Well…why I’m mostly, not drinking anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a cocktail. I’m actually the cocktail’s biggest fan. I love reading the cocktail menu and seeing all the different concoctions and ingredients. I appreciate it when they come up with fun and cheeky names for them. Watching a bartender make one is for some reason, so enjoyable to me. Maybe it takes me back to my cocktail waitressing days and hanging out at the service bar watching our bartenders power through cocktail after cocktail on a busy Saturday night. And lastly, I love sitting at a bar sipping a drink and enjoying not only the flavors but the inescapable buzz I surrender to afterward.
I love a cocktail so much, it’s really the only kind of “recipe” post I do on my blog. I love the mixing of flavors, coming up with new unique ideas and pouring them into beautiful glasses with fun and unexpected garnishes. But there’s a sad truth to my beloved cocktail.
They make me absolutely miserable.
This has come with age, I think. And the sad truth is that it doesn’t matter how little or how much alcohol I consume, rest assured I will wake up the next day feeling like total shit. I’ll never forget trying a Negroni at home for the first time back in the summer of 2020. I had never had one and didn’t really want a full cocktail. So I just simply measured out half of the ingredients, instead of the full amount. I just wanted to try it. I may hate it, so why waste the booze.
But I actually enjoyed it. Loved it, really. And I sipped my half a Negroni with some friends at the park by my house before heading in for the night. That next morning I was stunned. I felt like I had 5 cocktails and my body hated me for it. To think that half, just half, a cocktail would do this to me made me realize, this just isn’t worth it anymore.
Let me explain how I feel after a drink or two…
Because it sadly feels very similar to how I feel after 5 or 6 drinks too. I wake up dehydrated beyond belief. My sleep is destroyed and it feels as if I’ve pulled an all-nighter even though I get 7 hours of shut-eye. I crave all the salty, fatty foods, and get absolutely nothing done. My eyeballs feel like they’re going to shrivel up and fall out of my head from being so dry and uncomfortable. On top of that, my sinuses feel like I’m in peak ragweed season and no amount of nasal spray and anti-histamine can help.
For a while, I thought maybe it was the type of alcohol I was drinking. Is it cheap wine, or liquor. But I’m not that cheap when it comes to my booze. I tried clean “natural” wines, and they still do the same. Although, something about wine in Europe does not have this effect. I’ve heard the myths, but I still think there’s something to the way of life, food and maybe the travel adrenaline I get that it’s just not the same. But nonetheless, here in America, I’ve just simply decided, I’m not really drinking anymore.
To get to the science behind it, it is in fact true that alcohol negatively affects your REM sleep.
This is the rapid eye movement sleep cycle that we need for restorative good sleep. If you don’t get enough REM cycles in, you’ll be exhausted, have drowsiness and poor concentration. Which explains why I get nothing done and am a total slug the whole day after a night of drinking.
Now for my sinus headaches after a cocktail, it may have something to do with all the histamines in alcohol. This can cause runny, stuffy nose and other allergy symptoms. However, I tried a histamine blocker before cocktails and it just didn’t do much.
Moral of the story for me. I feel like shit and a cocktail or two at dinner is no longer worth it to me. So what am I doing? I’m avoiding alcohol 90% of the time. And it’s been interesting.
What It’s Like Not Drinking Much Anymore
To start, let me preface that I was never someone who drank at home and poured a glass of wine at the end of the workday. I only ever drank out with friends. At dinner, at brunch, to party on the weekend and bar hop. So this may have been easier for me to cut back than for someone who has a daily ritual of a glass of wine. Cutting back for me was dealing with the social expectations and pressure from friends and even myself to fit in.
When I go out with friends now for dinner, I’m the one who isn’t drinking. At first, it took a few times to actually follow through with my promise to myself to not feel miserable. Again, I love a cocktail, I love the idea of one, I love the browsing of the menu. It was hard to just say no when we were out and I was presented with an incredible cocktail list and feel that need to have one while dining al fresco with girlfriends. It’s a societal pressure too. We’re all out at dinner, we’re all ordering drinks, why aren’t you?
My usual answer when people ask because they do, is just “it makes me feel awful”. It’s amazing how often people ask and why they care so much. I think we’re all just used to everyone having a drink. And if they’re not, it’s because they’re pregnant or sober. There’s no in-between of just “I’m not interested today”. People also automatically assume I don’t drink at all. I still drink. I have just learned when it’s worth it. And usually, that’s day drinking because it gives my body enough time to metabolize the alcohol so I can sleep better. Otherwise, it’s probably not happening.
Newsflash, stop asking people why they aren’t drinking. No one owes you a reason.
And when it comes to splitting the tab, going to be honest, it’s always an issue. Which is so annoying and I’m so over it. Sure some restaurants will split, but then you’ve got the appetizers, who gets those. Then some friends had 3 glasses, one girlfriend had just one. If a restaurant can’t itemize a receipt, I have found just splitting it evenly and not leaving a tip is the way to go. I then have everyone else cover my portion of the tip which makes up the difference. This has been a good happy medium. Still sucks, not going to lie. I’m most definitely spending more either way and as a frugal person who likes things to be done correctly (hello enneagram one), it annoys me. But, whatever.
The Perks Of Not Drinking
I Feel Better
Instant results. You just feel better. Alcohol is a depressant and after a night of drinking, you can feel miserable the next day. Not just physically, but also emotionally. Following a few drinks, the next day you may experience shakiness, a rapid heartbeat, depression, anxiety and irritability. That’s why we always feel so down after a night out. It kind of blows, right?
If you’ve been feeling any of these things and are drinking quite frequently, even just a glass at night, I challenge you to swap your glass of wine for a walk outside. You never know if that can help. And obviously, if you are having depression and anxiety that you are struggling with, I urge you to speak to a therapist. Mental health is so important.
I Save Money
Grabbing a drink or two in any major city can cost you upwards of $30 to $40. Doing that once or twice a week really adds up. That money can be spent on a new hobby, a trip, or put into your savings account for a big purchase down the road. It adds up. Even just one cocktail at dinner so you can “fit in” adds up quickly too.
Forces Me To Be More Comfortable In My Own Skin
This definitely took a few dinners out with friends for me to really look at myself and say “wow you’ve been relying on being buzzed to be more fun”. And I didn’t need to. Going without a cocktail at social gatherings has helped to give me more confidence and be more comfortable in my own skin. Not feeling this need to have a little liquid courage is pretty empowering.
Desire And Time For Other Hobbies
I never spent a ton of time drinking. But a Saturday afternoon very easily could turn into day drinking and just not doing anything. So you may find yourself swapping your nightly wine, or weekly bar hopping with a new hobby. And that’s amazing. Because these can be hobbies that make you feel better, get you into new social circles with similar mindsets and interests, and overall help boost your happiness, confidence and mindset.
When you enjoy two or three glasses of wine or a cocktail at dinner, you’re racking up serious empty calories. Easily 300 plus. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather enjoy more food than liquid calories. If I had the choice between more chips and salsa or a cocktail, it’s chips and salsa all day.
Dating And Not Drinking
This has made dating interesting, too. I was so used to going out and having a cocktail for those dreaded first dates from Bumble. It was liquid courage, something to do with your hands, and even a conversation starter “oh what do you like to drink” and then the conversation just flows. Much like the booze. It’s a security blanket for sure and that’s okay sometimes. But I’m now challenging myself to try first dates that aren’t focused on alcohol. It’s not so bad. But it definitely took a few first dates to be more confident.
Grabbing coffee is fine, I suppose. It’s just a different ball game than it was a few years ago for me. A few cocktails made me feel fun and loose and like I could talk to anyone. And I don’t want to seem like a Debbie Downer for not being fun and able to drink. When really I know I can drink and have a great time, I love it! But my overall health and my productivity the following day or two are way more important to me than pleasing some guy into a societal norm of keeping up drink for drink.
So this is my message to you who’s thinking about doing this. Whether it’s cutting back, or creating new healthy boundaries around alcohol. You can do it. It’s going to be a little weird at first, we’ve been drinking for years. Hell, I started at 14 raiding my parent’s liquor cabinet and haven’t really stopped since. But the more you practice hanging out with friends, or dating, without the crutch of alcohol, the more confident you’ll grow in your own skin.