Last week I told of my personal travails and discoveries during this month of booze-fasting, and while reactions were highly mixed and mostly positive, a number of people have noted that my friends are terrible and unsupportive, and that I should probably try to get outdoors more. One particular rebuttal, or rather an alternate take on the alcohol-abstinence experience, came in from writer Alexander Hill, who says his relationship to alcohol is probably a little different, and his experience has therefore been more positive and eye-opening. Below, I present his version of similar events.
I found the article “What I’ve learned from Sober January (So Far)” to be almost a complete opposite account of my own experience. I felt it was my duty, both for myself and many readers, to respond with an alternative, contradictory version. There is clearly an angle the author decided to take to make light of Sober January and cast it off as nothing more than something to check off his list and get back to drinking again.
The problem however, is that for many people who have different relationships with alcohol, including myself, Sober January has been an extremely eye opening, reflective, and life-changing experience. I hope this blog and its many readers would be interested in the other side of the story. One individual’s casual, subjective opinion on what is actually a very important, sensitive and often misunderstood subject only tells part of the story.
I am also doing Sober January for the first time, and as somebody who has struggled with trying to get away from the constant binge drinking and partying that I have known since high school, it has so far been an extremely clarifying, rewarding and positive experience.
I will use the same points the author made, just offering completely different answers.
Yes, I do feel more clear-headed, and mornings are nicer.
After not drinking for three weeks, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such consistent clarity in my life. Alcohol affects everybody differently. Some people aren’t bothered by the fog, depression or negative thoughts that alcohol can create. Or maybe like I was for years, they’re just not aware of the flip side, the sober side. I however have long realized that alcohol has an extremely negative effect on my psyche and well being and have recently really tried to take action. Not drinking for the last three weeks has allowed me to really confirm that this is indeed the case. I’m not ready to give up drinking completely, but I plan to do many more extended periods of no alcohol. As I realize more and more every year how fast time flies, I’m going to try to take advantage of these moments of clarity and extend them as best I can.
Not drinking is just... sort of boring.
Not drinking frees up so much time to do other things its like I’ve created an entire new life of possibilities. Yes, in a life of not going out to bars, not partying or not spending time sleeping off hangovers, you create so much new time for yourself that occasionally you’re left trying to figure out what to do with yourself. But with this new clarity and energy, I have found this extra free time extremely rewarding. Likewise, instead of depression-laden hangover thoughts haunting me for days after a big night of drinking, I find a positive and creative psyche to be the norm which is way more exciting than boring.
Friends will not be helpful.
Friends may not be helpful, but true friends will be your best resource and support system in trying to give up alcohol or trying to give up anything you have struggled with. Yes the ‘friends’ you go out with or the friends you meet at the bar may feel threatened by you not drinking and will try to relentlessly pressure you into drinking with them. But true friends, ones that know you are trying to work on something for yourself, and trying to introduce some discipline in your life will be supportive and understanding. I suggest surrounding yourself with those kinds of people.
Bars, and the people in them, are much less fun.
This is true. But in the few times I’ve been in bars recently while not drinking, I actually use this time to practice my discipline and patience. Judging anybody (like an asshole) is literally the last thing in the world I’m doing when I’m sober in a bar. Considering how much I’ve drank in college and beyond, I’m simply in no position to judge other drinkers.
I do get more stuff done.
Maybe in High School or College being productive made you a dork, but these days I’m trying to be as productive as possible and not drinking has allowed me to get things done faster and more efficiently. I’m doing things I’ve wanted to do more of for years but simply wasn’t doing when drinking. Just to name a few, I’ve found more time and energy for writing, reading, exercising and seeing people I haven’t seen in a while. I’m also getting much more and better quality sleep which is something I’ve apparently been missing out on for years.
My moods are more steady, but also more dull.
I couldn’t possibly disagree more with the second part of this statement. My moods are indeed more steady but I find that I’ve been on a bit of a high these last few weeks. In times when I’d binge drink on the weekends, I would remain slightly hung-over and a bit mentally down for several days. Then I’d usually start to feel more energized and clear headed around Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. Then I’d start drinking again and I’d bury that clarity and mental energy with alcohol, and those feelings of clarity usually wouldn’t reappear again until Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. And so lives that vicious cycle that I was stuck in for over 15 years. Sober life has without question made my moods brighter, and more positive. The dull, depressed and anxious moods haven’t reared their ugly heads since December.
It makes one spend a good deal of time rationalizing one's alcohol intake.
This is true. Naturally. Not drinking for a short or extended period of time really makes you realize just how much you drink. When I really think about how much alcohol I’ve drank over the years, how much money that has cost me and how bad it is for my mind, body and spirit, (and bank account) it motivates me to do less of it.
I crave dessert a whole lot more.
This is maybe the one point where I whole-heartedly agree with the original author. No alcohol, no drinking at night, and no hangovers creates a bit of a void, and many times ice cream, cake, and chocolate croissants have been the answer. This subject alone probably requires a whole separate article titled “How Quitting Drinking Caused My Sugar Addiction.”
I will, maybe, train myself to savor my drinks more.
Myself and many others who may have a different relationship with alcohol than the author have really had what could be a life-changing experience this January. In the future I will not only savor my alcoholic drinks more and drink them more slowly, I will have less of them.
And I think its important to understand that just because somebody hasn’t decided to label themselves an alcoholic, it's still quite possible that they struggle with its effect and struggle giving it up more than people may realize. There is a large, undefined middle area of personal alcohol consumption that runs from completely sober people to alcoholics. Some people are closer to the sober side, some closer to the alcoholic side. If Sober January, or sober anything helps some of these folks see and feel the benefits of not drinking, and create a more energized and positive life for themselves, then we should all encourage them.
Alex Hill is a freelance writer living in San Francisco who earlier this month had an article published in the Orlando Sentinel about Baseball in Cuba. Alex recently spent over half of last year traveling in South America and is currently back in San Francisco.