On January 1, 2015 we set ourselves a goal. It was a big one.
Give up alcohol for a year.
A whole year. 365 days with not a drop. Not a sip. At the time it seemed like a crazy, big, audacious goal and boy did it get a reaction from people when we decided to do it (more about that later).
Today is January 1, 2016 and I am super proud to report that we DID achieve our goal. We’ve just completed a whole 12 months with no alcohol whatsoever. No cheating, no sips of beer here and there. A whole year with NO BOOZE!
It’s a weird feeling to be honest. Not drinking feels so normal now. Apparently it takes 120 days to create a new habit so I guess it’s safe to say that after 365 days with no booze in our life that this new habit is here to stay.
Or is it?
One of the questions we’ve been asked over and over the past month or so is “So…are you going to drink again?!”
The answer? We’re not sure.
Right now I have no strong feelings one-way or the other. What I do know is that I’ve learned a shitload about myself over this past year so if it’s cool with you, I’d like to share a few of those lessons with you.
Now we’re no experts, this is just stuff that we’ve learned over the past year. I’ve managed to break it down into 7 things I learned from one year without alcohol.
I hope you can take some of the experiences we’ve had and apply it to your life somehow. Even if you have no desire to give up the booze, there are a few things that apply to lots of different aspects of life so fingers crossed they can help you in some way, shape or form!
#1 You can still have fun sober
This may come as a shock to some of you. I know it definitely did for me!
Being a self confessed boozehound for most of my adult life, the thought of going sober to a party seemed like a totally alien concept and quite frankly, totally boring! Think about it. Every single social function usually revolves around booze.
Pre-gaming at home, champagne and canapés on arrival to a swish party, the free bar at a wedding…I loved all of these things.
When we first quit alcohol I was a bit wary of going out. Would I be able to have fun? Would my friends still want to hang out with me if I was sober?
What I discovered as a non-drinker was that the earlier in the evening you go out, the better experience you’ll have. You can have a laugh with everyone and get amongst the festivities before everything gets too messy.
The quality of conversation inevitably deteriorates as the night goes on. Guaranteed there will be a fair amount of repetition or unnecessary shouting in your ear as the alcohol consumption increases so be sure to leave before witching hour commences.
Which brings me on to lesson number two…
#2 Drunk people can be really annoying
Yep, it’s true. When you’re stone cold sober you are exposed to the ugly side of alcohol consumption.
There’s a point in the evening, usually one or two hours in, when the drunk switch gets flicked on and everyone is suddenly hammered in an instant. The slurring starts, the volume goes up a few decibels and things get real messy real quick.
Now don’t get me wrong, I would usually be the messiest by far when I was drinking, no doubt about that. I can back up with the best of them and have been know to drink grown men under the table…and have a lot of fun doing it.
When you’re sober though, it’s not much fun being around drunk peeps. Especially when people start getting on their soapbox and tell you how boring you are for not drinking or, even worse, trying to force alcohol on you. Not cool.
Nobody likes peer pressure so if you’re that person who’s always trying to get the designated driver or the person on antibiotics to have a few, STOP IT. It makes you look like a dick.
Our advice when hanging out at the pub sober is to know when to call it a night. You can easily sneak out without anyone noticing or remembering, we’ve managed to get this down to a fine art over the past year!
You’ll also want to avoid the bitter sober people who are only sober because they have no choice. These tend to be pregnant women or designated drivers. You can spot their sulky scowls a mile off so give them a wide birth (pardon the pun!) if you don’t want to have you ear chewed off about how they wish they were drunk and how crap it is being sober.
#3 There are other non drinkers out there
There’s a saying that rings true with this life change and lots of others too; environment is stronger than willpower.
When we made the decision to give up alcohol one of the things we wanted to do was make some sober friends we could hang out with. And we have made some amazing friends this year! This has been one of the absolute best things about our year without alcohol.
In fact, one of the best parties we went to this year was a friend’s birthday where not a single one of the guests was drinking. The quality of conversation was amazing! We couldn’t believe what a good night it was. Who knew being sober could have so many advantages.
When you surround yourself with people who ‘get it’ and cheer you on, you’re so much more likely to succeed. One of the catalysts for our decision to quit the grog was discovering the organisation Hello Sunday Morning.
Thanks to Chris and the HSM crew we were able to plug into a community of like-minded peeps, all kicking the booze for different reasons. It helped us so much in the early months of our journey when things were feeling tough.
Check out hellosundaymorning.org for more info.
#4 People won’t always understand your decision
This was a hard pill to swallow when we first gave up alcohol. Some people just don’t get it, and they’re often the people that are closest to you.
It can be very confronting for people to learn that you don’t drink. They’ll want to argue the toss with you and prove to you that drinking is a healthy part of life and that everyone should be doing it. I believe that choice is one of the biggest privileges in life. Having choice in life is something not everyone has and I intend to use mine to experience as many things as possible.
When we made this choice, it was for us. We didn’t do this to make anyone feel bad about their own choices and we certainly didn’t know that it would make us the target of ridicule or bad feeling! The reality is, that if you do something different to what everyone else is doing, it’s going to get you some attention. Not all of it good.
We were very open and shared our decision with the world on our blog, mainly to hold ourselves accountable. We never rammed it down people’s throats or tried to persuade them to give up too.
So why is it ok for people who choose drink to question our decision? Maybe it’s society’s conditioning or perhaps its ego playing its part. It could also be the fact that people feel really uncomfortable knowing that you’ll remember every single thing that happens on a night out…including their drunken antics.
The next morning when ‘the fear’ kicks in for them, all they’ll be thinking about is how you saw and heard everything they did when they were drunk. Meanwhile what they did while drunk isn’t something we’re even thinking about!
Whatever the reason, people’s negative reactions were one of the most challenging things about giving up.
#5 Life without hangovers is totally awesome
After experiencing 52 whole weeks without a single hangover we’ve come to the conclusion that this has to be one of the best things about not drinking.
Our productivity has gone through the roof and there’s been no wasted weekends lying next to the toilet after a massive bender.
Instead we’ve been able to fill our extra time with awesome travel adventures like our road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. Two weeks there felt like two months because we weren’t drinking. We could get up early and hit the road instead of having to wait for the hangover to ease off before we were safely under the limit to drive.
If you find yourself suffering from hangovers every week, why not have a few weeks off and see how you feel. Your weekends will feel so much longer and your health will probably improve too! Which leads me to my next lesson…
#6 Getting fit and healthy is SO much easier
I’d heard this from numerous personal trainers over the years but had never really given it much thought. Mainly because I liked drinking too much and didn’t want to stop. I was happy to do crazy diets to try and lose some weight but give up booze?! NO WAY!
Only since giving up for a year have I really seen the health benefits of a life without alcohol. NOW I totally get what all those PTs were trying to tell me!
With no boozy weekends to throw us off track we’ve been able to really commit to getting fit and healthy and the results are pretty astounding. Think about it. When you make the decision to eat right and exercise it’s usually smooth sailing. Then the weekend rolls around and you fall off the wagon, drink your body weight in booze and stuff your face with cheeseburgers at 3am.
When you wake up on Sunday morning feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus, the last thing you want is to go for a run or drink a green smoothie. You want to eat pizza and chips, watch Netflix and hibernate under the doona feeling sorry for yourself. Well at least that’s what I when I have the hangover from hell…and trust me I’ve had many in my time.
Even a short break from drinking can have dramatic health benefits. Just one month off the booze has been proven to increase concentration, improve sleep and boost performance at work and in the gym. Not only that but it’s so much easier to lose those few sticky kilos that just won’t budge. Winning.
If you want a bit of a kick-start in the New Year, you can join our group cleanse for 30 days! We kick these off regularly so if you want to give it a go (and give your liver a rest!), then head on over to fithealthyhappy.com.au where you’ll find all the details about how to get started with your new healthy lifestyle.
You can also check out our post on how to set (and stick to!) New Years resolutions.
#7 You save a tonne of cash
Drinking can be exy, especially here in Sydney. A cocktail will set you back at least $20 and even a few beers can leave you with a $100 dent in your wallet. When you don’t drink, going out suddenly gets super cheap. We’ve been shocked by how much money we’ve been able to save simply by cutting out alcohol.
We notice this most when going out for dinner with friends. Their bill including booze is usually heaps more than ours. When you don’t drink you can go to the fanciest restaurants in town and as long as you don’t smash the wine list you can walk away with a bill that’s less than fifty bucks!
People tell us all the time about how they can’t afford to travel due to lack of cash. Well here’s an idea, have a few months off the booze – problem solved!
You’ll feel pretty awesome in your bikini too!
Want more help with budgeting and saving money for your next trip? Download your FREE Kick Ass Travel Budget Calculator!
Will we go back?
Ahh, the question everyone has been asking us.
Honestly? At this point we have no plans to go back to our old habits. That may change and we’ll remain open minded but right now we’re super happy with how things are.
After one year off the booze it’s safe to say we’ve learned a lot. About ourselves, about other people and society in general. I feel so glad that we made the decision at the start of 2015. We’ve never once looked back and wished we hadn’t committed to it.
As well as all the awesome benefits we’ve experienced, a bunch of you have got in touch with us and told us how we inspired you to make a change and do the same for yourselves. That’s been the coolest thing by far!
We hope that our experience gives you a little bit of an insight into a life without alcohol and, if nothing else, helps you to respect the decisions of others even if they are different to your own.
Got a story about quitting booze? Or going vegetarian? We’ve done both so we’d love to hear about your experiences! Comment below…
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