Did you know that you do not have to be an alcoholic to give up drinking? Some people choose to be conscious about their drinking habits, and evaluate their relationship with alcohol to maintain a sense of control over their alcohol consumption. If you’re tired of waking up with hangovers and foggy memories from the night before, then it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.
You may not be addicted to or dependent on alcohol, or experienced rock bottom because of alcohol, but if alcohol is not adding any benefit to your life, then you should consider whether or not you want to carry on drinking the same way you have been.
The Rise of Going Alcohol-Free
Abstaining from alcohol hasn’t always been the cool thing to do. However, nowadays people are putting more of an emphasis on their physical and mental wellbeing. People are becoming more conscious about what they put in their bodies, and this includes alcohol. People are beginning to question how alcohol affects their lives, and are “sober curious,” meaning that they are curious about how they can drink more responsibly, or maybe stop drinking altogether.
The increasing popularity of participating in Dry January and Sober October have encouraged people to evaluate their relationship with alcohol.
How is Refraining from Alcohol Different from Sobriety?
While being sober typically implies that a person has a problematic relationship with alcohol, refraining from alcohol simply means that a person is exploring what life looks like without alcohol to see if it is better than life with alcohol. People who are exploring an alcohol-free lifestyle can drink occasionally and responsibly, while those who are sober must actively choose to abstain from alcohol at all times.
Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez says, “Those who have a healthy relationship with alcohol typically have a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, and their ability to have an enjoyable, relaxing time or participate in events will not hinge on whether or not they can drink.” Unfortunately, this is not the case for those who have an unhealthy, problematic relationship with alcohol.
Evaluating Your Relationship with Alcohol
If you’re ready to get sober curious, here are a few questions you should start asking yourself about your relationship with alcohol.
- Why do you drink?
- How does alcohol actually make you feel mentally and physically?
- Do you experience social pressure to drink?
- Would you hang out with the same people if you weren’t drinking?
Answering these questions will help you determine whether or not alcohol actually adds anything of value to your life.
Benefits of Reducing Alcohol Consumption
Not everyone who drinks has a problem with alcohol, but even if you don’t drink every day or drink in large amounts, abstaining from alcohol can have tremendous benefits.
Going alcohol free for even one month can have immediate benefits, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- Glucose levels stabilize
- Clearer skin
- Increased energy and productivity
- Reduced levels of anxiety
During your time without alcohol, take note of how you feel. Does your mood change? Has your sleep improved? Do you feel less anxious without alcohol? Often, adjusting to life without alcohol just takes some practice, and you will learn how to handle uncomfortable situations without the help of alcohol.
What You Can Do Instead of Drinking
Instead of focussing on what you are cutting out of your life, focus on the life that you are creating for yourself.
- Meditate/journal - be aware of your feelings, and which feelings make you want to drink
- Drink alcohol-free alternatives - There are many alcohol-free beverages that taste like the real thing, without making you feel the negative effects of alcohol. There are even many sober bars that are emerging all across the world.
- Exercise - exercise increases endorphins (the “feel-good” chemicals), and can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Find new hobbies - Ultimately, you want to find meaningful activities in life that can genuinely be enjoyed without alcohol.
Resources for Going Alcohol-Free
There are many resources and online groups that are both sober and curious about what life without alcohol looks like.
- The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month by Hilary Sheinbaum
- The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
As long as you don't have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, you don’t have to give up alcohol forever if you don’t want to. The point of taking a break from alcohol is to evaluate whether or not drinking adds any actual benefit to your life.
However, if you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, then trying out an alcohol-free lifestyle is a start, but it is not ultimately the answer. In order to effectively treat an alcohol use disorder, you must make the commitment to stop drinking altogether, and recognize the dangerous effects that alcohol has on you.
At Aquila Recovery, we help our clients get to the root of what is causing their unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and work with them to heal so that they no longer need alcohol in their lives. Learn more about our outpatient alcohol recovery program or contact our addiction counselors to discuss treatment options.