5 Ways My Life Changed in a Year Without Drinking

by | BiggerPockets.com

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 on February 19th, 2017, I officially had my last alcoholic beverage. I stuck to it.

Recently 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.

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Physical Health

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 a.m. 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.

Mental Health

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 ever have 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.

Financial Health

Most people who know me would probably think I quit drinking for financial reasons. Let me nip that in the bud. My sober stint has 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% 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.

Social Health

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 18-20 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, but have similar goals to me and are where I want to be when I’m their age. The new friends I have made still drink, but they do it mostly for the taste, not to get obliterated.



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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 conversation.

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.

Spiritual Health

I used to scoff at spirituality, mindfulness, meditation, etc. 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.

Conclusion

After this 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 in my travels. Maybe a good rule is to only drink on international soil?

Cheers!

P.S. I realize my soberness did not help the Patriots win Super Bowl 52. Congratulations to the Eagles and all you diehard Philly fans out there! You deserve it!

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

Have you ever gone an extended period of time without alcohol? Would you consider this? Why or why not?

Weigh in below!

About Author

Craig Curelop

After developing a huge love for real estate investing and personal finance, Craig decided to join the BiggerPockets team as a financial analyst. Over the past few years, he has looked at hundreds of financial models of startup companies. His experience will help BiggerPockets reach the next level as a startup company. Craig has a passion for helping others get out of their “comfort zones” to get what they want and achieve the “impossible.” In his spare time, Craig enjoys traveling, hiking, exercising, and sports of all kinds.

80 Comments

  1. JL Hut

    Congratulation, not just for the drinking part. But I think you did much more, you stopped to think, something few people do. Anytime someone pauses to think before the act, they deserve a big congratulation. Keep thinking and being intentional and you will make many wise decisions in life.

  2. Jessie Huffey

    Thank you for sharing. I recently completed a similar experiment. I went 6 months without a drink. I am now back enjoying drinks in moderation but I am so glad I went the 6 months as it helped bring more clarity to my life and helped me meet some important personal goals. I will probably do it again in the near future! I highly recommend taking breaks from alcohol.

  3. Joan Defenbaugh

    27 years for me. I was a weekend drinker, but it took me all week to feel better. A couple decades later I added in fitness, healthy food, mindfulness and spiritual growth. I’m 58 and feel better than I felt at 30. I’m sure I would never have been able to drink like normal people. Grateful to live life without it.

  4. Melvin Plummer on

    I’ve been meditating for about 25 years. I don’t drink, smoke, gamble or do drugs. People think my life is boring but when you drop all of your vices and you find true happiness, you can’t get bored. Actually, after a while you don’t even get angry. Life and decisions become amazingly simple. You wake up each morning, incredibly thankful for each day. You begin to eat right and take very good care of yourself and your loved ones as well as each other. You begin to respect other human beings and you hope that one day they will wake up out of their life of vices and get a taste of what real life is all about.

    • Craig Curelop

      Melvin,

      This is extremely well put! I couldn’t agree more. I think my life has actually gotten more fun since I stopped drinking. Fortunately, fun is had by the beholder so if people think that you don’t have fun because you don’t drink… what the heck do they know?

      • Craig,
        As you know, there are five facets of life: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial . Many years ago I used to foolishly think that financial was the most important. After I stopped drinking, many years ago , I realized that financial was actually the least important. I was walking around $4 million in debt feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, I love credit but I felt too much pressure carrying that much debt. So I rearranged my portfolio, paid off a lot of debt by selling multiple properties. As for my personal residence, I paid off an $86,000 second mortgage and I will be completely done with a $323,000 first mortgage by the end of December 2018 at which time I will be 100% debt and mortgage free. It seems like a miracle to me but with a clear mind and good health, the sky is the limit!

  5. Stephen S.

    It’s the weirdest thing – I have been drinking for every Super Bowl there has ever been. The Eagles never won. For this last Super Bowl I did not have a drink. Coincidence? Maybe not . . . . . I’ll try it again next year and see how your theory holds up.

  6. Rick Grubbs

    I wasted my teen years with alcohol. In 1981 I became a Christian. Since that time I drink all I want….none. God took away the desire and gave me something much better- a desire to serve Him. As a bonus I also have a great family life with 12 kids and a wonderful wife who has never touched alcohol.

    Alcohol is a scourge on our nation. Think about the evictions you have done. In almost every case where we’ve had to put someone out we find plenty of beer cans and liquor bottles, but somehow there was not enough money to pay the rent or properly take care of the kids. Nothing good comes from it but landlords have seen a lot of bad come from it.

    As you pointed out, the economic benefits of abstinence are great too. There is absolutely no way I would be where I am today as a RE investor if I had blown money and time and relationships over the past 30 years on alcohol instead of investing in something with lasting value.

    Thanks for this article. It may seem off topic for a REI forum, but it is very relevant to success in every area of life, including real estate!

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks, Rick! I’m glad we have found similar results. Totally agree, very few good things ever come from alcohol. In the book, “Outwitting the Devil”, Napoleon Hill reference alochol as one of the mechanisms the devil uses to get people to do what he wants. Definitely an interesting read, I highly recommend it.

      It’s not exactly REI. I think it’s more of a personal finance/personal health article, but removing alcohol definitely helps achieve your REI goals.

  7. Jim Sestito

    The northeast (Boston especially) is real hard place for this this. Nowhere else I have traveled to places such an impact on drinking and social interaction… great to see more people going against the grain and seeing how much a clear mind can benefit them.

    Congrats Chris hope you keep it up

  8. Carl Zingle

    I stopped drinking from Thanksgiving 2011 to the start of March Madness 2012. It was a challenge because it was the holiday season but I made it and experienced improvement in all the area’s you mentioned. I drink but only on occassion away from home and I enjoy a glass of Wine or two just aboit every night at home. Moderation should be the goal. Go Eagles, I have waited 57 years for them to win a Championship and it was worth the wait this year, great group of Champions!

    • Craig Curelop

      That’s awesome, Carl! If you really enjoy it, moderation is key. But if you are just doing it to be social or because your friends are doing it, I would reconsider doing it at all.

      Eagles had a great team! The first one is always the sweetest. Enjoy!

  9. Steven Rovithis

    Great post man! I have made all the same changes over the past couple of years and have experienced all the same positive results. Granted I didn’t quit completely (and I am at least a decade older in a different phase of my life ), but just significantly reduced the amounts. Just wanted say great decisions and keep grinding toward a better life. From one Boston fan to another, may 2018 be your best year ever.

  10. Dave Taylor

    I recently broke a bone snowboarding and figured drinking wouldn’t help my situation any being out of work, inactive and trying to heal. I don’t often drink to excess and do enjoy a beverage before bedtime, but honestly cutting it out of my life has been really nice. I’m 34, I get hangovers. But I don’t when I don’t drink, my sleep is more productive and I feel better the entire following day.

    I’ll be reducing the amount I drink moving forward, but will still have the occasional drink or two. Two months feels like a long time at first, but after a couple weeks you truly don’t notice it. I’d recommend this to anyone, just as a test of willpower. It’s a great experiment! Kudos to you for making the change. You’ll live much longer 🙂

    • Craig Curelop

      Dave, sorry to hear about your broken bone. I totally agree with you though. First 2 months are the hardest. After the first couple months, I wasn’t even appetized by alcohol in the slightest bit. It takes a lot of will power and discipline, but once you’re through it. It’s not much of a problem.

  11. Andrew Ziebro

    That’s great, sounds like it’s working for you. Some people can’t drink at all, period. Others can drink in moderation, and yet others have a drink only every once in a while. You have to know yourself. Personally I do enjoy drinking almost every day. I have a glass or 2 of wine with dinner at the end of a long stressful day of real estate and I find it blunts my desire to go back into the office afterwards and isolate myself from my wife and kids, thinking “I still have so much more to do!!”. With a couple glasses of wine, instead, I think “You know what, that work can wait until tomorrow. I’m going to play with my kids, hang out with my wife, take a walk or a bike ride, or read a book on the couch, etc. etc. I’m not an alcoholic but I do know some who can’t even have a drop. So to each his own. For me, it’s healthy and positive. But for others, I understand that it’s not.

  12. Congrats Chris,

    2/14/15 was my last drink, I quit “cold-turkey”. When I told my “inner circle” what I did, they all thought it was a lie. They were convinced I would continue. That drove me nuts. So in addition to dropping my drinking habit, I dropped my old “inner circle” and found another one. To this day I haven’t had a drink and I don’t miss it, not one bit.

    • Craig Curelop

      That’s awesome, Chris! If your friends aren’t supportive… find new friends. Great mentality! Most of my friends still do drink and I still do hang out with them. I just don’t drink when around them.

      I have also found many new friends that aren’t as reliant on alcohol. Totally different types of relationships are formed when you remove the alcohol.

  13. This was exactly what I needed to hear. Not drinking alcohol has been a part of my life since 2016. I’ve been doing research on REI for the past year and a half, and I am literally at my first opportunity to become part of a living sober home for women. Its not exactly a REI, but a business model experience that will help me work through all the growing pains and eventually, once profitable, move onto REI and have more living sober homes.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Nicholas Pyle

    Congrats on one year – I’ll be 15 years sober March 23. Write down where you want to be in life in five years. In 2023 revisit your list and see that you may have sold yourself short. I thank my higher power every day. Thanks for sharing. Nick

  15. Derek Persuit

    I was going to read this and was sincerely interested until I saw the words New England Patriots. Dont do yourself a disservice by losing most of your potential audience in the first paragraph. Also, i hope you’re a good sport about online sports trash talk. Awesome job not drinking. It’s so hard to leave that culture while you’re young. Great to see the benefits too. Look forward to more articles from you. Just a little less Patriots. Go Steelers.

    • Craig Curelop

      Haha thanks, Derek! If you knew me in person, you’d realize that talking trash is one of my favorite things to do. Luckily, my teams are usually able to back it up! Though, I am willing to concede defeat… Eagles play a heck of a game. Maybe, just maybe your Steelers can represent the AFC this year (probably not though).

      Thanks man! It was hard to leave the culture behind, but after a couple of months. It was pretty easy!

  16. Shannon S.

    Nice post! Like unhealthy food, alcohol taxes your systems if it is excessive. Our bodies work so hard for us. I’m currently working on my weight and fitness. I’ve been a pretty healthy eater for most of my adult life, but I do eat too much! So working out is even more important. Alcohol is something I’ve really cut back on, as well. Most people don’t think about the fact that alcohol is also a depressant so it’s affecting your brain chemistry. And the financial aspect was eye opening. Great points, thank you!

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks, Shannon! Totally agree. I just got finished with a book called, “The Snowball” which is essentially a biography of Warren Buffett’s life. There is a good metaphor that he uses when describing your body and brain.

      I am paraphrasing, but he says, “If I were to give you a brand new car when you were 16 years old, what would you do? If I told you that this car had to last you the rest of your life and you could not get a new one, how would you treat it?” Then he answers his own question with…

      “I would change the oil before it was due, buff out every scratch and dent as they came in, and treat it like gold. Well, you only have one body and one brain and you can’t buy a new one. So treat your body and brain the same way.”

      Granted, Buffett is infamously known for eating unhealthily, he was talking about always be learning and being astute. I also attributed what he says to eating healthy and limiting the drinking.

  17. Craig Pfeffer

    I also quit drinking in my last year of college. Best thing I ever did. I would not however recommend drinking on your international travels. You may find yourself back in a bad habit of drinking again. It’s happened to many people in the past. I’m a strong single Christian guy and also don’t have premarital sex anymore. If that’s not you, fine. But God has blessed me in many ways for following how the bible says to live. Congratulations!

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks, Craig! I probably won’t, but I don’t want to admit to the world in the event that I do decide to have a drink or two while on vacation. However, I am confident in my discipline that I won’t fall into any more bad habits!

  18. Jonathan Bowen

    It will be two years without alcohol on Pi Day. I tried to quit many times before and even had a five month stretch and a seven month stretch before that but I never psychologically committed to sobriety until this latest stretch. I’m 44-years-old and I finally feel like I’ve put alcohol behind me for good. My real estate business isn’t any better but that’s okay with me. I can finally commit to myself so I can, by extension, commit to agents so I’ve finally started recruiting. I have a lot to offer…

  19. Congrats on your one year+ mark Craig! Thank you for sharing your experience~ My sobriety feels very similar. I have gone long periods without drinking and feel so much better in all the same ways. I have many of the same interests as you do and just now getting involved with Bigger Pockets. Love BP’s success story and approach to RE business. So altruistic and inspiring! Keep up the great work~ I am superstitious that the harder you work, the luckier you’ll be~ HA! Superstition is a funny thing~ Thoughts Become Things (TUT) So choose the good ones! Cheers to Sobriety~~

    • Craig Curelop

      Nice Richard! Similar timeline for me… except I just stopped at 24. Right now, I’m certainly not upset with the decision. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever ran into anyone who has stopped for a significant period of time and didn’t enjoy it.

  20. Cornel Smith

    Honestly I rarely ever drink. About to turn 25 in about a week. Never took the time to “acquire the taste”. The few times I have; didn’t like the feeling that much, although I’ve never been pass out drunk. In 2017 I’ve been to a ton of concerts and a festival; so I’ve been around a lot of marijuana… turn that down too…

    • Craig Curelop

      The lesson here is that when I was drinking, my life was stagnant. In the past year I have purchased my first property and have grown a lot more.

      Real Estate is really just a subsection of Personal Finance which is a subsection of Personal Well Being. So is it directly related to real estate, no. But could your real estate investing change, absolutely.

  21. Congrats on not drinking. You did a great job delineating the areas of your life that have been affected by abstaining. I quit 10 years ago on March 25 of this year. Spirituality, gut instincts ( may be how this is helpful in real estate) and intuition have vastly increased.

    I was recently on a trip with friends with whom drinking is a large part of them ‘having fun’ gotta say I had to remove myself mentally, physically and spiritually on more than one occasion. Yes, the ‘stinking thinking’ that is a result of hard drinking unfortunately can permeate a good time had by all so that it’s not fun to be around. Glad for you that this doesn’t seem to be the case for you! Best!

  22. Michael Bennett on

    I quit drinking 4 St Patty’s days ago. The difference in my life is astounding, for all the reasons you wrote about, and a few extras, but you stated it quite eloquently. I have a bet with myself when I can have another one, when I hit certain goals….but I have a feeling that when that day comes, my new set of goals will be so high – after attaining all my current ones, that I’ll just say, nah, I like this way too much! I’m in sales and everybody drinks, clients included, and I go out with them. But now, I’m always there to drive them home safely if they need it. I get invited out more than I ever did lol, and have just as much fun, which I thought could never, ever, possibly happen.

    • Craig Curelop

      Haha thanks for sharing, Michael! Everyone loves a fun designated driver. I tend to be that guy when I go out too. Truthfully, I like going out when others are drinking. I kind of catch their buzz without consuming any alcohol. I usually go home when things start getting too reckless and people become hard to understand.

  23. Jim McFarland

    Thanks for writing this post. I quit drinking February 19, 2001 (my 33rd birthday) for a few years and it was the best thing I ever did. Cleared my mind and opened up a whole new world, I am happier and healthier at 50 than I was at 30! Since then I will have a glass of wine every now and again but won’t touch a beer (my previous drink of choice), and never to excess. Now I actually hate the feeling of having too much! I’ve watched alcohol ruin the lives of so many of my lifelong friends and am so glad I took that step. Thanks again for writing this piece, I don’t usually talk about stopping but the date you stopped caught my eye and you did a wonderful job of explaining the benefits.

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks, Jim! Crazy that we stopped on the same day… albeit mine was a few years later. Great that you like it and you are happy with your decision. I am sure I will be similar to you. Have one or two on special occasions, but never in excess.

  24. Anthony Gayden

    I do not drink alcohol. I have tried it before, but it has been a very long time since I last had a drink, and I do not like the way it tastes.

    Still I have found that I have no patience or tolerance for hanging out with drunken people. So I have never been one who goes to bars or clubs. People also call me boring and think I am extremely religious, or that I am a recovering alcoholic. All of these things are not true. I choose to live my life the way I want and have no need to drink to have fun. .

  25. Robbin Robinson on

    I realized that my daily consumption was simply a habit started by a now ex-husband who would make a drink for me without asking if I wanted one. I’ve recently made it a policy to eliminate daily drinking but have given myself permission to have a drink or two with a friend over dinner or something. The results were immediate. I’ve lost 15 pounds and have saved a good chunk of money in just the 2 months I’ve eliminated the daily habit. Like any habit, it was hard at first but now I do not even think about it at that time of day when I usually would have poured myself one. The weight loss is the most motivational aspect of this change of habit.

  26. Eric Davis

    Yeah, but that means when you wake up in the morning, that is as good as you are going to feel all day. lol
    I have recently really cut back my drinking from 3-4 times a week to 1-2 times per month. I have noticed all the wonderful things you mentioned. One thing that came back to me that I was curious if you would mention as I read your article was my memory. Instead of “what was the name of that thing from that time?” I had instant recall. I was sharper, wiser, with an impressive memory. Just like when I was young. Like coming out of a fog, I had my mind back.

  27. Tamara Glass

    Good on ya & thank you for sharing this! I love wine and a good cocktail but have also come to realize that the impact lingers more than just a few hours and is rarely worth the sadsack and unproductive following day. Your points are thought provoking and definitely challenge me to raise my own bar. Thanks!

  28. This was shared by my husband,

    I decided to stop drinking for 2018 as a personal challenge and he decided to support me and join (he is all kinds of awesome). I can so relate to the ones who talk about drinking out of habit. I mean, I lived to be 19 (from Ontario Canada) so I can have a drink, truth be told I did not wait to actually be of age (shh)..fast forward 10 years later and I was still at it. Out of habit?because I could? Because I loved the taste? My “why” had to be different than my 18 years old me…it wasn’t. This triggered a NEED to stop. 3 months in and still going strong. We manage to find alcohol free wines ( which taste really good actually), but overall…I really do not miss you tequila! Thank you for sharing Craig!

  29. Paul Moore

    Craig.

    I really appreciate you sharing your journey on here. As a fellow BP author, I have struggled with thoughts of not going off-topic. But through the success of this article, you’ve shown that this was thoroughly on-topic.

    I made a similar decision (to quit) with sex as a single about 33 years ago. It was one of the best decisions I made, and was part of the reason (I think) that I’ve had a successful 30+ year marriage to my wife now. (And of course that vow only lasted about 3 years – to be clear. 🙂

    Great post.

  30. Brent M.

    Absolutely fine not to drink. That being said I think a lot of the above commenters might’ve been indulging a bit much for cessation to equal such a huge change their lifestyle.. I probably drink 4 to 5 times a week. One beer, or perhaps a Manhattan. Then I stop. Then I might do the same thing the next night. Everything in moderation guys .

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