Quitting Alcohol And Its Benefits

The benefits I feel from quitting alcohol are manifold. I will go through the benefits in this article and also comment on what the challenges of quitting alcohol were for me.

the feeling of quitting alcohol

Where I were before quitting alcohol

But first let me give you a brief overview of my alcohol consumption before quitting alcohol. As alcohol consumption can be very individual, both how it affects you but also your habits and patterns around it, I think this is important to know.

If you’d have asked me back around 3 years ago before I started this journey of quitting alcohol I would probably not have realized that alcohol caused me problems. I was drinking only socially but often and high volumes. Probably on average 1.5 times per week and ~5-10 units per occasion. This seemed normal to me, as many around me had similar habits.

I was usually tired during the weekdays and could have a hard time starting or continuing with good habits, like eating well, exercise, sleep. I’d get a surge of motivation, start some good habit just to have it end after the next weekend. But I thought this was just how I was. After experimenting with going short periods of two weeks or more without alcohol I noticed that this lack of motivation was related to alcohol consumption. It was actually a hangover.

I did my first experiments like that about 3 years ago. I had a few times of trying longer and longer periods without it. Eventually 22 months ago I had my last drink and am becoming ever more comfortable with the idea of that being my last for life and thus quitting alcohol permanently.

Benefits from quitting alcohol

So with this in mind, let’s go into the benefits I feel from quitting alcohol.

No hangovers

I think the most tangible benefit for me from quitting alcohol is my freedom from hangovers. I know people have hangovers of different intensities. For me hangovers were extremely bad mentally while I didn’t feel very physically ill. The mental effect was that I felt depressed for about 5 days. So just in time for the next weekend I started to feel somewhat normal again.

This kept me in a state of lowered mood most of the time. In addition to being unpleasant it also had a lot of knock-on effects. I’ve always been a person looking for personal improvement so for example I might be trying to get into a habit of running regularly. When I’m hung over and my mood is lower, the chances I’ll do the good thing for the long term are reduced.

This effect became very clear when quitting alcohol. Many of the positive change projects I started didn’t just stop the first weeks. I was able to start building good habits. And that had compounding effects. The better able I was to stay in my workout habit, the more energy I had to do another good habit. It was a positive flywheel.

This allows me to now have a better sleeping schedule, eat better food, I have a better workout routine, I take cold showers, I meditate, I read, and more. I’m positive that quitting alcohol has allowed me to start and maintain these good habits.

Fewer regrets

This might sound minor or major depending on how you handle alcohol. My handling of alcohol was a bit like throwing a pair of dice. Many times I’d be controlling it just fine. But sometimes I’d get a bit too confident and let my guard down and I could all of a sudden have a night where I blacked out.

The blackouts for me means memory loss but I didn’t necessarily pass out. I could keep being around people and do whatever. But the day after I had no idea what had happened except a few blurry flashbacks and I had to get the night retold to me. This could be quite scary. Most of the time it was fine. But sometimes it wasn’t. I’d done something embarrassing or hurt someone’s feelings.

Not having to suffer this anymore is a big benefit. I don’t have to be randomly subjected to these events anymore. Because I’ve decided not to let it happen again.

Better relationships

Initially for the first 6 months or so I felt like I wanted to prove to myself and my friends that I could continue doing the same things as before, just without the alcohol. But after that I started to realize that I might not want to go out clubbing or stay up late into the night on weekends.

I started to see how much I enjoy getting to bed in a reasonable time so that I can be productive the next day. Also I don’t enjoy being in a nightclub when people are drunk. However while I still did it it was quite interesting to observe people in a night club from early night as they entered, got buzzed and then after a few hours before you realize it they are pissed around you and you can’t really communicate with them anymore. This is a quite sobering experience.

Doing less and less of these alcohol induced activities made it clear to me that some of my acquaintances were more based on a common interest for clubbing and drinking than anything deeper. While other relationships have evolved and become deeper and healthier as we’ve started doing a broader range of activities together.

I think another factor that helps make the relationships healthier is the simple fact that alcohol is not involved to the same degree when we hang out. Of course many of my friends still drink but it tends to be at moderate levels if at all and I am sober and fully present every time we hang out.

Health benefits

This article wouldn’t be complete without at least mentioning the direct health benefits of quitting alcohol. Some of them are:

  • brain health [1]
  • less risk for cancer [2]

I will not cover them in detail but I’d recommend listening to this podcast episode by Andrew Huberman for more details on the benefits of not drinking alcohol. I knew it was bad for the body to drink but this episode made it more clear to me how bad it really is.

Money saved

So far during these 22 months I’ve estimated that I’ve saved around $150 per month which over that time period totals $3,300. This is in nominal amounts. If this money was saved with an approximated yearly return of 8% with compounding this will be a slightly higher figure and it might grow a lot over longer periods. If we have 8% compounding on the saved money per year we’d have ~ $3,500 with 22 months of quitting alcohol and $150 saved per month. Below is a table with the estimated money saved including compounding effects (8% yearly approximation) for more time periods.

periodamount
1 month$150
6 months$900
1 year$1,900
22 months$3,500
3 years$6,000
5 years$10,900
10 years$27,000
20 years$84,000
30 years$208,000

In addition to these tangible amounts imagine the value you can create with all the extra energy and time and how that compounds. I think the numbers above are small compared to that potential.

How hard is quitting alcohol?

So how hard or easy is quitting alcohol? Some things were hard and some were easier. Here are the main factors that impacted the ease for me by which this has been done.

Breaking the habit

Breaking the habit was the hardest for me. There were a lot of situations which I associated with alcohol. Like an after work, dinner with friends, vacation and more. If we are animals of habit it became very evident. Doing things where I had a habitual response to drink required me to actively break that habit. It took active work.

During my journey I was quitting alcohol for first a month, then incrementally longer periods until the current one which is up at 22 months now and I might want to continue for life. The incremental nature was partly because the old habits were hard to break. Eventually I’d cave in to have a few beers at a dinner because I’d forgotten why I wanted to quit alcohol and drinking seemed more valuable in the moment than some vague goal I had forgotten why I had.

This got easier with time though and after a few of these month+ breaks I decided to go for a long one, because every time I resumed drinking again I got reminded of the reasons I had quit alcohol.

In general I’d say that for each time you break the habit (for example not drinking at the after work or social event) the next time it’ll feel a little bit easier. Eventually you form a new habit of not drinking which replaces the old bad one.

Quitting alcohol is socially difficult because in many contexts people expect others to drink

One of the difficult aspects of quitting alcohol is that you don’t do it alone. Alcohol is a social drug. So by definition other people will notice when you don’t drink.

Luckily for me most people around me were supportive about it and some even got inspired by what I’m doing. It is still very common for new people to ask questions about it. A few will challenge it and say stuff like “sure it sounds good, but do you have as much fun?”. On rare occasions I’ve had people be annoyed by me not drinking.

My advice to you if you want to try this is to remember why you started. It was probably for your own wellbeing or for the wellbeing of someone close to you. If someone wants to get between you and that worthy goal you should try explaining to them why its important to you. If that doesn’t work then their opinion might not be worth that much to begin with.

Physical withdrawal symptoms were non-existent

I’ve read and heard that people can feel withdrawal symptoms when quitting alcohol. And maybe I would have too if I drank more often to begin with. But I think my body was not physically dependent on alcohol judged my consumption levels. This probably made quitting alcohol easier.

There were basically no withdrawal symptoms for me when I stopped drinking alcohol. I think I have a vague idea of how it can feel though if the withdrawal symptoms I felt when quitting coffee is any comparison. Quitting coffee was a nightmare. My brain felt dysfunctional. I felt like a zombie whose brain had turned into jello. I was tired, depressed and it felt like I thought in slow motion. Alcohol was a breeze compared to that.

Conclusion

It’s been an interesting journey to be quitting alcohol. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life. I never thought I could be this healthy and happy. I’m in control of my life and my future more than I’ve ever been before. It has it’s challenges but I’ve grown as a person by overcoming them and the benefits are worth the work many times over. Now after 22 months sober this is my habitual behavior and I don’t have to struggle to maintain it.

If you are thinking about trying this yourself I’d recommend you go for it! You have nothing to lose. Try it out and see how it feels and take note of what it does to you. If the benefits are larger than the costs (which they likely will be) you have strong reasons to continue. Only you can set the limits to how far this can take you.

If you’ve already experimented with quitting alcohol or are also sober, great job! Keep up the good work.

If you want to share I’d be interested in hearing about your journey of quitting alcohol in the comments below. Best of luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *