I chose to quit drinking- here’s why
Almost one year ago I decided to quit drinking. That one decision has had a lasting impact on my mental health and my life. Here are the top 5 reasons I chose to stop drinking:
5. The hangover was rough
The difference between your 20s and 30s for most people is that your body feels different. You’re feeling aches and pains that last longer than they used to and something as simple as sleeping wrong can leave you in discomfort for days.
The same can be said about drinking alcohol.
I chose to stop drinking because the hangover became increasingly debilitating. What used to take a good breakfast and a nap to fix, was not taking an entire day of feeling awful. Any plans for the day after a night out had to be canceled. If I’d planned to do laundry, meal prep, or clean a room the day after, it was no longer happening. A day spent hungover meant a day on the couch, watching Netflix, and ordering food.
4. It took 48 hours to recover from 4 hours of drinking
I struggled with that reality. 4 hours of drinking affected the next 48 hours. Thus, my work suffered. My weekends were cut in half. I kept asking myself, is this one night of drinking really worth all I’m sacrificing? It wasn’t anything close to a balanced trade anymore.
3. Rejuvenating sleep no longer happened with any amount of alcohol
A simple Google search will reveal the science behind what alcohol does to your sleep. In short, your brain doesn’t enter REM sleep, the portion of a sleep cycle that gives you that well-rested feeling. When I was drinking, I wasn’t sleeping. The day after a night out, I was a mean, impatient, sleep-deprived version of myself.
Our brains and bodies need rest. Some people require fewer hours of sleep than others, but I fall on the 8-9 hours side of the spectrum. The later I got to bed, the fewer hours of sleep I would get, and I knew it wouldn’t be getting quality sleep, either.
2. I was drinking “to take the edge off” (AKA – I was drinking to reduce anxiety)
It took a long time to figure this out. I considered myself a social drinker, but meeting strangers who made disrespectful, sexist, or ignorant comments and tolerating it was easier with one drink in my system and another in hand. Some may describe it as liquid courage, but I describe it as drugging myself to tolerate my surroundings.
Since I’ve stopped drinking, this is what I’ve struggled with the most. I’m not great at hiding it when I’m not enjoying myself or, frankly, when I think someone is being rude. I’m still learning how to confront those conversations with a sober, anxious mind.
1. My mental health was only getting worse
This is the most significant reason I stopped drinking. It was memorial day weekend 2022 when my husband and I were sitting in a parking lot, waiting for a restaurant to open. I was watching the leaves sway in the wind when, suddenly, I couldn’t shake the feeling something was very, very wrong. I had no idea what, but I knew something needed to be fixed and it needed to be fixed at that very moment.
I turned to my husband and said, “something is wrong. I don’t know what, but something is wrong and I’m about to cry.” Knowing he married someone with severe anxiety, he knew it was just my anxiety. We ran through a list of anything that might be wrong, but I still couldn’t figure it out. We’d been out drinking the night before, and I shared with him the sense of panic I’d been waking up with for the past few months each night after I had drinks.
That same day, I decided to take the summer off from drinking. I knew I wasn’t supposed to drink alcohol while on anxiety medication, but I chose to do it anyway. I’d come to realize it wasn’t worth it.
90 days later, I’d made it through the summer without alcohol and knew it was the best choice for me. My weekends felt full again. Sundays became another day to enjoy, I was sleeping well, and my mental health was in a good place. I was no longer waking panicked, asking my husband to help me resolve a problem that didn’t exist, and, frankly, we’d saved a lot of money.
The decision remains. I don’t drink alcohol and I feel better because of it. Now, when I want a drink, I ask myself why I want that drink. Would it quiet my anxious mind? Would I laugh more if I had a drink? Would I be less annoyed by people in public with a drink?
The answer to all is yes. If I consumed alcohol, I would be using it as a drug to treat anxiety, rather than taking a moment to breathe and consciously relax. If you’ve noticed your mental health suffering after consuming alcohol, maybe it’s time to reflect on why you’re drinking. If you need to take a pause, I’d encourage you to do so. If you want to chat about my decision, feel free to reach out.
Whatever you decide, make sure you’re making your mental health your first priority. Everything beautiful comes from the way you see the world and the way you treat yourself. Treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion, and don’t forget to drink some water. Choosing to step away from alcohol has been infinitely worth it in my life. Maybe it will be the same in yours.