For the better part of my teens and 20s, I drank on a daily basis.
Drinking is what my friends and I did. Whether at a BBQ, work function, or just sitting around, alcohol was present, and more often than not, center stage.
The reason I stopped drinking was not that I had some revelation about life and how I wanted to live it, but that I started to not enjoy it as much, and at times I would start to feel bad while I was drinking. It took me about a year of giving it the old college try to realise that booze and I no longer mixed, and since that day—five plus years ago—I can count on one hand how many casual drinks I have had.
I knew my life would change when I stopped, but I severely underestimated just how much.
My intention for this post is not to serve as a public service announcement. If I have learned anything in my 38 years, it is that everyone has to figure out their own way. I just wanted to share my experiences of what my life has been like over the last five years of not drinking.
1. I still make bad decisions, but not terrible ones.
My poor decisions now pale in comparison to my bad decisions with a side of booze. Most of my bad decisions took place after midnight, and since I am now an hour or two into sleep at that time, the odds of these taking place have been cut considerably.
2. I am much more confident.
The reason that I enjoyed drinking in the first place was that the “real me” was too scared to put himself out into the world. I grew up stuttering, and when I drank, I never stuttered, giving me the confidence to share my ideas.
When I stopped drinking, my old self-doubt crept back into the picture, however, since I was truly doing my best work every day, my real confidence started to come out. I am still petrified to share anything I do, but every time I hit “upload” or “submit,” I get a reminder of how far I have come and to never stop sharing with the world, which has done wonders for my confidence.
3. My life is much more interesting.
I would have never seen this coming in my prime drinking days, as I viewed the lives of people who did not drink as boring, but the reality is that I am much more creative and productive when I am sober. I’m sure we can all relate to days perched up at the bar with our buddies, brainstorming killer business ideas, or funny things to put on T-shirts—awarding booze the MVP for all the great ideas.
But out of all those ideas (and we had a lot), not one of them came to fruition, and the “necessary” ingredient to think of the ideas in the first place, ended up being the very thing that stopped me from getting them off the ground.
4. I don’t buy useless things.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned from not drinking is that I have properly identified what makes me happy. I like nature, reading and writing, going for runs, and playing with my wife and son. Everything that I truly love to do is actually extremely cheap, or free, and the pressure to not make money in order to buy useless things has greatly reduced my anxiety and stress levels.
5. I have fewer, much better friends.
I am not going to pretend that it is easy to make friends sober, however, out of the people I met while drinking, I can count on one hand who I still have a good relationship with. And when I make a connection with someone now, the relationship lasts.
6. Fight through the initial boredom, and the ideas will come.
The worst part about the first few months of not drinking was the boredom. I would sit at home while listening to people on the street below my apartment in Barcelona laughing it up and having the time of their lives. But it wasn’t long until something weird happened—I started to do the things that I used to do as a kid. I began writing, I began traveling, and most importantly I began playing again.
7. I enjoy my work again.
I did not grow up with a burning passion to do anything besides kicking a soccer ball against a wall as a kid, and buddying up with my friends in a dingy bar during and after college. But what I found was that no longer viewing work as “something just to get through each day,” and instead as a chance to get better at a variety of skills, I started to get passionate about my work, and now I actually wake up excited to get going again.
8. I’m much better looking now.
Shortly after I cut booze out of my life, I lost 50 pounds without really even trying. I started walking everywhere, and exercise no longer became a struggle. I still don’t wake up dying to go for a run or to hit the gym, but most days, since I wake up clearheaded, I end up doing just that.
I am closing in on 40 years of age, and I am proud to say that I am in the best shape of my life. I owe a great deal of that to my change in lifestyle, alcohol playing the key role. Plus, I smile more, and no longer carry around that, “I am never going to drink again” look on my face.
9. My anxiety is almost non-existent.
The anxiety that accompanied my hangovers was much more damaging to me than the standard headache, and lasted days after my last drink. I am nervous by nature, and since my old cure of having another drink is no longer an option, now when I feel anxious, I go for a run, trying to sweat it out, or simply lay in the grass, and play with my son, and these solutions have actually worked.
10. I sleep much better.
Some people claim that they do not need a good night of sleep to perform well. I usually reply to that statement with, “if you perform well without it, imagine what you could accomplish with it.” I am not an expert on the subject, but I feel better when I have a consistent sleep schedule. Luckily for me, I have a constant reminder to reinforce this importance—all I have to do is observe what happens to my two-year-old when he does not have his bedtime and morning routine: Straight-up chaos.
Never in a million years would I have thought that one day I would call myself a “non-drinker,” let alone write a post about it. I do not regret my drinking days at all as I have had some pretty incredible times with some equally incredible people.
The time simply came in my life when the benefits of not drinking heavily outweighed the benefits of drinking, and the two smiling faces I get to clearly see each evening when I come home have made it easy for it to stay that way.
Author: Michael Thompson
Image: Alina Sofia/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler