5 Things I’ve Learned About Myself and Alcohol in 9 Months of Sobriety

“Face gains” are totally a thing for most people when you stop drinking for a while.

I keep calling it “the best gift I’ve ever given myself” because, well, it is. I’m 38 years old and I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my whole life.

I’ve been sober for 9 months, 7 hours, 9 minutes, and 38 seconds. How do I know that? I’ve got an app called I Am Sober that keeps track of it for me. It’s a nice little reminder that I did something great for myself a while back, and I keep doing something great for myself every day.

Some stop drinking because of a traumatic life event. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t boozing all hours of the day, or being abusive or neglectful, except maybe to myself.

When COVID-19 gave us a lot of time to be with ourselves, I discovered I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had spent the previous 4 years of my life being a single father, silencing my own voice, needs, and desires, and being the best parent I could be.

I wanted to reset. I wanted to know what it felt like to be me, without anything else on the table. I wanted to listen to myself again, love myself again, and know who I was without suppressing the hard emotions that overtake us sometimes.

I started with “Sober October” and haven’t stopped since.

What follows are 5 things I learned about alcohol and myself along this 273 day journey.

#1 — Alcohol borrows from tomorrow by giving you what you want today

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I was very surprised how quickly my anxiety subsided when I stopped drinking. I had no idea what a vicious cycle it was. I would have a drink to calm down and reduce the anxiousness, and then, inevitably, anxiety would creep back in. A drink always made me feel better and less anxious so I just never made the connection that maybe it was drinking that was a cause of my anxiety in the first place.

Consuming alcohol rapidly reduces stress, anxiety, pain, and suffering by suppressing the reactions in our brain which produce those negative feelings.

Our brains compensate for this by releasing other chemicals as it attempts to regain homeostasis.

When the alcohol has been processed by our bodies, those additional chemicals are leftover. The alcohol is gone, but the overabundance of brain chemicals are still there. Having those additional chemicals causes stress, anxiety, pain, and suffering; the very things we were hoping to escape.

Our brains, being very well-attuned to finding relief, tell our behaviors to go find a quick fix for those feelings. This puts us back where we started. And around, and around we go. It turned out, for me at least, that my anxiety was greatly attributed to alcohol consumption and that by consuming alcohol to help ease anxiety I was only making things worse.

This is true of anxiety, happiness, physical pleasure, and more of the “good” feelings that alcohol gives us in the moment. Sure, we feel good now but we’ll almost always pay for it later. I knew this, but I never internalized it and was very surprised to discover just how much it was borrowing from my tomorrows.

I learned this, and other physiological effects of alcohol, from Alcohol Explained by William Porter.

#2 — There’s probably no such thing as “moderate drinking” despite what we’ve been taught

Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

We’ve all heard and read stories about how a glass of wine per day could be beneficial, or that removing stress and anxiety via alcohol can be okay “in moderation.” Or maybe we’ve learned that the social aspect of drinking can be a boon to your health, career, friendships, or other things.

Researchers have come to different conclusions over the years regarding what may be considered healthy drinking. One of the largest and most recent looks at this from Oxford, however, comes to a new conclusion:

After examining over 25,000 brain scans of people, they determined that alcohol usage, regardless of how “moderate” it was, doesn’t seem to be good for you, at all.

“No safe dose of alcohol for the brain was found. Moderate consumption is associated with more widespread adverse effects on the brain than previously recognised.”

Indeed, a great deal of why we hear stories about how and why alcohol may be good for you, is because marketing and publishers love those stories, as do advertisers, and companies that sell alcohol. There are good reasons that we’re sold the vision of alcohol being a necessary and okay component of “having a good time” and those reasons are called “dollar signs.”

I learned a great deal about alcohol, how it’s been marketed to us since we were young, and how companies continue to successfully make this happen in This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.

#3 — Executing at my highest ability feels amazing and I couldn’t do this when I was drinking

Photo by Jesse Martini on Unsplash

Being able to fire on all cylinders, all of the time, from the moment I wake up, until the moment I hit the pillow, is awesome. I love feeling like I’m running out of time every day. I feel busy all of the time, and it makes me enjoy my time off, or the breaks I give myself, even more. It’s allowed me to fill my life back up with hobbies and interests in ways I never thought possible.

  • I’ve been able to start writing again (this is day 9 in a row of 60 for developing a writing habit).
  • I’m constantly 100% present for my daughter in every way.
  • I’ve been able to work harder and more effectively whenever I need to.
  • I’ve got a regular meditation practice.
  • I feel more capable as an engineer for software, UI and UX, and programming in any language like I used to.
  • I’ve felt enough confidence and abilities to try and get my startup back off of the ground as a CEO and leader in my industry.
  • I feel smarter, more aware and accepting of my shortcomings, and my memory is better than ever before.

And these things are awesome. I feel like Superman every day from the moment I wake up. There’s no grogginess, there’s no delay, I am on all the time and generally feeling good at any particular point in the day.

Do I still have ups and downs? Sure. But my downs aren’t as down, my ups are much more frequent, and they seem to keep getting higher.

#4 — The physical, mental, and emotional gains from sobriety were more than I expected

Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash

I’ve lost around 30 pounds since I stopped drinking. You can see it in the photo at the beginning of this article. Tests from my blood panels show that I no longer have issues with cholesterol, or inadequate amounts of vitamins. My blood pressure is perfect after being high for the last few years; requiring medication. I’m exercising more often to fulfill stress relief and get those endorphins and adrenaline flowing instead of just drinking. So, I walk more, run more, and spend more time outside.

My depression and anxiety are a thing of the past, completely. After the first couple of weeks, I felt my anxiety disappearing and it was a big motivator for me to keep going. I struggled with depression my whole life from a number of different traumas; feeling sad for no reason even though things seemed to be pretty good. Anxiety reared its ugly head a few years ago when my life got very stressful after I had to shut down my startup and take care of a 9-month-old little girl by myself. And so, I battled those two things regularly.

After removing alcohol from the equation, my emotions balanced out and got themselves in check. I was able to taper off of my medications with the guidance of my psychiatrist and I haven’t had to go back. I still feel sad, and feel anxious sometimes, but having those feelings last for hours, days, or weeks, is a thing of the past. I’ve normalized and appreciate, so very much, how good our brains can be at making sure we can endure all life has to throw at us; the good and the bad.

I also sleep like an anvil when I’m tired and I feel ready to go as soon as I wake up. I get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night and it is solid, full of dreams, and very restful. I don’t feel “tired all the time,” anymore. I simply don’t feel like there’s enough time in every day to get everything done that I want to accomplish.

#5 — I discovered that I actually can, and do, love myself; flaws and all

Photo by Brian Lundquist on Unsplash

I’ve always been my toughest critic. I’ve had a lot of failures in my life that have been pretty difficult to deal with. I won’t dive back into them, but you can read more about them here if you’d like to:

I’ve struggled for as long as I could remember with actually loving myself. Even when I was young, I never felt like I was “enough” for anyone. I always focused on things I’d done wrong in my life and never on the things I had done right. Because of this, I settled for a lot of things that I shouldn’t have.

People are free to say whatever they want about me because I’ve already said way worse things about me to myself.

I’ve read and heard many times that you must love and take care of yourself first, before you can be available to truly love and take care of others.

Once I stopped drinking, got healthier, got happier, unlocked my potential to act at my highest capacity each day, and discovered making the most of every moment, I started to love who I was. I started to see an accomplished person who had impacted so many lives in so many positive ways. Have there been some negative things along the way? Of course there have. But I cannot fix the past. I can only work on having a better today, and tomorrow. And I can truly appreciate and love the person who has given so much to this world in so many ways (that’s me, in case you weren’t following along).

Bonus — Extra time, and an appreciation for time, are the greatest gifts sobriety has given me

Photo by Jiyeon Park on Unsplash

With understanding that:

  • Alcohol seems to borrow from tomorrow
  • There’s probably no such thing as healthy drinking
  • Being able to execute and deliver for all hours of the day feels great
  • I’m emotionally, physically, and mentally better without the booze
  • Self-love is available and important to me

…I’ve discovered that time is truly the most valuable asset that I have. Time with my daughter. Time with my family, friends, and loved ones. Time for myself. Since I’m not spending time drinking, or feeling less than myself because I had been drinking, I have more time than ever.

I wake up looking forward to the day, every day. I go to bed thinking about what tomorrow may have in store for me.

I finally feel like I’m becoming the person I always wanted to be.

Day 9 of 60 for developing a writing habit.

Day 7 of 60 for developing a writing habit:

Day 13 of 60 for developing a writing habit:

--

--

--

Accomplished Father, Leader, Engineer, Writer, and Wannabe Chef. @randomdrake

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Ep125 — How did Addiction and Sobriety Feel for Sheri?

The start of one man's tale. A love-hate relationship with booze

Ep49 — Getting from Here to the Relationship You Want

Vodka: Friend or Foe?

What does it mean to live a sober living lifestyle in The Colony TX

Quit Like a Woman

You, Before and After Quitting Alcohol

One single mom’s attempt at Dry January…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
David Drake

David Drake

Accomplished Father, Leader, Engineer, Writer, and Wannabe Chef. @randomdrake

More from Medium

The Most Important Ingredient that Allowed Me to Quit Drinking

Sobriety is Not a Good Goal

The 4 Major Reasons I Quit Drinking

9 Signs You Drink Too Much and How to Change It