I’ve never been a regular drinker throughout the week. Most weekday nights, I imbibe purely on water, but come the weekend I typically go pretty big.
When you’re a newly single guy, getting over your ex and meeting new people, it almost seems like a prerequisite to have a cocktail in hand. Scotch on the rocks at happy hour on Friday. Bacon-infused brunch blood mary’s. Pitchers of beer at the sports bar on Sundays.
When you’re having a good time, why stop with just a few beverages? Without a significant other to come home to, there’s little holding you back from seeing if that night is going to be an epic one.
I have had a blast on some phenomenal Miami nights getting after it. Bars, clubs, house parties. Every Saturday night was an exciting, booze-laden adventure to explore with endless possibilities.
But then the inevitable happens…The harsh knock of nature’s withdrawal, the hangover. Many a Sundays spent lazing on the coach, crushing old episodes of The Office hour after hour.
At one point this summer, I became fed up with this routine. During the week, I pride myself on such a positive daily ritual of green smoothies, clean eating, exercise, meditation, and gratitude and then on the weekends, it all kind of fell to crap. The culprit: booze.
So, I started reading about people who have given up drinking for a finite period of time and the benefits they saw throughout the process. Many of these folks decided to give it up altogether and have never looked back. The pros of ditching drinks for a trial period seemed to add up, so I decided to give it a go. Here’s some of what I learned…
1. It’s called the “social lubricant” for a reason – You start to realize just how much social situations rely on alcohol. At the majority of social gatherings, it’s almost looked down upon not to have a drink in your hand. You wonder why that is? Obviously, drinking is a good time, don’t get me wrong, but is it that everyone is looing to take the edge off and has that much anxiety built up? Or that they’re so eager to escape reality through pounding shots? You start to think what drives the need to have a constant drip in your boozy IV.
2. Some “friends” may just be drinking buddies – When you tell friends you’re giving up alcohol for a month, some may be very confused. They may look at you in disgust and tell you how awkward that will be for you. Will it though? Or is it just awkward for them because you’re not matching them drink for drink. You’ll see which of your relationships are founded more on the hilarious shenanigans and drinking antics vs. a more solid core of a friendship.
3. Productivity skyrockets – The physical benefits of flying sans cervezas are numerous, and I won’t extoll them here in totality, but include better sleep, more energy and increased clarity. This ups your output in a major way. Motivation for your career or business is dramatically impacted. The side projects you’ve been meaning to get to on the weekends are now somehow getting accomplished in record speed. Everything starts falling in line much easier when you have an extra day or two to dedicate to productive accomplishments.
4. You don’t need alcohol to relax or take the edge off – I’ve always had a certain level anxiety, whether stress induced or socially-based. Alcohol to me was a way to unwind, get loose, and allow me to shed the stress and be myself. Now, I realize that drinking would almost add even more stress in multiple ways. From one perspective, you depend on it so much to take the edge off, you’re almost building it up too much in your own head, saying “I need this to chill.” So you pound until your faculties are limited and then you can officially “relax.” But, now I’ll go to a bar and not even feel the pre-drunk anxiety just waiting to get loose cause I know it’s not coming. The anxiety never has a chance to take control.
5. You save a TON of money – When you’re a few drinks deep, dropping $16 on an app or picking up a round of shots doesn’t seem like a bad idea. The next day, you shudder at the thought of looking through your credit card transactions. Sometimes it can equate to several hundred dollars over a weekend. It’s not just the drinks, but all of the crappy food, uber rides, and other bad decisions you get into as a result. They add up. I’m enjoying having some extra scratch to invest in new business opportunities or awesome experiences. I find it much more compelling than beating up your liver and a temporary stint of joy.
So, here I am at day 36 of a 30 day challenge. Around day 14, I had my first drink all planned out. Ice cold mojito on a hot summer Miami night. Day 30 came and went. I’m feeling too good to drink just for the sake of it, but I’m feeling to good now.
Each weekend I’m getting outside and exploring the great outdoors that South Florida has to offer. I’m trying new things like a weekly yoga class, meditation sessions, paddle board meetups…finding new ways to meet like minded people outside of the bar scene, all things that wouldn’t happen if I’m too hungover off vodka soda from the night before.
Will I go back to booze at some point? I’m sure I will. Could be tomorrow, could be six months from now. I’m not going to put a timer on it. When the time is right, I’ll enjoy a frosty cold one. Until then, I’m digging life with the beer goggles removed.
This post originally appeared on the Good Men Project