A Sobering Experience: Why Life is Better 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.
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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