When I think of drinking, I think of it as the world’s least compelling Groundhog’s Day.Ryan O’Connell, Episode 409 of This Naked Mind Podcast
As of yesterday, Mia and I are one year alcohol-free. If you want to read all the gory details on how I came to realize drinking was no longer something I wanted to do, check out Autostraddle’s Sober Series.
How Has One Year Alcohol-Free Been?
Life without alcohol has been pretty awesome. I don’t miss it at all. I don’t miss hangovers, getting into booze-fueled arguments with my wife and kid, worrying if I said or did anything embarrassing the night before or the general heightened drama alcohol brings to any situation. I sleep better, have more energy and don’t lose entire days to feeling like shit after a night of drinking. I’m more productive on the weekends, even if “productive” means relaxing while not trying to recover from a hangover.
Over the year, I did a lot of firsts (as an adult) sans alcohol — my first birthday, first vacation, first party, first New Year’s Eve and first tech conference. None of it was a challenge, but it was like observing an experiment. What was it like to be the only non-drinking person at a boozy event? How did people react when I said, “No, thanks.” if they offered me a drink? The vast majority of folks have been cool and not weird about it. There has been the occasional, “Why on Earth would you do THAT?” look on people’s faces when I say I stopped drinking, but that is rare.
Overall, I feel very free and get to experience everything in life fully present.
What About Fun?
There is a shared belief that drinking = fun, I believed this too until I realized it wasn’t that fun for me. The first drink is maybe fun, but after that you get groggy so you drink more to feel up again and just keep going until you’re in hangover territory. I can think of a few times when a night of drinking was truly fun, but there were way more that ended up in drama, yelling, tears or a black eye. Then you wake up at 3am feeling terrible, knowing what the day ahead of you is going to feel like while vowing to not drink that much again. It feels great to be free of that very not fun cycle.
It’s been a year of experiencing fun without booze and discovering fun is fun on its own.
How We Did It
Mia and I did a couple Dry Januarys in a row and it was hard. Cocktail hour would come around and the feeling of wanting a drink was real. I’m stubborn and we did it, but as soon as Feb 1 rolled around it was back to drinking as usual. The year after that Mia Googled “Spontaneous Sobriety” (quitting drinking without any formal treatment) after hearing about it on a podcast which led her to the book This Naked Mind written by Annie Grace. Annie also developed a free program called The Alcohol Experiment, a 30-day challenge where you objectively look at common beliefs around alcohol and pick them apart with science and facts. You can drink or not drink during The Alcohol Experiment. It’s not judgy, you don’t have to sit in a circle and talk about your feelings with strangers (unless you want to in their online community) and you aren’t made to feel shameful about drinking.
When we did Dry January number three in 2021, we did it along with The Alcohol Experiment and it completely changed my mindset regarding alcohol. That Dry January was easy, drinking just lost its appeal for me. I am a very science and logic based person — if I realize something is not actually fun I’ll stop doing it. This Naked Mind is not about white knuckling through cravings you’ll have for the rest of your life, it’s about making alcohol small and irrelevant to the point where you just don’t think about it anymore. After that we tried moderation which was very exhausting. By the end of 2021 we decided it wasn’t worth it and stopped altogether.
As a stone cold atheist, there is no way I could have tried quitting with a traditional 12 step program. The 12 steps were developed by Bill Wilson in the 1930s and greatly influenced by the Christian organization, The Oxford Group. 5 of the 12 steps require believing in God and generally thinking you are powerless and will be in “Recovery” for the rest of your life. No thank you. That would never work for me and I am resentful lobbyists have succeeded in making the 12 Step/Addiction is a disease model the societal standard in dealing with addiction. I am also annoyed at the media for reinforcing this narrative on TV over and over again. I’m very happy for the people who have been helped by 12 Step, but we need more choices available to all.
Will We Ever Drink Again?
I don’t know. Like Annie Grace says, I drink as much as I want and right now that’s not at all.
I don’t think drinking is always bad. There are many take it or leave it drinkers who experience very few negative effects from alcohol. However, if you are interested in cutting down or quitting, I’d recommend checking out The Alcohol Experiment.
Here are 2 great interviews from the This Naked Life Podcast. They are both queer and engaging, but very very different. Enjoy!