This essay isn’t for the casual drinker, the person who can “just have one,” or anyone who doesn’t know what it feels like to regret the night before. But if you often find yourself disappointed after a night when you had more to drink than you wish you would have, keep reading.
Who would you be if you weren’t always spending time regretting decisions you made while drinking? I asked that question a lot in early 2017. Too often I was regretting going to that last bar, having that last shot, and caving in to peer pressure while failing to do the things I told myself I’d do before the hangover kicked in. At 33 — with a great job, a beautiful boyfriend, and a life I didn’t deserve — I was still on a rinse, wash, and repeat cycle of resolving to drink less and failing at it every single time.
What happens to your pride when you spend so much time regretting your actions? I found myself trying to drink moderately in an environment of excessive consumption, though I could never stay on my side of the line. Mondays, Tuesdays, and sometimes Wednesdays were spent beating myself up for not accomplishing what I could have without the pounding headache and lack of sleep. And just when life was beginning to get clear, I was ready to do it all over again.
I’d had enough of the cycle and vowed to quit drinking. It’s been over a year since my last vodka-fueled weekend, wine-soaked brunch, and margarita Mexico getaway. And I’d be lying to myself if I said I haven’t had difficult moments.
I pushed through the awkwardness of feeling like a grandma on my birthday, but a peaceful trip to Sedona with lots of crystal energy and coffee at sunrise made it worthwhile. There was a supremely awful time at a big gay lake party where I was stuck on a boat with a gaggle who took shots roughly every 20 minutes. That wasn’t so much a temptation to drink as it was an obnoxious reminder of why I decided not to in the first place. To be honest, these difficult moments were less frequent than I anticipated and rather insignificant compared to the benefits that came from being sober.
Imagine a full year of living without a single moment of regret. That is the best way to describe my experience with sobriety. Even in those difficult moments at a party or an event where my fiancé is having a drink and I’m pushing through without one, it’s a mere matter of hours before he wakes up with a headache and I wake up thankful that I stuck to soda water and lime. So far, I have never regretted not drinking.
Just like quitting any drug, the benefits you gain from having a clear mind are endless. When I was drinking, I was often working on a deficit of physical energy and mental clarity. This year I was able to accomplish more than I ever have, and able to try all the things I have been meaning to do once my hangover subsided.
To be clear, I did not quit drinking because I thought I was an alcoholic or because my life was crumbling around me. I find it infuriating that this is the common assumption people have when someone doesn’t drink. There’s a presumption that not drinking alcohol is weird. I believe that’s a myth liquor companies sell us so our society can validate its rampant alcohol use. No other drug is embraced and glamorized to the extent of alcohol. You can feel like a pariah if you choose not to drink, even for just one night. If you want to quit drinking for whatever reason, it should be widely supported as a good thing.
You deserve to feel proud of your actions, proud of your choices, and proud of yourself. If anything compromises your pride, especially a drug, don’t be afraid to eliminate it. After all, the opposite of pride is regret.
Contributing editor TYLER CURRY is also editor at large at Plus magazine and the author of A Peacock Among Pigeons. Follow him on Twitter @IAmTylerCurry.