Many people feel that alcohol is an intrinsic part of who they are. I was no different. I was born on an Island in Scotland with a rich history and culture of booze. I spent my life telling people to pronounce my name like "brewery without the b." And upon entering adulthood, I spent 10 years as an oil broker in London—just one of many high-pressure, alcohol-fueled jobs in the city.
Then, two years ago, everything changed. I made the decision to quit alcohol for 90 days. I wanted to prove to my wife it wasn’t the problem in our relationship and to myself that it wasn't an addiction. Sure, I loved to have a drink or five when out with my mates or entertaining clients, but I never drank alone. I was a normal, sociable drinker. And I thought that meant it wasn't negatively affecting me.
But when I went three months without the sauce, I learned the truth. My wife was right—it was the problem in our marriage. And I was wrong—it was definitely holding me back. Since that first 90-day stint, I haven't looked back. I even started a community for people who want to live their best lives—alcohol-free. It's called One Year No Beer.
Reflecting on my own journey of self-discovery and personal growth made me curious about what other people in our OYNB community found themselves wishing they had known before they let themselves become reliant on alcohol. So, I asked. These are a few of the ways people in our community didn't realize alcohol had been holding them back until they kicked the habit.
1. "I wish I had known how much I was self-destructing with alcohol."
All the embarrassing situations, the things you’ve said that you shouldn’t—after you stop drinking, you realize just how destructive the alcohol was. "It’s so easy and convenient to delay your problems with alcohol. But it sure doesn't solve them," says one OYNB veteran.
2. "I wish I'd known alcohol was causing so many of my chronic health issues."
From reflux to IBS, acne to vitamin deficiency—the list goes on. Once people quit the booze, they see just how many chronic health issues disappear. The problem started inside you, and the solution might be there, too.
3. "I wish I had known how much more self-respect I would have after I quit."
So many of us drink because we lack the confidence to be vulnerable without "liquid courage." But consistently losing control doesn't cultivate self-esteem. Over time, it erodes it. Learning how to handle your life, and eventually realizing that you can conquer any challenge—without any numbing agents—is the best thing you can do for your long-term self-acceptance and personal growth.
4. "I wish I'd known how much younger I'd feel."
"I’ve got an extra spring in my step that people my age just don't have. People think I'm 10 or 15 years younger than I actually am. My eyes are gleaming again; my skin is vibrant. There's a sparkle in my life that has been missing since I was young and free. I thought the closest I would get to feeling that sparkle was getting drunk. Turns out, the alcohol is exactly what was keeping me from it."
5. "I wish I'd recognized how significantly it would improve my relationships."
"My wife and I were on the brink of divorce, and now we're more in love than we've ever been. Friendships rooted in shared vices have fallen away, and authentic, loving relationships have risen up in their place." When you remove the veneer of alcohol, meaningful relationships will flourish.
6. "I wish I'd known that quitting booze was the gateway to overhauling my life."
The impact of alcohol isn't limited to the changes you experience while you're drunk or while you're hungover. It negatively affects your life in a thousand other ways. It exacerbates anxiety, anger, depression. It encourages bad habits like eating junk food and skipping workouts. When you ditch the booze, your life will experience a total metamorphosis.
7. "I wish I'd known it was limiting my ability to be a good parent."
This is a bit of a gut-wrencher. But almost without exception, parents who have gone off the booze say they are better parents now than they ever could've been while drinking. When it comes to parenting, the only argument that booze is a good thing is the one that says a stressed parent is a better parent. But we all know there are a million healthier coping mechanisms for anxiety and tension than drinking. And your kid, more than anyone else in the world, deserves a fully present, engaged parent. From rushed bedtime stories to short-tempered outbursts, a drinking problem can rob you of the ability to be the kind of parent you want to be.
8. "I wish I'd known it was robbing me of my memories."
So many events missed, so many moments gone. From weddings to birthday parties, vacations to intimate conversations, a booze-addled brain can never be counted upon to hold on to what's important. Perhaps the scariest memory failure the frequent drinker experiences is the inability to answer the question, "How did I get home last night?"
9. "I wish I'd realized how much money it was costing me."
You're already paying rent, spending money on vacations, putting food on the table, etc. You probably don't realize how much money you waste every month on liquor—especially if you socialize in a metropolis like London or New York. A few nights of heavy drinking a week can easily add up to a thousand-dollar-a-month habit. Think about all the things you'd rather spend that money on than drinking your life away.
10. "I wish I'd known how much liquor was holding me back."
We forget our hobbies, deprioritize our families, put our business ideas on the back burner. Under the veil of alcohol, nothing seems all that important. It's only when you clear away the film of booze that you can feel the true importance of those things you set aside. And often, by then it's too late.
11. "I wish I'd known how much peace it would bring me."
"Changing my mindset and cutting out booze helped me find a level of peace I don’t think I’ve ever had in my adult life. I just can’t believe how different I feel. It's like a fog has been lifted. A cloud that had been following me around for years is finally gone." We all know that alcohol is a depressant, but we often choose not to recognize how it may be controlling us. You have to remove that variable from the equation in order to recognize how it changes the outcome.
12. "I wish I'd done it sooner."
Looking back on the years of misguided drinking—time spent trying to appease someone else or hide hurtful or shameful feelings—the newly sober are confronted with a profound sense of regret that they wasted as much time as they did. Once you see how good life can be sans alcohol, it's hard to perceive time you spent drinking as time well-spent.
Thousands of people are happier, healthier, fitter, more productive, more well-rested, achieving their dreams, starting their businesses, running those marathons, feeling happy, loving their partners, spending time with their kids, being present, and absolutely loving their lives.
So what are you waiting for? You can learn more about the alcohol-free challenge here.
Want more insights on how to level up your life? Check out your weekly horoscope, then try these three steps to getting out of your own way and finally getting what you want.