Have you ever thought that you might sleep better, be healthier, and workout more if you weren’t dealing with the aftermath of a night of drinking?
One morning as I was scrolling through the latest hangover remedies and evaluating options to help me feel better, the truth hit me.
I could never be hung over another day in my life if I didn’t want to – all I had to do was stop drinking. The thought got me excited and then I started to question myself.
How would I go out and just not drink?
Wouldn’t people ask questions if I turned down a glass of Rose? Would I feel awkward and uncomfortable having to explain my decision over and over? Would I become boring and dull because all I was talking about was how I wasn’t drinking?
After reaching my mid 30s, even enjoying a single glass of wine was starting to affect my sleep and give me a headache the next day. If it weren’t for the hangovers getting progressively worse with age, I might have never stopped to question if my choices were creating the outcomes I desired.
Well-being and hangovers don’t go well together.
You see, I take pride in prioritizing my wellbeing and taking good care of myself, exercising regularly, trying to get more sleep and eating mostly healthy real foods. I also try to take great care of my mental health, monitoring my stress levels, making time to connect with friends and practicing mindfulness.
So while I was doing many things to support my wellbeing, I found that drinking alcohol seemed to be actively working against my wellbeing and causing me to be even more sleep deprived, stressed and exhausted. And I hated how I felt after drinking. And when you have two small kids running around your house, being hung over is its own form of torture.
You don’t have to stop socializing.
But there were some benefits I correlated with drinking that felt scary to give up– socializing, stress relief, having fun and speaking candidly. Upon closer inspection I realized I didn’t need to rely on alcohol for these so-called benefits. I could certainly socialize, have a great time and learn to be more comfortable speaking my truth without the liquid courage alcohol had been providing.
There are more effective ways to de-stress.
I also realized I could find other ways to unplug and de-stress, like through reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, going for a walk or calling a friend. I also know that good quality sleep has the most significant positive impact on my well-being and countless studies have shown that alcohol makes getting a good night’s sleep much less likely. So if you don’t necessarily have more time to sleep, but want to feel more rested, cutting out alcohol is an excellent place to start.
Even though my drinking wasn’t “problematic” – it also wasn’t “additive.”
When I took an honest assessment of my drinking habits, I realized alcohol was no longer serving me and the downsides far outweighed the benefits. So I made a choice to stop drinking for a week as an experiment.
I know for many drinking is a serious problem and simply stopping is not an option, so if you’re struggling, please know it’s not your fault, and reach out for help. You don’t have to do this alone and you’re not expected to.
And if drinking is not a “problem” for you, I also want to give you permission to cut back or remove alcohol from your life anyway. Things don’t need to be a hazardous problem in order to be removed from your life. Eating a donut every Friday at the office isn’t going to kill you, but you can still decide to stop eating them so you reach your health goals faster. You’re allowed to change and move on from anything that’s no longer serving you.
If you’d like to experiment with drinking less or not drinking at all, then these four surprising tips will help you navigate the holiday party scene and avoid spending your entire night out talking about how you’re not drinking.
1. Have your opening line(s) ready.
One important thing that got me through my first social gatherings without drinking was to confidently say “I’ll start with a sparkling water” when offered my first drink of the night. This might seem insignificant at first glance but it’s incredibly important because many times once you have a drink in hand, even if it’s water, no one will ask you again if you want a drink for the rest of the night. Most people stop paying attention to whether or not you’re drinking after that first drink is served. So getting through this first step is so important. Do not start off the evening ordering a fancy non-alcoholic “mocktail” – always start with water, plain or sparkling, so you don’t get a million follow up questions about why you’re not drinking, which leads to point number two.
2. Give yourself permission to say nothing.
Remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation about your decision and you don’t need to make alcohol the big bad wolf either. That’s why following point number one is so important – just ask to start with water so you can divert people’s attention and not have to deal with a bunch of follow up questions. This will make things a lot easier, trust me. There is a time and place to talk about drinking habits, your own and others, but while others are drinking is not the best time. It’s just going to feel awkward for everyone.
3. Add the word “right now.”
If you absolutely must talk about your decision not to drink, just say, I’m not drinking right now and leave it at that. People can infer whatever they want – that you’re not feeling well, not drinking for the evening, driving home later, etc. Let them tell themselves whatever story they want about you. Adding the words “right now” seem to be disarming both to yourself and others. By saying “not now,” you are making your choice clear, without having to get on a high horse about your decision.
4. Saying no entirely is easier than moderation.
Start small by taking an entire week off from drinking. Do not attempt to limit yourself to “just one glass” as this will be much harder to stick with. If that feels too challenging, then I highly recommend reaching out and getting some additional support from a therapist or support group like Alcoholics Anonymous. You deserve to feel great!
During this week without alcohol make sure to take note of your general sense of wellbeing as well as your sleep and mood. Find what works for you and if you’re feeling better after one week without booze challenge yourself to take another week off.
You never know what will happen, my first week of not drinking has turned into over three years without alcohol.