This article was originally published on Medium in January 2018, during my first “Dry January” and the longest stint of sobriety I had experienced at the time.
“When you quit drinking you stop waiting.” — Caroline Knapp
On December 8th, with a tequila hangover, I decided to put the bottle down for 30 days of sobriety.
Which meant I was sober over Christmas. Which means I was sober over New Years Eve.
With 21 days of sobriety under my belt, this is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol since I drank my first wine cooler at 17 years old. That sentence alone is enough to shock me into clearing out my liquor cabinet.
I’m not claiming addiction, but my relationship with alcohol was not getting me any closer to the person I wanted to be.
Hangovers made me lazy and complacent. I would put off work until the headache went away, and I would use my weekends as an emotional crutch to the frustration and stress I felt during the workweek.
I used alcohol to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. I used it as a crutch when I got stuck creatively. It was the thing I went to when the words or ideas stopped flowing, or when the real work of being an entrepreneur began.
When I kicked off my 30 days, I wrote an article about unfollowing any alcohol-centric Instagram accounts (you can read the article here). I can say this has definitely helped me in being successful at staying sober this time around.
Being sober has been life changing, here’s 21 reasons why.
1. I’m getting quality sleep
Numerous studies have found that while alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep quicker, it interferes with REM cycle sleep (the deepest level of sleep, when dreaming occurs), and can make you more restless during the second half of the night. So quality sleep, and the amount of deep sleep is reduced.
I’m a 5am-wakeup-call kind of gal, and pre-sobriety, this was definitely a hard time to wake up to every day. Without alcohol, my sleep is more restful; I sleep the whole night through, and wake up naturally at 5am ready to tackle my morning.
2. I’m more aware of my body
Midway through my 21 days of sobriety, I overindulged in some artisanal chocolate that had loads of sugar in it. The next morning I woke up with hangover symptoms, including a mild headache and that one glass of wine too many nausea.
But I hadn’t drank any booze, so I was perplexed (and pissed). After talking to a friend, who is a sobriety coach, she informed me that alcohol and sugar are identical. So I was experiencing a sugar hangover. Correction: a chocolate hangover.
It’s a cruel world, I guess 😂
3. I’m hydrated, and it shows
I’m not starting my days horribly dehydrated thanks to boozing the night before. So it’s easier to get and stay hydrated, and it does great things for my skin, my liver and my digestion.
My skin feels plumper, I don’t get muscle cramps in my calves in the middle of the night, and I have more energy.
4. Speaking of energy. . .
So long mid-day exhaustion, mental fog, weak workouts, and lethargic runs. Since I’m getting better sleep, my body is hydrated and I’m eating well, I don’t get groggy halfway through the workday. I’m also less likely to make up an excuse to quit my workday or workout early (like lack of energy, a headache, etc).
5. My diet has improved
When I was drinking, I would spend a lot of my days tired and feeling like crap. When I felt like that, all I wanted to do was feel better and food was the ultimate comfort. I would allow myself a pass to indulge in fattening, sugary foods.
Now that I feel well every day, sans-hangovers, it’s easier to stick to a healthier diet, and healthy foods sound appetizing. I’ve had slipups (sugar addiction is real), but most of my days I make healthier choices.
6. I’m saving money
In my drinking days (21 days ago. . .), I would budget a good portion of my paychecks to alcohol and “entertainment” (which is a fancy word for getting dressed up and going places to drink expensive cocktails).
I would often end up spending more than my budgeted amount because alcohol reduces the threshold for good decision making, so I’d throw down my debit card for another round even if I knew I’d spent my budget.
7. I’ve realized people and moments are more important than the booze you pair it with
This is a funny one. Alcohol is joyous, right? Well. . .in my case, no. Yes, there are joyous occasions in which we celebrate with alcohol, but if you take the booze away, it’s still a celebration.
I’ve had a hard time feeling nostalgic for moments I’ve celebrated or cemented with alcohol. Like popping that bottle of champagne on a snowmobile after saying ‘I-do’ to my husband the day we got married.
But I’ve realized in being sober that I’m more grateful for the moment and the people I’m celebrating with than the alcohol I’m using to celebrate with. Being sober in joyous moments has made me more present, more attentive, gentler and more patient.
8. I have more time (and energy) to do things that bring me joy (not just a buzz)
When you don’t spend your nights at happy hour, or your weekend mornings catching a buzz at brunch, you have a lot more free time to cultivate new hobbies, or habits that bring you actual fulfillment and joy.
Instead of chasing a buzz, I’m spending my time on personal growth, cultivating a healthy marriage, experiencing life, trying new things, and diving deeper into my creativity.
9. My shame around alcohol has disappeared
When I’d wake up with a hangover, my shame would pound just as hard as my head. I would lay in bed thinking “real entrepreneurs don’t wake up with hangovers all the time, they would never waste time like this.”
It’s no secret that the most successful entrepreneurs capitalize on being peak performers. You can’t access peak states when you feel like shit or when your brain is foggy. I knew alcohol was keeping me from performing at my best, and so I developed a pretty intense shame around drinking. But, now that I’m not drinking, this shame has also disappeared.
10. Sobriety has convinced me I can do hard things
I’ve tried to ‘get sober,’ drink less, drink once a week, only have one drink per night, etc., for the last couple of years. I chased my tail for a long time and would slip easily off the wagon at the first whiff of a party or glass of Malbec.
My constant failure made me believe that I was in fact a failure. It’s what Benjamin Hardy calls self-signaling. Through my behavior of constantly failing at a seemingly simple task (not drinking alcohol), I was convincing myself that I was in fact a failure incapable of sticking to anything I set my mind to.
Now that I’ve stuck to it, I’m rewriting my subconscious and convincing myself that I am in fact capable of doing hard things, of finishing what I start, of being successful. This effect is spilling over into other areas of my life as well, like in my writing career.
11. I’m learning to be me again
Alcohol does this funny thing where it lowers your inhibitions and makes us more confident in being or acting a certain way. When I stopped drinking, and went to my first party, I realized how awkward I felt, how boring and introverted I was sober.
But in shedding this crutch, I’ve realized a lot of my life I’ve been living from a guarded and inauthentic place. I wasn’t letting the world see who I am, and I was stifling my personality because it felt too scary to be my vulnerable, messy, human self.
Now that I’ve removed the alcohol crutch, I’m discovering who I am behind the wine and tequila. It’s difficult and incredible. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s the most sure I’ve ever felt.
12. I’m learning a lot of fun stuff
Without hangovers, I’m waking up on the same, productive, energetic and excited level every day. Which means I’ve been able to commit to new things every day, without dealing with missed days because of headaches and sleeping in.
Now, every morning, I meditate, journal, practice gratitude, workout, and I see the sunrise (my most favorite part of the day).
13. I’m learning to speak my truth
I used alcohol as a way to numb myself when I felt overwhelmed by life, people, and not living and speaking my truth. I would brush things off that bothered me, with an “I’m fine, just get my a glass of wine.” I wouldn’t deal with things because I was accustomed to burying things in the deep-dark, and covering it up with a tequila soda.
Now that my alcohol crutch is gone, I have to face the things that bother me head on.
Now it’s too painful to NOT speak up, to NOT tell people how I’m feeling and why. I’m allowing myself to feel the full weight of discomfort without alcohol, and it’s a powerful tool. I’m learning how to take up space, to speak my truth, and be ok with making people feel uncomfortable with my truth.
14. When I speak my truth, my relationships improve
Communication is the cornerstone of all successful relationships, but if I’m constantly stuffing my emotions down and numbing them with booze, my relationships don’t get the benefit of growth.
Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make healthy relationships; they’re built with the bricks we’re willing to tear down for each other.
Alcohol serves as a brick we use to guard our true and authentic selves from the world. Relationships don’t get the benefit of authenticity when we’re guarding ourselves with booze.
15. I remember things now
Like the details, the small things that make up this beautiful life. Details like the constant hum of crickets, birds and geckos in the jungle. The small things, like the metronome tempo of the ocean breaking against the beach.
All sorts of beautiful things that alcohol blends together into nothingness, those are the things I remember and live for, and I’m grateful to experience them every day.
16. I feel healthier
Alcohol is a toxin, as soon as you drink it, your body has to do the difficult work of cleansing your body of it. Which means while your body is busy flushing the toxins out, its not healing.
Just knowing I haven’t put alcohol into my body makes me feel healthier, like I’m doing my beautiful body a huge favor.
17. Sobriety has put me ahead of the curve
While many people are working through their hangovers, or indulging at happy hour, I’m growing, I’m writing, I’m hustling towards my dream. I’m building something and sobriety has only made me more effective and powerful in fulfilling my dreams.
18. My healthy lifestyle isn’t being immediately thrown in the trash by boozing
I don’t eat gluten, I’m toying with veganism, I’m learning all about Ayurveda, I’m yoga-ing, meditating, drinking plenty of lemon water, limiting my caffeine and sugar intake, running, coconut oiling-EVERYTHING, and yet, before my sobriety, I would then go drink a bottle of wine or stay out late drinking.
We spend hours getting fit, we deny ourselves food, we spend ridiculous amounts of money of health food/drinks and beauty products, gym memberships and personal trainers. And yet we follow up all this commitment with booze. Which basically makes all of that good stuff null and void.
Now I’m beginning to see the results of a healthy lifestyle sans booze, and let me tell you. . .it’s way more productive not eating carbs when you’re not dumping a bunch of empty calories into your body.
19. Sobriety has made me realize how distracted I was
When I was drinking, I didn’t care. If things bothered me, there was always a bottle of wine to make me feel better.
When I didn’t care, it was easier for people to take advantage of me because they knew I wouldn’t stand up for myself. It also meant that even if our political climate was upsetting me, I would shrug it off. Since I’ve been sober, I’ve realized that this numbing and distracting with alcohol is the perfect thing for people who would rather you stay quiet and remain small.
20. Sobriety has proved to me that my identity isn’t fixed
While I was drinking, and failing at NOT drinking, I felt like being a heavy drinker was just who I was. I felt like I couldn’t change that part of my life because I had failed so many times in doing so.
Being sober has shown me that our identities are fluid and malleable. Just because I was once someone who identified as a drinker, doesn’t mean I have to be forever.
21. I wake up feeling great
The older I get, the worse my hangovers are. One glass of wine would give me a hangover, the shame-scaries, and make me sleepy by noon.
Now I wake up at 5am with energy, purpose and a clear head.
It’s the best way to start the day.
Make massive change in your life by figuring out how you want it to FEEL every day. I created a 10 minute audio exercise to plug you into your authentic self, so you can start living the life you want today 👇