👋🏽 Hi, my name is Kerri Mac. Some of you may know me, but I’m betting that most of you don’t. I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog, my very first blog.
How did I end up here, writing a blog for Recovery Elevator? Well, I like to think of it as though I graduated. Two years ago I started writing the show notes for the podcast. And now, here I am…writing blogs. I have been a member of Café RE for over 2.5 years and that has changed my life. But that’s enough about me, for now. 😉
I want to talk about the benefits of quitting drinking. And not the obvious ones, like the health benefits or the money and calories saved. No, I want to go a little deeper, and more niche…and I want to make a list…because who doesn’t like a list?
Let’s call our list, The Top 10 Benefits of Quitting Drinking. Catchy, right?!
Here we go…
1 – Your authentic self will begin to emerge. I say begin, because this isn’t a one and done thing, and it takes time. That’s what recovery is, recovering the person you were meant to be and giving the inner child permission to come out and play again. This authentic self fully recognizes that the mind makes life out to be way more serious than it actually is. In fact, don’t forget Rule 22, lighten up and never take yourself too seriously. When you ditch the booze there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself rolling sideways down grassy hills.
2 – You’ll have the chance, the opportunity, to find out why you’re using alcohol to dull that internal discomfort. We’re talking about getting at the roots of this discomfort. No quick fixes or fads, but doing some serious soul work where we make that long journey from living in the head to the heart. This one isn’t so much a benefit, but a life mission and why we’re here.
3 – You’ll begin to find out who you aren’t. Ahhh, you thought I was going to say find out who you are, didn’t you? Nope. And in terms of finding out who you are, I encourage you to rid yourself of this lifelong pursuit because when we quit drinking, the opposite happens. We find out who we are by a series of finding out who we aren’t. Do you dig? Does that make sense? The “who we are” will organically be uncovered by a sequence of revelations of who we aren’t. For example, I’m not a girl who likes to stay up until 2 am and sleep in late, quiet early mornings are my favorite. It’s more common, than not, to find me awake at 4:00 AM…journaling or meditating. You’ll learn you’re a strong person, deeply rooted in this world, who doesn’t need an external substance to feel good internally. Those days will be gone. Hasta la vista, baby! ✌🏽
4 – You’re open to signs from the universe. Whether you believe they are coming from God, Allah, galaxies, the willow tree in your front yard, or your neighbor Tim, you won’t miss them because you’re drunk or hungover the next day. Hooray! 🤸🏽♀️🤸🏽♀️
5- You can see the insanity of the mind. The Hindus called the natural dysfunction of the mind Dukkha, Buddhists call it maya and Christians call it original sin. You’ll also be able to take a step back, become the observer of the mind, and recognize this insanity. Here is what you’ll be able to see. Studies also show that of the 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts we have a day, 90% of them are equal or the same as the day before. 💭
- It’s these repetitive thoughts that always drive you to make the same decisions.
- It’s these familiar decisions that always lead to the same actions.
- It’s these familiar actions that always result in the same outcomes
- It’s these same outcomes that constantly result in the same emotions
- And these familiar emotions give you those familiar feelings.
- And it’s these feelings that always lead to the same thoughts – thereby completing the cycle. You can now recognize this and will be empowered to change your thinking.
6- Your brain will start to produce regular amounts of Melatonin again. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and simply lets your body know that it is night-time so you can relax and fall asleep. There’s an important word in there. It helps us RELAX when our outer environment says it’s time to relax. Studies show that regular alcohol intake drastically reduces the amount of natural melatonin the body produces which, as you can imagine, does a number on your sleep! 💤
7 – Welcome back Oxytocin, or the connection molecule. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm. It may also have benefits as a treatment for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety and intestinal problems. This is the molecule that allows us to build altruistic relationships with other human beings. When oxytocin is present in the body, we are living more in the heart area and less in the thinking mind. Studies show that pregnant women who have higher levels of oxytocin bond more strongly with their babies after they are born according to a 2007 study in the journal Psychological Science.
8 – You’re part of something MUCH bigger. We all want to feel like we’re contributing to something, that we are adding to a project or goal and making this world a better place. People are ditching the booze more than ever these days and this global movement takes warriors like you. The bigger picture is that we are no longer looking externally for inner comfort. That’s really what is taking place, and you’re a big part of raising the consciousness on the planet. In fact, when we struggle with addiction we think we are in the back of the line in terms of success and achievement, but in reality, we are the ones who are forced to look within and make HUGE life changes. We are paving the way for others.
9 – You stop hoping. Yep, hope is the problem. When we are hoping for something to change, be it our inner emotional state, the weather, or whatever…then we stop denying what is. This incessant hoping for something to be different drives addiction and is doing a number on humanity. The Buddha noticed this 2500 years ago in Lumbini, now modern day Nepal, when he links all human suffering to craving or hoping for something to be different. That guy was so far ahead of his time.
10 – You’ve got a chance to work on the one big lesson you signed up for in this lifetime. There’s a theory that you’re supposed to work on one major issue in this lifetime. Mine is connection. For others this can be letting things go, loving yourself, standing up for yourself, showing unconditional love to others, forgiveness, self-sabotage, facing fear, patience, shame, regret, and the list goes on. When our veins are flowing with alcohol, there’s no chance we’ll build the internal circuits around these issues. And there’s another theory, that if we don’t get to it in this lifetime, then well, you’ll start again next life. So why not get started now and start tackling the number one thing that is holding us back.
These types of lists are hard. It could easily be the top 100 benefits of sobriety. I challenge you to create your own list and then another one when you hit another milestone. Go back and see how they have changed. The first time I did a list like this, most of mine were external, now they are mostly internal. We are constantly evolving and changing as we walk this journey.
Until next time, be well.
In this article, I’m going to cover what a “Nolo” drink is, talk about NA (non-alcoholic) beers and kombucha. I’m also going to give my recommendation if you should stay away from these drinks or not since some of them do contain trace amounts of alcohol.
Side note – I feel more influencers, bloggers, podcasters need to cover controversial topics in recovery. Should we avoid NA beers that still contain small amounts of alcohol, does cannabis plays in recovery, and where does plant medicines such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, and ibogaine fit in recovery?
In episode 170, I came out about my experience with ayahuasca despite knowing I would face some intense criticism, which I did. I still feel it’s an incredibly powerful resource, and not sharing it with the audience wouldn’t be true to my mission.
Recently I heard from a blogger in this space who tried ayahuasca for the first time and they said it was the most powerful resource they have come across. I then said, “wow, I’m so happy with you, shoot me the link when you share your experience with the audience, I’m excited to read about it.” They responded with, I don’t have any plans about going public with it. I didn’t answer back, but my inner response was…. Weak. But I get it, I’m sure I’ll get some flack about the position I take with kombucha and non- alcoholic beers.
Speaking of Ayahuasca, I’m hoping to get dates set up for another trip to Rythmia in Costa Rica for later this year or early next. Email me a firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in joining.
As you may know, I have a book titled Alcohol is Shit, so it may come as a surprise for me to admit, there are some excellent uses for alcohol.
What is alcohol good for?
1. It does have a place in the medical field. It does a great job of killing bacteria and sterilizing things.
2. It’s a highly flammable fuel. It can power a car, a train, or a rocket.
Apart from that, alcohol is shit. People are waking up to the fact alcohol is a class 1 carcinogen, and ingesting the poison can cause significant havoc on internal bodily systems. So a trend is emerging. People are drinking less alcohol. Especially younger folks. Also, consumers are switching to more non or low alcohol content drinks.
People in masses are starting to recognize that alcohol kills 88,000 people per year in just the US alone, causes ulcers, sexual problems, Vitamin B deficiency, apathy, gastritis, malnutrition, nerve damage, liver disease, alcohol poisoning, acute making an ass out of yourself disorder, and a barrage of other things that nobody wants.
People are consuming less alcohol
Sales of no or low alcohol beer (this is where the term “nolo” comes from) is up 30% since 2016. This trend is especially popular with 18-24 year olds. Another fantastic statistic with this age group is that the number of 18-24-year-olds who report they don’t drink at all, increased by 6% last year alone, to 23% in total. Wow, you get a lot of flack millennials, but good on you.
According to the craft brewers’ trade organization, “Nolo” alcohol is set to be one of the driving trends of 2020.
The report is forecasting that no alcohol, low alcohol, and “free-from” beers are set to be one of the fastest-growing parts of the market in 2020, with under 35s choosing low alcohol versions of drinks for a quiet night in or to accompany meals.
Consumers are more conscious of their physical and mental health than ever, and this has driven the fall in alcohol consumption, especially among young people.
Here’s another promising figure – Growth in beer sales is slowing, with total beer sales in 2019 rising by 1.1%, compared with 2.6% growth a year earlier. And The report also indicated a slight increase in the overall number of people who never drink alcohol, with 17% saying they were teetotalers, compared to 16% a year earlier. That’s roughly 3.5 million more people who don’t drink.
I share this with you in hopes of reminding you that you’re not alone. That more people than ever are questioning the role that alcohol is playing in their lives. People are taking addiction seriously and recognize it’s not something that younger people even want to mess with. When millennials say “Yolo” they aren’t including alcohol addiction.
People, just like myself and you, are consciously making the decision to not drink something that will make you less conscious, less alive, and less vibrant. I choose, and I know you do as well, vitality.
Okay, let’s cover non- alcoholic beer. Legally, they can market it as non-alcoholic if it contains less than .5% of alcohol. So, non-alcoholic beer isn’t correct since it contains alcohol. Thank you, FDA. And you might need to ditch the booze if you just calculated how many NA beers you’ll need to drink to relive the glory days. Now, good on you Heineken and UK Based Smashed Lager for making a true 0.0 NA beer.
Now before I give you my opinion, my stance on NA beers, lets first cover why you want to drink an NA beer. Is it the taste? That there are small amounts of alcohol? To blend in? To not be asked why you aren’t drinking? Personally, I never drank beer, wine, or hard liquor for the taste. I drank for effect. I can think of about 74 other drinks that taste significantly better than NA beers, all of which don’t contain alcohol.
Soda water, with a splash of cranberry and a lime wedge, is at the top of the list. Another one is called the “Dustimosa.” You take a couple of sips out of a La Croix, or Buble can, and then fill back up with cranberry, orange, or grapefruit juice.
This is how I treat NA beers. I don’t drink them. Not because I don’t want to flirt with the idea of trace alcohol amounts in my system, but I prefer the taste of other beverages. Now there have been several times when someone hosts a party, and they get me a six-pack of NA beers. Out of generosity, I’ll always have 1. One time, someone got me and my friend, Dusty, he was interviewed in episode 206, Busch NA’s to play flip cup with everyone so we’d feel included.
My stance on NA beers, unless it’s a true 0.0% – stay away. You can find better tasting alternatives, and you don’t want to rattle the cage. It’s not worth it. I once heard a story from a guy who’s wife only allowed him to have NA beers in the house. So each night, he would go into the garage and drink 25-30 NA beers…
Again, my unequivocal stance is, stay away from NA beers that contain trace amounts of alcohol. If you end up having all six beers in under an hour, there’s a good chance you’ll feel it, and crave more.
Now let’s cover kombucha. What is kombucha? And why is it so popular in the US right now? According to Kombucha Brewers International, kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that’s made by adding a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This solution of tea and sugar produces various compounds, including alcohol and acetic acid, the primary flavor of vinegar.
Kombucha helps support healthy liver function and assists the liver in the detoxification process by making fat-soluble toxins water-soluble. A recent study found recovering alcoholics with higher gut bacteria diversity were more successful at staying sober. There is a strong gut-brain connection, and drinking kombucha strengthens that connection by increasing the number of healthy gut bacteria. 80% of serotonin is created in the gut when healthy gut bacteria and function are present.
I also want to mention, if you had a sandwich or burger for lunch today, you most likely had more alcohol than a Kombucha. Burger rolls have almost 1.3% alcohol, and a ripe banana or pear has about .4% alcohol. How far down do you want to draw this line in the sand?
With kombucha, my take, my stance, my opinion is… Have a kombucha for lunch. Greenlight. But make sure, if you’re at a kombucha brewery, it’s less than .5% or ideally 0.0%. I feel the health benefits outweigh the risks with a kombucha. Plus, for some reason, the thought of chugging 12 kombuchas at lunch makes my stomach stir.
What sometimes sneaks up on me with kombucha is the caffeine. If I have one for dinner, it usually keeps me up at night. So keep that in mind.
To go a little deeper with this article, the overarching problem isn’t alcohol. At first, it is when we are physically addicted. But after it’s been out of the system for a while, it’s about finding healthier ways to regulate inner discomfort without an external substance like wine, beer, spirits sex, shopping gambling, or kombucha. Awareness of what’s happening internally is significantly more important than avoiding kombucha.
I’m going to cover the techniques I use to ground myself when I’m having a rough day, or am feeling anxious. Let’s face it, there can be times in sobriety when we find ourselves taking things one day at a time (ODAAT), or one hour at a time (OHAAT), or one minute at a time (OMAAT). Sometimes on this journey, we’ll find ourselves logging days in our sobriety tracker apps like it’s no thang! Other days, we wake up and quickly realize keeping the mind in check will be a constant struggle. So here are some of my favorite techniques I use to ground myself, to pull myself back into the body, away from the mind and into the present moment.
- Acknowledge what is happening – Anxiety is great at tricking you into believing that something is real. So all these fear-based thoughts you are having are simply that: thoughts. Thoughts aren’t real. Once you acknowledge this and say “wait a second” I’m not going to die, and in a couple of hours, one or two days tops, this will all be fine.”
- Think in terms of we. Which of these two sentences sound better – 1. I am struggling right now. 2. We are struggling right now. Most of us orientate our thoughts to the individual self, but science is showing, we receive a great benefit when we think of terms of “we” which isn’t a lie because we are all connected. It’s totally fine to struggle on this journey, but there is no need to struggle alone.
- Take your shoes off and walk outside barefooted. This is literally called grounding or earthing. You, all people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects are electrical beings living in an electrical world. Everything that’s made of atoms (so…everything) has a net charge that’s either positive, negative, or neutral. Grounding means discharging built-up static electricity either directly into the earth. The earth has a negative charge, and you have a positive charge. Walking barefooted in grass, or on the beach allows you to release an excess of unbalanced energy. If you’re pacing back and forth with anxiety, do it outside without shoes. You’ll instantly start to feel better. There are several books written on this topic that shed light on why earthing is so powerful!
- Usually, when we find ourselves spinning out, we’re moving too fast. We’re rushing through the day seeking ways to mitigate inner turmoil, but we’re going to fast to find what we’re looking for. As Jane Wagner would say, “for fast-acting relief, slow down.” Usually, when we are in this perpetual “crazed” state, all tasks are done as a means to an end and little quality or presence is attached to any duties. I always tell myself, if you want to get somewhere fast, go slow. When I encounter a flight of stairs, I make a point to climb or descend the staircase slowly, making conscious contact with each stair. When I park my car, I wait till I see the clouds moving before exiting the vehicle.
- Do not multitask – Studies show that human beings are terrible at multitasking. If you find yourself talking at the phone, and sending an email or text at the same time, most likely you’re not doing any of these tasks well.
- You are nature, so take a time out, and go be in your natural setting. Ideally, pick a location with a soundtrack such as a stream, birds chirping, or the sound of the wind in the trees. Ideally, I try to go for a hike or walk in nature without shoes. Almost all of these grounding techniques can be done in tandem!
- When I’m not feeling grounded, I start paying close attention to where this feeling is located in the body, more specifically in the stomach and solar plexus area. Almost always, I recognize this region is tensed up and tight. When I feel anxious, I notice my stomach muscles are always flexed, and my breathing becomes shallow. Once I’m aware of this, I can start breathing from the belly and relaxation sets in.
- Stop saying I CAN do this, because you ARE doing this. It doesn’t matter where you currently find yourself on this journey into sobriety, you ARE doing this!
- Go with the gut. 11 billion bits of information bombard your energy field every millisecond and most report to the gut area and not your head. Always trust the gut/intuition on where to go next, even if it seems like a 180 from what the mind is saying.
- I tell myself “this isn’t me.” A couple of months ago, I found myself unable to fall back asleep because my mind wouldn’t stop going. It was frustrating and I deeply needed sleep since I had a busy day ahead of me. After about 30 minutes of the mind trying to solve every problem on the planet, I finally said, “Paul, this isn’t you.” and within a matter of minutes, I was asleep. As Michael Singer says in “The Untethered Soul.” you are not the voice inside the head, but the one who hears it!
These grounding techniques are highly effective when the edge of life is sharp, or when we experience a craving to drink alcohol. I encourage you to practice these before an emotional rollercoaster arrives so you’re better prepared to ride out the uncomfortable feelings or cravings. Let me know in the comments what helps you get grounded.
I was in a bookstore at the airport the other day and noticed a trend while looking at the top twenty best sellers. There were several books with clear, unambiguous titles. Our society collectively is starting to wake up and is looking for ways to unfuck themselves. These are the book titles I saw that were all clumped right next to each other.
UnFu*ck yourself by Gary John Bishop
I used to be a miserable Fu*ck by John Kim
Calm the Fuck down – Sarah Knight
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Mark Manson
After a quick Amazon search, I found several more books with similar titles such as
Unfuck your Brain by Faith Harper
Unfuck Yourself by Zoe Swain
I’m currently writing a book about alcohol addiction, and I’m not 100% sure of what my book title will be, but it may have the words unfu*ck yourself somewhere on the cover. I want to be clear, I had this written down on my list of potential book titles for a long time, not just because I saw a bunch of these titles in the airport:) The title at this moment is Alcohol is Shit | but it’s also the invitation. Below that title, it will say either, “control alcohol from the inside out” or “Unfuck yourself from the inside out.” Not sure yet. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All these books, including mine, isn’t fulfilling a niche or a trend, they are representing a movement that can no longer be ignored. There’s a consciousness on this planet that is starting to say, hang on a second, this isn’t working. Those of us who struggle with addiction, sometimes think we’re the only ones who reach a rough spot on life. Not true, everyone does, and we’re reaching a critical mass, especially in America. On a global scale, people are starting to say, timeout, hold the phone, the formula that I was told to follow in life, isn’t yielding the fruits I was promised.
I recently read an article titled the Age of Anxiety in the New Republic that sheds light on this movement.
According to studies by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20 percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder in a given year; over 30 percent experience an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes. And the rate is rising: The American Psychiatric Association, in a May study drawing from a survey of 1,000 American adults, diagnosed a statistically significant increase in national anxiety since 2017.
Please read carefully. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. Right now, at this moment, there’s nothing wrong with you. Never has been and never will be. Take a deep breath; we are okay. This anxiety is a good thing and shouldn’t be labeled in some diagnostical statistical manual as bad because this collective state of unrest will eventually show us the way.
According to the article in the New Republic, this jittery national mood has given rise to what Rebecca Jennings at Vox has dubbed “anxiety consumerism”—the rise of a plethora of products, from fidget spinners to essential-oil sprays, to weighted blankets. These weighted blankets were initially developed for people with autism and PTSD as self-administered hugs, to give the sensation of an embrace, but sales for these blankets have gone through the roof, and everyone is buying them. Perhaps the most well-known product to fall into this anxiety consumerism category is alcohol. Just about everyone on the planet right now needs a big hug.
Who is going to initiate this hug?
Those who struggle with addiction are the trailblazers in the collective unf*ck yourself movement that desperately needs to happen. Not just for those who grapple with addiction to alcohol, but for everyone. As a global community, we’re starting to see what’s not working and alcoholics were the first to see it. We are leading this movement and will eventually be the ones who hold the door open for the rest of society. Let that last sentence sink in for a second. You and me. We will be leading the global unfu*ck yourself movement for everyone. Not just those who struggle with addiction.
I was completely ignorant to how beneficial giving up alcohol would be to the overall quality of my life. After all, alcohol became me. I spent a huge chunk of my life intimately interacting with alcohol, completely isolated from any other solution. When I was first introduced to recovery, a life absent of alcohol, I wasn’t convinced that it was for me. Fear crept in and I rebelled against the idea of letting go of my vice. Until one day, the pain I was experiencing was far greater than my fear of change. First, I had to admit to my innermost self just how detrimental my drinking had become and the magnitude of the harm I was causing myself and others.I was pleasantly surprised to find that giving up alcohol enhanced my life so much more than I ever could’ve imagined.
If you are unconvinced and on the fence about sobriety, let me be the first to assure you that things will only get better. What’s the worst that can happen? You may face conflict and resistance at first. Once you get over the initial slump, I can assure you, your life will approve drastically once you reach the other side of alcoholism. Here are 5 reasons you should stop drinking alcohol.
One of the most obvious reasons you should stop drinking is because of the direct negative effects of alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, cirrhosis, kidney failure, and heart disease. When you make the decision to stop drinking alcohol your overall health wellbeing will improve in a multitude of areas:
Brain: A recent study suggests that as little as two weeks, of sobriety, can reverse and even heal damaging effects of alcohol on the brain.
Heart: Abstinence from alcohol will decrease your chances for developing high blood pressure and your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Skin: Alcohol is a potent diuretic. When you stop drinking alcohol, your skin’s elasticity will return as you naturally become more hydrated.
Weight: The calories found in alcohol are void of any nutritional value, but rather are filled with empty calories. Your appetite will soon return and you will consume nutritional foods rather than consuming unhealthy sugars.
Alcoholics spend most of their lives trying to numb all emotions with alcohol. When you stop drinking, your emotions may be all over the place. In fact, I had a hard time even identifying my emotions when I first got sober. Eventually, that changed. Consuming alcohol can lead to incomprehensible demoralization, which ultimately ends in guilt and shame. Absent from alcohol, guilt is eliminated. Quitting alcohol can relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, encourage longer/deeper sleep, and overall stabilize mood.
When I was drinking, life was tough. Not only was I spending way too much on alcohol, but I evaded any/all financial responsibilities. Eventually, I wasn’t able to be much use at work either. Without alcohol, you are able to be a productive member of society. The money spent on alcohol can be spent on repaying old debts and current bills. Financial freedom comes, once you put down alcohol.
Mental clarity, memory, and focus are seriously impaired when under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. The benefit of not drinking alcohol will directly impact your mental clarity. I don’t know about you, but the mental fog I experienced on a daily basis created many problems for me. My memories were skewed, my thinking was delusional, and I couldn’t focus on any task that didn’t involve drinking more. When you give up alcohol, the fog is lifted. One study followed a group of men and women with at least 6 months into their sobriety. Researchers were unable to distinguish any cognitive differences between the recovering drinkers and the non-drinkers.
One of the most meaningful benefits of my sobriety is the quality of the relationships in my life today. Truth be told, when I was drinking I was unable to maintain any healthy relationship. I had an unhealthy love affair with alcohol. I was a horrible friend, daughter, mother, and human in general. I preferred isolation over engaging in interpersonal relationships. When you quit drinking alcohol, the veil is torn away. You may find acceptance of relationships that have been damaged, beyond repair. Communication doesn’t ignite fear but rather it becomes a healthy necessity. You are able to make healthy choices and mend broken relationships
When you first stop drinking, you may feel like a total train wreck. (That’s how I felt) It didn’t take long before all of the promising benefits of sobriety, started to become my reality. I’m not sure I ever experienced the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional freedom prior to getting sober. Without the commands of alcohol shackling you to self-propelled misery, the world is your canvas. When you decide to stop drinking you get the opportunity to live a life beyond your wildest dreams.
This is a guest post from Tricia Moceo who is an Outreach Specialist for Recovery Local, a local addiction/recovery based marketing company. She advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like detoxlocal.com, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
By Claire O’Brien
A few months before I quit drinking for good, the husband and I stole a few days to lounge on the sand at the Delaware Shore. It was September, and the air was still warm but the crowds had thinned, leaving us the wide beaches to ourselves.
We had three entire days to soak up the sun and watch the dolphins dart among the waves. So, I was pretty annoyed to wake up one morning so hungover that I had to grit my teeth to force myself to face the day.
A few precious days that we’d paid a lot of money for, which I was now just trying to survive. At brunch, I’d order coffee (obviously), and avocado toast (healthy!) and make chit-chat with my husband about how to spend the day. He might not notice, but I’d be distracted, hardly present at all, because mentally I’d be berating myself for swilling that extra glass of red wine, again.
Maybe I wasn’t the biggest drinker you’d have ever met. But, I definitely had a habit, and it was getting old. Frankly, so was I. How many days traveling over the last 20 years had I wasted from overindulging? I couldn’t even guess.
But, what’s traveling without drinking anyways? Swilling pints of lager in cozy London pubs. Pounding shots of rakija in Croatia. Sipping wine with every meal in France. Spilling sticky cups of rum and cola on the dance floor in Belize. And a personal favorite, guzzling margaritas from a can in Mexico. Traveling means experiencing life to the fullest! That means alcohol. And lots of it
Less than a year later, I was back in Rehoboth Beach for my 2-year wedding anniversary. This time, I was six months into my post-alcohol experiment. I booked a B&B, famous for its waffles in the morning and free wine in the evenings
Immediately, my mind flooded with anxious thoughts
“How can I travel without drinking?”
“How can I celebrate my anniversary without alcohol?
and most urgently, “But…free wine!”
Then I remembered that I once celebrated a trip to the grocery store with wine. So…maybe my excuses are still pretty flimsy
It rained all three days in Rehoboth Beach on that trip. I didn’t drink. It was totally fine. In fact, it was much more than fine. I spent too much money on used books and antiques. We took the ferry over to New Jersey and explored the Victorian town of Cape May. We ate fresh seafood. I challenged the waiters to bring me “the funnest” non-alcoholic drink they could invent
Instead of being a liability, I woke up early to research activities. I assumed the podcast DJ duties on the drive. I made ridiculous observations intended to make the husband laugh. When I returned home content and invigorated, rather than depressed and full of regrets, I conceded that perhaps I really was onto something.
Traveling without drinking is not only possible…but dare I say, preferable? Before you shriek “Heresy!” hear me out
Since that Delaware trip, I’ve spent several weeks in Scandinavia. My birthday fell during a 7-day work trip to Las Vegas. I spent a luxurious weekend in a Pennsylvanian resort and survived many visits home to California. I just returned from a week in the Netherlands. All accomplished without even one cheeky drink.
I’ve met other people that don’t drink while they’re busy exploring the globe. Some just don’t like it, some want to save money, and others were in recovery. At an afterparty in Rotterdam recently, my new friends hardly touched a drop of booze, just because! I’ve realized that traveling without drinking isn’t really about abstaining from this magical liquid worshiped the world over, but about feeling empowered to make decisions that work for you.
As a regular drinker, even if you don’t have an obvious problem, the ritual begins to make your world smaller. It’s imperceptible at first. Weekends might involve having a few drinks with friends. Soon, the two become completely intertwined. Next, your brain wonders,
“How can I even hang out with the girls without drinking?”
“Is it possible to attend this wedding without toasting with champagne?”
“How will I visit Scotland without sampling a few drams?”
“How can I survive Tuesday?”
In some ways, my lengthy travel resume, with its regular doses of the unfamiliar, prepared me for this new life sans alcohol. What’s more uncomfortable than quitting a 20-year habit, especially one that is both so soothing and socially encouraged? If the point of travel is to escape the ordinary, experience our differences, and push against the boundaries of what’s comfortable, then quitting drinking has, in fact, also made me a better traveler.
I’m more adventurous than ever.
I’ve always considered myself a risk taker. But that quality didn’t extend to my drinking ritual, which was really more of a drinking rut. Now, every restaurant, city, and country is an opportunity to sample the new. Frothy glass of hot pink dawet at a Surinamese restaurant in Amsterdam? Sure! Traveling in Sweden was a delightful surprise. I found an extensive non-alcoholic wine and beer list on every menu, none of which I would have glanced at before.
My adventurousness even extends beyond my drink choices. One random evening I came up with the idea that I should fly to every international destination served by a direct flight from Washington, DC. And write about it. Then, more astonishingly, I actually started doing it.
I’m more flexible.
Previously, every evening ended with drinks, with few exceptions. Now, experiences of all kinds are crammed into my days. In Las Vegas, I spent the evenings visiting the museums and aquariums. I splurged on fancy tasting menus and rented a vehicle to explore the desert. On a whim, I rode in a drift supercar around the Las Vegas Speedway. It was harder to be spontaneous when I was preoccupied with where I could buy wine on Sundays and wondering if I had remembered to pack my corkscrew.
I’m more responsible.
I was the type of drinker that managed to get shit done. But I was still just managing. Once, because I was so disorganized, my debit card was declined while attempting to buy a single stick of deodorant. I was 35 years old. Now, my kitchen is clean. All the dogs and humans in my house are current on their medical appointments. And there are probably fewer than three empty coffee cups floating around my car. I have a savings account dedicated solely to travel, which I diligently contribute to monthly. All trips get paid for in cold, hard, cash.
I have piles of money.
Ok, I’m not exactly stacking bricks of cash, but booze is expensive, especially when you are consuming it with the frequency I once found refreshing. Since my travel fund isn’t being depleted quite so rapidly due to lengthy pub sessions, I’m able to spend more on quality experiences. Like upgrading to Economy Plus!
I have more fun.
Ironically, I’m more outgoing and social since giving up the hooch. The dark cloud that followed me around gradually evaporated, making a cheerful and upbeat mood my default personality. Who knew? Now I’m the person planning adventures, not bailing on invitations at the last minute. I’ve instigated weekends away for welding classes, white water rafting, tree climbing courses, and exploring Jamaica while encouraging friends and family to join me.
I’ve become more resilient.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I developed healthy* coping techniques for stress, boredom, and all of the feels that I don’t like. Things still go wrong when I travel. In Richmond, the husband got food poisoning courtesy of a dodgy roadside gyro. In Sweden, it was an AirBnB fiasco. In Las Vegas, I mysteriously scratched my cornea and required medical attention. Now it’s easier to figure out what I need to do next without requiring an entire bottle of wine to cope.
Note: *Debatable if coconut ice cream with Magic Shell chocolate topping qualifies as healthy.
I’m more authentic now.
Confronting my worst habits and the role my ego played in prolonging the behavior was a humbling experience. The process of building new habits in their place, however, has grown my confidence. Also, without the daily dose of self-loathing, waking up every day as myself isn’t so bad. I don’t have to present as anyone else or hide parts of my life of which I’m ashamed. So, I’m able to more sincerely connect with people both at home and while traveling. Since I’m less distracted by my own internal dramas, I’m more interested in getting to know you.
I’m also less judgemental.
Like most well-traveled people, I considered myself to be very open-minded. Conversely, like most drinkers, I distrusted people who didn’t drink! I viewed cultures and customs that didn’t embrace alcohol with extreme skepticism. Now, that’s no longer an issue, which has opened up parts of the world and experiences I wouldn’t have seriously considered before. (Seven-day silent meditation retreat, no problem! Well…)
My life is bigger.
Probably not a coincidence, but around the same time I gave up alcohol, I completely restarted my professional career from one in the sciences to a more creative field. Five years ago, my options seemed few, and now I’m limited only by the hours in the day. Because there’s less holding me back, there’s much more space to move forward. Opportunities seem to be present everywhere. Travelling has become less of a selfish pursuit of simply accumulating more countries. Now it’s more of a shared experience, of learning, of inspiring myself and connecting with others.
Sure, there’s the occasional pang for the experiences I’ll miss. I’m human.
My brain sends up random flares like, “I might want to go to Tokyo next year. Clearly, this will be impossible to do and not drink sake.”
It’s a little bit like having a fleeting thought about an old lover. For a brief moment, the fantasy, the “What if?”, is seductive.
“Don’t I deserve some fun? Let’s be exciting and a little dangerous!”
It’s also the perfect way to create a total dumpster fire out of this otherwise satisfying life I’m building.
My love of travel stems from life’s possibilities. Endless combinations of routes to plan, experiences I haven’t had, people I haven’t met, and future memories I’ve yet to make. It’s not such a sacrifice for me to skip a few cocktails when the payoff could be so much bigger, and bolder. When I finally put down that drink, I found that I held a nonstop ticket to the rest of my life, and I want to see where it goes.
Additional blog posts by Claire O’Brien can be found at her webiste the Virgin Colada.