The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The weekend of my twenty-first birthday left me feeling terrible physically. While it was all I could have imagined and more, it was the beginning of my journey to abstaining from alcohol.
Like many other people, I felt the need to do more drinking than usual for my special day. After four days of completing my rite of passage to being legal, I was exhausted and suffering from migraines. I thought, “well I did put my body through a lot. I don’t usually get severely drunk for several days straight.” But then I began to question — why would I want to “put” my body through anything at all?
I began to stumble with managing my own consumption because so much of the hype around being legal is drinking. I had waited so long to be granted a drink legally — why hold out on myself? Every week was mimosas at brunch, margaritas at lunch. Then it was wine at dinner on top of shots before heading out.
From then on, drinking quickly lost its shiny luster. We joke about prepping our livers before a weekend of partying, but I truly felt the consequences of my actions in my body. On top of migraines, I was constantly tired, irritable and dehydrated.
I felt ungrounded from being in a drunken state often and feeling the effects of doing so. Growing increasingly sensitive to my own energy and the different energies I was around when I drank became very emotionally taxing, so I started drinking alone. That was even worse.
About a month after my birthday in February, I was over feeling the way I was. I decided to take a break from drinking with no expectations. I just wanted to see how I would feel and how things would change. Five months later, I didn’t even want to drink anymore. I stopped smoking for four months as well, which provided me with clarity that was previously unseen in years.
During this time I also educated myself more about the effects of alcohol on the body and overall health. Alcohol weakens the immune system, increases the chances of heart problems and weakens the digestive system. I found my greatest benefit overall was mental. I no longer had groggy brain fog and was overall more energetic throughout the day.
When I came back to school, drinking didn’t hit the same as it did before. As welcome week ended and my drinking settled down to nearly nothing, I came across a post about “Sober October.”
The conversation around “Sober October” has been interestingly popularized by Joe Rogan. The podcaster had several guests in entertainment on his podcast to discuss how alcohol and drug use are so normalized in their industry.
I found that the conversations had so many parallels to the college experience and life as a young adult in general. Students, like entertainers, face the pressure to perform their best while juggling their interpersonal selves, social lives and relationships.
This creates a culture around working hard and partying harder to take the edge off of the balancing act — which I admit I have been guilty of. While this lifestyle can be alluring, it can become unhealthily habitual or even dangerous.
Choosing to go sober during a month with a huge party holiday was not the easiest thing to come to terms with, but I wanted the challenge.
The first week of October was the hardest, as old habits do die hard. I had to find new ways to unwind and turn up. To hold myself accountable, I began attending a local support meeting on Zoom. Deep down I had always known I was drinking for the wrong reasons — to ease stress, to mask anxiety, or simply to distract myself from things I didn’t want to unpack and it was no longer what I considered healthy.
I also noticed that I only thought about drinking when I had nothing else better to do. Boredom became a way to spend time on things I never had time for before like working out more and watching shows I had never gotten the chance to binge.
By the second week, I had set in new habits. Smooth sailing all around. The third was difficult because I grew tired of saying “no, I’m not drinking” and felt singled out. Thankfully though, I was able to remind myself of those moments when I thought “I’m never drinking again” to push me through. YouTube and Instagram were also great resources to hear other perspectives on the issue, as sobriety isn’t the most common topic on a college campus.
Then I made it to the final act — Halloweekend. Three weeks of preparation, meditation and going out without drinking did not disappoint. I found instead of needing the crutch of alcohol to have a good time with my friends all weekend, I enjoyed the experience more while sober because, in contrast to previously flying by like a blur, everything was crystal clear and memorable.
Today, on Oct. 31, I am proud to say I am 30 days sober. I’m not sure where my journey will take me, as everyone’s relationship with alcohol and sobriety is different. I do know for sure that this break solidified I will never sip another drink again.