My Year Without Drinking in 2020

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Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month, I decided to take some time and share a little about my experiences with alcohol and my decision to take a long break from drinking. In December of 2019, I decided to go one year with NO alcohol. I know many people usually say they’re taking a break for some profound reason like rediscovering themselves or religious observation, but it was a hangover that did it for me. As I sat at work on a Friday morning, hungover from what I felt was “not that much to drink,” I started questioning my life’s decisions. I didn’t even do that kind of thing when I was in my early 20s, but there I was, feeling like I had one foot in the grave after a night of voluntarily consuming poison. At that point, I had to be honest with myself about how being 31 years old and hungover at my VERY professional job was not a good look and something had to change. 

While examining my life during this hungover state, the real epiphany happened when I asked myself, “why did I drink like that?” The evening before, I had gone out to attend a networking event, so what on this earthly plane possessed me to consume Gucci Mane levels of alcohol on a weeknight? Side note: if you don’t get the reference, you’re too young, and we can’t be friends. That’s when I realized I started drinking that night because I was uncomfortable “networking” with people I didn’t know, and I was feeling some level of imposter syndrome. Alcohol was my social lubricant to help me navigate an uncomfortable situation. Once I was having fun drinking with my new “network,” I was all too happy to keep the night going when they invited me to the next bar.  After that, I realized that most of my hangovers could be boiled down to two main reasons: 1) actual or anticipated discomfort in a social situation, or 2) everyone else was doing it. Neither reason seemed like a good enough reason to drink, and it was at that point I decided I needed a break. what on this earthly plane possessed me to consume Gucci Mane levels of alcohol on a weeknight?

As I started my yearlong journey with sobriety, something that helped motivate me early on was learning from friends that had done something similar.  I had two friends going through their sober journeys at that time, and I was inspired by what they had come to realize during their process, not just mentally but physically. According to their Apple Watch, one friend who was about five months sober at the time told me that after they stopped drinking, their resting heart rate dropped 20 beats per minute (bpm). TWENTY GOT DAMN BEATS PER MINUTE! It turns out that this is because having three or more drinks in one sitting increases your blood pressure temporarily, and repeatedly consuming that much or more over time can lead to long-term increases in blood pressure. Heavy drinking also increases your overall risk of having high blood pressure. Both friends shared that they experienced losing weight following their newfound sobriety due to a decrease in sugar intake (from not having alcohol/mixed drinks) and the lack of late-night drunken snacking. Additionally, they both told me they were spending less money, having better sleep, experiencing less anxiety, and were developing new outlooks on their relationships with themselves and other people.

So, what was my experience like?

I knew not drinking at home would be easy, and it was for the most part. I am generally a social drinker, so dealing with the “temptation” at home was a non-issue. I saved an estimated $2,500, compared to my spending the year before, from not drinking at bars or dinner and not needing to use ride-share apps at the end of the night. Due to the COVID-19 Ponderosa, however, I did not lose ANY weight, and I’m currently trying to work off the weight that I did gain (more on that another time). Social situations of course a different story. I did consider alcohol to be a social lubricant, after all, so I knew that would be the real struggle.  One benefit of being in an international Pandemonium, though, was that I only had about two and a half months of regularly dealing with that awkwardness before things shut down. Afterward, I dealt with it much less often, occasionally explaining why I wasn’t drinking during Zoom happy hours or during dinners once restaurants partially opened.  


Before the COVID-19 Panorama shut down the U.S., navigating being sober in social situations was admittedly NOT easy. One aspect of this new “lifestyle” that I anticipated being awkward was explaining why I wasn’t drinking.  Some people asked if I thought I had a drinking problem, to which I’d explain that I didn’t think so but that there were times I thought my drinking had been problematic.  Others asked if I thought I’d go back to drinking once the year was up, and I’d typically respond with a “we’ll see how I feel when the time comes.”  However, what surprised me was the number of people who felt the need to explain their relationship with alcohol to me and explain why they didn’t need to take a break. In those situations, I had to pray to the powers that be to grant my face deliverance, because I was often confused what part of the conversation made them think I was recruiting like a Jehovah’s Witness for Alcoholics Anonymous. Eventually, I realized those responses had less to do with me and more to do with projection. Generally, though, people were very supportive. 


Taking time off from drinking taught me about my relationships with people and the differences between drinking buddies and friends. I first noticed this difference when I was at dinner with a few women I hung out with quite a bit in my “drinking days.”  During dinner, they were talking about plans that we would typically make together. When I asked a question about their plans, I instantly saw the discomfort wash over their faces. I got the “oh, we didn’t tell you about it because we know you’re not drinking, but you can come if you want.” Never mind that I wasn’t asking to be invited, it did take me by surprise that some people would choose not to include me plans simply because I made a choice not to drink. It was as if they thought I could no longer have fun nor be any fun if alcohol was not involved. This happened a few times throughout the year with different people. I realized that those were my drinking buddies, and that was fine because we just had not bonded on a deeper level yet. Alternatively, my friends checked on me and my journey and continued inviting me out, no matter how much they planned on drinking. They knew I wanted to work on being social without alcohol. They supported me along the way and held me accountable if I ever showed any temptation, and I’m very grateful to all of them. Not drinking really forced me to take a step back and note what relationships in my life are high-value and impactful versus fun but superficial. 


So, what did I learn, and what am I doing now that the sober-year is over?

I completed my year-long break from drinking on January 1st, 2021 (I had to start over on NYE) and I can say, without a doubt, I learned a lot from the experience. I learned about the pressure I put on myself to achieve my goals, which happened in my sleep, you could say. Throughout the year, I had several dreams filled with the temptation to drink. I often gave in during those dreams, which caused intense disappointment in the dream, but significant relief once I woke up. I realized I was putting pressure on myself to stay on track, mainly because I was so open about the decision to take a break.  I felt like I had something to prove to others, but what I really needed was to focus on showing up for myself and my own mental and physical health. I also learned more about my relationship with alcohol and how I did NOT miss it nor how it made me feel. I occasionally missed the taste of some drinks and excitement from getting a creative new cocktail. Still, I did not miss being drunk and I did not miss hangovers. I also did not miss the risk I would occasionally find myself in while being intoxicated as a woman, and I have been much luckier than many others I’ve known in those instances. The whole experience taught me the importance of being mindful and self-aware and taking the time to understand why we do the things we do. 


As of writing this, I have only had three drinks across three months from three separate outings. All three times I had a drink, I caught myself tempted to fall back into old habits and order another, but it helped me stop myself and ask why I felt the need to drink more. When I take the time to figure out the “why,” it becomes a hell of a lot easier for me to make the decision that’s best for me. As things open up more, I plan to experiment more with abstaining from drinking in larger social situations because I will need more practice with that for sure. I am a work in progress. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that wellness is about regularly practicing healthy habits to improve your physical and mental health.   


If you feel like you or someone you know suffers from alcohol abuse or would like more information on Alcohol Awareness Month, please check out for more information and resources. 


Written by:

Hi! I'm Kaitlyn and I'm one of the co-founders of WeCivitas. My goal is to make wellness resources and information relatable and accessible.

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