As August rolls around, I am entering another three-month period of not drinking any alcohol. Today, I wanted to talk a little about the why and how—just in case it might be something you feel like trying to, or my approach may help you in dealing with other issues you have. I’m sure you know your poison.

Speaking of issues, I want to make clear up front that I am not talking about addiction when I talk about me and my drinking habits. Firstly, because I have never been addicted to alcohol (smoking used to be and sugar still is a totally different story for me), and secondly, because I am absolutely not qualified to talk about addiction. I have zero medical opinion to offer and zero medical advice to give.

That said, I’ve always felt that “I am not addicted, so it’s fine” is not the approach to drinking I wanted to take. For one entire year, 2013, I did not drink any alcohol at all as part of a blogging project with a friend—and I do remember how amazing that felt. But as I want to be clear and honest about this, I also remember the ‘repercussions’ if you want to call it that: I remember leaving parties before midnight because I simply didn’t have fun as the only one sober. And I hated being the person who’d remember all the stories people would tell me, often multiple times.

That’s still my major concern about not drinking: to not be fun or have fun, to not be part of a shared feeling or experience. And that’s a big reward for drinking—big enough that in certain times in my life, not even the occasional hangover or total slipup can outweigh it. 

Whenever I start a new challenge—often my Year Without … experiments, but sometimes shorter ones too—I do so by exploring my motivations and finding myself rewards of not doing something that outweigh the rewards of doing it. Of course, there are plenty of benefits to not drinking alcohol, but one thing I’ve learned is that you’ll have to find the motivations that work for you. And let’s be honest, for most people “being healthy” is probably not cutting it. If that worked, nobody would smoke or drink or do drugs or eat sugar in the first place. 

So if you want to undo a bad habit, the place to start is right there, asking yourself:

  1. What is my motivation and reward for doing it, e.g. drinking alcohol?
  2. What is my reward when I stop doing it?

I’ve given you my pro-drinking rewards above, so here’s what I have come up with—not spontaneously, but over the course of several journaling sessions—as my stop-drinking rewards:

I feel a lot better.

By that, I don’t mean hangovers and such. Alcohol is a depressant and these days, I feel that effect even after a glass of wine or two. The next day, I usually wake up with a The world is bad, my life is sh*t feeling. When I don’t drink, I am generally in a much better mood and feel that my mind is much clearer. (I guess that’s kind of a health benefit and I said those don’t work too well, but I still want to include it on my list, even though I believe by itself it wouldn’t do the trick.

I have more time (and money) to focus on meaningful relationships. 

Taking bars out of the equation gives me an opportunity to focus on other shared experiences with new and old friends. Summer with its outdoor activities is the best time to get started, but there’s plenty of stuff to do together without drinking alcohol in winter too. I enjoy readings at bookstores and am part of a monthly book club, I love to meet people for lunch or coffee, and I want to go back to doing art projects sometimes too. 

I want to be proud of the life I live.

I’ve always felt that alcohol invites shame into my life, sometimes because I drank too much, other times because it made me less mindful. I like to be in control, and though I know that life is full of things out of our control, I feel happier when I control the issues I can. Drinking alcohol is one of them. It really doesn’t fit my lifestyle and values at all.

I love to be efficient.

Speaking of values, German as I am, efficiency is one of my core values. (Feel free to eye-roll or laugh, I get it!) I really, really stress out when I am not efficient. More specifically, that means that I want to work through my daily to-do list at a swift pace, be highly organized and generally on top of my game, at least most of the time. Alcohol is totally counterproductive to that aspiration. So time to cut drinking out of my life again.

One last word about embarking on a do-without journey: Asking yourself these questions and finding your answers is very helpful—vital I’d say—to starting out, but it’s not the only thing to keep in mind and it doesn’t mean that you have to be ready right away. Don’t beat yourself up if that’s the case and it’ll take you a little longer to get started. You’ll get there!

If you want to read more about that, subscribe to my newsletter on my website—the August edition next week will deal with other points to consider in changing a habit you want to get rid of, and there will be more blog posts on the topic in the future.

If you want me to help you change your habits, send me a message or book a free consult session through my website!

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