I Quit Drinking at 21 Years Old: Here's Why

Plenty of us have been there– raging headache, queasy stomach, preaching that we will never drink again while we attempt to piece together the fuzzy memories from the night prior. And if you haven’t been there, let me tell you...it’s not fun. I have endured more hangovers than I can count and I can recall quite clearly the crippling anxiety accompanying the physical misery. With each one, I would swear “this one will be my last," only to find myself back at it the following Friday with a beer in my hand. It was a cycle that I knew very well: drink, be hungover, swear off booze, drink, be hungover, attempt to moderate, fail, drink, be hungover, swear off the booze, and so on. It was exhausting, physically and mentally. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided enough was enough; I was convinced that there had to be more to being in my 20s than partying & drinking. And I was right. Since giving up booze, my life has improved in so many more ways than I ever expected. Here are just a few reasons that I’ve decided to stay sober for good.

1. No More Hangovers

This one is a given. Not only is it extraordinarily freeing to know that I will never have to endure another hangover, but I have also noticed a host of other physical benefits such as increased energy, better digestion, better sleep, and better skin.

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2. My Interests Have Expanded

I used to be a dedicated party-goer. I would be the one to pour the shots, initiate beer bong, and rally past midnight. In a way, I think drinking culture functioned as a part of my identity, which limited me from getting to know myself in a lot of ways. Since quitting booze and distancing myself from the party scene, my interests in other areas of my life have bloomed. I find myself immersing myself in music, writing, reading, and cooking in a way I never did when I was still drinking.

3. More Productive

I have found that I am far more productive without the brain fog that would ensue the days after a night of heavy drinking. My grades have improved, I keep my house clean and organized, and I feel motivated to plan for my future (and get genuinely excited for it)!

4. I Live More in the Present 

When I was drinking, I spent most of the week eager for the weekend. I spent little time being mindful of the present moment. I find myself noticing things I never used to: the feeling of the sun on my skin, the cute dog across the street, the deliciousness of my meals, and so much more. I feel like my mindset has shifted from waiting for the next exciting thing to happen, to noticing the simple pleasures in day-to-day life. Additionally, I find myself so much more mindful of my movement and my eating habits (rather than being focused on “burning off” the booze or shoving down food so I could get my drink on). Thus, my relationship with food and my body has also improved exponentially. 

5. My Self-Perception Has Improved

I have done plenty of stupid things while drinking, like many of us have. Because of this, I had an overshadowing sense of guilt, shame, and regret. I didn’t like myself when I was drinking. It often felt like my values, morals, and consideration for others just flew out the door, and it left me feeling pretty shitty about myself. Without it, I feel completely in control of my behaviors, reactions, and actions. I feel like I am finally becoming the “real” me, free from the impulsivity that booze would bring out in me. 

6. I’ve Made More Quality Connections With People

When I was drinking, I would spend hours drunkenly “connecting” with other fellow drinkers, only to find that I would wake up the next morning oblivious of what we spoke about and the haunting sense that I embarrassed myself by revealing too much, too fast. Now that I spend time with others sober and coherent, I have made deeper connections and have had so many meaningful conversations that I can actually remember and appreciate. Overall, my connections with others have felt more authentic and genuine. Additionally, I find myself being kinder, more considerate, and a better listener. 

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7. Less Anxiety and Mood Swings

Greater emotional stability has perhaps been the most significant gain I have experienced since cutting out alcohol. Not only do I no longer have to deal with the intense anxiety that comes with being hungover, but now I find myself being less anxious, worried, and sensitive in general. I've noticed that I respond to stress more level-headedly and feel more positive emotions in general. My level of optimism has without-a-doubt catapulted upward. 

Overall, I believe cutting out booze entirely has broadened my horizons and made me a better and happier person. Unfortunately, the ability to moderate effectively was not in my tool kit. If it’s in yours, I am sure simply cutting back comes with a host of its own benefits. I also don’t feel like I'm missing out on anything now that I don’t drink, because I have gained so much from going sober. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t start noticing these benefits until I had been booze-free for a few months. Initially, it was difficult existing in the same routine that revolved so much around partying and alcohol. It took time, energy & discomfort to shift my routine & find my footing as a sober 21-year-old in a world where social drinking is so normalized. All in all, if you find booze taking more from you than it's giving, I suggest giving it up: it could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make for yourself. 

If you feel that you have lost control of your ability to manage or stop your substance use, there are resources available from the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services website. You can also visit the Healthy UC Davis page for more information on addictions and substance abuse.