I Quit Drinking for 2 Years and These 10 Things Happened
2 years ago I was at a strange place with my drinking.
Everyday, I’d make a vow to myself that I wouldn’t drink that day, and then 4:00 would roll around, and the thoughts would start consuming my mind. “Oh, c’mon. One drink isn’t going to hurt anything.” The thoughts would start bargaining with me. They’d say, “You’ll just have one drink, and stop after that. That won’t hurt anything.” Well, almost every night, that one drink would turn into 2 drinks and then more drinks. The next morning, I’d wake up in a panic, realizing that yet again, I had broken my promise to myself. I’d be mad at myself and then it would hit me. I had a hangover . . . again. I’d pop some ibuprofen, chug a ton of water, and then try to get a little more sleep before I had to get up for work.
I’d finally wake up, look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I wasn’t going to drink today. I’d drag myself through the day. Only to repeat the same cycle again. (And again and again).
I was STUCK! But, I didn’t know what to do. Did I need to quit drinking altogether? Was I an alcoholic? In my mind, I didn’t feel like an alcoholic because I could go a day or two without drinking. I still had my job. I still got my kids to school on time. My marriage was fine. BUT I just couldn’t completely break the cycle of my drinking.
What would I do? I knew I wanted a change, but I didn’t know where or how to start. Finally, I decided I would take a 30 day break from drinking. I made the deal with myself that if I couldn’t quit for 30 days then I would seek outside help. I also made the deal with myself that I wouldn’t think past those 30 days. I would quit for 30 days and THEN decide what to do after that.
Well, an amazing thing happened. I quit for 30 days, and when those 30 days were done, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to return back to drinking, so I KEPT GOING. I went to 60 days. Then 90 days. Then 150 days. Somewhere around 200 days of not drinking, I KNEW I was NEVER going back.
Life was SO good without alcohol. (Something I NEVER thought I would think). There were SO MANY positive changes when I finally decided to cut booze. It was HARD to say that I would quit drinking altogether when I first went for 30 days, but over the course of my alcohol free streak it all clicked and I knew I was done with drinking so I could live my life freely and without the hold of alcohol over me.
Now, I know that you may be reading this, and be thinking, but WHAT could be so good that she decided to quit drinking forever???
Well, because I’m publishing this post on my 2 Year Alcohol Free Anniversary, I put together a list of 10 things that improved when I quit drinking. Some happened right away, and some took more time, but they all have happened as a result of me quitting drinking.
1. I AM FREE FROM THE CONSTANT THOUGHTS OF DRINKING
When I was drinking, I was CONSTANTLY thinking about alcohol. It seemed to be my only hobby, and there was just an endless cycle of chatter in my brain about it. Things like:
“When can I start drinking today?”
“I shouldn’t drink today. I should hold off until tomorrow.”
“I think I’ll drink tonight, but only one drink. 2 drinks MAX.”
“Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I drank so much last night.”
“I need to cut back on my drinking.”
“Okay! I’m going to my friends’ house tonight. I wonder if I can get Ryan to be the designated driver so I can drink as much as I want to.”
I was ALWAYS thinking about drinking in one way or another. Now, the thought rarely crosses my mind. I have opened up so much SPACE in my brain. Now, I can use that brain energy to go toward other things.
I will say that this didn’t happen instantly. In the beginning of my break from drinking, I still thought about alcohol quite a bit. Slowly, though, it became less and less. When I finally decided I was JUST DONE with drinking forever is when I really became free from the constant mind consumption of alcohol.
2. I ACTUALLY FEEL MY FEELINGS
When I drank, I rarely felt my feelings and worked through them. Instead I numbed them with alcohol. Good feelings were dulled when I’d decided to celebrate with a few drinks, and bad feelings were temporarily numbed and never truly dealt with and resolved. This meant that I had a lot of bad feelings just sitting and festering inside of me when I was drinking.
Let’s talk about those good feelings first. Have you ever had a big life moment? Like a milestone birthday? I’ll use the example of when I turned 40. When I turned 40, I had a super fun party with all of my friends. It was great! Unfortunately, I don’t remember all of the party. I remember it in bits and pieces. I had friends come to my part from out of town, and I was so focused on drinking at the party, that I wasn’t able to REALLY talk to them. The day after the party a lot of my out of town friends were still in town. I went to lunch with a few of them, but was so hungover that I was just fighting the hangover off instead of truly enjoying their company. Now, when I have a BIG moment, I am 100% present. I am able to feel the good feelings in the most amazing way.
So how about those bad feelings? Well, that has been a learning experience for sure. It has taken me time to accept that it is okay to feel my bad feelings. I can sit with them and feel them and that is okay. It’s taken me even more time to figure out when it’s time to deal with bad feelings. Learning how to grieve. Learning how to speak up for myself when I feel unheard. And learning when to reach out to others when I need help dealing with the bad feelings. Here’s the deal, though, I’m learning and getting better. When I drank, I just suppressed feelings, and they continually resurfaced. Now, I get to work through them. It is hard, but it is better than numbing.
3. I HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE
I always thought that drinking gave me more confidence (you know “Liquid courage”). It turns out that drinking numbed me to a certain extent. I thought that drinking made me more funny and likeable when chatting with new people. Taking a break from drinking, allowed me to see that I actually communicate and LISTEN more clearly to people now. I like myself better this way.
I am also more confident without alcohol because I am not constantly having the internal shame and guilt I use to feel over my drinking. Now, I really have nothing to hide. This means that I get to present my true self to the world. I also have room in my head for positive self talk. This makes me feel more confident.
Lastly, and this leads perfectly into my 4th topic, my physical appearance has changed for the better since I quit drinking. Knowing this fact helps me feel so much more confident in my own skin.
4. MY PHYSICAL APPEARANCE HAS CHANGED
This was a perk that I really was not expecting. I thought I may lose a few pounds when I took my initial break from drinking, but it has been SO much more than that.
I thought that by eliminating the extra calorie intake that usually occurred with drinking, that I would lose weight pretty quickly. However, this was not the truth. I actually didn’t lose very much weight, but I lost a lot of inches and belly bloat from my waist. I definitely welcomed this change. Now, my belly bloat still comes and goes depending on what I’m eating and the time of the month, but it is SO much better now. Beer belly is a real thing, and I’m so glad I don’t have it anymore.
Along with losing some belly bloat, my skin and eyes became so much brighter. This change actually happened pretty quickly. I lost some puffiness under my eyes, and the whites of my eyes became so much more white. Along with that, it’s like I had more of a glow on my skin. Since I wasn’t constantly being dehydrated by alcohol, my skin was totally moisturized and nourished, and now, I glow.
5. MY ANXIETY DIMINISHED
Before I quit drinking, I was starting to experience more day to day anxiety. I was constantly stressed about little things. Taking my kids to extracurricular activities, packing everyone’s lunches, going to work, etc. All the things that are just normal, run of the mill activities. These things gave me so much anxiety. It was getting to the point where I was starting to experience mild panic attacks and was preparing to talk to my doctor about ways to fix this.
When I quit drinking, I expected that I would actually experience MORE anxiety without the numbing effects of alcohol. It was actually the total opposite. Now, my anxiety is almost non-existent. I still have stress in my life, but now I am able to handle the stress with a clear head. This has been such an amazing side effect of not drinking.
6. I AM MORE PRODUCTIVE AND GOAL ORIENTED
I have more focus and energy now and that leads to getting more done. This is such a welcomed side effect. I often feel very scatter-brained and find it hard to work through a project to completion. I have always been this way, but when I drank it was SO much worse. There are a few parts to why alcohol made it harder for me to be productive and hit goals.
First, like I said in point number one, I was ALWAYS thinking about drinking. It consumed so much of my brain space. It was very hard for me to get through a task without thoughts of drinking popping into my head. Once, I took drinking out of the equation, I no longer had to think about it. This means that now, I can focus for longer on getting through tasks because I am not being interrupted with thoughts of drinking.
Second, I was hungover more than I care to admit. Some hangovers were mild and some were severe, but at any level, these hangovers caused me to slack! If I had a HUGE to-do list or we were working on a big house project on the weekend, it was very likely that I hungover. That meant that I was going to be very slow at completing a project. Sometimes, it meant that I wouldn’t even start the project. This just isn’t an option anymore. Hangovers NEVER keep me from completing tasks because hangovers are no longer a part of my life.
7. I AM MORE CREATIVE
This was an unexpected, but welcomed change for me when I quit drinking. I am a pretty creative person. However, when I drinking, it was like alcohol was taking parts of this from me. Alcohol was numbing parts of my brain function and also consuming so much of my thinking, that sometimes, my brain just didn’t have anything else left to give in the ways of creativity.
As I took my 30 day break from drinking (that turned into a lifetime break) I started feeling like my brain was coming alive. I was starting to have new and different ideas for social media posts, and I actually had friends say to me (that had no idea I had quit drinking), “Your posts are so on point lately.” This made me feel so happy.
Along with this, I feel that the problem solving/creative part of my brain is more efficient now. Each day we are faced with different issues. Some are big and some are small, but all of them will require us to problem solve a little bit. Since I have quit drinking, I have noticed that my ability to be creative in my problem solving is SO much stronger.
8. I EXPERIENCED SO MANY HEALTH BENEFITS
Since I quit drinking, I have experienced so many improvements in my health. I feel like I could go on and on in this area, but I will try to keep it brief. I had NO IDEA how much alcohol was affecting my health. Even when I drank, I had pretty healthy habits. I ate a nutritious and balanced diet, and I worked out regularly. However, I was starting to experience a few health issues. ALL of them (at this point) have improved since I have quit drinking.
My sleep has improved DRAMATICALLY! When I drank, I rarely slept through a night without waking up a few times. Most of the time, I would wake up at 3 AM feeling all out of sorts and oftentimes I was filled with panic. I rarely fell back asleep when this was happening. Since I have quit drinking, I sleep so soundly through the night. I rarely wake up in the middle of the night and when I do, I am able to fall asleep very quickly. Having improved sleep is such an awesome side effect.
My cholesterol numbers have improved a lot, too. Like I said above, I had a pretty healthy diet and exercised regularly when I was drinking. But my doctor did my bloodwork one year and even with my healthy diet and consistent exercise, my cholesterol was high. I was so freaked out by that. The last time I went to the doctor and had my blood work done was after I had quit drinking. I was AMAZED at how low my cholesterol was. Also, my doctor was very impressed with my resting heart rate and my blood pressure.
One other health improvement that I wanted to talk about was my PMS symptoms. I used to have CRAZY PMS. It seemed like I was on a hormonal roller coaster. My mood swings were big and fierce. When I quit drinking, this improved SO MUCH! I did a little research and found out why I experienced this great side effect. Here’s why – Our liver is responsible for processing excess hormones (like estrogen). When a woman has too much extra estrogen, she will experience bigger hormonal mood swings. My liver was SO busy processing the alcohol that I was consuming that it couldn’t process the excess estrogen. Now, my liver isn’t busy processing excess alcohol, so it can actually process the extra hormones so my body is working so much more efficiently.
9. I AM A BETTER MOM AND WIFE
One thing that held me back from quitting drinking was the thought that it would actually ruin a lot of my relationships. I was so worried that my friends wouldn’t enjoy me anymore. I would be an impatient mom. Plus, I was super scared that my husband and I wouldn’t like each other anymore. All these thoughts were false. Let’s chat about how all my relationships changed really quick.
I can say, without a doubt, now that I don’t drink, I am such a better mom. I am so much more patient with my kids. Especially in the evenings. I used to drink wine while I’d cook dinner, and by the time dinner was happening, I’d have a pretty good wine buzz on. I was always snippy with my kids at dinner. Not fun and relaxed like you think you’d be while drinking. Now, I sit with my kids and husband at dinner and we have conversations. It’s a much more enjoyable time. Plus, I remember it all now. Beyond that, now we hang out as a family after dinner, and I actually tuck my kids in and say good night to them. These things did not always happen when I drank.
My husband and I actually quit drinking together. I was actually very worried that we may not get along once we quit drinking. We were each other’s favorite drinking partner and we drank together for our whole relationship. I thought that we may not have anything in common once the beer buzz faded away. Well, I was totally wrong. We communicate so much better now, and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I feel like alcohol really masked the full potential of our relationship, but now that we have quit drinking, really do enjoy each other so much more.
10. I AM 100% ME
I used to play the part of me. I would drink and my drinking self almost acted out who I was supposed to be . . . Now, I feel more connected to who I truly am. Alcohol really dulled my personality and even dulled my thought process of what I liked and what I didn’t like. When I drank, I was much more tolerable of a situation or people that I actually didn’t enjoy. Now, that I don’t drink, I can quickly see if I like what I’m doing and enjoy the people I’m with. This makes it so every choice I make is being made on my own terms.
My life without alcohol is really done on my own terms now. It is so much more full than I ever could have imagined. I do more now than I ever did when I was drinking, and everything I choose to do is something that I 100% enjoy. It’s hard to truly put into work, but alcohol made it so I could not live my life to the fullest. Quitting drinking was hard in the beginning, but now, I can neer imagine returning to my old drinking life. Not when I know the secret of how amazing life is when you lift alcohol haze.