12 Fabulous Benefits of Sobriety

By: Holly Whitaker

Spoiler Alert: Sobriety is Fabulous.

When I started on this path in 2012, I hadn’t a clue that sobriety was actually a good thing, a desirable thing. Sobriety had always been portrayed to me as something undesirable; a consequence of one’s actions; the last place anyone wants to end up. It wasn’t until I found Allen Carr’s book The Easy Way to Control Alcoholin which he says it’s not about never getting to drink again but never having to drink again — that I understood that sobriety is all upside. I mean it: Sobriety is all upside. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, there is sacrifice. But on this side of it, there is nothing but benefit. 

If you are thinking about leaving the drink behind but worried that you're also leaving behind a best friend, a social life, and— on top of everything— gaining a new stigma, here are twelve benefits of sobriety that will help you reframe it as your fabulous adventure.

1. Sobriety is sexy. Drinking is not sexy. A drug that slowly deadens your ability to control your muscles and movements, causes water retention, dehydration, depression, anxiety, broken capillaries, and redness; impedes detox; causes BO; lowers your inhibitions so you act outside of how you normally would were you in full control; eats away at your self-confidence; and causes temporary and permanent memory loss is not an enhancement. Sobriety is the choice against these things. Quitting drinking does not count you out of the dating pool or mark you for life as someone undesirable; it’s what makes you stand out, it’s what gives you swagger and confidence and the things that people are actually attracted to. Here is where it gets good; not where it fades. 

2.  Sobriety will make you proud of the choice you’re making. Instead of viewing sobriety as a consequence, try seeing it as your choice, identifying not as an addict or an alcoholic but rather as a non-drinker (or even better, not identifying as anything at all). You are CHOOSING not to drink. Remember, vegans don't run around complaining that they can't have meat. They're proud and cheeky and holier-than-thou (not always, but enough). This is because they are choosing not to partake in something they don’t believe in; they have awareness; they’ve unplugged from the fucking matrix. So have you. Be proud of this; it’s a choice, not a consequence. 

3. Sobriety means that you no longer have to “drink your calories.” Okay, I actually hate this one because it upholds fatphobia and reinforces the idea that calories are evil, but as someone who up until a few years ago spent her life counting them and sacrificing for them, this was a huge deal to me at the beginning of sobriety. Whereas before I got sober I couldn’t make the case for a pint of ice cream (without purging it) but could manage a bottle of wine (same relative caloric content), in early sobriety, for the first time in my life I began to eat without worrying or counting (or having to binge every time I exceeded a calorie count). It not only gave me more freedom to eat but it was part of what freed me from a nearly three-decade pattern of restriction and binging. Quitting drinking gives you more calories, full stop, and can be a starting point for healing eating disorders those of us who have them (I overcame bulimia less than a year after quitting drinking, you can read how I did it here). 

4. Sobriety includes never, ever having a hangover, ever again. Waking up feeling like crap with a sandpaper throat, bloated, red-faced, with a hankering for a cheeseburger, not remembering parts of your night, sifting through mystery receipts, or worse, remembering regrettable things you did, and an entire day stretching before you where you’re just trying not to puke or just trying to make it to the end of it so you can sleep… Holy fuck, IT IS SO MISERABLE. No more drinking means no more regrettable drinking behavior, no more painful hangovers, no more days you wish would just end already to be out of misery.

5. Sobriety will give you more time to do whatever you want. Alcohol consumes so much time! Because it's not just the time we spend drinking. No. It's so much more. It's the time we spend thinking about drinking (Should I tonight? Should I not tonight? Maybe only weekdays? Maybe just one with dinner? Will I drinking on this upcoming vacation? Who will drive?), worrying about it (Am I drinking faster than anyone else? Do I have a problem? Why did I drink more than I promised myself? Why did I drink when I said I wouldn’t? What if I try and quit and I can’t?), strategizing for it (I’ll drink a glass of water in between each drink, I’ll mix my champagne with seltzer water, I’ll wait an hour before I drive, I’ll only drink Friday and Saturday night and recovery Sunday), planning it, and recovering from it that robs us the most.

 Sobriety means so much more time to do the things you always wanted but never had the time to do. In seven years I've: Completed three yoga trainings, spent over a year in Italy, read over 500 books, written and published a book, helped 3,500 people through a sobriety program I created, moved five times, learned EFT, started my own company, grew that company to thirty employees, developed and maintained a consistent yoga and meditation practice, among many other things. Bonus: You also have more money and energy to do these other things with. As of this writing, I've saved over $100,000 so far between the drinking, drugs, cigarettes, and associated costs. 

6. Sobriety helps you feel like the strong person you really are. Two out of three adults in the U.S. drink alcohol. You're choosing not to consume something that most everyone else is in bondage to on some level. Choosing to liberate yourself isn’t some form of weakness, it takes courage and strength, and anyone that implies otherwise is someone who has their own complicated relationship with what power, alcohol, and addiction is.

7. Sobriety will help you get control of your cravings. If you consume alcohol, it controls you and your cravings — the need for alcohol is caused by the consumption of alcohol. When you stop consuming alcohol, you take back your power. Yes, it takes time to repattern your brain and body, time for the non-drinking you to develop, time for it to all normalize. But it's all under your domain. When you stop tangling with alcohol, you regain control.

8. Sobriety makes you realize that the world is a playground. One of the first things I did was test out my sobriety. I used invitations to bars, pub crawls, weddings, picnics, parties, holidays, music shows, trips, and sporting events to test out my newfound superpower: Not drinking. At drinking-centric events I took teabags with me, I ordered 20 diet cokes, I stayed alert and poised and wide-eyed as my brethren slowly became not those things. It proved to me immediately that alcohol wasn’t what made social gatherings fun; the people I was with, or the events themselves were what did that. Being sober in my old social life also opened my eyes up to how gross and ridiculous and expensive drunk really is, and how boring it is to hang out at a bar for the sake of hanging out at a bar. 

The fact is this: Things were never fun because of alcohol. They were fun because you were there, the event was fun, and/or people you had fun with were there. Doing something like this — going through the events of your drinking life without imbibing — will allow you to discern what is fun only because alcohol is involved and what is actually fun. Please note, I recommend reading The Easy Way To Control Alcohol or This Naked Mind to understand more about why/how I did this; I also think some of us need the opposite approach, to stay away from such places, in early sobriety. Only you know what the right approach is.

9. Sobriety will teach you to say “no” to the things you don’t want to do. We all have boring people and events in our lives that become more interesting if alcohol is involved. You know these people, you know these events. You race to get a buzz on, and after a while they/it becomes tolerable, perhaps even enjoyable. Getting sober doesn't mean that you now have to subject yourselves to these people or situations without the crutch. Getting sober means you realize how unfulfilling these things are and you stop wasting your time doing them. Problem solved. Bonus: You get more time.

10. Sobriety will make you recognize that alcohol doesn't equal real happiness. Society has conditioned us to believe that drinking is what causes happiness and that sobriety means the loss of this happiness. The truth is, if alcohol truly was the cause for happiness, there wouldn't be such a thing as an unhappy drinker. Alcohol simply amplifies what was already there or removes the pain for just long enough to forget. If you were happy when you were drunk, you will definitely be that happy when you're not. And if drinking was the only time you were happy, you will now get the opportunity to work on those underlying issues minus the numbing agent/depressant. Bonus: You'll be happier in the long run because the more we consume and the longer we drink, the more difficult it is to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

11. Sobriety means you are free from drinking. Instead of focusing on the fact that you can never drink again, focus on the fact that you never have to drink again. Focusing on can't leads to a feeling of deprivation, which sets us up to want it; this has been proven in countless studies. If we replace "I can never" with "I don't have to ever!” and focus on the liberation from the groundhog day that was our drinking life, we instead promote a feeling of relief. If this sounds wild and like you can't even, I urge you to try it anyway — your subconscious doesn't know the difference between the two thoughts, and after a while, this will be your reality. I have been forceful with myself in not romanticizing what is no longer, and focus intently on the amount of freedom I have gained. 

“There is nothing as unstoppable as a freight train full of fuck-yeah.”

— Jen Sincero

12. Sobriety will make you find out who you are; and YOU are awesome. Drinking perpetually keeps us from understanding Who. We. Are. It is a culprit in developing a false sense of self and a divide between who we really are, and the person we think we have to be. Until we remove alcohol from our lives, we never get to experience the true capacity and depth of Self. Removing alcohol allowed me to finally get to the bottom of who I was, and finally give her the fighting chance she deserved. We are all gems, all of us with gifts, all of us perfect little stories to unfold. Removing alcohol allows our real journey to finally begin.

A version of this article originally ran on the Hip Sobriety website in August 2014.