10 Things I Learned From Not Drinking For A Year

10 Things I Learned From Not Drinking For A Year

By Jillian Stacia

When I decided to quit drinking, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it for very long. A life without margaritas or beer? It seemed impossible. But like most challenges, the anticipation of the thing was worse than the thing itself. It’s been hard at times (thanks FOMO), but it has been worth it in almost every aspect. Here are some of the top things I learned since quitting drinking one year ago:

The people that matter most won’t care: This is important. Despite what you think, your people won’t leave. They might look at you weird. They might ask you questions. They might feel uncomfortable in the beginning. But they won’t leave. I promise you, the people that count, the people that love you no matter what, your ride-or-die people, will not care in the long run.

But some people will: And it hurts. It hurts like hell. But the truth is, they’re not your people. And it’s better that they go. Knowing this doesn’t ease the pain right away, but it will help over time. Quitting drinking shows you where the cracks are. It reveals your shaky foundation. These people were beams that couldn’t hold you up. Let them go.

We need to retire the phrase “drinking problem” from our vocabulary: When you quit drinking, everyone asks if you have a drinking problem, assuming this is the only reason one would possibly want to quit. And it makes sense. We live in a culture that depicts drinking as a black or white issue: either you have a problem or you don’t. Either you get to do this very fun thing, or you can’t handle it, so you’ve lost your privilege. We spend our time trying to stay on the right side of the line, doing whatever we can to remain in the white. But the truth is, most of us live in varying shades of gray. We need to stop asking ourselves if we have a drinking problem and start asking how we truly feel about drinking. You don’t have to hit rock bottom to decide that drinking is no longer working for you. You don’t have to wait for a “drinking problem” to develop. You can just stop. You can opt out. You can decide to stop doing something that no longer brings you joy, even if it is something that most of society glorifies at every turn.

Moderation is a lie: When you first quit drinking, everyone will ask you why you can’t just have one or two drinks. And I guess I could, but why would I want to? The whole point of quitting was to eliminate the anxiety I felt around drinking. Moderating would only exacerbate that. And newsflash – it’s really hard to moderate a substance that makes you lose your inhibitions. Especially if that substance is socially encouraged at almost every function you go to. Especially if that substance makes you feel like a million bucks.  And maybe there are some people for whom this moderation thing actually works. These are probably the same people who can eat two McDonalds French fries or only get one helping of food at an all you can eat buffet. I’m sure they exist, but I’m not one of them.

It’s not you – it’s them: People are obsessed with their own drinking behavior. Remember, if they judge you, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Abstaining forces you to experience the wonderful, excruciating, terrible mess of learning to feel your feelings: Alcohol is great for numbing things out. It’s great for making you feel brave and confident and beautiful. We’re not idiots – the reason we drink so much of this stuff is because it fucking works. And when you take away that crutch, you realize you’ve never learned how to just feel things without taking the edge off. You have to learn how to celebrate birthdays, how to dance at weddings, how to mourn dead relatives, how to handle the mundanity of going to a boring job every day doing menial work. You have to learn how to feel. And this is hard and amazing and something I’m still learning. But trust me, it’s worth it.

You realize what actually matters… and what doesn’t: Doing something counter cultural like quitting drinking makes you see the world through a different lens. You realize, actually realize, that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You can do something else. You can choose a different path. And you feel like you can actually do it, because you’re already doing it now. You’ve proven to yourself that you can do hard things. You start to truly live life on your own terms, and that sense of authenticity and freedom becomes second nature.

You look great. You have more money. You feel fantastic: No more hangovers. No more waking up in the morning feeling like a total dumpster fire. No more lost purses. No more empty bank accounts or credit cards still at the bar. No more red face or beer bellies. No more avoiding mirrors.

Drinking is everywhere: Literally everywhere. At places where ingesting mood-altering chemicals probably shouldn’t be. Like at yoga class. Or after a marathon. Or in a hiking club or cooking class with dangerously sharp knives. Or at a baby shower. Literally everywhere. This is not a bad thing necessarily, just an eye-opening thing.

You’re still fun: This was probably my biggest fear about quitting. How can I have fun without drinking? How can I be fun? Am I destined for a life of being a buzzkill? Luckily, I found that that wasn’t the case. I’m still fun. Just in a way that I’m proud of. Fun in a way that makes me feel more like myself.  Fun in a way that fits.

If you’re interested in quitting drinking, I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll learn so much about yourself and the world in the process.

Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.

{featured image via unsplash}

8 thoughts on “10 Things I Learned From Not Drinking For A Year

  1. Cristian Mihai says:

    I can relate to your post because I quit smoking two months ago. One of the reasons I did it was because I didn’t like the idea of something external having control over me. No matter the vice, it does feel the same way. Once you get hooked on something, it takes control of your life little by little until it becomes something that defines you. In some cases, it becomes the only thing that defines you.

    Having the courage and the determination to give up on a bad habit is an important step forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am Aranab says:

    I love doing these experiments but for 21 days. And I must say drinking every now and then is fun if you are not an alcoholic i guess. And congrats! Also #1 is true for almost any form of abstinence.


  3. akucbol says:

    I would argue that most people who drink do actually having a drinking problem. By this I mean that they have a bad relationship with alcohol and they do not know why they consume it but do so excessively.

    Alcohol is an escape, a confidence booster, a way to destress and, above all, a crutch. But most people don’t realise that they can’t be themselves or at ease in their body without a drink. This is what I call a drinking problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. selflessselfie99 says:

    Thank you for the post! I myself have made the choice to stop drinking. Although I must be honest and say I might have a beer still every now and then. I have a problem with the hard stuff. Im excited to embark on my new lifestyle for many of the reasons you listed above. Please pray for me on my journey to a better life! God bless.


  5. Good Humans in Progress says:

    I gave up drinking in public after my sister had one of those miracle in surviving a drunk driving incident, I’ve thought about kicking it completely but I really like burbon. I’ve thought about going the year without this last week as another friend came off a year but I read recently that it may be better to responsibly feed the demon. I think I’ve found that balance by not drinking in public, we’ll see.


  6. everydayannaweb says:

    I think this is a great post. In college it seems like most people NEED drinking to have fun. It can be fun, but I think everyone needs to step outside themselves and ask if they can have fun without alcohol. Bars sober are not always fun but being with people that support you and love you makes that night so fun. I really enjoyed this article😊


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