What I learnt from not drinking

Giving up drinking is great

I decided at the beginning of this year to cut back dramatically on my drinking. The main goal, to not be hungover once this entire year. So far so good, and its been great.

I have never been a heavy drinker. Although like most young South Africans, drinking is a huge much part of our social lives. We socialise around drinking. We meet for drinks on a Friday night, we go out for dinner on Saturday night and drinks before or after, we have a braai and we throw back a couple, we go for Sunday afternoon sundowners. All these things center around drinking. It is too easy to drink the whole weekend without even thinking about it.

I have experimented with not drinking in the past, I enjoyed it so I decided this year to try it out for even longer. This is what I learnt.

Drinking isn’t fun

Its actually not that fun to wake up in the morning with a pounding headache. Or no memory of the night of the before. Its not fun to spend the day feeling crap and battling to get anything done. Its not fun to not be able to exercise or go for a run or walk. Its not fun to sit on the couch all day and eat junk food. Its not fun to throw up either. The consequences of drinking are not fun and not worth it. Even drinking itself. Once you have had a couple you start to behave in an embarrassing way. Drinking isn’t fun, its boring.

It gets easier

Like any habit it takes a while to break. Drinking had become a habit. I didn’t drink every night but every weekend I had a glass of wine or two. Every time I went out for dinner I had a drink. Sometimes I think I drank more out of habit than anything else. At first I did dry January, one month seemed easy enough. And it was easy. Although on the 1st of February I had a glass of wine. February was also my birthday month so I had a few drinks on the night. I also had two weddings one in March and one in April. At both I had a glass of champagne and a glass of wine and it was great. No hangover. Just because the drinks are available does not mean you have to drink. Over time it gets easier and easier to say no to alcohol. I also realised I didn’t have to drink at every social occasion only the special ones.

Drinking is expensive

Drinks cost money. Especially fancy cocktails or a nice bottle of wine. I often added a bottle of wine to my weekly grocery shop. Going out for drinks can also add up very quickly. I have saved a lot of money by not drinking.

Drinking doesn’t taste great

I have lost the appetite for drinking. I used to crave a glass of wine, particularly after a long week or hard day. I used to look forward to that glass of wine because it would relax me. Now I hardly crave the taste of alcohol. I don’t enjoy the taste as much as I used to. Sometimes the occasional glass of wine with a meal or glass of champagne on special occasions is nice but other than that alcohol has lost its appeal for me.

Drinking is not an activity

Many South Africans consider drinking to be an activity. Its not uncommon to hear people say, “I’m going drinking this weekend.” Why is drinking an activity? It is an expensive and unhealthy activity. I wish more South Africans did not see drinking as a weekend activity. I sometimes feel like the odd one out. There are loads more fun activities to do on weekends that don’t involve a hangover. Playing board games, going for a run or walk in the park, cycling, reading, swimming, hiking and cooking a nice meal. Drinking is not a hobby.

People don’t notice as much as I thought

One of the reasons I was hesitant to give up drinking completely was the social pressure. Almost all my friends and family drink. I am alone in my sober journey. I was terrified they would try and pressure me into drinking or convince me I needed to drink. But that is not the case maybe its because I’m older and drinking is no longer such a thing. At social gatherings I just don’t drink. I am offered a drink most of the time and I simply decline. I usually drink sparkling water with lemon or fruit juice. And no one seems to notice or care. I thought it would be much harder but its not that hard at all.

In the end…

I hardly drink at all now. Occasionally I have a small glass of wine or champagne. I think I have about one drink a month now. I used to drink every week. And I feel great. I love waking up in the morning fresh and ready to face the day. I love not having a head ache. I love being able to exercise to my full potential. I love not feeling dehydrated. This is now my lifestyle choice and I plan to stick to it.

I am a Lawyer, Writer, Reader and Traveller. From Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing to find my voice. Fortune favours the brave.

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