I’m no teetotaler. And although this post is about ditching the sauce, I’m not about to preach abstinence (of anything) to y’all. This is not, I repeat, NOT, an ethical condemnation of alcohol. Hell, I’ve been the consummate party girl for much of my adult life.
I’ve also simultaneously struggled with depression. And the partying/mental health issues symbiosis is no coincidence. During my frequent bouts of unhappiness, drinking was an easy way to release those pesky inhibitions and forget my soul-crushing cares. It was a temporary fix for an endless, despairing problem. And I have no doubt I’m not alone. Holy self-medicating Batman America!
Depression + booze = a vicious cycle of raucous good times followed by paralyzing self-loathing.
And while I never intended to give us drinking altogether — that seemed absurdly unrealistic — I knew it wasn’t exactly a positive, wholesome influence in my life. There was no denial on my part. I was completely aware that using a DEPRESSANT probably wasn’t a wise idea for someone who was DEPRESSED. Duh.
But lately, I’ve had less and less interest in alcohol. As I’ve adopted an increasingly healthier lifestyle, I’ve started to feel better and better — and alcohol, alternatively, makes me feel like crap. So about two months ago, I stopped drinking altogether. There was no effort involved, not really. No withdrawals or forced deprivation. I was just over it. Somehow, a night of “fun” followed by three days of miserable, horrific despondency just didn’t seem so appealing to me anymore. That’s not to say I’ll never have another drink again. I’m sure I will. I see an occasional glass of champagne or poolside pina colada in my future, for sure.
But the days of heavy drinking are done and over. And here’s what I’ve learned since I dropkicked cocktails like A&E ditched Phil Robertson.
10. I didn’t like the person drinking made me.
Pretty much every dumb thing I’ve ever done or bad decision I’ve ever made has involved alcohol to some degree. That girl (also known as Bannah – Bad Hannah), while the life of the proverbial party, was also a beeee-otch — more trouble than she was worth. Talk about your frenemy. Now, she’s just dead to me. Good riddance.
9. I’m pretty awesome without alcohol.
At first, it was a little bit awkward attending social events without downing a drink or three. Let’s face it, cocktails are the ultimate social lubricant. While I’m an introvert by nature, I’m not super shy — but let’s face it — alcohol helps us all loosen up a bit. I used to think a few drinks made me a better version of Hannah. Turns out, that was actually all me — only now I’m her without the one-too-many-drinks-equals-overly-loose-lips-and-self-destructive-behavior element. I’m permanently becoming that better version of me, no need for Fireball shots to facilitate it.
8. Finding stuff to do that doesn’t involve drinking ain’t always easy.
Let me clarify this. It’s not hard for me to find plenty to occupy me solo, but social gatherings sans alcohol are few and far between. I long for the days when we were kids, and a ridiculously fun party meant face painting, bounce houses and cake. I still dig standard parties and even just chilling at bars on occasion, but I do wish the adult masses were more into healthy fun stuff.
7. You learn who your real friends are.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that anyone ditched me over not drinking. It’s almost the other way around. If you have party friends and you stop partying, it’s likely you won’t be seeing much of them anymore. Undoubtedly, there are people who think I’ve become a total bore. Daily gym visits, healthy eating and early bedtimes aren’t exactly the stuff LMFAO songs are made of. But that’s a small price to pay for my happiness. Either way, it’s not always easy making a major lifestyle change. It can definitely feel lonely — but you have to ask yourself, how much do you love you? I’ve learned that I love me enough to deal with some minor inconveniences. This is my path and I’ve gotta walk it — sometimes, alone.
6. It gets easier over time.
The notion of signing up for a lifetime (or even a month or two) of non-drinking used to seem like a recipe for boredom and loneliness. But the more time went on, the more comfortable I got in any given situation, my stone-cold sober self. I used to wonder how I could hang at a party without drinking. Now, it’s totally fine, and I get stoked about the fact that I won’t say/do/instigate anything stupid. Hallelujah.
5. My lows aren’t nearly as low.
I’ve instituted a lot of changes in my life over the past six months or so, and this is just one of ’em. The whole package has effectively healed me of my depression, but I do attribute a good chunk of my recovery to the absence of booze. Before, a night out was inevitably followed by a miserable, regretful day of bedridden depression. Those days don’t happen anymore. I don’t have anything to regret — and I don’t have the bio-chemical crash that comes from boozing. That’s a HUGE factor. When I think back to how bad that used to feel, I’m amazed that I continued such a nasty cycle as long as I did.
4. The two Ds are kind of a bad combo. And a common one.
Studies have found a link between heavy drinking and the big D, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. And as far as how alcohol affects your mental state — talk about your upper/downer.
“…while in the process of drinking, alcohol acts as a stimulant, but as drinking tapers off it begins to act more as a sedative. As BAC (Blood Alcohol Level) ascends, drinkers report increases in elation, excitement and extroversion, with simultaneous decreases in fatigue, restlessness, depression and tension. Conversely, a descending BAC corresponds to a decrease in vigor and an increase in fatigue, relaxation, confusion, and depression.”
3. No booze = less anxiety.
For many people, anxiety and depression are a constant duo — like that one totally dysfunctional, inseparable couple we all know. Alcohol, while it temporarily relieves anxiety in a big way, makes it much, much worse in the long run. At least for me. The days after I drank were almost always angst-ridden and miserable. I would worry about EVERYTHING. Literally. And while I still worry from time to time, my anxiety levels don’t even come close to what they were before. Again, this is undoubtedly attributable in part to other lifestyle changes, too, but those painfully anxious post-drinking days are completely gone. Thank GOD.
2. You see things more clearly without alcohol.
Booze clouds your judgment. And not just in the obvious, beer goggle-esque way. Because of the after-effects of alcohol, it also instigates exaggerated emotions. I can’t tell you how many times I was paranoid, anxious, overly attached or just ridiculous because boozing screwed with my homeostasis. Feeling fragile or lost or overly emotional has affected some of my major life decisions. Take re-dating an ex I was never in love with, for example. Not something I would consider otherwise, but a few drinks on a few occasions — and previously inconceivable options seem plausible. These days, I know all my decisions are completely sound. And that’s a hell of a feeling.
1. This is all about self-love.
Nobody said self-care was easy. Sometimes, it takes sacrificing short term pleasures for your long-term well being. But it’s so effing worth it. Take it from me. I’ve been to the bottom and back again, and doing what makes me feel GOOD (not good as in false beer-induced cheer, but actual, soul-nourishing GOOD) has made an indescribable difference in my life.
So that’s my wisdom, folks! Again, I am not trying to ride a moral high horse here. I prefer your average-sized bike. But I do want to share what I’ve learned, because it’s way too easy for any of us to fall into patterns that make us feel worse instead of better. And I desperately want you to feel good, sweets! Even with just an H2O in hand. You deserve it.