I talked about why I became teetotal in another blog, but now I want to share a few of the benefits (there are many!)
I totally get that most people enjoy a drink, feel in control and have no intention of quitting. That’s fine – I know you may not take anything from this. But there may be people who, like me, are questioning whether to lead an alcohol-free life or feel like it’s getting in the way a bit. I want to help you think about your choice.
When I decided to live alcohol free, I listed my reasons. I figured it would clarify the why and give me something to revisit if I felt tempted to cave in. It’s what you’d expect to see: ‘I want to use my time and money better,’ ‘more energy’, ‘stop hangovers’, ‘to feel productive, sharp and focused’.
And lastly: ‘To be empowered. This is a positive decision, not an imprisonment.’
Ok, that’s why but… so what? Here’s how the ‘why’ has translated into the ‘what’. It’s by no means exhaustive, but they motivate me to keep going.
Money. The biggest factor, bar the health benefits. I tuck away the money I would have spent on alcohol and splurge on stuff I really get value from: clothes, running gear, books, spa days, days out.
Physical and mental health. Like cigarettes, alcohol damages your health. I’m not going to preach on about this, but the facts remain: alcohol is a drug, albeit a socially acceptable one (which can make it harder to quit) which adversely affects your health. Since stopping I notice my tummy is flatter, my waist a teeny bit smaller. My running is improving (slowly – small steps!) mainly because I am not staggering around seeking redemption for my Pinot Grigio sins the night before. I feel more focused, more able to deal with stressful situations and my anxiety is infinitely more manageable.
You become seriously tolerant. Being teetotal gives you proper manners. Booze is so embedded in our culture and placed in our line of sight at every opportunity, that if you refuse a drink, people eyeball you like you’ve just landed from another planet. ‘WHAT?! Really? You don’t drink? At all? Why? Surely you’ll just have one?’ Three simple words, politely said (repeated if necessary) will see you through: “No, thank you.” It’s amazing how little you need to say. Don’t feel like you have to explain yourself. This is your story, not theirs. Own it and walk the stage.
You remember nights out. Gone are the blackouts and the morning-after ‘how did we get home?’ Questions. You don’t need to check Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp in case you posted something daft (but at the time it seemed so TRUE). No more messages from friends saying ‘hey, are you ok? You get home alright?’ Or ‘Mate! Do you remember what you said/did?’
Zero hangovers. Obvious, right? This benefit cannot be overstated enough. You get yourself home safely, you wake up with all your belongings, there’s no pit of dread in your tummy, no walk of shame to make. You don’t need to cancel plans because you’re too paranoid to move or can’t lift your head from a sick bowl. You’re adulting. Your mind, body and soul are performing happy dances. It’s a feeling that never, ever gets old.
Late-night bonding. On nights out, you pretty much know that conversations go pear-shaped at a certain time, usually at around 11pm when everyone has imbibed a fair amount. The jokes get less funny, the dialogue more disjointed. Some of my favourite times in sobriety have been when I’ve got into late-night deep conversations with mates who drink moderately if at all. On a recent night out, me and a friend decided to leave the rest of our gang out drinking and headed back to our hotel. We stayed up drinking tea, chatting, sharing life stories and giggling until the early hours of the morning when the others rolled in. Time with friends is well spent and can be a joyful bonding experience.
More time. When you don’t reach for the wine on a Friday evening as soon as you walk in the door from a challenging week, you’ve gifted yourself a few more hours to do other stuff. For the first few weeks I was at a bit of a loss. Then I started tackling jobs I had been putting off (no gin o’clock for me anymore). It also meant more evening walks at sunset, spontaneous drives to the beach to go paddle-boarding or grabbing trainers for a run. And there’s no hangover to battle the following day either.
Not finishing a drink doesn’t make you cross. On nights out, when people wanted to move on to the next pub/bar I would glug back large glasses of Pinot because I would NOT not abandon a drink. Discarded half-drunk glasses of booze filled me with horror. Who were these heathens who did this? (And yes, I did mine-sweep at weddings, don’t tell me you didn’t). My poor overworked liver must have whimpered frequently at such quantities of poison rushing towards it like a biblical flood. You’ll never feel annoyed at the thought of leaving behind a swig of lemonade or J20.
You become the David Attenborough of the drinking environment. Sobriety provides a unique insight into human behaviour. You see people change before your very eyes. Lovely, well-adjusted humans descend into loud cackling maniacs or dry-hump someone else’s wife on the dance-floor in some sort of strange mating ritual. You’ll comfort the friend who started out flirty-giggly but ended up crying. You’ll robustly fend off leery beer monsters who are all octopus hands (FYI? You don’t have permission to touch me, you creep). You’ll observe mild-mannered mates gesticulate wildly about voting Leave/Remain. You’ll patiently listen to people confess their secrets or repeatedly say they love you. The joy? Knowing it won’t be you waking up wondering what the hell you said or did last night.
Music – loving the good, swerving the bad. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been to a nightclub/bar/wedding and the music has been so goddamn awful, the only answer has been more Sambuca. I could only endure Chesney Hawkes or The B-52s by heading to oblivion. Alas, I’ve been to some blinding concerts and cannot remember a thing because I’ve been off my face. When you’re teetotal, you make your excuses before the bad music starts and recall virtually every single note of the good vibes.
Nights in. Sometimes there is nothing more welcome than planning a night in: a good book, a hot bath, a boxset binge, cooking a great meal, organising a holiday, whatever. Folding yourself up on the sofa in your cosiest clothes and knowing you can go to bed at any time you want (even 9pm – its fine!) and wake up with zero hangover, no anxiety and no fat hole in your bank account is bliss.
Imprisoned? Then I am staying put. I like it here.
If you’ve given up alcohol I’d love to hear what difference it’s made to you! Emma x