For most of my adult existence I was the ultimate party girl. Life without booze and parties and wild nights was impossible for me to imagine. After all, alcohol was incredibly effective at (temporarily) alleviating pesky inhibitions, painful self-consciousness and paralyzing depression.
For me, binge drinking created a vicious cycle of crazy times followed by miserable self-loathing. There were endless humiliations and countless drunken escapades. I said over and over again that I'd cut back, quit drinking, get a grip on my behavior — to no avail for many years.
But one day I woke up. As I started adopting a healthier lifestyle and practicing self-care, alcohol just didn't appeal to me anymore. So I stopped drinking. Seven months later, here's what I've learned:
1. I didn’t like the person drinking made me.
That person wasn't really me. Pretty much every bad, stupid or ill-intentioned thing I’d ever done was attributable to alcohol. Not that I'm absolving myself of responsibility — I made the choice to drink. But that girl wasn't the real me.
2. I’m pretty amazing without the influence of alcohol.
Admittedly, there was an initial adjustment period. Parties felt slightly awkward without any social lubricants; everyone was happily buzzed and I was stone cold sober. Without booze, I felt boring. I used to think a couple drinks induced a better version of me. But without the alcohol as a crutch, I'm permanently that better version of me, and this is a form of self-esteem that never wears off.
3. My idea of fun has evolved.
Some things just aren't as enjoyable when you stop drinking — like tailgates and bar crawls where everyone else is totally hammered. But as parties and bars started appealing to me less, other things started appealing to me more. I discovered that healthy pursuits like art, outdoor recreation and volunteer work brought me a sense of lasting joy that was a million times more satisfying than the beer-induced kind.
4. It's gotten easier over time.
Committing to a lifetime without alcohol used to seem boring and impossible. After all, booze is everywhere and it livens everything up. But as time went on, it got easier and easier. I became comfortable in any given situation, no drinks necessary. And I can't describe how good it feels to know I won't do or say or instigate anything stupid.
5. I feel better across the board.
Ditching drinking is one of many changes I've made to my lifestyle, but all together they've effectively healed me from a depression that lingered for more than a decade. Alcohol contributed negatively to my mental health (hello, it's a depressant!) in ways I didn't even realize. Undoubtedly, abstaining from alcohol was a key factor in my healing process, and I'm an entirely different person these days.
6. No alcohol means less anxiety.
Alcohol was my means of self-medication. Sure, my anxiety all but disappeared when I was drunk, but it came raging back worse than ever in the aftermath. Alcohol fueled my stress levels (and depression) in a big way, and without it, I've found the path to peace.
7. I see things more clearly.
Alcohol affected my judgment in ways I wasn't even aware of until its influence was gone. The aftereffects of drinking kept me on an emotional roller-coaster that led to countless bad decisions and life-altering choices. These days, I know my judgment is completely sound. That's freedom.
8. I now know what real self-love feels like.
Taking care of yourself is a commitment and sometimes, it takes sacrificing short-term pleasures for long-term well-being. But there's nothing more rewarding. Drinking took me to the depths of self-loathing and despair. Without it, I can see myself for who I really am, and now I've finally realized that who I really am is pretty awesome.
Of course, drinking isn't a problem for everyone, and this is in no way meant as a condemnation of alcohol altogether. But for me, giving it up altered my life in amazing ways, and that was a story I had to share.