A Sobering Experience: Why Life is Better Without Booze

life without booze

I’m sure I could have fun without drinking, but why risk it?

My husband and I were always known as the ‘fun couple’. There was always a reason to drink; parties, cottage weekends, sporting events and festive gatherings. Besides, everyone else was doing it, what’s the harm?

Were we binge drinkers? Yes we did often drink heavily over a short period of time, and yes it often affected our decisions and judgement, but we also had many deep belly laughs and indescribable fun throughout the years.

It was a natural cycle for me; work all week and await the weekend where the real fun would begin. I’d been living on repeat since I was a teenager, my life was a broken record of good friends, clanking glasses, hearty laughs, senseless conversations, hangovers and blurred memories.

It wasn’t until my 30’s that I began to question my behaviour; maybe due to age, maturity or natural change, but angrily examining our bank balance I was realizing that alcohol was affecting more than just our physical and mental wellbeing, it was taking a toll financially.

This guilt and depression would last for days, I would fall off the exercise wagon, eat greasy food and feel sluggish at work only to come home and hit the couch. Internally interrogating myself with questions such as, “Why are you wasting your time on something that makes you feel so bad?”

Was booze taking more from me than it was giving back? Were the fun times worth it?

Early on in my 30’s I developed a budding interest in Buddhism, and began attending a weekly meditation class. The effects of this class were slowly seeping into my life. I was beginning to contemplate and study my mind, my habits, and my life; questioning if being handcuffed to old habits made sense anymore? There was no doubt change was occurring.

The problem with this epiphany was that it was occurring within me, but not within my husband. How could I expect otherwise, after all I was the one who was changing. In relationships we all paddle through life in separate canoes in hopes that through communication, compromise and concentration we can maintain the same direction. My husband’s canoe was veering off in a very different direction.

We floated along this very way for quite some time, somehow keeping our canoes close enough to maintain our relationship. We continued to spend our weekends with friends and I continued to feel guilty, trying to maintain my exercise regime, clean eating and hobbies. It was a vicious cycle, one that I wanted to change, but wasn’t quite sure how.

My life could have muddled along in this manner for another ten years, but instead it changed in a sobering instant: One dark, cold and rainy November night my life was flipped upside down.

My husband got an impaired driving charge.

I’ll spare you all the details from this dreaded evening except one; no one was hurt – thankfully.

Secondary to that, his career involves the need for a driver’s license. Needless to say he lost his job and license, two weeks before our wedding. The party was over. It officially wasn’t fun anymore.

Alcohol teeters on a very blurred line of being a socially acceptable past time and a dangerous and destructive addiction. Is a fun weekend of binge drinking with the boys considered irresponsible or out of control?

Everyone has addictions; some people are addicted to coffee, exercise or cleaning. The effects of these addictions might not be life altering yet the problem with an unhealthy attachment to alcohol is that it’s a mood changer. Its unpredictable effects have an intense power to unexpectedly disrupt and even destroy your life.

My husband having just hit rock bottom began doing some contemplation of his own, with his relationship and job hanging in the balance he sought therapy.

Since this sobering incident, my husband has returned to work, obtained his licence back and is now a non drinker at the age of 36. He hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since that dark and turbulent time in our lives.

As for me, I have eliminated my habitual cycle of weekend partying and hangovers completely. I have been able to obtain a healthy relationship with alcohol and still partake in occasional drinks with friends, but on my own terms. I am finally free from its control and the exhausting cycle. I feel renewed and alive.

Positive effects of being a non-drinker

1. Improved relationships: Our relationship is back on track. Our canoes float together without force. With newfound time, we get outside with our dogs and enjoy the fresh air. We are both involved in meditating together and we don’t have alcohol induced fights or arguments.

2. Exercise: Becoming a non-drinker decreases depression and increases your energy levels. Since quitting drinking I have become a runner and my husband is involved in adventure racing and biking. We are both active and the results are showing.

3. Look and Feel Better: Alcohol is a culprit of dull, tired skin, dark circles under the eyes and premature aging. Alcohol is hard on your body and organs, when you don’t have to constantly filter the poison out, you just feel better. No more hangovers, that alone might be worth the effort.

4. Improved Diet: No more late night pizza calls or the week long grease cravings. Non-drinking has naturally made us eat clean and healthy. It feels great.

5. Weekends Actually Feel Longer: When you go to bed earlier and wake up earlier your weekends are no longer a drug induced blur. You can accomplish tasks and actually remember them.

6. Develop New Hobbies: With newfound time and clarity you can begin to discover what interests you. I’ve always loved writing, since changing my lifestyle I have started my own blog and am attempting to write a fiction novel. My husband has been painting and sculpting. It seems we discover new interests every week. The world really is full of possibilities.

7. Save Money: There is no debate; drinking is expensive. Add up all the dinners out, expensive wine and cab rides. We could easily drop hundreds of dollars in a weekend. Our newfound savings is priceless.

8. Learn About Yourself: I have actually discovered many things about myself that had been previously overpowered by my old weekly habits. You can’t create stillness and peace to discover who you are if you are in an alcohol induced state every day. I am pursuing Buddhism, Yoga and meditation with a renewed passion and the benefits from my mindfulness practice have had astounding affects on my many facets of my life. I feel as if my senses have come alive.

9. Make Good Choices: You will never have to wake up and think, “What did I do last night?” You don’t have to live with hazy choices, everything you do will be from a clear mindset.

10. Make New Friends: My biggest fear was that we would lose our friends. When changing your lifestyle you might inevitably lose a few pals, but those pals likely weren’t lifers to begin with.

And don’t worry if you do lose a few friends you will find a new tribe, I promise. We have discovered that a lot of our friends have expressed an interest in ‘slowing’ down as well. Being inspired by some of positive changes that have come into our lives, they are following our lead.

* * *

We are still very social and we’ve been exploring other activities, like discovering the city or playing games. My key to maintaining friendships is this: Do not judge or preach. I do not feel any superiority over anyone. That’s a sure bet to lose all your friends instantly.

One silly but sound technique I suggest if you still want to feel socially accepted but don’t want to booze is to walk around with a drink in your hand. I will sip on non-alcoholic beer; it puts me in a social mindset and puts other people at ease just for me having something in my hand.

To those of you reading, take a moment and ask yourself:

  • “Why do I drink?”
  • “Does drinking cause any problems in my life?”
  • “Am I able to drink socially without negatively affecting other aspects of my life?”
  • “Are there things that drinking is holding me back from doing?”

Everyone needs to decide what’s best for them, but know that there are choices. You have the ability to change or stay the same; just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean that you need to continue doing it.

Maybe these changes in me were a combination of meditation, self work or this sobering experience, but either way I’m glad it all happened. You know that old saying ‘everything happens for a reason.” well I’m living proof that a negative, horrible experience can materialize into positivity and awesomeness.

We are now free. We both have the control and smarts to know when to say NO.

Photo by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero

17 thoughts on “A Sobering Experience: Why Life is Better Without Booze”

    1. I couldn’t agree more. With the 10+ years I put in as an addiction counselor I like that this article is, like you say, “inspiring and uplifting.” It shows that we have choices. There is hope! Great article!

  1. My father was an alcoholic, and lost his life to alcoholism. He was a good negative role model for me because I don’t drink. I’m not advocating complete abstinence for everyone, and in fact, I’m happy I tried the stuff because before I did, I was deathly afraid that one inadvertent drop of alcohol on my tongue would turn me into a raging alcoholic and I worried about what happened if I got that drop on my tongue by accident. When I actually tried the stuff, I didn’t much care for it and more importantly, despised the way how some people use it as a crutch, as a need to “loosen up” and act goofy, as if acting goofy were some sin that only purposefully impairing one’s brain could justify.

    Looks like you opened the floodgate there. Thanks for letting me rant :)

    1. My father was an alcoholic as well, early on in life I set a rule for myself, I always said that I would never drink by myself (that’s what my father did). I stuck to that rule and would never even touch a drink if I was alone, even just a small glass of wine to unwind.
      Changing up my habits has been interesting and has allowed me to really look at myself closely and I do agree that for most of society we use it as a crutch (myself included); a crutch for so many things, to loosen up, make friends, lose our inhibitions.
      One thing that alcohol always helped me with was to quiet down my mind, it seemed after a few drinks that the incessant chatter would slow down, I am now learning natural ways through meditation to achieve these same results!
      Thanks for your heartfelt comment!

  2. Wow this is so indicative of my current situation but the only difference is that it is not booze for me and my husband but we..ed. I almost got locked up with him once before and then also got into meditation and expanding my mind and realised that my boat or canoe was sailing further along than his. He still denied he had a problem as he was doing this long before i met him and it was a weekend thing first with friends and then became a daily thing for me for 2 years and for him it has been 25 years, until 2 weeks ago my kids school called. Telling me my kid knows that WE smoke and that it was affecting her badly and they are worried she could be suicidal. I had to go to the school was once again embarressed as i thought this is not me, it is not who i am but yet it was for the time i was doing it, in every way i contributed to this happening. I was devastated never felt so much anger in my life. All the feeling i ever had of wanting to stop surfaced and i spoke my mind so bluntly it was scary, i had re-gained my voice and was no longer enabling him and being co-dependant. We blamed each other, fought wanted to break up and still not sure where we heading but just taking it one day at a time. A the end of the day i had to take responsibility for my part in it all. I have stopped for a month now and feel great and have a zest for life, he is trying to and we will see where this gets us. My point in the end being that when we open up our minds the answers for what is right for us always reside within us and not in anyone else for we all are unique with unique needs and wants, no 2 people can be exactly the same. Alot of our problems in this life could be avoided if we listen and be quiet inside. I too hope for a long cleaner life whether with him or not the key is that my kids and i have a 2nd chance.

    1. Its so great that you are living a clearer life! It can be a long road, but one that is so worth it! I think so many people are using vices of some sort, most people just don’t talk about it. You definitely don’t need to feel alone, at the key is that you are now trying to make positive steps forward!
      I wish you well, and I hope that you and your husband can find some common ground, it can be such a stressful situation when change is happening!

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderfully honest account of the effect of alcohol in your life. I do drink occasionally, but I have seen the negative impact of alcohol on people’s lives and the lives of those around them. Unfortunately in Australia where I live alcohol is very much part of the culture. Alcohol is portrayed by advertisers and the media usually as people being social and having fun. The darker, less fun size is overlooked completely. I think honest accounts like yours that help people see a different viewpoint without preaching are valuable.

    1. Hi Barbara:
      In Canada drinking is also very much a part of our culture, it is just simply what everyone does when they get together. The media as well portrays drinking as so much fun, nothing but smiling, good looking people enjoying laughs. It basically is telling us that through drinking we will find happiness, like those people.
      Don’t get me wrong, I have had a ton of fun times drinking, but it’s such a fine line, it is a drug and I think because it is so socially acceptable we sometimes forget that. It can have powerful effects.
      I do think that some people can enjoy alcohol responsibly and safely while others have trouble with their decision making (or they have addictive tendencies).
      It’s funny with me I never really considered a life without alcohol and it does open up interesting possibilities. :)

  4. Great story……..I am losing my boyfriend due to alcohol. It is killing me. I love him very much but he drinks heavily every night. I have been drinking with him and I just can’t do it anymore. He left the other night (he lives with me) after being out drinking because we got in an argument. This is our bad cycle…we drink…we fight…he leaves…..then he comes back after a few days and I take him back. I am really worried every time that he is not going to come back, and this is were I am today…………I myself have to stop drinking every night. It is just not me. I really don’t know what to do……………

    1. My heart goes out to you, Nancy. Ultimately in life, the only person you can really attempt to control is yourself. Also, in a dysfunctional relationship, when one person starts to take steps to get better, a short-term crisis can ensue because people aren’t playing their expected roles, which can be really threatening for the people in the relationship who feel comfortable with the dysfunction. All you can do is get the help you need and either support him through his change or else know in your heart of hearts that he will never change, get tired of the situation, then seek out healthier pastures.

      It also sounds like you have codependency issues, which is usually the case of people that put up with their partner’s alcoholism. There are lots of good books on this, like Codependent No More, which I highly recommend. Ultimately, though, I believe that people get the support they need by not going it alone. (I’m kind of skeptical about certain kinds of support groups where it seems like people wallow in their misery and ultimately bring the whole group down – I’m more receptive toward seeking out healthier people who you want to emulate and trying to be in their company.)

      Just my unsolicited $0.02.

  5. this was certainly an interest take on sobriety. Like everything else in moderation is key but more importantly when one has a purpose, that drives the actions that one takes. the difference between someone who gets hooked on a drug and the one who doesn’t is that the one who gets hooks, lives for the drug. You lived for the weekend, parties, etc. What was your purpose? Even now, what is your purpose?

    when you have purpose, everything else you do then supports that purpose. Even if you did drink but your purpose was to maintain a healthy weight, you would have made sure the drinking did not interfere with that goal.

    So while yoga, buddhism is your purpose, is that the right one for you? Maybe for now but remember anything can become an addiction and an excuse to over do it can be detrimental as well

  6. Hi Nancy: It is such a vicious cycle, you can’t change him you can only change yourself. If you work towards making positive changes maybe you will influence him to do the same, and if it doesn’t influence him then you will have some tough decisions ahead.
    You will know your tolerance level, follow your gut instincts and take care of your own happiness first.

  7. Hi Nancy
    My heart goes out to you when i was smoking with my hubby i also felt this was “not me” however the fact that i was doing it was making it become me and i had to take responsibility and not necessarily blame, for where i was and step up and do the right thing. When one is co-dependant we feel that if we tell the person in our lives doing the wrong that they will leave and we will be left alone. However i ask you this, is this indicative of a true healthy love relationship where both partners spur each other on to do and be their best. Or is this relationship one that whteher willingly or unwillingly allows the other to do things that are destructive to each other and the relationship. How can a relationship like this flourish when the foundation it is built on (alocohal and dependancy) is what feeds it. Its that fear of loneliness that keeps ups bound however if you take positive steps to break away bit by bit by joining new social circles with healther habits and do things that invigorate and bring you joy, you will find a renewed strength and break out of this vicious cycle. This does not mean you instantly leave but as Tina says this could influence him and build a better foundation if you still love him. Note however that for me after stopping the co-dependant behaviour i am comming to realise i was not truly in love with my hubby. It was our habit or “dirty secret” that kept us bound together and half of the time we were not our true selves and enjoyed each others intoxicated company. Now i find i do not enjoy the same things we did before and cannot lay around the house being high and lazy as it does not feed the new healther spirit and mind i have chosen for me…..hope this helps.

    1. Thanks………I hear what you are saying! I do love him ALOT. I am getting tired of it though…………..but I still love him.

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