Alcohol is a very big part of our lives. It is everywhere you look. Whether you are eating out at a fancy restaurant or out shopping for groceries, you are bound to be met with a variety of liquor to choose from. Drinking is part of almost every social event, every interaction. You could almost say that drinking is part of our culture.
The consumption of alcohol has become an integral part of our interaction with others, and believe it or not, the interaction we have with ourselves too.
After some deliberation a while back, I decided to stop drinking and not for any particular reason at all.
I did not give myself a time frame; I could pick up a beer tomorrow or I could never drink again, who knows?
After some time of remaining sober, I started taking note of the magnitude of the effect it had on my life. I have made valuable observations and have learned some important things since switching to sobriety.
I realised that when I am sober and everyone or most people around me are drunk, the general social skills decline.
I used to think that having a drink or two would loosen me up to conversation and make me more likeable and I will therefore build relationships with people.
Then I realised that I do not remember most of the conversations I had with people while we were all drinking and that telling a simple story became a hefty task thanks to the loss of focus and memory lapses.
Due to alcohols ability to lower inhibitions, I now understand how vulnerable I made myself in many situations. Just by having a couple of drinks, I was no longer in tune with body language and my ability to filter out unwanted interactions became non-existent.
Unless you are earning loads of money and are not bothered by how much you spend on anything, then you are bound to see a generous serving of your salary disappear with each sip you take.
I was averaging two nights of social drinking per week where I would have at least two to three drinks per occasion.
When I started calculating what the total was per month, I received a very loud wake up call.
I could have been saving all that money. I could have gone on an overseas trip or two.
Alcohol is so expensive and I learned that there are far more valuable things to be spending my hard-earned money on.
Identifying emotions and learning how to deal with them became easier to do Alcohol was acting like a barrier between me and my emotions.
I learned that it greatly reduced my ability to properly identify what I was feeling and then to find constructive ways of dealing with that emotion.
Dealing with raw emotions has never been an easy task and never will be. However, it is a valuable tool in life which facilitated my personal growth and understanding of who I am.
Alcohol began hindering me from truly experiencing joyous moments; while sitting around a fire under a starry sky, I would be chasing a bottle of red wine instead of appreciating that moment which is so rare for a city dweller like myself.
I have found that many are uncomfortable drinking around someone who does not drink. Maybe it triggers something on a subconscious level for them.
They also assume that there must be something wrong and if not then it must be for one very specific reason.
No, I am not pregnant. No, I do not suffer from alcoholism. No, it’s not because I have been diagnosed with a chronic condition.
I chose to stop drinking because I started to see how the quality of my everyday life increased when I was sober for more than just a week or two.
After I discovered how great I felt in so many ways since choosing to stop drinking, I tried doing the noble thing by encouraging my fellow drinkers to do the same.
Much to my disappointment, I quickly learned that people who are regular drinkers enjoy drinking and are not going to join me on my quest just because I thought it was a cool idea.
At the same time, many of us are aware of the possible benefits, the same way we are aware of the benefits of eating well and exercising regularly… but do we, do it?
Most people, myself included, have been brought up around alcohol. It has for the most part been a very active part of our lives and therefore it is rarely deemed as “bad”.
I think it’s safe to say that almost every social interaction is based upon alcohol consumption.
I personally fear that all of this increases the risk alcohol addiction and further substance abuse in our society.
We are only given so much time in this life and I cannot see the value in spending a vast amount of it on drinking alcohol.
Once I stopped drinking, I learned that time spent drinking with people was not time spent truly connecting with people as I so often tried to tell myself.
I started thinking of my time as currency and slowly realised who was worth investing in and quickly learned who was not willing to invest in me.
Had I still been drinking, whether or not my mates were truly invested in me would not be a factor.
Apart from that, many hours were spent recovering from all the drinking. I now see it as all those hours spent recovering are hours wasted which I will never get back.
And amazing ones too!
I discovered many different alternatives to alcohol. It will greatly depend on where I go but essentially, I do not go to pubs or clubs anymore so these options are generally abundant.
I am now a lover of different teas, virgin cocktails, freshly ground coffee and even non-alcoholic beer.
The taste sensations that I have experienced are unmatched and to go with that I maintain full cognitive ability even after 3 or 4 rounds.
I found that many people I used to socialise with on a regular basis quickly disappeared once I stopped drinking.
These are the people that are not interested in you or your company unless you are getting as wasted as they are.
These are the people that do not want to watch you grow or reach for your dreams but would rather hold you down with them.
These are the people I decided I did not want in my life. True friends will stick around no matter what you choose to do and will support you in any choice you make, especially if its choosing a better life for yourself.
If I was still drinking, I would still be hanging out with people who pretend to care about me but genuinely don’t.
When I stopped drinking I realised that if I do something that is embarrassing I will not have the excuse of “oops! Oh well, I was drunk.”
I also started hearing people say it a lot more. Alcohol is used to excuse yourself, to excuse others and to be excused by others; “oh don’t worry about it, you were drunk!”
After sobering up I learned that not only am I now solely responsible for all of my actions, but also the actions that required an excuse became a thing of the past.
I forgot that there are actual consequences to my actions and I forgot that manning up to those consequences is important.
I now know that if I fail at something, or if I don’t achieve what I set out to achieve that it will be because of a choice that I made in a sober state of mind. I no longer run the risk of saying “it was because of alcohol.”
Since I stopped drinking I have regained my energy levels and my general zest for life.
I am mentally alert and able to respond to challenges, I feel motivated and I sleep better.
When I was still drinking, it would take me a couple of days after a weekend of drinking to completely recover, if at all.
This took a toll on my daily life and ability to function optimally. I like functioning optimally and I like the way I feel when I can wake up in the morning and get my day started with a fresh mind.
There is a fine line between social drinking and developing a drinking problem.
If you or someone you know needs help with stopping alcohol, Step Away is a rehabilitation centre in Port Elizabeth, South Africa that is fully equipped to provide the necessary support you need to work through the alcoholism recovery process.
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