7 Ways My Life Improved After I Quit Drinking. ~ Joseph Choi

Via Joseph Choi
on Apr 16, 2014
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Tim (Timothy) Pearce/Flickr

One Saturday night last April, I grabbed a six-pack of Brooklyn Lager, and I brought it back home and watched some Lifetime Original movie that happened to be on.

I ended up drinking the entire six-pack in one sitting and went to bed after the movie was over around midnight.

The next morning I woke up feeling awful.

My stomach hurt.

I had a headache.

I drank a bunch of soda and ate junk food for comfort. Then, I took a nap and continued to nurse myself afterwards. I’m 30 now, but there’s something about drinking after the age of 27 that magnifies hangovers by 1,567 percent.

Anyway, I decided then and there I would quit drinking.

I don’t know what it was about that day almost a year ago that made everything click. I’ve certainly had worse incidents where I put myself, and others, in danger because of drinking.

There was a period of time when I was living abroad and beer was cheap and plentiful. Some nights I couldn’t sleep so I’d grab a two-liter bottle of beer for a buck or two and then proceed to drink it down so I could pass out.

There was also the time when I puked outside a strip club one New Year’s Eve back in 2006. I proceeded to get in my car and drive home and even stopped at a 24-hour Mexican place for a burrito. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I wasn’t.

I lived in NYC a good part of my adult life so additional opportunities for buzzed driving were limited thankfully.

I’ve also done many stupid things like getting into credit card debt because of going out to bars and running up tabs on beer and food.

Maybe the worst was when I started leaving work in the middle of the day without telling anyone. I’d go down to Mulligan’s on 39th and Madison and have some beers and a shot. Then, I’d return to work and hop on conference calls slightly buzzed. It was fun for a while.

But it probably wasn’t going to end well, and it didn’t.

I was eventually quit-slash-fired from there—where they basically fire you but give you the option of quitting beforehand.

It’s been almost a year since I quit drinking. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Here are seven ways my life improved since quitting drinking.

1. More time and space for personal passions.

I no longer run up bar tabs so I’ve saved a ton of cash. Also, I don’t stay out late and I never wake up hung over after a night of drinking. There’s no recovery period needed anymore. This leaves me with more time and space to pursue my passions, which is one of the three things you need to be happy right now.

I’ve probably played more golf than I have in years past. My attendance to yoga classes also improved. All because of the newly created time and space.

2. Digestion improves.

One of my favorite writers, Charles Bukowski, once said, “There’s nothing as glorious as a good beer shit…”

I’m not sure I agree with Charles on this one. I was always afraid to crash at people’s places after a night of partying because it would mean I would probably need to disrespect their bathroom the next morning.

Alcohol is no good for digestion. There’s a scientific explanation, but I don’t feel like going into that here. You can ask Google. Anyway, I’ve had more regular digestion since I stopped drinking. This might also have to do with less junk food that you’re naturally inclined to consume whenever you drink alcohol.

3. Weight loss becomes manageable.

When I was a regular at happy hours, I worked out quite a bit. I did Bikram yoga, HIIT, kettlebells and weights. You name it and I did it. But I was still doing all these intense workouts and managed to put on a small gut.

Recently, I had to buy new pants and I’m back to my pre-college waist size. I also workout way less than I did before. When you drink you consume a ton of calories, but you’re also exposed to other unhealthy options and your judgment is impaired slightly so you make bad diet choices.

After I quit drinking, foods like quesadillas, fried calamari, fries, reubens and late night pizzas all disappeared from my diet. It had nothing to do with my self-control or motivation. It’s just because my environment changed and I wasn’t exposed to these options anymore.

4. Regular sleep cycles.

I mentioned earlier how I’ve used alcohol to pass out  so I could sleep above when I lived abroad. The cycle would go like this:

1. Can’t sleep so I’d drink.

2. Pass out drunk.

3. Wake up.

4. Nap during the day because of hangover and poor quality of sleep.

5. Can’t sleep because I already napped during the day.

Then it would repeat in a vicious cycle. But when I stopped drinking, I started going to bed at a more reasonable hour and waking up earlier. I’d find myself naturally tired at the end of the day and not overly amped up or sluggish at weird hours because of unnecessary toxins in the body.

5. Immune system works better.

I didn’t get a cold all year! And I didn’t even get a flu shot.

This is probably a combination of eating better and getting better sleep, which cutting alcohol has helped me do.

6. No lying on medical forms.

I hated those forms you fill out when you’re going to a doctor’s appointment. One of the questions always asks, “How many drinks do you consume per week?”

The choices listed would always be what I’d have in a single night, so I’d lie and just select the middle option whatever it was.

Now I can just check the “zero” option.

7. My social circles transformed.

When I was in my peak drinking days, I’d meet up with people at some bar to get some brews and wings and catch whatever game was on TV. I’d look around and there’d be middle-aged men with large, bulging bellies doing the same thing. They probably all suffered from typical middle-age health issues. I was probably heading down that same path.

But after I quit drinking, I discovered a whole new world. A few Sunday mornings last spring, I headed out to go fishing at the crack of dawn. I ran into the same guy all the time and he was doing the same thing as me. He was much older but still looked healthy, happy and fit.

Since I quit drinking my lifestyle has shifted. It’s attracted new people into my life that are generally healthier and more active than the circles I was in before.

Sometimes you have to sit on both sides of the fence before deciding which side you want to stay on.

~

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About Joseph Choi

Joe Choi is a copywriter, golfer, and overall health fanatic. He once wrote and published a book called “Happy Foods” on a challenge in 11 days. He shares his personal stories and experiences on his blog. Connect with him on Twitter.

Comments

45 Responses to “7 Ways My Life Improved After I Quit Drinking. ~ Joseph Choi”

  1. Ashley Rosenfeld says:

    Great article Joe! A lot of good lessons presented here; I LOL'd at #6 xD

  2. Joe Choi says:

    Thanks for reading Ashley! Hope you're doing well.

  3. theunproject says:

    I hear you. I've gradually replaced drinking with sit-ups. Worthy trade in my opinion!

  4. reginald van says:

    Joe, this story is really close to my own. Only, I'm working on the not drinking part. Thanks for writing! How did you quit?

  5. Dawne says:

    Awesome writing right there , thanks, enjoyed

  6. Dottie Wagner says:

    Yep! I quit drinking 7 years ago and have definitely experienced all of the same. #6 used to cause me a lot of humiliation. Best decision I ever made!! Congratulations to you and wishing you many more years of sobriety!

  7. Tim Hofmann says:

    I cut my drinking from 3-4 beers most days to less than a beer a week.
    The big gain for me is high-quality productive time.
    Even one beer at night costs me a lot of energy in the morning, and mornings are when I'm most productive.
    So, yeah, cutting waaaay back has been a huge win, and I'll likely quit entirely one of these days.

  8. kaoscook says:

    I very much enjoyed this. I had the opposite thing happen to me when I went aboard interestingly enough. I used to binge drink at parties in high school, you know the normal dose of horrible beer and even more horrible vodka? Then I lived in Germany for a year on a scholarship, and not only was I drinking high quality alcohol, but they knew how to drink "responsibly" which is aka "not recklessly." When I went back to school at Madison, I found it physically difficult to drink watered down horrendous keg beer, and just choose to either not drink, or just fill my cup once and squat on it for thee entire night. Not to mention smoking pot was a way better alternative…. That said, I find as the years go back, these substances are all tools to help facilitate certain social occasions and conversations, even if it is in solitude, and that the more you hone in on who you truly are… the less you need anything but high quality grub and water to get by 🙂
    I love your reference to Charles Bukowski, who was notorious for binge drinking, indulging, and putting a great spin on the melancholy. I recently read an article with a collection of his quotes that is very inspiring… merci beacoup monsier!
    Enjoy: http://www.mindopenerz.com/charles-bukowskis-top-

  9. Justine says:

    Timing is everything. Nursing my hangover while reading this article, still in my pj's at 1:34pm. Totally pissed at myself for driving home last night (which I do not remember). Not cool, I know..

    Tanks for sharing your story Joe

  10. Enjoyed the article! I am breaking up with sugar in 4 days. This includes alcohol, so it's good to know all the additional benefits that are around the corner!

  11. Joy says:

    Thanks, Joe! Very good and lots to ponder.

  12. Kyle Pogue says:

    Hey Joe (no Hendrix reference intended). Good article, but I have to say that quitting drinking may not have been the best avenue. From what you wrote, it seems that you spent your time drinking poorly. Sitting around what I infer to be sports bars, watching something you're clearly not interested in on the bar TV with a group of bored ,and ostensibly boring, people who are equally disinterested and/or drinking to simply put yourself to sleep. Your drinking clearly lacked passionate pursuit, my friend.

    Drinking while seeing live music. Adventure Drinking (a term my friend coined for anytime you drink while biking, hiking, tubing, etc.). Catch and Release Drinking (going into a dark bar as early as possible, getting drunk, and then leaving a few hours later to plunge yourself back into the day, mingling with sober people and trying to function properly. This is an adventure in itself). Drinking should help to fend off the pointless, ridiculous nature of our everyday lives. It should kill the boredom, not add to it.

    I will grant that the next days are unfortunate sacrifices, but they need not be so awful. I'm 39 years old and can and do out-drink many of my much younger friends. I have many much younger friends because most the people I know that are my age lead very boring lives. But, as the saying goes, if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing right. I have sought out and found ways to bulletproof my drinking. One example, and probably the best, a high fat/very high protein/very low carb dinner prior to the night's drinking. Without going into the science, this allows for a much higher total volume of drinking (i.e. you can last all night) and seems to make for much more manageable hangovers.

    Sorry, to go into too much detail. I am working on an article in defense of drinking right now, and I guess I got carried away. My point is, maybe when you're ready, you can come back to the drink. Give it another, better shot. I'd be happy to buy the first round.

  13. Douglas says:

    I haven't fully quit but I have reduced to almost quitting. I want to fully quit in the near future, for health reasons, time, and to diversify my life (all mentioned above). I noticed all of these things when I first cut down 4 years ago–for example, I went for a run on a beautiful, quiet Saturday morning. It blew my mind, I'd never done that before.

  14. cracked up says:

    I grew up impatiently until I could drink. Everyone in my family drank and then drugs.
    Awesome!
    Recently I got sick. Actually very very critically ill.
    God gave me another shot.
    No alcohol. No drugs and let me tell you! Life only gets better with each day!

  15. Ren says:

    great article, Joe. i gave up drinking more than a year ago, somewhat by accident although deeper reasons were there too. the benefits have been huge: as you point out, more time, healthier activities with friends, less reckless behaviour etc. but what has perhaps been best for me so far, is staying lucid with and connected to myself. by choosing not to drink and therefore having to do the things i would usually do with a drink in hand – especially begin new relationships – i have started a new relationship with myself. its very cool, and i thank you for sharing your experience.

  16. antara says:

    I really liked your post and I'm happy you quit drinking. Take care and keep writing! I will follow your posts

  17. Helen says:

    I really enjoyed this article and I have posted a link at the Hello Sunday Morning website.

  18. Bonanza says:

    "Drinking should help to fend off the pointless, ridiculous nature of our everyday lives. It should kill the boredom, not add to it." No disrespect intended, but I can't help but feel you've entirely missed the point. The idea of "passionate pursuit" in relation to drinking is completely incongruous. If controlled drinking works for you and that's where you are on your journey, that's great – all power to you. But there are many of us that have gone past this point to realise that everything about alcohol is a lie, and even in "moderate" quantities, is hugely damaging and counter to the conscious way of life we're aspiring to – and we have no desire to "come back to the drink". I'd encourage you to check out hellosundaymorning.com and read a few of the thousands of posts by people who have also realised this. Also "High Sobriety" by Jill Stark is a very eye opening read. All the best with your article. I'm keen to read the finished product.

  19. mary says:

    I am thinking, you are so blessed you did not go on drinking for years. I know of many who have lost everything. You stay sober and don't risk that possibility of losing a wife, children, reputation, finances, and more. Great article, thanks of giving back. Keep on keeping on Joe.

  20. Joe Choi says:

    Thanks for reading and sharing, Helen!

  21. Joe Choi says:

    Thanks for reading!

  22. Joe Choi says:

    Haha. Great trade off indeed.

  23. Joe Choi says:

    I basically got fed up with it one day and saw the downside was greater than any potential upsides. Good luck.

  24. Joe Choi says:

    Thanks for reading

  25. Becky says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing — takes courage.

  26. Jen says:

    I agree wholeheartedly…nice work! I've found that I have way more time and am much healthier and have tons more money! 10+ years sober!

  27. Mr. G says:

    Yep ive been on the wagon for almost a year after about 20 years as a "functioning alcoholic".
    It does not take much to look at all the shitty moments of my life and see how much a part alcohol played in every shitty incident.
    More time, more cash, clearer thinking, generally more productive and contented with my whole life now.
    Well said Mr Choi.

  28. Stuart says:

    I did the "Dry January" thing and realised quite how much better i felt. I've since dropped a lot of weight and I'm not missing the alcohol at all. It's tempting when someone gets a nice bottle of wine out, and business meals can be a challenge but overall I feel ahead of the curve.

  29. kate says:

    YES, many of us have lost all of those cherished things, and more, due to alcoholism—which is, for some, a disease.

    Go Joe!

  30. lizmckinley says:

    Kyle, you say: "Drinking should help to fend off the pointless, ridiculous nature of our everyday lives. It should kill the boredom, not add to it."

    As you pointed out, alcohol numbs our minds to the "boring" and "pointless" nature of our lives. However, the point of this article is that when you take a step back from alcohol, life gradually seems less boring and pointless because you are making room for your passions – passions you may not even know you have because you are 39 and have been drinking for a very long time 🙂

    Just my two cents.

    Joe – thank you for the article, it was very inspiring and I agree with everything you said. It can be hard at first when your social circle has developed and stayed together around alcohol, as mine has to a degree. It's nice to hear some encouragement that eventually your circle widens to include people who are where you are. 🙂

  31. Vijay Vadlamani says:

    ROLF! Glad the booze hasn't ruined your sense of humor.

  32. Muks says:

    Hi joe, this is a very inspiring article. I am hardly drinking and was out walking all day today. Now I have a headache from too much sun, but I prefer this to a hangover many times!

  33. Great article! I feel like maybe I was with you with the 6-pack and lifetime movies! But now I'm about 6 months into a year of sobriety, which will likely continue indefinitely. I honestly have never felt better. I thought it would be hard, but it's surprisingly easy.

  34. James says:

    Great read, Joe. I can really resonate, having quit alcohol myself 4 years ago. Thanks for sharing your story!

  35. Tara Murphy says:

    Love this! Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

  36. catgirl28 says:

    Fantastic article.

  37. jdog says:

    Drinking ruins everything! The fun is an illusion. I decided to quit recently after drinking for many years. I am lucky I have anything left but I do.
    I had a beautiful, smart and kind girlfriend and I disrespected her and ruined it. That was the final straw for me. It’s a waste of money and time and everyone who is sober thinks you are a fool when you are drunk. Im done being a drinking loser!

  38. Denny Chow says:

    Joe I was completely inspired by your article. I recently quit drinking for 20 days and I was starting to feel better about myself. But the last two weeks I started getting drunk frequently again, and I feel like I’m back to square one. But today I stayed sober, and I’m just going to take it one day at a time. I’m 31 in 17 days; and I feel like I’ve lost a decade of my life to booze. Hopefully over the next few months, I can make it to the same level of sobriety you’re experiencing. I’ve realized that being sober is my ticket to success in life.

    Keep it real brother and I hope to read more impactful articles of yours in the very near future.

    God bless.

  39. Denny Chow says:

    I recently quit for 20 days and I was starting to feel a lot better about myself. Recently I fell off the wagon and I feel like I’m back to square one. I found this article by Joseph extremely inspiring and I hope to achieve the same level of sobriety over the next few months. Quitting drinking is my ticket to success. I’m 31 and feel like I’ve lost a decade of my life to booze. You truly lose when you booze.

    God bless you jdog and thanks for reading my reply.

  40. Chung Nguyen says:

    Great read! I been drinking every single day for the last 7 days! Beer, sake, wine you name it. Bills and lack of income has extremely stressed me out so I’ve been resorting to temporary solutions such as excessive drinking to numb the reality of my situations. Im glad you wrote this article I needed to see new perspective. So thanks:)

  41. Soberistas says:

    Fantastic story, thanks for sharing!

  42. mysoberlife says:

    Well done! I have recently quit myself and life will be better, I know it!

  43. puneet joshi says:

    Really feeling after reading your article joe , I am also trying to cut off.

  44. Badger Bagbane says:

    A applaud you. As a functioning alcoholic that used to put away 6-8 beers a night only to get up at 5:00am to work a 11 hour shift, I had a chuckle about you putting away a 6-pack. The only problem is that it is hard doing it by yourself. I suggest checking out agnostic AA meetings. They help.

  45. Erin says:

    I recently made this choice for myself. Been a month and feeling fantastic!