Here's the thing: quitting alcohol is not hard. Unless you're dealing with a serious illness (read: alcoholism), it's actually very, very easy. If you say it's hard, you're in for a reality check, sister. You're not giving up food, you're not short on medication, you're not fighting an illness . . . you're just not drinking. I say this from experience, because it was one of the easiest things I've ever done.
It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to you that I'm a fitness editor, and I don't really drink. I didn't have any alcohol during Lent (about six weeks), I can't remember the last time I was drunk, and I have no idea where the local bar is in my neighborhood. Do I abstain from alcohol completely? Nah! I've come to learn recently that Pinot Noir is pretty nice, I make a boozy Disaronno and Bailey's cocoa around Christmastime, and when I'm on vacation in Maui I'll definitely have a piña colada (though honestly I still prefer the virgin variety). And yeah, if I'm going away on a girls' trip for a weekend, I'll definitely have some Rosé or fruity cocktails and let loose. Booze is just not part of my regular routine anymore, and I'm better for it.
What might surprise you, however, is that this lifestyle is starkly different from what my life was about two years ago. VERY stark. Let's rewind a little.
I used to drink. A lot.
My first drink of alcohol was at the age of 15 (I'm so sorry, Mom and Dad, I know you're reading this). I'd consider my high school self to be pretty straight-laced and goodie-two-shoes (I somehow never got into trouble), but I also went to parties, played beer pong, took shots, and made questionable decisions. But I came out OK! My grades were great, and that landed me at a pretty awesome college . . . that was also a trainwreck of debauchery bit of a party school.
"Quitting alcohol was one of the most natural things I've ever done, and my quality of life hasn't suffered at all."
Things went to the next level once I was in college, and especially after I joined a sorority. I fortunately have no real horror stories, but the drinking continued and was frequent. I somehow had the metabolism of a hummingbird, so the five-to-seven-nights-a-week drinking schedule coupled with drunken Domino's and Del Taco excursions and a complete and total lack of exercise (I had never heard the term "burpee" in my life) didn't really affect my body. I had a blast. Despite pouring liquid poison into my veins en masse every night and doing the literal opposite of what you're supposed to do for health and wellness, I was thriving.
I entered the real world, and worked for a company that perhaps had a little too much fun, and dated someone who perhaps enjoyed bottomless mimosas more than most people . . . so although I wasn't necessarily as wild as I was in college, the drinking continued to be constant. Margaritas flowed every Taco Tuesday, cocktails were knocked back every Friday night, bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys were toasted at every brunch . . . if we were out, and the day of the week ended in a "Y," we were ordering drinks. At a concert? Probably tipsy. Going to the beach? Sneaking beers. If we were at someone's house, we were buzzed. It was my normal.
Now I don't. Mostly.
When I left my job and that relationship ended, I was in a weird (read: bad) place. And for whatever reason, my first plan of action - instinctively - was to quit all booze. Cold turkey. I figured since it was a depressant, it would only make me more depressed. This decision was made about two years ago, and I haven't looked back.
Quitting alcohol was one of the most natural things I've ever done, and my quality of life hasn't suffered at all. In fact, it totally improved. Pounds that I never knew I needed to lose just melted off. My face was brighter. My skin was clearer. My mood was happier. I had more energy. I just felt . . . better.
I also saved a sh*t ton of money, found a love for fitness (JK, bye, money), and started the snowball effect of a series of healthier life choices. You know that saying, "One good action begets another?" It's so real.
And I've never felt like I'm missing anything, because I give myself flexibility to drink - but only when I really feel like it. Are you drinking because everyone else is? Because it seems socially acceptable - or rather, because it seems unacceptable to not? Are you afraid of judgment if you don't drink? Are you drinking out of habit, or because you actually enjoy shots of vodka? Honestly not judging at all, just urging you to consider your "why."
In my case, I realized that not only did I loathe the actual taste of alcohol (I recognized that when I drank, it was superfruity or masking the taste as much as possible), but I also hated how I felt after I had too much. Some people love the taste of a fine tequila - I literally gag if I smell it.
That said, sometimes a nice glass of wine with a great meal or a lovely craft cocktail with high-quality ingredients at a seaside restaurant at sunset is what I'm in the mood for - and sometimes I just want an iced tea. This ultimately became a practice in listening to my body and being more respectful to what I need vs. what our culture tells me that I need.
It's not as scary as it seems.
My friends from college ask me all the time how I do it: isn't it awkward? Do people make you feel bad? I'd be lying if I said there weren't awkward moments. I clearly remember the time someone said, "So . . . you don't drink?? What . . . do you do?" as if I told them I don't breathe oxygen. I still laugh about it (for reference, my response: "Oh, I don't know, I guess nothing!").
Alcohol has become so ingrained in our culture that the thought of nearly eradicating it from your life can be daunting if not outright terrifying for some people. Will you lose out on friends? Experiences? Fun? I mean . . . I haven't! One friend of mine expressed her fears about being awkward on dates, or being peer pressured at parties. I have a few thoughts on this.
"This ultimately became a practice in listening to my body and being more respectful to what I need vs. what our culture tells me that I need."
One: as mentioned, this isn't a lifestyle of complete abstinence, so if you're on a first date and need a glass of wine, order that wine, girl! Two: the mocktail movement is huge right now - you are not alone in reading this story, in thinking about the possibilities, and even in making a change to your lifestyle. Three: you'll really tap into and hone in on your self-confidence and social skills during this phase of your life. And four: arm yourself with sparkling water with a lime. No one can tell the difference.
Do you need to quit alcohol? That's absolutely not my place to say. My guess is that if you clicked on this article, you're at least interested in the idea of it. So give it a shot. It's important to note that if you're struggling with feelings of addiction or feel like you really can't stop drinking, that this is not my area of expertise, and you should definitely seek help in other forms. My advice is geared toward anyone who is drinking recreationally and toying with the idea of changing their lifestyle.
If that's you, then this is your moment. And the best part of this method is that you have flexibility - it's not like you're giving it up forever (unless you want to!). If you have a drink, no one is going to yell at you, no one is going to punish you, and it's not like you're going to spiral (again, this is assuming you're not dealing with addiction). You can go through phases when you drink more and phases when you drink less. Ease into it. Give yourself grace. Listen to your body. The effects for me, my body, my mood, and my lifestyle were incredible, and the pros of not drinking significantly outweighed the cons. What do your pros and cons look like?