A look back on one year without alcohol: 10 things that I’ve learned

A year without alcohol: on April 22, 2017, on my 32nd birthday, I started my sober challenge. Now, one year later, I would like to share 10 things that I’ve learned from not drinking any alcohol for a whole year.

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We all have our struggles when it comes to keeping up a healthy and balanced lifestyle. For me, that struggle is alcohol. I like to drink a glass of red wine at dinner, drink a beer at a festival or a cocktail on a rooftop terrace. And one drink is never just one drink with me. Sounds familiar?

I am not a daily drinker. I am more the ‘regular drinker’ type. But it didn’t feel quite right anymore. The day after was always full of regret because being fit is my first priority.

I also realized that I sometimes ‘abuse’ alcohol. For example: after a shitty day I would pour myself a glass of wine to make me feel better. Of course, this only lasted a little while.

Something has to change, I told myself.

And now, after one sober year, I’d like to share 10 random things that I’ve learned from my one year alcohol-free.

1. I can do without.

And so do you.

Before I started this challenge, I doubted whether or not I could do without alcohol, especially at parties. Now, I do not have a doubt in my mind. Life without alcohol is just as much fun and you can easily live without.

Even though your life will not be less fun it might be different. For me, this meant I went to bed on time more often and skipped on parties that weren’t my cup of tea. And a big plus: nobody asked any awkward questions when I left a party early. Being sober apparently is reason enough.

2. I used to go to parties I didn’t want to go to and drank alcohol to have fun.

Actually, I never went to parties without drinking any alcohol. Not because I needed to drink every single time, but out of habit. And when I was invited to a party and I did not really wanted to go to, I often went (out of guilt) and drank a glass of wine or two just to be able to enjoy my time there.

I learned a lot from this realization. My new rule is: if it is not fun sober, I will not go. Or rather, when I do not like it sober, I will not go. I do not have to please anybody but myself.

I now also know that I need a lot of me-time. You really should not invite me to a party every week. One-on-one dates, however, I love. Especially when there is coffee. Wanna grab a cup?

3. Take a hangover seriously.

What a pleasure it has been to be able to wake up feeling fresh day after day. It has made me realize that hangovers are more serious then I thought. Alcohol has so much negative effect on your body and health and hangovers are no joke. I don’t think I ever thought about what a hangover really is because I was too concerned with how to get rid of it.

Do you take a hangover seriously?

4. I am a morning person.

Yes, I looooove mornings. Really, like a lot. I am that kind of person that goes to bed early just to be able to get up early.

5. It is absurd how much alcohol is consumed and how freely it is available.

On a lot of occasions, I was the only one who did not drink. Of course, it depends on who hang out with, but I think my family and friends are not very different from yours. I did not really care that others were drinking, but I didn’t mind if they didn’t either. I would, however, like to see an effort being put in serving a broader range of alcohol-free drinks.

We have coffee, soft drinks, and smoothies, but what’s next?

I ran into alcohol everywhere. Alcohol is widely available here in Portugal and I even found wine in a pet store. No joke.

6. I am not the only one.

I am not the only one who is worried about alcohol and certainly not the only one who can’t stick to one glass. Just like I can not stick to just one cookie or one hour. I always go for gold.

I would like to thank everyone for the wonderful talks we have had about our relationship with alcohol and the role alcohol plays in our culture. I have enjoyed your openness and all the thought shared. Let’s keep talking.

7. I find it very interesting to talk about alcohol and the role alcohol plays in our lives and society.

For me, someone who has a bachelors degree in Cultural and Social Education and a master in Cultural Science, alcohol, culture & society is an interesting topic. As a nutritionist, I mainly look for the health aspect of things, but culture and society are just as interesting as you ask me, when it comes to alcohol.

8. There are many reasons not to drink, and being pregnant or addicted are just two of them.

If you are pregnant, taking antibiotics or are an addict, it is perceived as normal not to drink. But there are so many more reasons to take the alcohol-free route. Better health, a desire to lose weight, enhancing your athletic performance, etc. etc. There are so many reasons not to drink. And I applaud them all.

Shouldn’t we ask ourselves ‘why do drink’?

9. I am healthier and happier without alcohol.

My experience is that I am a healthier and happier person without alcohol. Without alcohol, I am not only fitter and more focused, I am also more cheerful, more focused and I am 100% sure of my choices. It’s really a gamechanger, being alcohol-free.

10. I can recommend this challenge to everyone.

A lot of people told me: I’ve stopped drink for a month or during my pregnancy and I had zero problems with it. I think it’s in our nature to protect our unborn baby’s. Putting his or her health at risk seems an unnatural thing to do. Therefore, not drinking during your pregnancy is a no-brainer. Plus, no one in their right mind would offer a glass of wine to a pregnant lady.

Please, tell me if I’m wrong. Did you find it difficult not to drink during your pregnancy?

And yes, I am also one of those people that could easily go without alcohol for one month. Or for two or three. But a whole year? That’s a whole another story. I found it difficult. Certainly not every day, but I sure had my moments. Every day I had to stick to my intention. I was doing it for me. It was my challenge, for me, by me. And if I decided to drink, I wouldn’t hurt anyone but myself.

And that is why I recommend you to do this challenge. For you, by you.