Drinking was fun. Really fun. I picked up that glass and suddenly I was fun, funny, beautiful, witty, charming, and able to target and capture any guy I set my sights on. It was fun for me - until it wasn't.
No, I didn't get stopped for drunk driving - although I did drive when I shouldn't have sometimes. No, I didn't get arrest for public intoxication - although I'm pretty sure my girlfriends and I got pretty loud.
The party just turned into a theme park rollercoaster. I didn't feel fun, unless I was at the bar. I wasn't funny, unless I had a cocktail. When I did, I was in it to win it, to get wasted. This turned into what some people so affectionately call "white girl wasted." Kissing other people's significant whatevers, crying, getting REALLY opinionated, and the puke, so much puke. Something had to change. I decided I needed to slow my roll.
What I didn't expect was the benefits of doing that.
You don't have to stop drinking competely to get these benefits. Cutting back to three drinks a week also produces some pretty great results.
Benefit #1: No hangovers.
Let's face it. Hangovers suck. Headaches, a mouth that feels like my dog had its tail in my mouth all night, stank breath, dizziness, and not wanting to go to school, work, to a friend's house, or all of the above because of it, all of that is gone. I wake up in the morning and I don't want to ask someone to please turn off the sun. I can live my life without that pain. It's pretty super.
Benefit #2: Weight loss.
In 30 days of not drinking, I lost 12 pounds. Little did I know how many calories I was packing on. I didn't eliminate anything else, just the alcohol. In fact, I started having ice cream again and STILL lost that weight. Hmmm... Jack Daniels or Ben and Jerry. Give me some New York Super Fudge Chunk, please. Dancing also burns serious calories. So, while I still go dancing, I am not piling calories on while I am burning them. It's a girls' night work out!
Benefit #3: Life gets more fun.
My entire social life had a +1 and it was alcohol. My nights ended earlier. I did less physical activity. Sitting around and drinking and goofing off was the evening. Now, I belly dance, do yoga, meditate, tube the river, hike, create art, the list is long of the things I do now that I didn't do when all I did was add drinking to the mix. I still sing karaoke. I still dance at the club. But I do other things too. I had no idea that I was limiting my experience!
Benefit #4: Better sleep.
Oh, I slept when I was going out to the bar - and I would wake up tired. Even if I wasn't hung over, there was this thin little fog over everything. I would wake up during the night. Or, I wouldn't go to sleep on the weekends. I would pass out and come to. I never drank in the morning unless it was a mimosa or bloody mary at the occasional brunch. I didn't wake up cravng even when I did drink. But now I have a better quality of sleep. I look relaxed and rested.
Benefit #5: Clear, beautiful skin.
Alcohol dehydrates. Unless I was drinking well over half my body weight in water a day, I could count on my rosacea flaring up. There wasn't enough moisturizer to help my dry skin. I also started looking older and while this was nice when I was 21, it wasn't so nice when people started guessing me in my mid-30s at 27. Now I'm guessed younger than my age and I love it!
Benefit #6: Quick wittedness and sharp thinking.
I have had some great conversations without the aid of alcohol. Brain farts happen much less often. You know, those times when you are on a roll and then suddenly forget what you were talking about. Studying is easier. Retaining information is easier. And it's easier to keep up with others too. That leads to the next benefit.
Benefit #7: Better boyfriends.
When I stopped drinking like I did, the quality of guys I attracted got better. These guys had jobs, goals, and didn't define a good night out as dragging me along to get wasted with the boys. I had sober sex (which was great because I had better motor control). The conversations got deeper, more interesting, and suddenly I had what I wanted - a real, mature, possibly long term, relationship. Ultimately, I feel I attracted better because I became a better person too.
Benefit #8: Being reliable.
Because of all of the above, I started doing what I said I was going to do. Before, morning commitments were hard to keep. I kept them most of the time, because I didn't want to be a flake. But I was tired, I felt like crap, and I ended up resenting saying yes to whatever it was I had to do. I also didn't have any buzzed promises to fulfill. "Oh yeah, I will help you move!" Or, drunk bets to pay.
Benefit #9: More money.
Do some math. How much money do you spend a week on drinks? Add it up. Now, what could you do with that money if you saved it up or spent it on something else? I was stunned how much money I had in my checking account after 30 days of not drinking. I wasn't drinking and I wasn't buying my girlfriends rounds either. It added up to switching my makeup to MAC and Krylon and paying off my credit cards.
Benefit #10: Better friends.
When I stopped going to the club or bar every weekend, the friends who just wanted to do that went away. Little did I realize these were also the couples that fought all the time, the guys who pretended to listen in hopes of getting in my pants, and people who considered me to be the best sounding board for their problems. The ones who stuck around are fun. I may have met them in the bar, but its not their only source of entertainment. Better friends = ladies I want to have my back and I have theirs, which goes back to benefit #8 - reliable.
Benefit #11: Developing real courage.
I feel things. Sadness, fear, all the stuff that protects me but doesn't feel so good. But instead of having a drink and getting over it, I don't have a drink and I actually work through it. All the patterns are becoming clearer to me and instead of being doomed to relive my past relationships, I can develop real courage to love and be loved. I can face anything without a drink and, truthfully, I kind of like that.
Benefit #12: Making a difference.
Best of all, I have put the time I spent going out to good use. I joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and I have a Little I see every week. When I was drinking, I was all about me. Now I can help my friends get home safely and never have to worry about how I am getting home. I am also making a difference in my own life, by setting and accomplishing goals.