I Quit Drinking Booze For A Year – This Is What I Learned

I stopped drinking for a year, and it wasn’t all about feeling healthy. For some, like me, it’s a big life change – and so a lot can change in your life.

There are a lot of ‘I quit drinking and my life became amazingly better’ articles out there, and I get them – alcohol can easily go from fun to a quick way to ruin your life. But for me, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to quit drinking, but that I had to, for medical reasons.

As a very regular (if not big) drinker, I found this an extremely difficult task. I’m the kind of person who might have a blowout every couple of months, but drink a glass of wine with dinner and have a few beers at the pub every couple of nights. But all that had to change, and for almost a year, I was dry, and this is what I discovered.

I saved a lot of money 

The very first thing I noticed was that I suddenly had a lot of spare cash lying around. I’m not talking about a couple of extra five-dollar notes in my wallet – rather I was noticing an increase of about two hundred dollars per month in my bank account. At first I thought it must be coincidence – but then when I actually sat down and added up how much drinks cost, it actually made sense.

Keep in mind that I’m a fancy man, and enjoy craft beer and nice cocktails and good wine. And I live in inner Sydney, so the drinks are exorbitant anyway. If you factor in things like getting drunk and catching cabs, expensive pub meals and buying rounds of drinks because I’m a friendly drunk, then my unexpected saving plan becomes logical.

But lost some friends

Australia has a very established social drinking culture – we fit in alcohol with the majority of our social functions. Furthermore, we generally meet our friends at drinking establishments – bars, clubs and pubs, with the purpose of drinking. ‘Let’s have a drink’ is our version of ‘let’s catch up’.

Perhaps because of this, I noticed that a good portion of my friends just disappeared, because I was no longer going to the same establishments as them, or at least not regularly. Most of these people were more along the line of drinking buddies – people you like, but have no real or close emotional attachment to. Some others were more surprising.

But I also realised that it wasn’t a case of ‘weeding out’ bad friends – it was a two-way street. I had to make the effort of engaging with the friends I did want to keep, which required making plans which didn’t involve sitting around watching people drink. Or, just prepping myself for a night of enviously watching people sip on wine. 

I became fitter 

Considering that I had to quit drinking specifically because of health reasons, it’s no surprise that I almost immediately felt healthier. However, there were definitely some unexpected health perks that happened for me. For one, simply not having hangovers was an amazing blessing, and since reaching my 30s, hangovers are debilitating anyway. The lack of days spent with a headache and nausea from drinking were lovely enough to make me consider never drinking again.

Also, my skin cleared up, my eyes stopped being so red, and weirdly, a little dry patch of skin on my elbow which I thought I’d ALWAYS had, actually disappeared.

Then pretty depressed 

I really like alcohol – I love coming home from work and mixing a drink, I like being pretentious and picky with my wines and I love getting an entire paddle of beers to taste. I also realised that I had ritualised my alcohol consumption in some way – I had a drink to celebrate, or a drink to make me feel better after a long day, or a drink to unwind, or a drink because it’s cold.

This sounds unhealthy, but considering it’s usually just one drink, it’s actually fine. Not being able to continue these little ‘rituals’ was much harder than not being able to drink to excess. Add that to the trend of not going out much, I became fairly withdrawn and blue. I’m not saying it was a logical response, but it happened.

And I got work done

I really, really, really kicked some productivity goals. It was definitely a mixture of not going out so much, and not having hangovers that initially helped. Hangover days are usually complete write-offs, and staying out late was also a factor in not completing extra-curricular work. I also just had more time to actually focus on doing things! I wouldn’t recommend quitting alcohol long term just for the ability to work more, but I’d definitely consider it for short-term busy periods.

I also just found that I was more focused and able to concentrate for longer periods of time. This clear-headedness would also kick in almost immediately in the morning, which was useful. I was also more motivated, although some of that motivation did come from being bored and lonely.

My mum’s motto is ‘everything in moderation’ and like everything, it applies equally to alcohol. Sure, there’s no reason why I need alcohol – and I think it’s a shame that our society has the potential to make me feel awkward about not drinking – but I also really enjoy drinking, and it’s nice to do it again. It’s also comforting to know that I have the willpower to stop, and if I ever need to focus or get a bit healthier, I might have another crack at going dry.

Patrick Lenton is a writer and digital marketer. He runs Town Crier, a social media and marketing consultancy for authors.