A Year of No Alcohol: What I Learned
In 2014, I made a list of goals. One of which was to go the entire year without consuming any alcohol. Barring one accidental incident involving a delicious amaretto-soaked chocolate cake, I’m proud to say that this was a tremendous success for me. I went the entire year with no alcohol. Here's what I learned.
Why Am I Doing This?
Ever wake up with an absolute massive headache, feeling sluggish and dizzy all day? That’s how I felt after almost any night of drinking with friends, no matter how small the drink. I kept wondering, “Why am I doing this to myself?”
Albert Einstein gets quoted for saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.” If I felt like garbage every time, why continue whilst hoping the results should differ? As a result of these persisting hangovers, I started drinking less and less towards the end of 2013 until eventually I decided January 1, 2014, I should attempt to completely eliminate alcohol from my diet for the year. What's the worst that could happen?
One of the biggest reasons people drink is because (in moderation) it’s fun! There’s a huge social component to drinking, and if you check out the short-term effects of alcohol on the body, you’ll see, “increased self-confidence, increased sociability, and decreased anxiety” as immediate reactions. No wonder we call alcohol “liquid courage”.
I knew not drinking around friends was going to be rough. For one, just the awkward feeling of being sober and relatively boring would be an obvious hurdle. Next, as anyone with with a cast or crutch knows, after a while, you get tired of explaining to people what happened. I knew that if I refused a drink, most people would question, or worse, take offense.
To solve problem numero uno, I actually discovered that caffeine is a great alternative. Whether it’s from an iced tea, coffee, soda, etc. caffeine will provide you enough energy to keep up with the rest of the room, while simultaneously increasing your alertness, which definitely gives you an edge in any conversation. As for the second problem, I realized if I showed up with a drink already in hand, I could simply reply that I already had a drink. If people questioned the contents, I’d simply tell them what I was drinking, and most of the time, they were totally cool with it.
If you like the decrease in anxiety alcohol provides, the amazing feeling of “not caring” can be learned, and you can stay sober (warning: takes guts). Suppose you want to talk to the cute girl across the room, but you haven’t had anything to drink. You sit there nervously, and watch as some drunk guy stumbles his way and beats you to starting a conversation. Now they’re laughing and you’re still sitting there. Classic.
As I said earlier, alcohol temporarily increases your confidence. But what if you could feel that same level of confidence without the hangover the next morning? If you accept that confidence is a state of mind, artificially induced by consuming a drug, you can learn to train yourself to do this naturally. The end result will appear identical, and you don’t need a drink to do it. That said, the drink is the easier route. It’s quick, effective, and reliable. How do you beat that?
If you practice asking for what you want despite your fear of rejection, you’ll actually become more comfortable with your true desires. When the voice on the inside matches the voice on the outside, there’s harmony. Sure, you might get rejected, but you’d also have gotten rejected drunk. Most people don’t fail because they strike out, they fail because they don’t even step up to the plate. Once you realize you already have everything you ever needed to be confident, charming, and sociable, you won’t need anything else.
A Few Extra Perks
In 2014, I only had one hangover (from the chocolate cake). Every other day, I woke up clear-minded ready to get to work. If you know me in person, you know I don’t like wasting a single second of time. In other words, you’ll never catch me standing on an escalator, I’m climbing steps on every escalator I step on. Not losing days to being a hung-over zombie was definitely my desired perk for a year of no alcohol, but that wasn’t the only upside.
Bars and restaurants make their biggest profit-margins on drinks. That $9 beer? While it wasn’t my main motif, I definitely enjoyed taking the cash normally allocated to the bar and applying it to higher quality food. In summary, yum.
Finally, I’m grateful and lucky to have wonderful friends in 2015. But I realized this in early on, wherever alcohol goes, drama usually isn’t too far away. If you find yourself in a situation surrounded by obnoxiously misbehaving intoxicated people, they’re usually more-than-happy to take you along for the ride. By avoiding these scenarios all together, my 2014 was filled with significantly less drama and higher quality relationships with people who actually cared about my well-being.
I’m not sure if or when I’ll start drinking again. But for the time being, I’ve found the benefits of this habit far exceed the consequences. If you’ve ever wanted to try something like this or have any additional questions that I failed to answer in this post, please reach out. I’d love to help in any way I can.