Have you ever woken up regretting that “one last drink”, yet then hit replay on the same old story the next weekend? Because I did. Before you roll your eyes and go “Oh, another preachy ‘I quit drinking’ article,” hold your horses. Today, it’s less about pontificating and more about sharing some intriguing insights (and a few fun anecdotes) that may change the way you think about that cheeky cocktail.
In December of 2022 I realised that at that point in life, any benefits I get from drinking alcohol are largely outweighed by its costs. I was never a heavy drinker, but I would hardly ever say “no” to a drink occasion: outing with friends, any celebration, family dinner, booze cruise or any other. Alcohol just seemed an indispensable ingredient of such occasions. Until, having observed a couple of my friends quit completely and still happily tag along, I realised that it is not. Eventually, I decided that starting from 2023 I want to see how that works. Long story short: it exceeded all expectations.
Let’s dive into the reasons.
1. The Sneaky Brain Bender
Last year I tuned into the Huberman podcast, where the episode on alcohol dug deep into how alcohol affects our brains. We all know the short-term side effects — slurred speech, blurred vision, impaired judgement. But what if I told you that any amount of alcohol has lasting impacts on the brain, including its plasticity? By reducing the brain’s ability to adapt and learn, regular drinking can destroy our brain cells for life. I cherish my brainy bits and want them functioning at top-notch. So, for the love of neurons, no more alcohol for this brain!
2. The Productivity and Sleep Bandit
Remember the last time you had a hangover? That groggy, lethargic feeling the morning after, cursing the very drink that seemed so delightful the night before. Importantly, as Huberman says the effects last for more than a month. In turn, only by quitting for at least a month you can see how your brain functions without this alcohol-induced distortion. And there’s an additional kicker: alcohol significantly disrupts our sleep patterns, making deep REM sleep elusive. And we all know how pivotal sleep is to productivity. I’ve realized that without the nightly poison, I wake up with a clearer head, ready to seize the day and its opportunities. Data from Whoop, my beloved wearable which I have been using also before I quit drinking, has only confirmed that for me—it showed alcohol has -18% (negative) effect on my Recovery score. Even at one innocent glass of wine.
3. Mood Swings and Mental Gymnastics
You’d be amazed how much drinking plays with your mental well-being. Alcohol can amplify feelings of anxiety and depression and play with our emotional stability. When I quit drinking, it felt like removing a pair of tinted glasses I didn’t know I was wearing. The world became clearer, my emotions more authentic. I also stopped overthinking and regretting countless small stupid things I might have or have not said to someone — not just while having drinks, but also in daily life. Alcohol just messed with my brain, amplifying my anxiety. I have also stopped having unexpected panic attacks and I have not experienced anxiety in a couple of months. This is the record streak of time in my life without this affliction, and this benefit is the largest benefit of quitting drinking for me.
4. The Relationship Rumbler
Ah, this one’s close to the heart. Alcohol, at times, can distort the lens through which we view our relationships. It might be the reason you’re laughing a little too loud at a bad joke or arguing over the silliest things. It might also be the coping mechanism, helping you survive in relationships that you should have left long ago.
Alcohol can also mask genuine connections and sentiments. By removing alcohol, I’ve found my relationships have deepened, becoming more genuine and unfiltered. Dating without alcohol — 10x better, I kid you not, because you talk about real stuff rather than laughing at semi-funny anecdotes. It is much easier to be authentic and vulnerable when you know that you are so because you truly want to share a story with a person, and not because you are just oversharing because your tipsy brain is telling you to entertain yourself.
5. The Subtle Body Wrecker
While many extol the “benefits” of an occasional glass of wine for the heart, there’s a darker side to the narrative. Research indicates that even moderate drinking can lead to irregular heart rhythms and other cardiovascular issues. Additionally, alcohol has a considerable negative impact on Heart Rate Variability (HRV), a key marker of stress and body recovery. And data shows that no safe amount of alchol existis; even one unit hurts.
I am continually surprised when I see my friends or flatmates feel very bad after a night of drinking, but then do it again the same night, etc. Then I remember that I also used to behave this way. The key thing is that you only start seeing how great the life without alcohol is once you stop for good — it may be for a period of a month, not for life, yet for good. Just drinking less (amount) or less frequently won’t give you the insight, because you won’t get the full brain cleanse and the mental health benefits.
6. Penny Pincher’s Delight: The Financial Facet
Okay, let’s talk numbers. On average, suppose you spend $30 every weekend on a night out (4 drinks in a bar in Western Europe; I am not even counting the food, the taxis etc). That’s $120 a month, which totals a whopping $1,440 a year.
And that’s a conservative estimate. Add occasional celebrations, birthdays, holidays, or just random mid-week drink sessions, and we could be looking at savings of around $2,000 or more annually. That’s a decent vacation or a sizeable addition to a savings account. Money in the bank instead of destroying my physical and mental health? Sounds like a win.
To sum it up… So, will I miss the occasional wine or the fun cocktails on a night out? Maybe. But when I weigh it against the clarity, productivity, improved mental health, enriched relationships, a healthier body, and a more robust bank balance — it’s a no-brainer (pun intended). Remember, the aim is not to preach but to provide some food for thought. Each one of us has our journey and choices. Whatever yours might be, cheers to making informed decisions. Here’s to raising a toast to authentic experiences — with a mocktail, a soda or a glass of wine…it is your life, after all! 🥂