I went a year without alcohol. Here's what happened.
Before I made my resolution to go alcohol-free for a year, this is what would happen when I walked into a bar sober: I would feel awkward and freaked out. I would grit my teeth and order a shot of Fireball to soothe all my nerves. Since it didn’t hit fast enough, I ordered another and suddenly I’m nineteen dollars in the hole, and I can’t even feel it because the alcohol is in my bloodstream. I would tell people how much I loved them—not just my closest friends, but also the ones that I had just made at the bar. I would hope no one saw through my insecurities.
I would wake up hot with regret, my head fuzzy, my eyes bleary, hazy on the details of what exactly happened. “I’ve done it again,” I would think, filled with shame. This happened most weekends since turning 21. It began to be my routine.
So, I chose to go a year without drinking as an experiment. I wanted to see if that liquid courage made a difference in my choices. Were fiery dates all that fiery without lighting the match with alcohol? Was I happier sober or tipsy? It seemed terrifying, but I hoped, in the long run, it would help me figure out how to drink with some moderation.
The first weekend may have been the biggest test. I walked into the bar stone cold sober. It was thrilling, in the worst way possible. I was worried about what other girls will think of me, whether guys in the bar would be interested when I wasn’t down to party. Would I be exciting enough? The first couple days, I worked on just trying to get used to being in social situations without a drink. Seltzer, cranberry juice, that’s it for me, thanks.
The first night out with some close friends was the strangest. We all rushed to the bar to take our ceremonious shots and get our favorite cocktails. I ordered water and saw my besties awkwardly giggle while waiting for the alcohol to seep in. I took it all in, quietly, becoming more of a wallflower than the usual life of the party. It took a while for my friends to adjust to sober me in a party situation, but less time than you’d think. Before long, it was just normal that I would hang out, but not join in the usual refreshments.
I learned in that year that there are two types of friends: sober ones and drunk ones. Drunk friends are the ones that only want to hang out if we were going out drinking. It’s just awkward hanging out with them sober. We’d try doing the friendly coffee dates or the Netflix ice cream binges but they just weren’t having it. I realized that the only thing I had in common with some of those friends was alcohol. We’d built our relationship on a foundation of absinthe shots and tequila-soaked nights. That was sad to realize, but it was also a good test: If a friend isn’t going to be there for you when you make a big decision in your life, maybe you’re not meant to be that close.
In my year of not drinking, I saved a bunch of money. You don’t realize how much money goes into drinking until you stop. Taking a cab there and back, cover for the club, drinks and food afterwards. That’s a whole chunk of change required just to have booze-related fun. I learned alternative ways to party, throwbacks to middle school: I went bowling, saw movies, had coffee dates and late-night snack runs with friends. Mostly, I got much closer to the friends who I realized were there for the long haul.
I started dating totally sober, too: My first date with my now boyfriend was a long hike. At the top of the mountain, he kissed me and I was there to feel all the awkward, beautiful goosebumps. There was nothing insulating me from those feelings of nervousness and excitement. It was scary at first, and then wonderful.
My year without alcohol taught me a lot. Now that it’s over, I’m back to having beers with my friends. But something has changed: I’ve become more conscious of my social anxieties, and far better equipped to find other ways, aside from binge-drinking, to cope with them. Alcohol is fun, but it’s not the only way to have fun. I gained a stronger relationship with my friends but most importantly with myself: I’m more aware of what I enjoy doing—and I don’t need to drink to enjoy those activities. I’m also no longer afraid to say ‘no’ to one more drink if I’ve hit my limit. I know my limits, and I’ve learned how to respect them.
Charmee Taylor is from the little town of State College, Pennsylvania where she also went to Penn State University for acting and received her theatre degree in performing arts. She now resides in Los Angeles where she loves to dance in the mirror by herself. You can follow her on Instagram at Charmeeifyoudare or check out her blog.
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