Source: Mayan Toledano©
This week was my one year sobriety birthday.
I can’t tell you enough how quitting alcohol has improved my life quality— a feat I thought was impossible to accomplish living in NYC at 22 years old. On a cold night last year which I’m not particularly fond of remembering, I took it too far. This might be a feeling you’ve experienced before if you've asked yourself whether what you're doing is considered “fun” or if it has crossed over to dangerous or addictive territory. Remember, a drinking problem does not consist only of needing a drink every fifteen minutes, it is also the way your body and mind react to alcohol; what happens when you are under the influence.
The whole world is a very alcohol-positive environment, we live in a culture that glamorizes drugs; that's just a fact that will probably remain true for a long time. It baffles me (now) that when people want to celebrate something good happening in their lives, it is a cultural response to have a drink. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people— the majority— that can handle a drink, and in such circumstances it can be a very pleasurable indulgence. On the other hand, denying there is an alcoholism & drug abuse epidemic would be to turn a blind eye to a huge chunk of humanity that needs help —and for that help to become more accessible— and for this illness to become destigmatized so we can encourage people to talk about it without shame.
In short, I’d recommend sobriety to anyone who might ask.
Beyond listing the obvious health benefits that you can find in countless articles, let me talk to you a little bit about the surprising benefits that sobriety has brought to my life.
My self confidence increased — Theres a lot to be said for taking away a constant source of anguish in the life of a person that drinks often— the unknown factor. When you dont know what you’ve said or done, what happened at a certain point while you were drinking. this can create a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in a person’s life. Taking this X factor away, I noticed my confidence increased. I underestimated the effect this had on me telling myself “It's what all twenty-somethings go through; blacking out some nights and getting a little too crazy”— but once this element is taken off the table, there is a lot of positive energy in being aware of everything you've said or done and holding all the cards once more.
My creativity is aroused — Recently I read about a study that is related to this. It has been proven that being bored helps children develop their creativity; it is encouraged not to just give them phones or computers as a source of entertainment, rather to let them get bored and see what they do with that. This to me is totally analogous to what I went through this year. I didn’t have the reliable drink to entertain me on a quiet night in New York, I didn't have it to help me drown out the loud noise of my anxiety disorder. Suddenly it was all me, all the time. There were a few moments when I was overwhelmed with too much emotion and anxiety when I just craved a drink— and thats when I knew these moments were important; they were to be listened to. So I put my creativity to work when feelings and emotions overcame me, and these were moments when I produced the most work— becoming entranced in an experience similar to being intoxicated— minus the hangover and bad decisions (all though in hindsight some of my my paintings weren't great decisions either LOLOL). My point is when you feel this craving it is an indicator, but dont drown it out this time. Let it lead the way. Find your outlet that you couldn't find in a martini glass.
I could rely on myself again — It became increasingly clear to me that I could make plans with confidence. This was something I hadn’t been able to do in a long time. As a person with depression, it is already hard to follow through with plans sometimes, but add serious physical and moral hangovers to the mix and you have a recipe for never knowing if you’re going to show up to something. There were many times I couldn’t make it somewhere because impromptu plans came up to go drink martinis with my girls somewhere grungy in Greenwich village and I live in New York City! How could I pass that up?! Cut to me not making a couple important appointments and a few lunch or dinner dates with my friends. Of course trying to accommodate my drinking was subconscious, until I quit and realized there was a thought process that happened in my head when I used to make plans; I factored in the possibility of a hangover. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders once i felt a sense of independence from that possibility.
My relationship improved— On top of the obvious improvement from the absence of petty drunk fights and mistakes, I realized I couldn’t use alcohol as a crutch to drunkenly air any grievances I had; I actually had to use healthy communication. This was definitely a challenge— it can be very awkward to have certain conversations with your partner, but nothing good comes out of trying to numb some of that awkwardness with a drink. Learning to communicate with my partner in a healthy way has also improved my confidence in myself and in my relationship (back to point 1 in this list).
I have more fun — I realize this can be hard especially for people who use alcohol as a way to cope with social anxiety, but allow me to offer an alternative. First of all, I was lucky enough to have my best friend quit alcohol around the same time as me, so this encouraged us to come up with other adult ways to have fun without drinking, which can be hard to conceive for some people. Movie screenings, board games, playing cards, being creative together, making dinner, taking walks… a whole lot of other possibilities opened up beyond the go-to drink at a bar with a friend. Also, I want to mention that if you go to a party where people are drinking, it can get to a point where its no longer fun for the sober person anymore— at which point it might be time to go home if you’re not feeling it, OR act like a crazy drunk person too. Its lots of fun. No one will know the difference, and its hella funny.
In conclusion, alcoholism plagues 10% of the worlds population, (the most vulnerable age group being 18-29)— Im talking about DIAGNOSED alcoholism, without counting people who haven't sought help. This is a huge epidemic, and it is a delicate subject as addiction and/or substance abuse go hand in hand with emotional and mental distress and there is a lot of misinformation on both subjects. But keep this 10% of people in mind. If you decide to give up alcohol and it seems like a difficult feat when you’re walking past a bar and it seems so fun and cozy in there (especially in the holidays), or during the summer when people are out drinking prosecco at sunset and its so tempting— remember that if there are 100 people in that bar, 10 of them will wake up the next day having made some of the worst decisions of their lives. And not just random hookups or funny stories to tell your friends— I mean suicide attempts, fatal accidents, situations that break up families and friendships. This very real thought has helped me when I feel like it would be easy to just have a few drinks and stay in control. That could be true, in my case I didn’t always lose control— so it was harder to realize I needed help. But if you think you have a problem, or if you’ve taken it too far at times… it only takes one day to make a fatal mistake that can alter (or end) your life forever.