After an especially festive holiday season, I decided to give Dry January a try, and boy am I glad I did. I learned a lot about my relationship with alcohol (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and how it affects various aspects of my life.
Now that “sober curious” is a mainstream trend and more people are abstaining from alcohol altogether, we’ve seen the advent of Sober Bars and a rise in popularity of non-alcoholic or low-ABV beers. If you’re debating taking a break from alcohol, read on for the top benefits and takeaways from my bout on the sober side.
Top 4 Benefits of Taking a Break from Drinking
1) Better Conversations
I’m an outgoing person, but I’m definitely much more of a social butterfly once I’ve had a drink or two so I was surprised to discover that I actually had better conversations with people when I wasn’t drinking. At first, it was unnerving to have that crutch removed from social settings but I discovered I actually was able to focus more on having meaningful conversations and was a much better listener. Not to mention, being sober around people who are drinking gives you a leg up to be the first to chime in with a witty response or steering the conversation.
2) New Coping Skills
I went through a really rough break up before the holidays, moved cities and started a new job. It’s hard to admit but my biggest takeaway from Dry January was discovering that I had been using alcohol to cope with all the negative emotions that came along with those major life changes.
The first time I had a really hard day or was emotionally drained my mind jumped to “I need a glass of wine”. Since I couldn’t have that glass of wine, I was forced to sit with my emotions and those dreaded feelings I had been trying to avoid. At first, this sucked, like, it really sucked. However, it forced me to pick up healthy coping skills, like journaling, calling a friend or going for a run when I was feeling low.
3) Happier Disposition
Turns out when you’re not putting poison into your body on the regular, you feel amazing. Or at least I did! While having a drink can help you relax after a long day, alcohol is still a depressant. Meaning the effects of alcohol and hangovers can actually induce anxiety and increase stress. Say hello to my dreaded friend, HANGXIETY.
Cutting out alcohol drastically helped ease my anxiety and just made me feel happier. I was in a better mood, waking up earlier and not skipping out on my evening workouts. It’s important to recognize this might not be the case for everyone and to note that cutting out alcohol alone isn’t a cure-all for your anxiety.
4) Increased Energy and Motivation
By week two of no alcohol, I saw a HUGE BOOST in my energy levels and noticed it was paying off big time in my workouts. I remember sitting on the workout mat stretching after a long run and texting a friend about how much of a difference I could feel. I think I texted something like, “Is this what it feels like to actually operate at 100 percent?! I’ve been stuck on ‘low battery’ for way too long.”
I also felt more creative and noticed I was getting more stuff done at work in the same amount of time. I come from a PR agency background where we’ve been known to have a drink to kick off brainstorms because it can help get the creativity flowing. So I was surprised that I was actually coming up with more creative solutions/ideas just out of the blue.
Ways I Survived
If I were accepting an Oscar for my Dry January performance, I would have to thank Topo Chico first and foremost. When I felt like a beer or wine, I grabbed a sparkling water and it satisfied my craving for something refreshing. Altering an existing habit is much easier than trying to break a habit altogether. Read our blog detailing 4 Steps to Change a Habit for more info. It also helped that many restaurants and bars in San Diego have mocktails on the menu which eliminated getting FOMO about trying fun cocktails at happy hours with friends.
Have a Plan for Re-introducing Alcohol
If you’re choosing to temporarily give up alcohol, I’d recommend assessing your relationship with booze before you introduce it back into your life. You could start by asking yourself:
What is the role you want alcohol to play in your life?
Why did you feel better or worse when you weren’t drinking? What did you miss?
Do you need to set boundaries or drink limits around your alcohol intake?
As for me, I’m planning to only drink when it’s going to enhance or add to an experience. Not because I want to blow off steam. When I finished Dry January, I went on a long bike ride to a brewery and tried a flight of beer paired with Girl Scout Cookies, which was the perfect reintroduction for me. It was part of a fun day exploring and trying new things!