After overindulging over the holiday season and with the creeping seasonal blues, January tends to be the time when people look into sobriety. Dry January and Sober October are popular sobriety events, where people give their liver a break for a month by not consuming any alcohol. Taking a month off drinking is a great way to practice self-care and tell your body you love it, but allow me to suggest going a bit further: take one year off from drinking.
If you immediately clench up in fear at the idea of an entire year without booze, hold on for a sec, because I think you’ll get the most out of this. Sobriety is not a punishment or a deprivation. In fact, most people find their lives drastically altered for the better when they say no to alcohol. But it takes longer than a month to really feel the amazing effects, which is why I suggest a year-long break.
I stopped drinking nearly three years ago. Many people in my life have wondered why, so let me tell you my story. I used to drink, and I used to really enjoy it. Alcohol was an answer to my crippling social anxiety, and at that time, it was the social scene. If you wanted to go anywhere, it was assumed it would revolve around alcohol, and I embraced this lifestyle.
But, as I grew up and had kids, drinking lost its lustre. There were no more fun parties or all-nighters. Drinks were enjoyed at home, or the occasional girls’ night out. Alcohol was no longer a social necessity, and I drank less and less. I found if I did have wine, it would make me tired and cranky, the opposite of how I wanted to feel!
But still. Despite me not enjoying alcohol, and despite knowing it was bad for my health, I still wanted it. And it was that craving that really gave me pause. I actively knew that alcohol was doing nothing for me, but still wanted it. And I hated that a lot.
So I stopped. Randomly in the middle of March, I said I was taking a year off alcohol. I thought it would be hard, and that I would feel deprived, but the exact opposite was true. I felt GLORIOUS, and I have never looked back. Quitting alcohol doesn’t take anything away from you. It gives you so much more.
I was going to write out all the terrible things alcohol does to your body, but I decided against it. You can read that here. You know that alcohol is one of the top causes of preventable cancer. You might have heard the myth that drinking moderately is good for you has been debunked by a major study.
Of course you want to be healthy; I don’t need to convince you of that. I’ll tell you why sobriety is the way to do that. And it doesn’t cost a thing. Which brings me to my first benefit of quitting drinking:
You Will Save So Much Money
If you do a quick calculation about how much you drink, you might be shocked how much you sink into your alcohol habit. Wine for dinner, flats of beer for that barbecue in the summer, a nice bottle of red at that restaurant, fancy cocktails that you “deserve” on a girls’ night out … it adds up. A lot. Even a conservative estimate will surprise you.
Here’s great additional motivation to make it through the year: figure out what you spend on average a month on alcohol, and set that aside in a separate account. Flag it for a special treat at the end of the year, and if you make it through, you get to make that purchase. What would you buy if you didn’t spend so much on alcohol? A spa weekend away? A new laptop? A TRIP TO EUROPE? And all these savings came at the benefit of your health.
You Will Glow
I like to talk up all the health benefits as to why I quit drinking, but I will let you in on a little secret of mine: I am incredibly vain. Like, obsessively into anti-aging products, doing everything I can to keep my youthful looks for as long as possible. And ethanol (alcohol) is extremely dehydrating and will steal your youth and beauty. But the great news is that the bad effects on your skin can be reversed. This benefit is one of my favourites of sobriety. Within weeks of your last drink, you will see the dewy, glowing skin of your earlier years. And you won’t want to go back.
You Will Sleep
You will sleep like a child, with abandon, and you will wake up feeling rested and awesome. That’s because every time you drink alcohol, you mess with your sleep cycle. Because alcohol is a sedative, we think that drinking will help us wind down and sleep: hence, the nightcap. But the opposite is true. As your body metabolizes the alcohol, your sleep is disrupted and less restful, depriving you of the healing benefits of a good night’s sleep. This is true of even small amounts of alcohol. Meaning you could be operating on a lifetime of sleep deprivation.
If you struggle to sleep at night and use alcohol to help you fall asleep, I hear you. But it is counterproductive in the long run. There are better ways to sleep, and other ways you can address your insomnia.
You Will Have Tons of Fun
That’s really the root of our fear of sobriety, isn’t it? We’ve been taught for so long that we can’t have fun without alcohol. I was right there for so long, guys, and it makes me sad. Mainly for my kids. I don’t want them to think that. Because do you know the one demographic that is hands down the most joyful? It’s kids. They are full of joy. They laugh. They play. They have tons of energy. They are not drinking alcohol.
And when I think about it, around the time I started drinking alcohol was when I stopped laughing and playing. There obviously are other factors, but this is real. Without alcohol, you will experience so much more actual joy. Joy! Isn’t that what we’re all striving for?
Is there really much more I need to say? Hangovers suck, and they get worse as you get older. When you’re an invincible 20-something, you can bounce back from nearly anything. Get any older than that, and it is TOXIC. Throw in having to take care of a couple of kids, and no thank you.
It has been three years since I’ve woken up feeling that way. If that were the ONLY benefit, I would still remain sober. Every single morning I wake up refreshed, full of energy and joy, and ready to take on new projects. Sobriety has been a life-changer for me. All for the better.
The New Norm
We’re taught by society that going sober is a bad thing, a punishment for not being able to “drink normally.” I challenge that. There is no amount of drinking that is normal, just as there is no normal amount of cocaine use. If we stopped thinking about drinking as the norm, we’d really be getting somewhere.
I’ve never felt deprived without alcohol – not once in three years. I’ve never regretted it, I’ve never woken up thinking “I wish I’d had a drink last night.” And I’m not the only one. Millenials are leading the sober change, with more and more people saying no to toxic substances. People are discovering the freedom of walking away from their addictions.
I was scared when I quit drinking: Will people think I’m lame? Will they assume I’m an alcoholic? Will life be worse for me now?
The quick answers are: Some do, but that’s how I know they’re not “my people” and I get to surround myself with people who love me; I bet some do but that’s not my problem; and life has been so much better.
There might be an occasional acquaintance who really wants to get in your face about your sobriety, questioning your reasoning and demanding to know how much you used to drink, implying that you had a drinking problem while they currently do not. Ignore those people. The argument they are having is going on inside their head. You actively taking steps to improve your health and life is making them question their own choices. You don’t need to convince them of anything. Just taking this step might be what causes them to start making better choices themselves. If not, it’s still not your problem.
Finding Your Way
Sobriety is a journey and an awesome one that millions of people are taking. There are great resources out there to help you if you’re worried you’ll have trouble quitting, and they don’t have to be scary. Two books that helped me on my journey were Allan Carr’s Quit Drinking Without Willpower, and Holly Whitaker’s Quit Like a Woman. Both are excellent, approachable reads that go way more into depth than I did here.
Taking a year off drinking means is you are choosing your health, your body, your face, your finances and all the other great things that will come with sobriety. Cheers to you.
To help you along your way, there are tons of yummy mocktails out there, and it’s not just juice and cola anymore. If anything, mocktails are serious business, with elegant ingredients and sophisticated palettes. At a dinner at Chateau Lake Louise a few years back, I had an exquisite seedlip grove lemon cocktail that was to die for. I took a sip of my husband’s fancy gin and tonic to compare, and it tasted like actual poison. So to end things off, here is a list of gorgeous mocktails that don’t leave you wanting for anything. Yes, mocktails can actually be this beautiful.
For more tips on wellness, check out my post on luxury comfort. And sign up for the newsletter for book recommendations and recipes!