- If you stop drinking, even for a brief period, it can alter your perspective of alcohol consumption.
- Here, author Bob Curley details 10 lessons he learned from being sober for six weeks.
Nearly everyone who enjoys a good drink has joked at some point about giving their liver a break. After a recent medical procedure, I did it in real life for health reasons.
I didn’t touch an alcoholic drink for a month and a half – or, as I like to say, my longest period of stone-cold sobriety since I started drinking as a teenager.
I’m back to moderate drinking now, but some of the lessons I learned during those six weeks have stuck with me.
Here are 10 things that surprised me when I temporarily quit drinking:
1. Nearly all social interactions involve some sort of alcohol.
The first thing I did when I decided to lay off the booze was look at my calendar. It was pretty daunting: Over the course of the upcoming six weeks was a vacation to Las Vegas, a business trip to Florida, a dinner date with my wife, various pickup hockey games, a guys’ trip to Boston for a ski show, and an overnight in New York City.
Under normal circumstances, I’d be drinking during every one. My first lesson: don’t underestimate how hard it is to avoid alcohol.
2. Few restaurants and bars offer decent alternatives to alcohol.
- Cristi Lucaci/Shutterstock
Nonalcoholic beer and wine exist, but you’d be hard-pressed to find either at a bar or restaurant. One New York eatery was kind enough to list a couple of nonalcoholic drinks on their cocktail menu, but I was mostly limited to sipping water or various mixers, like cola, ginger beer, and cranberry juice.
3. Nobody really cares whether you drink or not.
- Reuters/Bernardo Montoya
It definitely feels awkward the first few times you’re out and someone asks for your drink order. But I found that if you don’t offer an explanation of why you don’t want beer, wine, or a cocktail, nobody actually asks why. Your friends will happily sip their own drinks in blissful disregard of your profound exercise in self-control.
4. Even without peer pressure, you’ll want to fit in.
No friends gave me crap about not drinking, and no waiters or bartenders shot me weird looks when I ordered something nonalcoholic. So why did I ask for my cokes with a wedge of lime? Because I wanted it to look like a rum and Coke. Yeah, I was that insecure.
5. You rarely ‘need’ a drink.
There are a lot of situations where I thought I had to have a drink to loosen up: business networking, public speaking, and romantic encounters, to name a few. I didn’t become a hermit or a monk for those six weeks. I just worked through the anxious moments without the aid of alcohol.
6. You might lose some weight.
Even if you’re drinking within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption (one drink max per day for women, two for men), that’s still seven to 14 drinks per week.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the average spirit contains between 97 to 165 calories. That’s around an extra 700 to 2,300 calories per week if you’re consuming the “moderate” seven to 14 drinks, and that’s not even counting mixers. In my first week of avoiding alcohol, I lost three pounds. If I drank more water and less soda, I probably would have lost more.
7. You’ll save money.
Sales of beer, wine, and spirits combined made up 83% of the revenue for bars, taverns, and nightclubs in 2018, according to Investopedia. They definitely were getting their money’s worth from me: My wife and I often would check our bill to see whether the food or the drinks cost more. Usually, the booze won.
Cutting alcohol out reduced my restaurant tabs by a quarter to a third – not to mention that the guys at the local liquor store temporarily forgot my name, too.
8. You’ll be more likely to get to the gym.
- Flickr / John Clegg
Looking to establish a morning workout routine? I’ve found that not being hungover from the night before is a great way to start.
I could definitely feel an energy difference in the mornings on a recent business trip I took compared with past ones where I would be social drinking the night before. Now that I’ve recently been cleared for full activity by my doctor, I plan to put some of that energy into exercise.
9. You could get better at your job.
Attending my first after-hours work event totally sober made me realize how much I was retaining from conversations that I hadn’t at the same event the previous year – including some connections that could have meant more money in my pocket.
10. You’ll emerge with a much better appreciation of your actual alcohol consumption, and whether it’s healthy or not.
- Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Here’s the tricky thing about drinking: It’s hard to keep track of your drinking when you drink. Try asking yourself how many drinks you had when you’ve been out partying with friends, for example. Or, if you’re a home bartender like me, think about how much alcohol you’re actually pouring into those drinks.
My six weeks of sobriety taught me to be much more mindful of my drinking. I’m happy to be off the abstinence bandwagon, but I’m paying a lot more attention to how much I drink, and when.
Will I ever down a bunch of drinks again with friends? If I’m being honest, probably. But, meanwhile, moderation is my new friend. And my body, brain, and wallet all thank me for that.