March 10, 2016

Things I Didn’t Expect When I Quit Alcohol.

Author's Own

I didn’t expect anything major. I thought, “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m just doing an experimental cleanse.”

Yet at the age of 23, I can remember only a few sober periods over the past nine years lasting more than two weeks. So, yes, I downplayed the multifaceted significance booze had on my life.

What would you imagine to happen if you quit alcohol for a weekend, a few weeks, a month—or perhaps even longer?

Personally, I thought of the obvious; my hangovers would end, I’d be a little bored, feel incredibly refreshed in just over a week, drop a few pounds and strengthen my will power.

All these assumptions are half true. I thought I’d share with you the findings that haven’t already been shoved down your throat faster than you can shotgun a Natty Light.

1.     I still got sick, twice!

Abstaining from alcohol may help you shed some weight, but it won’t be an instant fix for all of your health problems. By not drinking you are not giving yourself a medicine, you are taking away a poison. It’s a good start. A healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, is still fundamental to wellbeing. You’ll continue to feel tired in the morning if you haven’t had proper sleep, or if you’re addicted to caffeine. You won’t be immune to the flu, the common cold, chicken pox, and in my case, “Delhi belly.”

2.     I realized drinking isn’t our biggest problem—but it is an easy scapegoat.

“The thinking problem comes before the drinking problem,” Tommy Rosen’s words resonated with me at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, India. Tommy Rosen is an addiction recovery expert and a yoga teacher who helps cure thousands of otherwise “non-spiritually inclined or yoga practicing addicts.” He achieves this by simply helping people rediscover the pharmacy within, instead of looking outside to fix the inside—a squandering of our precious energy. If you’ve ever craved a cold beer or a tall glass of wine after a long day of work, I’m not calling you out as an alcoholic, rather simply suggesting that we may consider it an acute addiction.

3. Booze is recommended as a bandage to almost every bad situation.

Dealing with a break-up, a bad grade, even a terrible headache? Since I made a vow not to drink, I took particular note of the numerous times well-intentioned friends advised that I look to alcohol in times of sadness, confusion, frustration, loss, and all of those other negative adjectives.

I found that dealing with perceived roadblocks is harder and more intense when you are completely sober, sitting with your true self, in control. But guess what? It actually works! When you drink, you’re putting off the real stuff and probably exacerbating your issues.

4.     I wasn’t bored at all. In fact, I found the idea of drinking boring.

Quitting alcohol freed up my time for stimulating conversations, outdoor activities, break through workouts, and endless exploration of my interests and my surroundings.  As a freelancer, I was able to get my work done at odd times when I would have been drinking or slightly debilitated from a night out.

From dancing all night at an Indian Kirtan, attending a contemporary art show, snorkeling around three different islands, tasting exotic food at Malaysian and Chinese markets, and re-immersing myself in a powerful yoga practice, I’d say I filled the space quite well. And you could too, anywhere.

5.     Simplification works.

Alcohol complicates things. Do you always mean what you say and say what you mean when you’re drunk? Would you even be able to comprehend that sentence after a few beers? More clarity comes from less booze. Suddenly you understand who you want to spend time with, because they could care less that you aren’t drinking.

6.     All the wild cravings you think you’ll have either won’t show up or will go away almost instantly.

Turns out that our body craves proper nourishment. We reject the poison in processed foods and alcohol, which is why we refer to the outcome as a hangover, or a tummy ache. When you remember your goal, that overpriced bevy that your pal’s drinking looks a little less attractive. When you fully commit to something like this with genuine intention for self-betterment (in a non-hung-over state of mind), you won’t have the desire to break it.

7.     I feel liberated.

“Sorry Shosh,” a friend said to me at dinner in the Gili Islands. Three of my travel buds were trying to figure out what cocktails they were ordering for two for one happy-hour special. Major dilemma because the Pina colada looked great, but would probably be super-charged with two meals worth of calories. Yum.

Trying not to sound like a condescending snob, I said, “No, it’s really fine. I actually prefer this. It feels amazing not to have to choose.” I meant that full heartedly. I stayed out with my friends, spent less money, had a fabulous night’s sleep, and remembered every bit of my conversations and the quality Indonesian live music.

8.     My confidence is at an all time high.

So get this, instead of feeling awkward, I feel completely at ease in my own skin. Apart from the fact that my skin is clearer than it’s been in months, I shed my “Freshman Year of Indian Curry 2015.”  I’m (usually) fully rested without interruption, my new vibrant confidence runs much deeper than that. I feel connected and understanding of my truer self more than ever, and I’ve grown to really like her.

What have you imagined would happen if you quit drinking altogether?

Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to find out?

Perhaps you’ll find yourself face first with your true issues, hiding behind the Bloody Marys and Mimosas. I’m by no means condemning the enjoyment of a nice cocktail here and there. I’m only suggesting that a habit of looking outward to fix inward can blind us of the free, unlimited pharmacy within.

A seemingly harmless pastime performed without mindfulness can prevent us from connecting with our truer self, unhindered by substances. This deeper sense of being is totally pure, confronting and ultimately shining with confidence and beauty.

After this embrace, you can continue to mindfully live your life with intention, booze or no booze.

But please, don’t believe me—verify me. Try it yourself and see what I’m talking about. I challenge you!

Drinks on me if I lose.


Relephant Read:

Giving Up the Bottle: What 6 Years of Zero Alcohol can Do for You.

Author: Shoshanna Delventhal

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

Photo: Courtesy of the Author


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Shoshanna Delventhal