Earlier this month my partner and I decided to take some time off from drinking. We’ve done this a few times, as of recent we did it twice during the pandemic and decided to try it again in “normal” times. I can only speak for myself, so this post is a reflection on what I’ve learned from taking some time off from drinking during a particularity social month.

The first thing I noticed was that my sleep has improved significantly. Even on days when I’d just go out with friends and have two drinks or so my sleep quality would always feel worse due to various factors, the first being alcohol’s effect on sleep. Alcohol inhibits REM sleep and causes you to wake up in small amnesiac bits throughout the night (even if you didn’t notice it). Just eliminating a drink before bed can increase your sleep quality by a non-insignificant amount. Additionally, and this is how my brain works, having a little buzz makes me more prone to distractions. So instead of falling asleep to a good book as I do on nights when I don’t drink, I end up laying on my phone watching YouTube until later into the night. Thanks to eliminating alcohol from my life I was able to read myself to sleep every night and *actually* finish a few books I meant to finish in September.

Another thing is mental clarity. Everything just felt so clear to me during this month, no mental fog from bad sleep the night before, nor having things slip my mind while talking to others after a drink or two. Being clear-headed allowed me to feel more focused on the conversations around me and experience the moment more. I felt as if I were a part of the conversation instead of trying to think of the next thing to say. This also applied to movie nights that I do with my brother a few times a month. Instead of half paying attention to the movie and thinking of something quippy to say (we like to make commentary while we watch movies) I can enjoy the movie *and* think of something quippy to say without forgetting what just happened.

The next thing is highly dependent on your social groups and culture, but to me, it was surprising and nice: my friends showed support through the whole thing. Honestly, when I started this I thought that I might feel pressured to have a beer whenever I saw my friends, either implicitly or explicitly, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. I found that my friends didn’t really care. I suppose it helps that we have a few friends in our group that don’t drink or drink sparingly, but seeing them not make a big deal out of it was reassuring that I truly do have great friends. Even after going on a two-night camping trip where there was plenty of drinks to choose from in the coolers I didn’t feel the need to drink at all.

A few other smaller benefits that I noticed:
– Saving money. Saving money is a *huge* motivator for me. Around four years ago I began cooking vegetarian at home exclusively for various reasons, but seeing how much cheaper my grocery bills got from not buying meat kept me going. The same applies to alcohol purchases.
– Fewer carbs. One of my favorite bits in Parks & Recreation is when Ben Wyatt (played by Adam Scott) asks Andy Dwyer (played by Chris Pratt) how he managed to lose so much weight. To which Andy answers with a simple “I just quit drinking beer.” Although I’m a relatively lean guy, knowing that I don’t have to be *as* conscious of my carb intake it’s still a nice thing to not have to worry about.
– Soda’s a nice alternative to beer. Kind of ironic that I talk about cutting back carbs and then immediately bring up soda. I don’t normally drink soda, only a few times a year a most, but I personally found myself drinking a root beer in lieu of beer when going out. Unlike beer, though most sodas are so sweet that one is usually enough for me, so even if I do have a soda instead of a beer on the net I’m still consuming fewer carbs.
– Alcohol-free beers are great. Sometimes though I just want that bitter taste of beer in my mouth without the drawbacks. Luckily there’s a niche market for people like me and you can get some pretty decent alcohol-free beers through them. If you’re looking for suggestions I recommend anything from Athletic Brewing Company. 

All in all, I’d say that this month has been a success and has made me reevaluate my relationship with alcohol. I’m loving it so much that I’m actually not looking forward to having my next drink. But, I do enjoy a good beer every once in a while so I’m playing with some rules. I haven’t set them in stone yet but they’ll either be: drink on special occasions only (this is also my rule for when I eat meat), or limit myself to x drink’s a week. Right now I’m leaning towards the special occasions since it’ll be easy to stack that on top of my meat-eating habits. I have a few more days to decide though, and I can always change it.

I recommend everybody who consumes alcohol try out a sober month here or there. You’ll be surprised at what changes are made for the better. Alcohol, like caffeine, is a tool and we should use it wisely.