An op-ed on the personal financial, physical, and mental benefits of an alcohol-free year
By Nikita Wolff
Many of us have enjoyed raising a glass to celebrate special occasions, to decompress after a stressful day at work, or while socializing with friends. However, it’s becoming increasingly common that people are re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol. I found myself among those questioning the relationship, so I embarked on a committed year without alcohol in November of 2022, and in this blog, I’m sharing the various benefits I’ve found.
How did I come to this decision?
I guess I was “sober curious” before I even knew what that was. The term was popularized by Ruby Warrington, a British journalist, who wrote a book titled “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.” Published in 2018, the book explored the idea of questioning and reevaluating one’s relationship with alcohol without necessarily identifying as completely sober or in recovery. This movement resonates with a broader cultural shift towards wellness, self-care, and a focus on mental and physical health. As such, people of all ages have been drawn to exploring alternatives to traditional drinking culture.
The decision to embark on an alcohol-free year offered me more than just health benefits. In this blog, I’ll outline some of the additional perks (like having more money & better friends). 🙃
We’ll start with the financial motivators, since I am writing for 3rd Decade.
Savings on Alcohol Purchases:
The most obvious financial advantage of abstaining from alcohol is the money saved from not buying alcoholic beverages. Whether it’s buying drinks at bars, restaurants, or purchasing alcohol from stores, these expenses can add up over time.
No Spending on Hangover Remedies:
Hangovers can lead to spending on over-the-counter remedies, such as pain relievers and rehydration products, to alleviate the effects of alcohol consumption.
Improved Personal Finance Management:
Not drinking alcohol can lead to better decision-making when it comes to managing personal finances. You may be less likely to make impulsive or unnecessary purchases while sober. I once had a friend who impulsively financed a $ 2,500 purchase after having a few drinks.
Avoiding alcohol can lead to improved health, reducing the likelihood of alcohol-related health problems. As a result, you may spend less on healthcare costs, doctor visits, medications, and treatments associated with alcohol-related illnesses.
Cheaper Socializing Alternatives:
Socializing without alcohol can lead to discovering more affordable and enjoyable activities with friends and family, such as outdoor activities, hikes, potlucks, and game nights.
It’s important to note that the financial benefits of going without alcohol can vary depending on individual circumstances and the level of alcohol consumption prior to making the change. While some individuals may see substantial savings, others may not experience significant financial differences.
The Physical & Mental Health Benefits
Better Sleep Quality:
Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, leading to poor sleep quality. Without it, you’re more likely to experience restful and rejuvenating sleep.
Improved Emotional Well-being & Coping Mechanisms:
This might be my favorite side-effect of doing a year without alcohol. At first, I struggled because (like a lot of people) I used it as a coping mechanism to an extent. But forcing myself to dig deep within myself and find healthier coping mechanisms ultimately led me to more emotional resilience.
Enhanced Immune System:
Alcohol weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Refraining can help strengthen your body’s natural defense mechanisms.
Reduced Anxiety and Depression:
Ever heard of Hangxiety? That anxious feeling of dread the morning after a night of drinking. While alcohol may provide temporary relief from stress and anxiety, it exacerbates these issues in the long run.
Going without alcohol has shown me who my true friends were. If someone isn’t interested in making plans with me if I’m not drinking, this gives me good reason to evaluate the quality of the relationship in the first place. Connecting with friends while sober allows me to connect meaningfully and to know that connection comes from a genuine place and not just from liquid courage.
Alcohol impairs cognitive function and can lead to brain fog and reduced focus, even in the days following drinking. Sobriety can result in improved mental clarity and concentration.
Improved Skin Health:
Alcohol dehydrates the body, and chronic alcohol use can lead to skin issues like dryness and premature aging. Quitting alcohol can lead to healthier, more radiant skin.
Improved Liver Function:
Alcohol can be harsh on the liver, and excessive consumption over time can lead to liver damage or diseases like fatty liver and cirrhosis. By abstaining from alcohol, you give your liver a chance to recover and function more efficiently.
Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Issues:
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Cutting out alcohol can contribute to better cardiovascular health.
While abstaining from alcohol isn’t right for everyone, the decision to go without it has had a positive benefit on my physical, mental, and financial health, so I wanted to share those takeaways with you all.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive breakdown on the scientific benefit of low or no alcohol intake, I encourage you to listen to this 2-hour episode of The Huberman Lab podcast.