When it comes to sports, I am a victim of crazy superstition. I’m fortunate to have been born in Massachusetts and raised a Boston sports fan. Since I was old enough to start watching, all of the Boston teams have experienced extreme success, in particular the New England Patriots.
However, after the second Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in 2011, I realized a trend. For the three Super Bowls we won, I did not drink. For the two we lost, I did. So I made a vow not to drink for the Super Bowl. Sure enough, in 2014 we won. In 2016, I decided to take it to another level: I would not drink for the ENTIRE weekend. It worked again.
For the first time in almost six years, I went an entire weekend without drinking. This is not to say I was an alcoholic previously, just your typical 20-something weekend warrior.
After not drinking for that full weekend, I felt incredible—so much so that I decided I was done drinking. Beer pressure got the best of me for the next two weekends, but after that, I officially had my last alcoholic beverage. And I stuck to it.
Upon hitting the one-year milestone, I figured it would be helpful for me to describe the results. There aren’t many single guys in their mid-20s who don’t drink. I’ll speak about this by illustrating the differences in what I view as the five main aspects of life: physical health, mental health, work/finance, social, and spiritual.
Here it goes.
This was the real reason I decided to stop. I forgot how good it felt to go to bed sober and sleep in without consuming exorbitant amounts of alcohol the night before. Despite drinking regularly, I was one of the lucky few who rarely got hungover. Chug a bottle of water, and I could go about my day without a blemish—so I thought. After not drinking, I realized that I had been tired and weighed down the entire day.
The physical aspect of not drinking extends far beyond the weekend hangovers. My energy levels during the week are at noticeably higher. Despite sleeping on a futon in my living room every night and waking up at 4:30 every morning, I find myself more motivated and less tired than many of my friends and colleagues.
Extending beyond my semi-odd sleep schedule, my workouts have also improved. I’ve been able to lift more weight (safely), at a faster speed, while increasing flexibility. All of these physical benefits have snowballed on each other, which has resulted in a healthier appearance—less body fat, smoother skin, healthier hair, etc.
It’s no secret that alcohol is a depressant. It gives you a temporary boost of energy and joy, but knocks you down twice as hard with a much more significant, long-term impact.
Despite having significantly more responsibility than last year (I am now a landlord, Airbnb host, Turo host, and full-time employee at BiggerPockets), I have noticed that my stress levels have actually reduced, my confidence has increased, and I am far more motivated than I have ever been.
Beyond work-related activities, I also enjoy my personal life a lot more now that I am not in the “live for the weekend” mindset. I am much more grateful for my family, friends, colleagues, and my current position in life. I am grateful that I can live in one of the most beautiful states (Colorado) and am healthy enough to enjoy what Colorado has to offer.
Most people who know me would probably think I quit drinking for financial reasons. Let me nip that in the bud. My sober stint had nothing to do with the cost of drinking, though I do appreciate the financial reward.
A year ago, I was spending roughly $300 a month on alcohol. This includes ingredients for my homemade concoctions, as well as going out to the bars, paying for Ubers, and other associated costs. That’s an extra car payment each month just going to the bars!
To pull a Mr. Money Mustache, $3,600 per year that has the possibility to earn 7 percent interest compounding over 10 years is roughly $53,000. That’s more than the average American’s annual salary!
Once I started realizing the financial impact, I really started to contemplate why I ever paid $300 per month to destroy my body and brain.
The assumption most people make is that without alcohol, your social life will deteriorate. Let me ask you something: Did you have friends for the first 18 to 20 years of your life? I’m sure you did and very few of you drank alcohol. Why can’t that be replicated? Here’s what happened to my social life.
I have lost all of ZERO friends. If any of your friendships diminish because of your decision to stop drinking, are those people even your friends? Not drinking does not mean you cannot go out. I still go out frequently with my co-workers and friends. I still have equal amounts of fun; I just opt for a water over a whiskey sour.
Not only did I retain my old friends, but I have also gained lots of new friends, most of whom are a few years older than me (in their late 20s or 30s) who are just as fun, have similar goals to me, and are where I want to be when I’m their age. The new friends I have may still drink, but they do it mostly for the taste, not to get obliterated.
I found that the relationships with these new friends are much deeper than those with the old. Oftentimes, rather than going out, we stay in. They have a few drinks and we’ll play a board game or just sit around and talk about anything and everything, like friends do. Not having to scream over the “noise” that kids these days call music allows us to have much better and more fun conversations.
Now to address the elephant in the room—the sex life, which I am lumping into social health. Removing alcohol has definitely resulted in a reduction of sexual activity. There is no more going to the bars with one of the top priorities being bringing a lucky (or unlucky) lady back. Quite frankly, I’m over that stage. However, when a romantic relationship I do have does get intimate, it’s much more enjoyable when it’s someone I actually like and won’t be upset waking up next to.
I used to scoff at spirituality, mindfulness, meditation, and so on—that is, until my sister started to get into it. I still think she is probably a little TOO into it. But given that she has devoted her life and career to it, I figured I would be open to it. I started doing yoga once a week and meditating for 10 minutes when I wake up and right before I go to sleep. The first few times were weird, but after doing them for over a year now, the results are easy to see.
Being in good spiritual health really exaggerates the positive effects of other life changes you make. I find it easier to be thankful for the little things. I am rarely tired or sick. Mentally, I am more focused and aware. Financially, I am much more disciplined to not spontaneously or idiotically spend money.
After the 365-day sober experiment, I am in a much happier spot in all of the five main aspects as described above. The purpose of this article is not to get you to stop drinking, especially if you genuinely love the taste of beer or wine. Drink it—but in moderation.
However, I hope this article does shed light on what could happen if you do remove alcohol.
Will I ever have another drink?
It seems like my answer would be no. Why would I pay money to hinder my health?
However, I love to travel. A big part of traveling is experiencing nightlife in different cities. That usually involves drinking. So maybe, just maybe, I will enjoy a nice drink or two during my travels. Maybe a good rule is to only drink on international soil?
Have you ever gone an extended period of time without alcohol? Would you consider a whole year? Why or why not?
Weigh in below!