One Year Sober: What Giving Up Alcohol Is Really Like

Imagine you’re on your death bed. You’re old, wrinkly, disabled, and ready to croak. Suddenly, you slip away and you’re met with a white light.

“God, is that you?” You’re unsure what to believe. All of a sudden, you see a familiar face approach you. Shocked and in disbelief, it’s you. Except this version of you looks different.

One Year Sober: Before and After
Last night drinking in London vs Present Day

In fact, they’re 100x’s better looking, healthier and happier. You can feel the joy radiating from them as you stammer your words, “Who.. who…are you..?”

“I’m you, well… at least what you could have been. Deep down you always knew I was within you.. but for whatever reason you hid me away. You chose partying, alcohol and going out instead of spending time with your family. Drinking instead of focusing on your health and your goals. Prioritizing your demise over maintaining your friendships. I wish we could have met sooner.”

This is what I imagine hell to be like. Meeting the person you could have become. Imagine coming face to face with all of your wasted potential. That would be horrible.

I hope you get value from the thoughts you’re about to read. This is the pain and growth that I experienced after giving up alcohol for one year — this is my one year sober reflection.

Giving Up Alcohol: A Rewind

I was 12-years old when I first got drunk. It was 6th grade summer and my friend had stayed the night. Growing up I always saw my dad and family drinking. It was a norm I would quickly adopt as my own.

Like every kid, my philosophy was wanting to be a grown up as soon as possible. So much, that when my friend stayed the night I thought it’d be a great idea to borrow my dad’s tequila.

We drank, drank more, got drunk, and I had my very first hangover. I also had a long grounding and a thorough ass whooping. You’d think I learned my lesson.

Later that summer I went down to San Diego, California with my brother and a friend to go visit our eldest brother. He had just gotten out of the Marines. And what do military big brothers do for their little brothers? They get them wasted on tequila and light beer of course.

After that gnarly hangover, it was the first time I ever uttered that much too familiar phrase: “I’m never drinking again.” I wouldn’t drink again until I was about 15-years old and that’s when I would go on to start partying heavily up until the age of 30.

I Quit Drinking Cold Turkey

On January 8, 2020 I’d just landed at Los Angeles International Airport. My friend and I had just completed a month long Euro trip. We visited some of the greatest football (soccer) stadiums in Europe and partied until the sun came up. We had an absolute blast and a whole bunch to drink.

Upon arriving at LAX, something came over me. Maybe it was the warm sun hitting my face or the fact that I realized I’d done everything I wanted to do in regards to the selfish things. Whatever it was, I said it out loud on the drive home: “I’m done drinking dude.”

The next day, a sickness came over me. Cue Covid-19 news everywhere with Rome, Italy being the initial epicenter in Europe (a city we had just visited). For 2-weeks after returning, I had the worst dry cough, my chest hurt and I even had a bit of blood in my sputum. I’m pretty sure I’d gotten Covid.

I was already feeling like crap after drinking and smoking cigarettes for a month, enjoying the party life, but now this? I’d eventually get better (shoutout to my immune system) but it was a big wake up call. As a former athlete I always cared about my fitness but I slipped on my health with drugs and alcohol.

What Happens When You Quit Drinking?

Before I get into everything, I’d like to explain why I quit drinking. My simple answer is this:

I partied from 15 to 30. 15-years of my life. I know exactly what my life looks like with alcohol, I want to know what my life will look like without it.

Disclaimer: I’m going to give you a breakdown of what happens when you quit drinking. If you’re someone who believes they have a serious drinking problem, please seek professional treatment to help aid in your recovery.

Stages of Sobriety

Throughout the recovery process, I didn’t experience any tremors or withdrawal like symptoms. Nothing really happened until month 3 or 4. That’s when I really started to notice a difference along my sobriety journey.

Sugar Cravings

I’d previously done a 30-day and 90-day no alcohol challenge, so this one didn’t come as a surprise. Eating sweets releases dopamine in the brain, rewarding you with pleasure. So your body isn’t really craving sugar, it’s craving dopamine that you now lack since you aren’t having a drink of alcohol anymore. Very common experience amongst people in recovery.

Depression

My brain had been depending on alcohol to provide the dopamine hits. So my brain naturally stopped producing it on its own. And since I cut off the alcohol supply, my mind was suffering through a period of not being able to produce its own, which I believe led to the depression period.

Anxiety

Around months 6-7 of my sobriety journey is when I experienced my first ever anxiety attack. Combine quitting alcohol cold turkey with a global pandemic (isolation) and you have a recipe for disaster. I remember my entire head and body shaking. It was the first time I’d ever truly felt worried about my health.

Self-Awareness

Sobriety will have you asking yourself more and more questions as time goes by. I’d recall certain experiences from my past. This lead to a greater understanding of myself. Most of which I didn’t like. I think this is a big reason I drank in the first place, to help forget all of the terrible things I’d experienced in my life up until that point.

Feeling and Processing Through Emotions

Whether you do it with alcohol, weed, or drugs — you’re using it to escape. Alcohol itself is a suppressant. It’s job is to suppress your emotions and to make you feel happy and care free (artificial dopamine release). When I decided to make a change, I took away the option to escape. Recovery forced me to feel and process emotions that I’d bottled up for years.

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

Now that we’re through all the really rough stuff with the first year of sobriety. Let’s get into the benefits of not drinking alcohol. These are the things that make staying sober worthwhile.

Weight Loss

Yes, it’s true. When you stop drinking alcohol, you will lose weight. Alcohol was definitely a big reason I’d gained so much weight over the years. I’d go to the gym 3x’s per week but loved a good IPA. Apparently 1-beer is equivalent to eating 5 slices of bread. When I cut out alcohol, the weight started falling off.

Better Sleep

According to the SleepFoundation, drinking alcohol can screw up your REM sleep. As someone who’s one year sober, I can’t tell you how much better my sleep is. I used to feel groggy and dehydrated, even if I’d gotten 8 hours of sleep. There’s been a huge improvement on my sleep since quitting alcohol.

Clearer Skin

It’s hilarious to me how women will buy tons of skin creams, yet won’t drink water, ease up on the alcohol, and get a good nights rest. I’ve had multiple women tell me my skin looks amazing. My face isn’t as puffy as before and now I like the person I see in the mirror.

One year sober

Healing Old Wounds

One of the benefits of sobriety is making amends with people. Something many of us need to do for others and for ourselves. It felt great to finally close old wounds and own up to the previous wrongs I’d done. It’s no fun carrying the weight of regret and shame. That’s too much weight for anyone to carry and life is too short to live that way, especially when it creates conflict in your relationships and within yourself.

Stronger Friendships

Recovery will help you create deeper connections with your friends. At least it did for me. Unless you stop drinking, you won’t realize that most of your “friendships” revolve around drinking and partying. Take that all away, and ask yourself if you’d really hang out with the same people. Giving up alcohol helped me create healthier foundations without the party life.

At first there was a lot of fear. On one hand I’d think.. What if they judge me? What if they don’t want me to change my ways? If I’m not the same person, will they still be my friends? I had all of this fear and worry built up but after being up front with everyone, I found that I still had tons of love and support. I’m very grateful for the people I have in my life.

Healthy Activities

I was able to do a bunch of hiking as a result of sobriety and covid. Everything was closed, so since I live near the mountains, I’d go on hikes with some friends and it was a blast. We made it a thing to go every weekend and kept it going for at least 6-8 consecutive weeks.

We saw beautiful peaks.

Big Table Mountain Trail

Enjoyed beautiful sunsets.

We even played some soccer by a lake just before a hailstorm.

We discovered some incredible waterfalls.

I even rowed a kayak for the first time!

And no matter what, we always made it a point to plunge into some ice cold water. That’s Eddie drinking his beer, I’ve got a soda of course.

Lots of incredible moments were experienced with many more to come.

Increased Productivity

The focus on my goals increased tenfold. I’d had an idea for an affiliate website for over a year. I owned the domain name and had the right blueprint to execute. When I wasn’t getting deep REM sleep, I was up late working on the website and crafting out a design. I slowly started to feel my confidence coming back. I was no longer wishful thinking, I was doing.

High Self-Esteem

Losing weight due to giving up alcohol has definitely helped boost my self esteem, along with following through on my projects and commitments to myself. Those little victories that I’ve gained through sobriety have definitely helped boost my overall self-esteem.

Non-Alcoholic Beer Tastes Fine

Since we’ve been going through a global pandemic, I didn’t have many opportunities to go out on the scene. Anytime I did go out, I’d just order mocktails or a Heineken 0 and would be fine. If anything the taste of beer was still the same and I had a great time. I would like a non-alcoholic IPA though. That sounds amazing.

I Saved Money

I’m pretty sure I saved over $5,000 from not going out and partying. Probably more over the course of one year if you factor in binge eating and Uber’s. It was definitely great knowing I had extra money in my pocket to hit up Cold Stone to feed my new sugar craving.

Life After Alcohol: What’s Next?

This first year of sobriety really shifted my life for the better. I feel like I finally have control over my life again. I’m not just going through the motions of doing work that I hate. I actually do what I love now.

My passion and creative juices are flowing more than ever. Something internal changes when you decide to take a new path. I can’t really explain what that thing is. Maybe it’s taking a stand for myself.

The external changes are obvious. The improved relationships, the congratulations I received from others, and of course my overall mental and physical health amongst many other things. Now when my friends and I grab a drink, it’s kombucha, coffee, or a non-alcoholic beer for me.

Will I miss the party way of life? I’m sure I will. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out, surrounded by people and have felt a sense of total loneliness. Like there was nothing there for me. Feeling like a castaway out at sea. I might as well had been Tom Hanks.

I like this sense of peace that’s come with the changes I’ve made. The thing about reaching this year of sobriety milestone is that I didn’t seek any addiction treatment centers.

I feel like one of the lucky ones who got out before it was too late. The healthy support system of family and friends definitely helped. Unfortunately, many people don’t have the support of a loved one or friends that care in their corner.

It’s been a lot of hard work up until this point in my life. Recovery is a one day at a time decision that I get to make every day. It’s actually become part of my way of life now. Addiction is no joke for some people. How I was able to quit drinking cold turkey for a year without a program? I have no idea.

Joining the Sober Movement Facebook Group and downloading the I Am Sober App to do daily check-in’s definitely helped. I suppose seeing other people in these groups experiencing a similar journey gave me the help I needed. Maybe I had a helping hand after all.

I’m very grateful to have reached one year sober and am looking forward to more life experiences. What will sobriety bring me next? The next item on my list is to finish my affiliate website and see my projects through until they are a success.

I’d also like to move to Mexico for 2-3 months to live on the beach and experience the nomad lifestyle to see if that’s what I actually want for my life.

Will I drink again? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. Maybe when this long term goal is reached.. but for now.. abstinence is my new lifestyle.

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