Big Issues

What I Learned From Being Sober The Entire Semester

Yep, through 21st season and everything.

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Earlier this year I made a personal commitment to myself to stay sober for the entire semester. I’ve never had a serious problem with alcohol, but I began noticing that I’d slip into binge drinking after a hard day, week or month. I didn’t want it to become more of an issue in the future. I didn’t want to lose control.

So I spent 12 weeks without alcohol, and through the 21sts, social outings and stress-inducing assignments, here’s what I learned. 

It Will Feel Like You’re Missing Out 

I had expected to feel empowered by my decision, healthier, or just different for the better. But really I felt like everyone was eating fairy bread and I was gluten free.

This was something really difficult to deal with at first, but I was determined to stick out the discomfort and the awkward silences that alcohol would normally smooth over for me. I became a whole lot more confident because of it.

Stress Needs To Be Dealt With In Healthier Ways

After several terrible weeks, I found it frustrating that I couldn’t deal with the turmoil by going out with friends and having a cider. Using alcohol as a way to manage stress is something I’ve always struggled with.

But cutting out alcohol lead me to eventually pick up healthier stress relievers, which I have continued to add to my routine. The main thing that has really helped me after a difficult day or week is practicing mindfulness.

While it’s not the most practical stress-reliever if you’re out with friends, it’s definitely a great way to get in touch with the root of your discomfort when you have some alone time.

After A While, It Started To Lose Its Appeal 

As the semester progressed and I attended more and more 21sts, I started to take more notice of the people huddled in the corner or vomiting into the bush.

Being the person on the other side, I finally felt relief knowing that I wouldn’t be spending the entirety of the next day nursing a hangover when I had assignments that needed to get done.

It also meant that I got to eat heaps more birthday cake without worrying about a messy end to the night. Another benefit to being sober was that I could personally drive my friends home and make sure that they were all OK instead of just sending them home in an Uber. It gave me so much more peace of mind.

I Was Looking For An Escape

It wasn’t until near the end of the semester that I realised the reason I had consistently kept turning to alcohol was because it was the easiest way to deal with things when they got difficult.

I realised that I never even enjoyed the taste of alcohol and only found merit in it because it enhanced my ability to have fun or to forget the difficulties of my everyday life.

Giving alcohol up temporarily not only allowed me to take control of something that could have potentially become a dangerous habit, but also taught me that the enjoyment I experience at parties and social settings is totally independent of whether I choose to consume alcohol or not.

There’s not really any justifiable reason to let a mind-altering substance hold the power. Will I go back to drinking alcohol after this semester? Yes, occasionally, but this time I will think much more carefully before I drink by making sure that I am drinking because I want to and not just to get drunk.

(Lead image: Clueless/Paramount Pictures)