What Happened When I Stopped Drinking Alcohol Every Night

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love Sophia Loren. There’s a picture of her in my home looking eternally youthful and refreshed. From what I’ve been told it’s due to her nine to ten hours of sleep each night.

When I look at this picture, I see someone who relishes in the delights of life. Food, laughter, sex, work, motherhood, and self-care. Not long ago I stared at that picture thinking, “How could I admire someone so much and live my life in such a different way from hers?”

Have you heard of the halo effect? It’s when you do the things you know are right for your body, mind, and spirit, and in doing so you begin to exude this powerfully beautiful and enticing energy others can’t get enough of. I now realize my relationship with the daily habit of alcohol was actually diminishing the glow of my halo. It was essentially stealing my joy, time, money, looks, well-being, and especially my slumber.

Who knew that for so long my beauty sleep was being hijacked by alcohol!

Puffy face, dark circles, dry mouth, red eyes, weight gain, and not to mention the headache, elevated heartbeat, anxiety… these are just a few of the lovely side effects I experienced with overindulging in the bottle.

In trying to reduce overwhelm I inadvertently was fueling it through interrupted sleep and the fuzzy feeling the following day. 

Do I think alcohol is bad or that drinking is off limits? No.

I do know for myself that the daily two, sometimes three glasses of wine took a toll. It stole any type of focus and motivation the next day to follow through on all the things I said I would accomplish the night before basking in the embrace of my main squeeze Mr. P (Pinot Noir that is.)

My relationship with alcohol was stealing my ability to step into the life I claimed to desire.

I wanted to release weight.

I wanted to make more money.

I wanted to write my book.

Until I released the hold Mr. P had on me, I knew deep down I would never come close to achieving any of those dreams.

Every morning I wake up and ask myself three things:

  1. How do I want to feel today?
  2. What is one thing I can do to love myself today?
  3. What can I give to others today?

My answer to #2 was often…

“Drink more water.”

“Start weight training.”

“Let go of gluten.”

The truth was the one true voice within was quietly and patiently saying day after day, “Take a break from alcohol.”

I just wasn’t ready to listen.

A phone call eventually prompted an experiment in courage.

For ninety days I promised a friend I would join her on a alcohol reset. After I hung up that fateful Sunday, I went to the calendar to mark the ninetieth day. Immediately fear crept in with thoughts like “You’ve tried this before and it didn’t work” and “You won’t even make it through tonight.”

Fortunately, in that moment something other than myself took over. It was if I was whisked into something beyond my own comprehension, because the next 120 days flew by. In fact, after day twenty-one I stopped counting. I no longer was ticking off the calendar to when I could finally have a drink. Why? Probably because I knew in my heart the steady drip of wine each night was simply not serving me, my purpose, my body, or my pocketbook.

Why was this time different? Because I looked at it as something I “got” to do rather than “had” to do. I viewed it as a gift rather than a cleanse.

What is on the other side of a toxic relationship with alcohol? More than I could imagine. Every morning I wake up and think, “I am so lucky.” It’s as though I’ve captured more time in my day and each moment holds a sense of sacredness.

I’ve seen sunrises by candlelight, baked banana bread before bed, and gotten more done by 8am than I ever did after 5pm.

I’ve finished a Netflix show without falling asleep… and actually remembered what I watched.

I’ve released twenty pounds.

I wake up hydrated.

My skin seems to have reversed in time a la Benjamin Button.

The list goes on and on.

The other day my mother gave me a compliment that made me cry… in a good way.

She said, “You know, it’s like your skin, your hair… you look like you used to look when you were younger.”

For so long I was using wine to push down the unwanted feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. While I thought I was “taking the edge off,” I was actually making myself edgy!

These days, I plan my fun based on how I want to feel the next morning. What I’ve discovered is that taking a break from happy hour can literally transform not only the other twenty-four hours of your day, but your life as well.

When you have enough energy and vitality to embrace the day, you start to find little miracles everywhere in the forms of simple pleasures, a pleasant conversation with a friend, or a moment that might have sent you into a tailspin… but now you breathe through it with patience and grace.

People often ask me, “Do you ever have a glass of wine… ever?”

Probably every two weeks or so if I am being social (and socially distancing) with family or friends. Do I enjoy it? Yes and no. In fact, the few times I have had a glass or two it no longer held any energy for me. It’s now a “take it or leave it” kind of thing.

In fact, it’s as if moderation moves you toward abstinence.

Why? Because I am no longer willing to sacrifice how good I feel the next morning for alcohol.

I also revel in the reduction of anxiety! Why would I want to go back to something that was creating the exact experience that was causing me to emotionally suffer?

Yes, there are people who can drink daily and function fine, and there are those who can’t drink at all. And then there are people like me who know alcohol isn’t the kind of friend they want to hang out with every day but perhaps in very small doses every so often.

Drinking is marketed as sexy, elegant, and unifying.

Is slurring your words sexy? Is stumbling out of a restaurant elegant? Is not remembering the conversation you had with a friend unifying?

The reality for me was alcohol made me feel drained, grumpy, and even a wee bit nauseous. How you feel is creating your day and in essence your life. So, if you feel cluttered and haphazard waking up you are creating a cluttered and haphazard day. 

I used to wake up and run to the kitchen. Waiting for me was the one thing that would be deciding if I need to beat myself up or pat myself on the back. Like the scale, the opened bottle of wine oftentimes determined if I was “good” or “bad” the previous day.

Only a one-fourth of the bottle left? Bad girl!

Three-quarters left? Good girl!

So much time, energy, and thinking put into the act of drinking!

In the end, bedtime is the best of all.

Four hours of alcohol-free sleep is WAY more rejuvenating than nine hours of alcohol-infused sleep. Waking up feeling your body buzzing (in a good way!) is the best high of all.

If your inner voice is asking for a break, maybe it’s time to listen.

Sweet dreams.

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is an ICF certified coach, blogger, creator of the “Tranquility Talk” podcast, the Live More Drink Less community, and The 30 Day Reset for people ready to experiment with reevaluating their relationship with alcohol. You can download her “Happy Hour Survival Guide” here.

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