When you start thinking about quitting drinking or cutting down it is easy to focus on what you believe the positives of alcohol to be and then get scared of what you think the alternative is and worry about the things you will miss about drinking. Things such as feeling the buzz on a night out, relaxing into that first glass of wine when you get home, using alcohol to loosen you up and be more sociable, having wine to ease stress or anxiety. In reality though, alcohol delivers none of what it promises but until you find yourself in that beautiful place it can be incredibly difficult to understand that there really is nothing to miss.
Today I am coming up to almost ten months of living an alcohol free life and I was up at 5am this morning, a little muggy from sleep at first but so awake and feeling fresh. The first thought I had was, ‘God, I don’t miss waking up late feeling like pants anymore’ I wanted to share with you what I genuinely DO NOT MISS ABOUT DRINKING. If you’re still stuck in the mindset that alcohol is fun, relaxing, confidence boosting or if you’re having a wobble during your journey to stop drinking, then I hope this post will show you that alcohol robs us of so much and there are so many reason to be grateful and joyful that I don’t drink anymore.
What I don’t miss about drinking:
This is probably the main thing we can all relate to, the thing which popped into my head this morning and the number one thing that I don’t miss about drinking. There is nothing worse than lying in bed until 3pm feeling so ill that the slightest movement makes your head pound and brings on the urge to puke. Then there is also the deep feelings of guilt, that you did it again, the whole day is wasted and nobody at home can get on with their day because there you are, in your pit unable to do a thing.
A few weeks ago I woke up feeling really ill with a headache and I had to be sick – it was just like a hangover and it brought back some terrible memories. I was just so grateful that it was just a bug and I can’t quite believe that I used to do that to myself on purpose. This is a benefit that you will experience the morning after you go to sleep on your very first sober night and there is nothing better than waking up feeling normal, and it only gets better!
Lying about the amount I drink
We used to get through a crate of Cruzcampo every day, sometimes more on a weekend and often wine on top. That’s 168 cans of beer or over 75 Euros a week! We always go to the same village shop for everything and I would find myself saying we had friends over, or I wanted to send some beer to my brother or we’d sold some beers to a customer. Excuses, excuses – I know for a fact that our shopkeeper knew it was all for us. Sometimes I would say I needed wine for cooking or a bottle of brandy for a gift and if it was a particularly bad week, we would go out of our way and find another shop. We used to have an export business sending the best of Spain abroad and had a cash and carry account so would stock up on so much beer that the car would be on it’s arse all the way home – not all of it made it out of Spain.
Obsessing about how much others drink
I am a lightweight and after about 3 or 4 beers I had to have a siesta so that I could drink some more when I got up. I would always be looking at the empties and counting to see how many my husband had had compared to me and sometimes would hide a few cans so there was still some left for me for later. If we had wine, I would make sure that both glasses were the same size and would shake the box as the afternoon went on to guess how much we were going through. Even though I couldn’t physically drink as much as my husband and still function I would get really angry that he had more than me. On the other side of the coin, when we had friends over I would be watching to see how they were getting on and if they were behind, having more than me and if they were just sipping, I would wonder how on earth anyone could do that! Always measuring, comparing, counting, it was exhausting.
Always having alcohol on my mind
As well as obsessing about how much alcohol my friends and husband would get through, I was always fretting and worrying about how much alcohol we had in the house. Should I buy an extra box of wine just in case? It’s Saturday, shall we buy 2 crates of beer instead of 1? Or maybe we can get some Gin, that’s cheaper and will last longer (as if!) If I looked in the fridge the next day and there was nothing left I would look at my cash and make sure I had enough to buy more beer, even if it meant skimping on food.
What would really piss me off is when I found a half drank or still almost full can of beer left over – what a waste! Then there were the questions, how much will I have, how much have I had? Can I have a couple of beers and still go out to my class or shall I try and hang on until I get back. Or, What time is it? Is it too early to have a beer? Shall I have some now and then none later on, shall I pace myself or save them all up until the evening? It is such a relief not to think about it anymore!
Being embarrassed about my recycling
The morning after drinking is always bad, whether it be feeling hungover or regretful, having to apologize to family and friends or just dealing with the aftermath in general. One of the things, and it might be a small thing, that you will miss when not drinking is being embarrassed about your recycling. Do you enjoy hiding your empties in your neighbours recycling bins or pretending you had a party if someone looks questioning at the overflowing box you drag out onto the curb? What about the sound of the bottles clinking together, will you miss that? Will you miss having to drive to a public recycling depot so that your neighbours don’t see the increasing amount of the cans and bottles you get through each week?
The negative feelings of anxiety, shame and regret
Since stopping drinking and talking to lots of people, I have discovered that anxiety and negative self talk is huge amongst drinkers, as alcohol adds fuel to already negative thoughts and feeling we have about ourselves. My anxiety used to come at various times of the day, before I had to go to work, pick up the phone or write an email, I had to have a beer or two just to feel strong enough. However, by far the worst feelings would come at 3am when I woke up feeling full of shame and regret, needing the loo and needing to get a drink. My heart would be pounding in my chest, I felt shame if I had got out of control, guilt and regret at not having spent proper time with my kids and been the mother I knew I could be and of course, the self hate – why can’t I get out of this cycle? Why can’t I just stop? Thankfully, and this is the one thing I am grateful for every day, is that as soon as I stopped, that very first night I went to bed sober, I was no longer plagued by these awful feelings and emotions. The peace was just out of this world. Even if I don’t sleep well or have things on my mind, in ten months I have never ever had to endure that terrible experience and that alone is worth any struggle I had to go through in the early stages of my sober journey.
When you’re drinking, if you’re anything like I was, and you can’t imagine a whole Friday night or weekend stretched out before you without alcohol in it – what on earth am I going to do with all that time? Since quitting, I can’t really comprehend what I used to do with all that time, now that my days, evenings and weekends are filled with so much. I do not miss the wasted hours and hours spent on the sofa not moving except to go to the kitchen for refills. I do not miss doing nothing but slowly getting more and more drunk with nothing to show for it except bad telly which I would never remember anyway. I do not miss false ‘me time,’ proper me time is not time wasted retreating into yourself as you drink glass after glass of wine, it is spending time doing something that you love, doing something kind for yourself or blasting away the cobwebs on a solitary run or enjoying a relaxing yoga practice. I do not miss having all my plans and ideas go out of the window as soon as the cork was popped or the can cracked open. Most of all I do not miss wasting time instead of enjoying quality time my kids because although I might have been there in person, I was not actually there in mind, not fully, not really.
Letting my family down
Proper family time is hugely important and I used to do loads of stuff with my kids and husband, summer barbecues, sitting on the patio, trips to the village tapas bars or spending time at the pool. Trouble was, all of these things revolved around drinking – yes, even the pool as our local pool has a bar attached to it. What always started out as a fun family activity would soon be taken over as the amount we had to drink increased. Take, the pool, we would get a bit of swimming in and then move to the bar, once we were there, there we would stay and because I was terrified of the children drowning, I wouldn’t let them back in the water and they would get bored, restless become naughty and we would give up and come home. All the plans we would have at the weekend or on a school holiday would never come to fruition once the wine was flowing or the cans cracked open.
What always started out as a fun family activity would soon be taken over as the amount we had to drink increased.
When I first stopped drinking I always thought I would miss the happy vibe, the holiday spirit but this uplifting, joyous feeling happens naturally anyway simply because you’ve got a free day or weekend, what spoilt it was that family time would quickly become drinking time and my kids, most of all would suffer, be left to their own devices and then get told off for sitting in front of the computer all day. So, if you’re worried that the holidays or the weekends won’t be the same then ask yourself, will I miss breaking my promise to go swimming with the kids because I’m too hungover to move? Will I miss not being able to take my son to sports practice because I had too much wine with lunch? Will I miss all those broken promises I made to myself and my family to actually do something together which is fun, healthy and happy? I think not. Parenting is hard but parenting with alcohol is worse.
Now, this is a huge one. Nobody enjoys wasting money but that is what we do when we drink, worse actually, we piss it away and make ourselves feel awful in the process. I shudder to think about the exact amount of money I wasted but it has to be in the region of about 40,000 Euros over the 15 years we’ve been in Spain! So no I do not miss wasting money on alcohol. Now, I am not suddenly rolling in it since I’ve stopped drinking but I am able to live responsibly and within my means and spend my cash on important things like food and clothes for the kids which we ‘could never afford’ while drinking. People working with me can afford to go on a nice holiday every year or upgrade their car or even get out of debt purely on what they have saved by not drinking alcohol. Even if you spend the money on nice treats for yourself and your family it is a far better way to enjoy your hard earned cash than pouring it down your throat and feeling like shit afterwards!
Lack of energy
This point is a subtle one which you may not realize at first but I most certainly do not miss that lack of energy, that feeling that everything is a struggle, the constant fog and huge effort to do anything. While drinking you just can’t be arsed to get off the sofa and actually get anything done, go anywhere unless it is a party or social gathering. But the real consequence comes the next day.
Even if you are not hungover there is just something missing, like a spark or a lust for life or a drive to achieve. I used to look at my kids and wonder how on earth they had the energy. They’d come in from school and immediately want to play or go out or just do something, it was hard to get them to settle down for any length of time. They would rush from one activity to the next just full of beans and enthusiasm. I, on the other hand often found it a humongous task just to get out of bed and get the kids ready for school.
I would sometimes look at the tasks ahead of me, like making dinner or doing the laundry and would feel this overwhelming sense of pure exhaustion at the mere thought of it. This was not every day but what I did feel everyday was just a general feeling of ‘meh’ what was the point? I’d hear people talking about their ‘super busy schedules’ and be part envious and part thank goodness I don’t do any of that. I would wonder how on earth they could fit it all in and when you are still drinking you can never imagine having such a fulfilled and busy day with the energy to do it all. However, when you stop, something magical happens. It might suddenly hit you or you may find the feeling creep up on you but all of a sudden you are raring to go.
Those are my top ten contenders for what I don’t miss about drinking. There are, of course many more things not to miss such as constant battles in my head, trying to stick to self imposed rules that never work, being a shell of my former self, putting off the little things, embarrassing myself, unexplained injuries, being stuck in a rut and poor sleep. When I look at all of these things, I am actually quite horrified that they all came about because of me, because I chose to drink an attractively packaged poison. The great news is though, that I am free of it all and I couldn’t be happier.
What do you not miss about drinking? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.