Rachel Brady: three things they don't tell you about taking time off drinking

Rachel | November 2020 | 9 minutes

In this blog, Rachel Brady tells us three of her favourite things about not drinking.

2020 was a tough year, and many of us have found ourselves drinking more than normal. One in four of us who drink alcohol want to cut down in 2021. That's where Dry January® comes in: it's your chance for a total reset. In this blog, Rachel shares three of her favourite, and most unexpected, things about stopping drinking.

If you told me a few years ago that I would be able to enjoy parties, establish friendships, and have an overall better quality of life without alcohol, my first reaction would probably be nervous laughter.

The truth of the matter is, however, that I now couldn’t imagine my life WITH alcohol.

My story is, shockingly, not that unique, which surprised me when I first considered going alcohol-free for a period. I had started my binge drinking career in college and saw it as a form of social currency. The more parties I attended, the more people I impressed, the more I felt loved and accepted. However, red flags started to pop up: I would start hiding how much I drank, black out regularly even after attempting moderation, lie about whether I’d been drinking, and use it as an unhealthy coping mechanism for the hardship and trauma I had faced throughout my school years. Although it took multiple Day 1s, harsh wake up calls, and getting up after falling down, I recently celebrated 18 months of continuous sobriety.

So if you’ve found that one or more aspects of your life are suffering at the hands of your alcohol consumption, I’d encourage you to try going alcohol free for a period of time to see how it could potentially benefit you.

Throughout the years, I’ve experienced some pleasant surprises about not drinking:

1. You reclaim your weekends

This was one of my biggest hesitations when I first considered becoming sober - where would my social life go? Would my friends still like me? Would I even be fun anymore? The fact of the matter is, your definition of fun may change, and that’s ok. When you start to wake up hangover free, be able to drive yourself back from parties, and save money from bar hopping, you may discover some new hobbies or pastimes that are truer to your interests. Heck, you may even discover that you don’t really enjoy going out every night! Once you become more in tune with what you truly like and don’t like, your weekends may shift to better serve you.

2. You don't need to rely on what others think of you

“But what will people think?” That is one of the most common questions I’ve heard when talking to others about going booze-free for a while. Here’s the truth: You’ll never know what people truly think of you, and if you spend all your energy trying to figure it out, you’ll always be dependent on their opinion and validation. Some people may support your decision, others may find it uncomfortable. I can’t speak for anyone besides myself, but when I was insecure about my drinking, I found myself being highly judgemental of those who chose not to drink. People tend to view the world as a reflection of their insecurities, and if they see you making a decision that they personally are not comfortable with, that’s on them. At the end of the day, if choosing to quit drinking for a while is going to bring you peace, freedom, or whatever else it is that you’re seeking, that’s what matters.

3. You'll feel everything - and you'll survive

This is honestly the most ‘mixed bag’ when it comes to going dry. For many of us, consciously or unconsciously, alcohol can become a substitute for dealing with tough emotions. Whether that’s stress, grief, anger, or whatever else, it can sometimes be difficult to discern wanting to drink recreationally versus wanting to drink to numb emotions. When you take alcohol out of the mix, you may notice that your emotions are more heightened than usual. To be perfectly honest, this initially scared me. However, it taught me something that at the time seemed radical: feelings would come and go, and I’d survive them. In fact, I’d be able to process and move through emotions more smoothly because I wouldn’t be drinking. After all, alcohol doesn’t cure the sadness, it merely postpones and potentially heightens it.

These are the three most pertinent realisations I’ve had throughout my recovery journey, and the joyous thing about sobriety is that you’re constantly learning. Some may see quitting drinking as a punishment, but it is in fact one of the most powerful acts of self-love. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Rachel Brady is co-founder of 1,000 Hours Dry on Instagram. Follow her personal Instagram on @shotstoshakes.

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