Not being sad about no longer drinking
July 3, 2015 8:43 PM   Subscribe

I am going to have to stop drinking, and it is making me sad. Looking for things to be happy about.

For various reasons, I am giving up alcohol. I feel like a big part of me is dying - I'm from a part of the country where certain spirits are a big part of culture, I have family and friends for whom drinking is part of the social fabric, etc. Sharing a bottle of wine with friends is kind of a big deal with us. So while I realize that what I'm doing is the best thing, I'm feeling emotional and sad about it.

Looking for things to feel happy about. What will be better as a result? How will life improve? How do I reconcile my inner sense of loss with my intellectual understanding that this is the way to go? Anything that you would suggest I focus my mental energy on?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
When I quit drinking, I tallied how much money I'd been spending on booze and cheerfully added it to my grocery budget. Drinking amazing coffee, eating real prosciutto di parma, enjoying fine steaks... these things were pretty terrific for improving my mood.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:38 PM on July 3, 2015 [25 favorites]

Do you ever wake up super tired after drinking?

Do you wake up a lot less tired after not drinking.

I definitely do. Make a note of that. Write it down daily if you need to!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:14 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Well if you're in a place where people have to drive home after going out, always being able to be the designated driver will make you really popular.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2015

The important thing about getting together with friends and family is not the drinking. The important part is the friends and family. You can still get together with them and drink things, amazing tasting things even. Use some of the cash freed-up by not buying expensive alcohol and find exotic drinks you really like. Pomegranate juice. Black cherry juice. Make up mocktails. If you find ones that feel special, you can just drink those when you would otherwise have been drinking alcohol. That way it's still a special thing, not just an everyday orange juice or something.

You'll have more money. You won't wake up feeling seedy and/or hungover. You'll sleep better. You'll snore less. Your liver will thank you, but I realise that's not particularly obvious. You'll save even more money and time by being able to drive yourself home afterwards instead of taking cabs or crashing at someone's house.

I still drink some, but far far less than I used to. Sometimes I look back on how much I used to drink and feel kind of relieved that I don't anymore. Not drinking is now as much a habit as drinking was. You will get used to it and not even notice after a while, it will just be what you do.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:12 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Google Hello Sunday Morning. Basically it's a movement around non drinking that was started by a young Brisbane guy who was tired of feeling like crap from being hungover on Sunday morning. He started blogging about all the great things he was doing on Sunday mornings now he wasn't drinking and invited others to do the same. It's caught on in a big way and a lot of people are loving having spare time to actually enjoy their weekends. I'm sure you'll get lots of ideas and find like minded people. It even has its own app and Facebook page to do just that. Great idea.
posted by Jubey at 11:14 PM on July 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

Your friends and family will no longer have this extreme worry about you. You will live longer, and be less likely to take out someone else. You can function more or less equally well at all times of day. Younger people will remember you fondly when you're gone, as will colleagues and neighbors even now. You will look better. You will seek and find keener moments of beauty and laughter. You will be rightly proud of your strong self.
posted by mmiddle at 11:14 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think it depends on why you're stopping drinking. If it's directly because you have a problem with alcohol then I suspect that although it will be harder to do, many of the benefits will reveal themselves. I can't really speak more to that - other people have and will.

OTOH if you are stopping for other reasons then it will be easier to do but the benefits might not be as obvious. For example I spent several months minimising my drinking while I was taking warfarin. There were no intrinsic benefits as I didn't have a problem with alcohol, nor had I been spending noticeable amounts on alcohol. I spend some time working out which non-alcoholic drinks I liked best, leading to a new-found love of ginger-based drinks and tonic water. At gatherings I concentrated on the company and used caffeine instead of alcohol to help me stay awake.

If I decided I needed to do this again permanently, I'd be looking forward to maybe exploring fancy sodas, coffee shops and tea shops, socialising where alcohol is incidental and picking the right non-alcoholic drinks where it is not. But mostly I'd get used to it in the same way I've gotten used to adjusting my diet to take into account my lactose intolerance and it's really no big deal to not drink lattes. After a bit it'll just be how you live, no big deal.
posted by plonkee at 12:42 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I did so about 3.5 years ago, very much due to problem drinking. A thing that gave me peace of mind was realizing that the positive aspects of drinking had already been lost to me, long before I actually stopped. It wasn't like I was enjoying fellowship and a comradely pint with friends in a quaint old pub in the final phase, I was drinking out of pure need.
posted by thelonius at 4:33 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have been watching my mother-in-law decline over the last few years from cirrhosis. It is a miserable way to die and she's been sick for a very long time. She's weak, in constant pain, and in danger of having a massive bleed from the weakened veins in her esophagus. The ammonia level in her blood keep blowing up which necessitates emergency trips to the hospital where she remains for a week or more getting things back under a shaky control. The medication she takes for this cause her to have frequent poo accidents which my sister-in-law has the pleasure of dealing with. Now MIL's kidneys are failing too. Her stomach hurts all the time and she can barely eat. She looks like a ghostly cadaver.

We're not particularly close but I wouldn't wish this on anyone. You need your liver. Even though the effects of liver failure may be many years off, you can quietly be glad that you're sparing yourself this kind of hell down the line.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:41 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are other, equally respectable indulgences that you can share when others are drinking: cheeses, fresh breads, olives, compotes, specialty preserved meats... all the things you will find on the fanciest cheese plates and in hors d'oeuvres. Not to mention chocolates and sweets. If you became an expert in these, you could have your friends saying "ever since X stopped drinking they've brought the most delicious things to parties!" (I'd certainly anticipate your arrival!!)

There are plenty of nonalcoholic drinks that are insanely delicious. Some come in bottles and some you prepare like a bartender. Many of these are lower in calories than alcoholic drinks.
posted by zennie at 5:55 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can only speak for myself, so: what makes me happy after not drinking alcohol for over 27 years? Let's see. Zero likelihood of killing myself or others in drunken driving crash (like a relative of mine who was just sentenced to 12-30 years). Far less chance of dying of cirrhosis. Never again waking up in a strange place with someone I don't know beside me. Never again wondering where my car is and, upon finding it, hoping there are no new dents or strange looking bloody hair in the grille. Fewer headaches (except the ice cream kind), no more Russian Army mouth (feeling like the Russian Army marched through wearing shitty boots), no more humiliating myself in public saying stupid things, bumping into furniture, falling down; a lot more money in my pocket; becoming associated with an amazing group of hardy survivors who have my kind of badly wired brains, helping each other out on a daily basis, far fewer episodes of worshiping at the porcelain altar, being always present and engaged with my spouse, children, grandchildren, every single very precious day that I am no longer pissing away. That's what makes me happy without alcohol. Your mileage may vary. Good luck.
posted by charris5005 at 6:18 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I like not drinking my calories - when I don't drink I have the caloric space to have lots of cake instead!
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:40 AM on July 4, 2015

I was worried about this because I used drinking to relieve my social anxiety and to bond with friends and family. I thought it was a big deal, and I worried about missing parts of my identity like my taste in wines, my favorite cocktails, drinking my dad's favorite beer when I visit. However after a relatively short period of mourning, everything went back to normal. After you say "nah, I'm not drinking tonight" a few times, people stop asking and don't think much about it. If you keep showing up to the dinner parties and social occasions, nobody cares about what you're drinking. Eventually I realized they just wanted to be with me, especially because I was a better person to be around.
posted by papalotl at 9:18 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Like others, it really wasn't fun anymore. I rationalized that I didn't drink more than my friends, but, in the end I was. For a long time though, I didn't drink more than my friends, I just picked my friends carefully.

Now, I'm raising my daughter as I got custody, I don't have the terrible depression that the meds didn't help much. I am no longer bothered by being alone, which is a nice change.

You'll develop other interests besides alcohol. I've got money in my pocket, enough to support a kind of expensive hobby. Enough to take fun vacations with my daughter, who was young enough when I stopped that she does not remember Daddy being drunk. My hope is that she will never see Daddy drunk, because that wasn't a pretty sight.

Nthing that people who matter won't care if you are drinking alcohol or not. If someone gets upset or insists you need to drink, THEY are the one with the problem. Not you.
posted by rudd135 at 11:48 AM on July 4, 2015

I used to wake up feeling ashamed of myself. Sometimes for good reason but usually just a non-specific general feeling of self-loathing and disgust at myself. Now I wake up feeling proud of the person I've become.
posted by essexjan at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not drinking means I'm ALWAYS ready and capable if I find time for a bit of woodworking. I don't lose entire evenings to alcohol.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:47 PM on July 4, 2015

Likewise, even if I don't drink a ton, having drinks in the evening makes it harder to exercise early in the morning. Especially with age. So I skip walking or running and then it's shame spiral time because I get all the post-booze depressive effects and none of the endorphins.

Seconding volunteer as designated driver. I did this on NYE and had so much fun, and everyone was really happy to have a safe ride. It felt great to be useful instead of a tired blob at the end of the night.

(Thank you for posting the question. I'm struggling with this too right now. Solidarity!)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take up an early morning hobby -- crack of dawn runs, 6:30 a.m. tee times that let you get 18 holes in before most partiers are even awake.
posted by MattD at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2015

My mother died a few years ago from cirrhosis. Her mind was gone during the last few years from her liver being toast. The ascites, hemorrhaging, and dementia alone were horrific, not counting the damage she did to various personal relationships.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by heathrowga at 5:29 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have been there- I remember those kinds of grief feelings when first stopping and feeling like there was this great thing being lost in my life while also knowing full well that it was right for me. Be patient, this is a phase. It does get better/easier.

What will be better as a result? So many things. In my case, physical and mental health shot up through the roof. I lost over 25 pounds- look and feel great. I don't know what your drinking habits were, but the most striking thing that I realized was just how much mental clarity and cognitive function I was missing out on when alcohol was present in my life. Being able to really ponder things deeply over spans of days without alcohol slowing or interrupting things has done wonders in my life. I have had the chance to really get in touch with myself and the world around me more completely. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

How will life improve? To be honest, no one can really answer that question as it is what you are going to figure out now. If alcohol was holding you back in any way or causing a problem, that is going to be gone now. If there is something deeper than that, well now you will be forced to face it and work through it. We all share this existential burden of having to decide our own path and responsible for our own happiness. I would argue that you are giving yourself a good chance to do a good job with that task now.

How do I reconcile my inner sense of loss with my intellectual understanding that this is the way to go? Like I mentioned above, those feelings are a phase. Presumably you have arrived at this decision after some reflection and personal history to back up this decision. It is a rational one that puts your own welfare first. The other part- the feelings of loss- that is an emotional response more wrapped up in fear and anxiety about the future of your social life and relationships. You aren't sure how things are going to be. It is natural to feel this way right now. Trust that over time you will adjust and figure out how everything will work.

Anything that you would suggest I focus my mental energy on? Your new-found mental energy and clarity is the sweetest gift of this whole deal. Use it to the max. Explore yourself and thoughts completely. Indulge your current hobbies as much as you see fit and try all kinds of new things to see what else out there resonates with you. In the years since I have stopped, I have learned to speak Italian, taken up salsa dancing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and have earned almost straight A's in graduate night school and become a PhD candidate now. I would have never been able to do these things otherwise. What about taking cooking classes, dance classes, writing classes- meetups, books, movies, building things at home. The world is your oyster.

Feel free to memail me if you want to talk in more detail and privacy. I'll be happy to share whatever I know about this.
posted by incolorinred at 10:12 PM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I had to give up eating junk food permanently in order to lose weight. It isn't easy because now and then I still miss the cookies and the potato chips. I replaced that with artisan perfume/aromatherapy obsessions. That way I got to indulge myself without piling on the pounds. A nice side effect of the new junk-free diet was that my skin improved as well (the new aromatherapy hobby also helped with that as I started making my own skincare products).

I once read a whole guidebook about appreciating different fancy sparkling/still mineral waters. It was written by someone who used to be in the wine industry and had to give up drinking alcohol for health reasons. Or you can become a tea or coffee snob.

Just giving you some ideas.
posted by whitelotus at 11:05 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Relationships with people/self, money, time, health: these are sort of recouped when giving up problem drinking. I quit 5 years ago and was sad to miss sharing a bottle of wine, but sharing a pot of tea can seriously be sexy. Quitting drinking was a lot like leaving a bad relationship. I loved drinking and can remember the good times: times of celebration and comfort. To end it meant having to mourn the loss of who I was... But shit. The new me is better-- I'm in a way better relationship with Notdrinking. Plus, have more money, time, health, sincerity, and on and on. By the way, I wasn't mourning for long-- just mourned while I looked at the band aid and contemplated the change/ripping it off. Oh, and sometimes I see brew pubs and wine tastings or similar and think, "Remember when that type of thing was so much fun [for me]?" Well, I feel the same way when I pass a candy store-- when I was a kid with no money I would have killed to have free rein at a candy store. But, just yesterday I sampled an old favorite candy and it was so gross I had to spit it out. We just move on. Let the kids have the candy stores and the drinkers have the wine bars, and you're somewhere past all of that, enjoying nature and fresh air and sunshine and poetry or whatever.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I stopped drinking this year for health reasons. I was a pretty active social drinker plus some. There was an awkward couple of weeks where I had to explain to people again and again that I'm not drinking, that they can drink around me, that it's no big deal. Find a nice, non alcoholic thing to have while friends drink wine. Don't put so much emphasis on it. It's pretty quickly no big deal to anyone. I drink Mexican Coke in place of booze a few times a week. It's very nice. I lost weight without trying in the first few weeks. While I know you are looking for positives, the biggest positive I can offer is that it isn't as huge a change as you might think.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2015

Everybody is very different when it comes to alcohol, but I can offer my own experience, for what it's worth. A few years back, the abdominal ultrasound I had during my annual health check showed I had a moderately fatty liver, and so the doctor advised 6 months of no drinking.

I've been an enthusiastic imbiber for many decades now (if more moderate in the last 15 years or so), and I was, frankly, a little freaked out by the idea. I enjoy my Friday beers immensely. I hadn't spent that long without a drink.... well probably since I was a teenager in the early 80s.

Turned out, it was great, and far far easier than I thought it would be. I felt better, and after reading up on the subject, decided that I'd start a vigorous exercise program and start losing weight and taking better care of myself as I approached 50. I'm still doing it. I had to change some of my habits, reprogram myself a bit, but honestly, I didn't miss the booze nearly as much as I thought I would.

A year later (3 years ago now, I think) my liver was back to normal, even though I'd gone back to my Friday beers after the 6 month hiatus, I had changed my lifestyle enough to keep things on an evener keel.

Which is to suggest, I guess, not freaking out too much at the prospect. It might just turn out to be easier than you think it will be, and the impetus to living better in some ways.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:11 PM on July 5, 2015

A recent article in a local paper might give you some ideas for alcoholic drink alternatives. Obviously it is trying to encourage people to go to those bars/pubs, but between the suggestions in the article and visiting the bars' websites, you might get some good ideas. Bitters (as in lemon, lime and) is definitely a good idea, but are usually made with alcohol as the solvent. They are not generally classified as alcoholic though, because it's usually not much. However, depending on your reasons for stopping drinking, you may want to avoid them.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:49 PM on July 5, 2015

I felt much the same way about quiting smoking. For awhile I really missed both the social aspect of it and the relaxation. It was the way I took time to slow down and have me time. But after quiting I found other, healthier ways to do those things. I do miss smoking sometimes, but nowhere near as much as I thought I would. Being healthy more than makes up for the loss.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:51 PM on July 6, 2015

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