).  To make those new friends, to get everyone to like you, or to get that yummy person into your bed and out of their clothes.  

This is because alcohol impairs our cognitive abilities to some degree.  Which can be helpful when we are stuck in our head too much instead of acting on our gut feeling/intuition.

When you first start going out sober, you notice it’s a little harder to get in that perfect state again. To shut off that little voice in your head. To really stop caring what people think of you instead of just saying you don’t. To open up and make yourself a little vulnerable to rejection when meeting new people.

When before, alcohol was one of the reasons you felt good, now you are first to learn to feel good for no reason at all but being you.

Even if you don’t stop drinking, this is definitely something worth learning.  Because once you learn to depend on nothing but yourself to get in that crazy party mood, you can basically feel amazing whenever you want and still maintain complete awareness of everything going on around you and inside you. Which is why I now enjoy partying sober much more than partying drunk.

 

5. We Use Alcohol to Make Us Feel OK About the Things We Don’t Like

• Boring family dinner with people you don’t like but have to pretend-like because you’re related? —–» “Alcohol, fast!”

• Feel bad because you got involved with some guy you knew up front was an asshole and then he -who could’ve guessed- treated you like an asshole? —–» “Where’s the vodka?”

• Hours-long formal business dinner about something that could actually be solved in 30 minutes if we skipped the formalities and small talk.  —–» “ALCOHOOOL… SOMEBODY?? Please, I’m dying here.”

When you stop drinking, you may notice there are plenty of places where you hang out just because all your friends go there.  Places that you wouldn’t go if it was up to you, but you still go there thinking “you have to” , when in fact you always have a choice not to go.

There may even be some people that you hang out with but don’t like unless you’re drunk. Guess what? The acohol may make it tolerable, but the truth is life’s to short to fill your days with things like that!  Spend your time doing things that make you happy and say no to anything that’s not really your cup of tea.  Problem solved without alcohol.

 

6. We Use Alcohol to Make Us Feel Okay About the Things We Do Like

Because we are often afraid of getting judged, we let alcohol take the fall for our behavior.  This way, we don’t have to own our desires.

• “Yeah I kissed her but I really didn’t mean to, I was just drunk.” instead of “Sometimes I just like kissing someone for no particular reason.  And that’s okay.”

• “I made a mistake, but I was drunk so it doesn’t count.” instead of “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.  And now I want to be a little bitch by not accepting the consequences of my actions.  So I’ll wear alcohol as a consequence-proof vest.”

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone but ask yourself honestly:

Unless you were literally unconscious and someone took your hands and made you steal that road sign against your will, wasn’t there a part of you that always wanted to? The alcohol just gave us permission.

I personally made tons of mistakes while drunk.  And some really bad ones too. I now realize that some part of me wanted to make them because they seemed fun. The only thing the booze changed was that I didn’t care about the consequences anymore. That doesn’t mean I’d repeat them, but they were still my mistakes.  Not the whiskey’s mistakes.  Whiskey has no brain.  Simple as that.  I don’t remember ever getting drunk and doing something I didn’t want to do. Then again… I don’t remember a lot of times when I was drunk, so who knows?

There’s a good lesson here too: Own your desires.  Be proud of who you are.  Maybe some things you want to do are generally frowned upon.  As long as you’re not hurting anybody, do them anyway.  Or if you think the consequences for others or yourself are not worth doing it, then don’t.  Simple as that.  Also, don’t be afraid of making mistakes and admitting you made them.  If you don’t, then how will you ever learn?

Not being drunk thought me to you shouldn’t wait on convenient excuses to do everything you secretly desire.  But at the same time, not to wallow in regrets that could’ve been avoided.  Or get paralyzed by fear of having to admit making a mistake here and there. Being sober helps you make these choices rationally, and enjoy them with your full awareness.

 

7. We Use Alcohol As a Shield Against Criticism

This one is actually like number 6 but a little more sneaky. Here’s an example from my own life:

The day before I was supposed to play a gig, I always told myself I’d rest well to keep be in good shape the next day.  Then I would just meet for one drink, and end up coming home around 6-7am.  Of course to top it all off, I’d decide I’d better not sleep to avoid a hangover.

Sometimes I’d keep drinking to maintain the same energy level until the show.  Sometimes I would be sleeping on the floor back stage until 2 minutes before I had to play.

This is what I used to think was going on when something like that happened:
“I genuinely wanted to only have one drink but then the night was exceptionally fun, so I just went along with it and I had the time of my life.  Now I better get myself in shape to make the most of this gig.”

This is what was really going on:
Since I chose to drink so much, I would either have a huge hangover or skip sleep entirely and was now no longer accountable for any criticism.

Did I sing bad? “Yeah could be, normally I sing great but it was just because I have been partying all night…”

Did I play sloppy? “Possibly, I was shitfaced.”

No matter how bad people would’ve tried to criticize me, it wouldn’t’ve hurt because in my mind it wasn’t my fault. That’s too bad though, because constructive criticism and taking responsibility for the quality of your work and relationships are just what you need to improve rapidly in those areas ?

Now how can you relate this to your life?

• Did you fail any exams because you were partying too much?  —–»  “Alcohol-shield!”

• Did you fail to make it to your friend’s birthday party and now they’re mad? —–»  “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

• Did you fail to get it up when you finally took your crush home? —–»  “Whiskey-dick!”

The sad irony here is that because we are secretly afraid to fail, we do something that actually increase the chances of failure a tenfold. All because we think that means we wouldn’t have to take responsibility for our own failure.  While the failure itself could’ve easily been avoided by not drinking.

In the end, if we still failed, it wouldn’t matter because it would teach us where our weak spots were, allowing usto work on those.

 

8. It Makes You Irresistible to Both Sexes

Really, I’m living proof.

Nah, just kidding.

…or am I just saying that I’m kidding to appear less narcissistic?

You’ll never know it unless you try for yourself ?

 

9. The Social Pressure Is Real

I never expected this to be so severe, but when you quit drinking a lot of people suddenly judge the shit out of you.  Don’t see this as something bad though, it’s actually quite an entertaining pattern to watch:

STAGE 1:

When you first announce you don’t drink anymore, these people voice their support and applaud you for your brave decision like it’s some kind of big heroic thing to do.  Really, it’s not, it’s actually easier than drinking since you have to do less.

STAGE 2:

This is the part where they start to sense that you’re actually succeeding at it. And a lot of people get disappointed with you for 2 reasons:

First of all:  Seeing you succeed and have fun with it instead of having a hard time actually confronts them with the fact that deep down they don’t believe they could do it if they wanted to.

…and/or…

They somehow believe that you now look down upon everyone who does drink (because they look down on themselves as a result of reason one). So they get afraid that if you stay sober you’ll feel too good to be their friend and will leave them behind.

In any case, now they will actively try to make  you fail. Some of them will go as far as buying you shots every single time they see you and then acting offended that you don’t drink them.

Others will just try to convince you to fail in a not so subtle way.  Some of the funniest things I heard from people, including people who normally act supportive when it comes to other things:

• “You already succeeded in not drinking for 3 weeks, that means you are not addicted. You’ve got nothing left to prove to anyone so drink, now. “ (You’re kinda missing the point. I’m not doing this for you but for myself.)

• “Come on dude. It’s just one drink! It’s always better to do something that’s bad for you in moderation than to be so strict about it.  That won’t make you happy at all.” (Well I’m pretty strict about not raping people. And I’m also pretty sure raping people in moderation wouldn’t be a change for the better.  Also, what’s the point of having one drink? If I wanted to “not get drunk” I could just have some water, if I wanted to get proper drunk, then one drink wouldn’t be enough)

• “You’re not fun unless you’re drunk.” (Really mo’fucker? Then why are you friends with me? )

Also worth mentioning, I remember one single person saying the following to me, and I loved him for his honesty:

“When you don’t drink, it makes me feel bad about my own drinking habits, which makes me enjoy your company less on nights when I drink.”

Now that’s a true friend. Putting his own ego aside to open up about the fact that something you do makes him feel bad, while still respecting your choice ?

STAGE 3:

These people now accept the fact that they can not influence and realize that it won’t make you leave them behind (although ironically, you now may want to leave behind the unsupportive ones still stuck in stage 2).

They stop giving you shit for it. But they still act like you need to justify your behavior for some reason…Are you on medication? Probation? 12-steps program?

Any reason will suffice except for admitting that you just like not drinking.  I often hear people trying to defend my choices when they introduce me to someone new “Oh no, it’s not that he doesn’t like drinking anymore…. He’s not a loser or something. It’s just an experiment he’s doing at the moment, you’ll see…”
I suspect if you have a driver’s license, they will always tell people you’re the designated driver instead of just admitting you don’t drink because you don’t want to.

STAGE 4:

They start to secretly ask you for advice, or they admit that they have realized they have no desire to quit drinking and you should know it.

This is actually kind of funny when you think about this whole cycle. You never judged them one bit for drinking. They just thought you were constantly judging them while they were judging themselves.

Anyone who is okay with their own drinking habits would never see any problem with you not drinking.

Also, any sober person who is a 100% okay with their own relationship to alcohol wouldn’t be judging others for it IMHO.

So here’s a great tip to learn something about yourself:

Do you think all people who drink water/coke instead of beer are losers?

Then you are probably judging yourself for your own drinking habits. That doesn’t necessarily mean the habits are bad, but it does indicate you need to work on self-acceptance.

 

10. When You Use Alcohol to Run Away from Something, You’re Actually Running In Place

This is a bit to discover about yourself. When we drink, we rarely say. “I need to run away from X instead of dealing with it, so time for a drink.” We just think we feel like partying.

But when all of a sudden you never drink, you start to see patterns. Every time X happens, you feel like you want to party.  X might be stress you need to learn to cope with, some bad situation you don’t want to think of right now, feelings you don’t want to be feeling…

Often you’ll not be able to trul define what X is. But suddenly you need a drink. Not because you’re addicted and are feeling withdrawal symptoms.  It’s something different, more subtle, that we all feel.

For me, the first time I wanted to go out and drink didn’t come until after a couple of weeks, and when I didn’t have the drink, I noticed I started craving other things.
Weed, coffee, cigarettes, sex, junk food, healthy food, social interaction, hugging, television, literally running, traveling, reading (not in that particular order)…

After a while I noticed a clear pattern:
Every time I wanted to drink and didn’t, I started craving one of these other things.  And if I didn’t give in to the craving the list would go on and on.  What I found interesting was that some of the things on there, like junk food, cigarettes or television are things I normally never do.  

It became clear to me that I was just forcibly trying to occupy my mind so it wouldn’t think of the things I was running from.

Then I looked at everyone around me. We are all constantly numbing our minds with something. Mostly television, unhealthy food, pills and unproductive internet use. We do this because we are all running from some things we are afraid of dealing with or find uncomfortable to fully accept as true. I think most of us don’t even know what we’re running away from. We might not even feel like we’re running at all because our mind is sneaky and frames it in funny ways to trick us:

• “How great is it to come home and watch 6 TV-shows after a long boring day doing work I secretly hate!”

• “I’m not lonely, I feel good and I’m just horny!”

• “What break-up? I just really love Ben & Jerry’s today.”

Then I also realized there is NO point. You may think you’re running away but you’re just wasting all your energy running in place. Because at the end of the day when you stop the distractions and quiet your mind, whatever you couldn’t accept about yourself, your life or the reality around you is still there waiting for you to either accept it or do something about it. there.

So the next time I felt like I was in a good mood for a drink I sat down on my bed and let all the cravings pass one by one, even some of the more abstract ones like “thinking” or “sleeping” (this is where I noticed how tricky it is, it’s like people who quit smoking and then eat apples but actually use them to run away from the same feelings of stress), until there were no escape routes anymore.

Suddenly I felt really bad and I started to realize all kinds of things that had been waiting until I was ready to deal with them all my life. That was kind of a shock since I always thought there were no such things.

If that sounds horrible, that’s because it is. But it’s the first step towards accepting or dealing with these things, which feels like a major shift in consciousness.

The good part? After you sober up for a short while and quit running away you can still enjoy all those cravings, but when you feel them, you know it will really be about fully enjoying the experience. About the love for the thing you are consuming. And not about numbing yourself.

Suddenly you will deeply enjoy the taste that bag of potato chips instead of mindlessly devouring it in 30 seconds while watching whatever is on TV at the moment, or you’ll be having sex with someone because you want be with them, not because you needed it really bad.

Another cool thing is that now that you’ve identified these patterns of avoidance in your own behavior, you are aware of them and know when a craving is really a craving (I like you and want to eat you!) and not a way of avoiding something more important (OMG I really need X right now.) So you can safely enjoy your vices while tackling any important problems that you need to deal with.

 

11. Your Life Doesn’t Become More Boring

To be honest I expected it to. And it’s one of the first things people always ask me.
At the start it might feel a bit boring. But that’s just because we have tons of positive associations strongly linked to alcohol. And perhaps because we lack iniative and imagine to do fun things.

Associating alcohol with “Fun, party, crazy, unpredictable, social, sexy”, etc. It might even be tied to your identity on some level, like it was with me.
If according to your ego you are the guy who always brings the party, how can you still be that guy if you don’t drink?

That alone might probably settle you up with a small identity crisis until you realize “alcohol”, “fun” and “party” are not synonyms.

Think about it. If they only served water at a party but everyone’s behavior remained exactly the same as when serving liquor, would the party still be there? Yup.


As long as you can still allow yourself to be a fun person instead of a boring one, you won’t become more boring. Some people may think you are because they will expect you to be and thus engage in more boring interactions with you, but that’s their problem. Hang with other people 😉

You can ALWAYS have fun if you want to.
You know you’re on the right track when every time you do something someone yells “…and he’s not even DRUNK!”

Just go do some fun, un-boring things every day and your life won’t be ?

The cool thing is, now that you do them sober you will not only enjoy them more intensely, you will feel so much more alive because you know it’s all happening because you chose to do it. Because in the end end, if you blame alcohol for your mistakes, unfortunately you end up blaming it for all the fun nights as well. Wouldn’t it be better to know that was actually all you who did it? 😉

 

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