Most drinkers secretly long for the days they enjoyed life without the sauce.
Nevertheless, they are terrified of quitting indefinitely. The human brain has trouble processing the idea of not being able to drink alcohol ever again. Instead, quitting for one year and deciding whether or not it’s worth the trouble is a much more digestible idea.
I recently completed a full year without drinking a single drop of alcohol.
I hadn’t been away from drinking for this much of a long time since my teenage years.
I carefully documented how my life went during this important year. In this article, I will discuss the benefits and downsides of quitting drinking for a full year. So, read on to learn what to expect when you quit drinking.
Why I Quit Drinking
I started drinking at the age of 15. Those were my relatively carefree years. I drank when I wanted to, I didn’t drink when I didn’t want to. I didn’t even think it would become a problem someday. Drinking was so normal and widespread that I didn’t even question it. Drinking was fun, I was young. It wasn’t an issue until I graduated from college and started working full time.
I got stuck in a vicious cycle
After I started a cubicle job, drinking after work became a regular thing. My job was a chore to get through and alcohol was my reward after the day of dull work. This was not the future I imagined. My job sucked and so did my life. I hated my life. I was stuck in an unpleasant city and a suffocating cubicle. I didn’t even know there was another option.
This vicious cycle continued for more than 10 years. Go to work-spend the day at the office-leave the office-drink-sleep-wake up-go to work-repeat. My life was miserable. I was also a heavy smoker, which made matters worse.
My alcohol tolerance went up
Drinking alcohol wasn’t my only problem but it also didn’t help me solve my other problems. After years of drinking, my alcohol tolerance had gone up. I needed stronger drinks to catch the same buzz. I was also experiencing diminishing returns from my drinking. It wasn’t as much fun as my younger years anymore. Hangovers would also affect my job performance. I hadn’t gotten promoted for years.
The opportunity cost
Then there was the opportunity cost. Drinking consumed almost all my free time which I could use to build a side business, go to the gym, read books and improve myself, which could lead to my escape from corporate prison.
Deteriorating health and unsightly physical appearance
Although I hadn’t reached the stage of having serious health issues, I was fat and grossly out of shape.
The decision to take control of my life
In 2011, while I was 36, I decided to change my life.
First, I quit smoking. Then, I started bodyweight training and dieting. Training and losing weight boosted my well-being and confidence. I was still drinking but less than before. I spent my days improving myself in every possible way. I got in better shape. I read hundreds of books. In 2014 I finally had the courage to quit my job.
Drinking made it difficult to reach my goals
Building businesses, getting in better shape and drinking alcohol don’t go hand in hand. I was drinking less than before but alcohol still had its negative effects on my life. I have never been a moderate drinker so when I drink, I go all the way. Even one night of drinking would completely screw up my sleep, work, and training schedule.
I had made efforts to wake up early in the morning and start working earlier to get more things done. One night of drinking would completely fuck up my sleep schedule because of the hangovers that pinned me to the bed for long hours.
My work schedule would suffer because I find it impossible to work after a hangover. Working is the last thing I want to do after a night of hard-drinking. Even if I force myself to work, I wasn’t able to work efficiently because of the hangover.
My training schedule would suffer greatly because I would either skip the day’s training when I had a hangover or train and have a bad workout. My body needed a few days to fully recover and get back to training in full force.
I would need 3-4 days to get back to working on my goals after just one night of drinking.
As a result, I wanted to stop drinking.
Why 1 Year
The brain has trouble digesting the idea to quit drinking indefinitely
Deciding to quit drinking is one thing, actually quitting is another.
I was not able to come to terms with the idea of quitting forever.
The fear that life will no longer be fun
First, there was fear. Living without drinking even a single pint of beer seemed like living in a permanent vegetative state. Life would never be fun anymore.
And, how on the earth I would celebrate anything? Is a celebration a real celebration without drinking alcohol? I had never celebrated anything without drinking.
Moreover, life would get boring. Hangovers suck but drinking alcohol is fun. What would I do when I was bored?
How would I blow off steam? Since the age of 15, whenever I had a bad day, I would drink. Alcohol would be the litter to carry me to the next day when I was wounded.
I also liked going out at night. Going out, drinking, socializing and meeting girls were all fun things to do. How would I do these without alcohol?
Why moderation didn’t work
I couldn’t come to terms with quitting drinking indefinitely. On the other hand, even one night of drinking was setting me back on my goals. Moderation had never worked for me so it was out of the question. Drinking a beer and calling it a night is not my thing.
I had to stop drinking but how?
The idea of quitting drinking for a year instead of quitting indefinitely
When you are searching for a solution, you will often find it with the help of selective perception.
I stumbled upon a forum thread about quitting drinking for a year. The writer who started the thread said that it’s hard for the human brain to process the thought of quitting forever. Quitting for one year and evaluating your decision afterward is a much more digestible idea for your brain.
That made perfect sense to me because that was where I was struggling. This sounded a lot better than quitting forever: “Quit drinking for a year and evaluate after finishing one year without drinking a single drop of alcohol.”
It made perfect sense but my brain still resisted the idea of quitting drinking. One year abstinence would be easier than quitting forever but it still didn’t seem easy.
Nevertheless, the idea was planted in my brain. It was just a matter of time until I executed it.
After having a few more nights of drinking heavily (and the resulting hangovers) over a couple of months, I decided to put the idea of not drinking alcohol for a year to practice.
I set a starting day. I had one last night of heavy drinking, then I started my one year challenge on the day I set.
Quitting drinking on your own
I didn’t tell anybody that I was doing this. It’s tempting to announce it to the world but I would do it on my own. I didn’t need encouragement or support.
Most people fail at their first attempt but I didn’t. I completed a full year without drinking a single drop of alcohol on my first try. It wasn’t an easy feat, so I’m extremely proud of myself that I pulled it off.
There are upsides and downsides to not drinking alcohol. Upsides substantially outweigh the downsides for me but it may be different for you. I will list all the advantages and disadvantages of not drinking alcohol for one year, so you know what you can expect after a year of sobriety and make your decision accordingly.
The Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol
1. No hangovers
This is the obvious benefit.
Hangovers had been the ugliest part of drinking, at least for me. I never heard of anyone who enjoys hangovers, so I assume you hate them too.
Obviously, you don’t get any hangovers when you don’t drink at all and it’s awesome to wake up in the morning feeling fresh and rested.
2. Better body
Although I trained hard, alcohol was setting me back in two ways.
First, alcohol causes dehydration. When I was dehydrated, my training performance dropped significantly.
Second, alcohol has a lot of calories. This is one of the reasons why most drinkers have a potbelly. I wanted to have six pack abs and it was hard to do when I was drinking. I couldn’t completely get rid of my belly fat while drinking alcohol.
I kept perfecting my Ripped with Bodyweight routine and 4 months into my 1-year wagon, I got my six-pack abs. I was in the best shape of my life within just 4 months.
Body Changes After Quitting Drinking
Exhilarated with my achievement, I carried my fitness success even further. I took up weightlifting and built myself 12 more pounds of muscle.
One year without drinking alcohol allowed me to go through an incredible body transformation, even beyond my dreams.
3. Clear mind, better focus, and productivity
I prefer building location independent businesses because I was stuck in a bad, congested, and ugly city for an extended period of my life. My line of work (software engineer) required me to stay in one city because there were little to no job opportunities in any other city.
I would hate to go back to that life again so I decided to make money online. I built 3 businesses in the last 3 years. Building an online business is tough and requires clarity of mind and focus.
Without alcohol, my thinking was much clearer. I had better focus and I worked more than ever in the year that I didn’t drink. There are other factors that contributed to this, but a clear mind and a laser focus were my greatest assets to get more work done.
I also started this website during my year without drinking.
4. Less depression, more happiness
Alcohol is a depressant. I would feel bad for a few days after a night of drinking hard even when there was nothing to be depressed about.
Now, I feel a lot happier without alcohol. I am filled with energy, enthusiasm, and joy.
5. Better sleep, more time for living, more energy
I get more things done if I wake up early. It’s impossible to wake up early and be productive after a night of drinking hard.
You may choose to wake up later if you quit drinking but you will still get better sleep and live more because you will need less sleep.
11-12 hours of sleeping (if not more), after a night of hard drinking is not unusual. When I don’t drink, 7-8 hours of sleep is more than enough for me.
Time is a precious asset and you will certainly have more time to enjoy living if you don’t drink.
6. Better health
Luckily, I hadn’t arrived at a stage of drinking where a permanent health condition emerged. But still, the health benefits of not drinking alcohol for a year have been nothing short of amazing for me.
I lost weight and became more athletic due to consuming fewer alcohol calories, and training.
I feel a lot healthier, I look better, my skin glows, and everybody keeps telling me how young I look at the age of 41.
7. Less money spent
Drinking can get expensive especially when you go out.
I didn’t spend a dime on alcohol for a year. This gave me a fair financial advantage.
8. Better sex
In the past, I had many occasions of bringing a girl home from a bar or a club and not being able to fuck her because of the whiskey dick syndrome.
Also, having sex after a hangover is less fun because you are feeling tired and depressed.
Without alcohol, I never had these problems. My erections were stronger and sex was more enjoyable.
9. Less embarrassment, better emotional control
Alcohol removes your inhibitions and sometimes this leads you to do embarrassing things. You regret what you did after sobering up, but the damage is done.
Without alcohol, you don’t do embarrassing things which you regret later.
I also noticed that I have better emotional control, which is a crucial pillar of masculinity. Acting on emotion weakens the man. Drinking leads to poor emotional control and poor decision making.
Your life is a sum of your small decisions. These decisions add up and determine where you end up in life. You are what you repeatedly do.
Without alcohol, I make better decisions. Better decision making leads to a better life.
10. Less need for instant gratification
Humans tend to choose the path with the least resistance. Alcohol reliably provides fun and alters your reality. It’s very easy to do. You drink and voila, immediately life is fun. Instant gratification.
Instant gratification is the enemy of progress because it’s fake. Alcohol doesn’t alter reality. It temporarily alters the reality your brain perceives. When you sober up, you go back to your actual reality which is almost always worse than the time you started drinking.
Delayed gratification requires an actual change of reality. You work hard and build a business. You train hard and build an amazing body. You build relationships to live a fulfilling life. You eat well and exercise, so you build better health.
Without alcohol, you will need actual achievements to alter your reality, which will give you a genuine and permanent high. Not the temporary high you get from alcohol.
11. Better senses
This is hard to explain but I will try. After years of alcohol abuse, you lose your ability to appreciate small things in life.
Reading a good book, watching a good movie or listening to music became more enjoyable in my year without drinking.
The Downsides of Not Drinking Alcohol
1. It’s difficult
There will be times during your no drinking challenge that you will really want to drink. Your inner voice will try to dupe you into drinking.
Let’s drink for only tonight. What is life if you are not having fun every once in a while?
There is no easy way to deal with this. You must fight back and not give in.
After years of drinking, it’s not easy to quit cold turkey. Even if it’s only for a year.
You will certainly have bad days to sooth, holidays and good days to celebrate with alcohol.
It would be a lie if I said it’s easy. It’s not.
The results were more than worth for me so I’m glad that I endured the times I had a desire to drink throughout the year.
But don’t let this discourage you. After the first few weeks, it gets easier.
2. Life is boring
Let’s face it. If drinking alcohol was not fun, nobody would be doing it.
Our lives are mostly boring. Alcohol reliably relieves boredom.
When you don’t drink, you will face the fact that your life is mostly boring.
I listed this as a disadvantage but it can easily be transformed to an advantage.
Dealing with boredom is an asset because building things take time and the process is boring. If you want to build anything worthwhile, you have to conquer your fear of boredom.
As you can see, learning to deal with boredom can be an asset to you later in life but within a year without alcohol, you will be bored. A lot.
3. Fewer girls
Alcohol is a social lubricant. Meeting girls is easier when you are drinking.
I also stopped going out at night in order to wake up early in the morning.
This lead to fewer girls in my life.
Luckily, I already had a great girlfriend before I started my 1 year no alcohol challenge. I stick to a monogamous relationship, I trained, worked and read books.
I certainly missed banging new girls every once in a while but I will not complain.
4. Less social life
When you are a drinker, you unknowingly associate a lot of social activities with alcohol.
You go out at night?
-Go to a bar, restaurant or club and drink.
Go to a concert?
Meet with your friends?
As I said before, picking up girls has also a lot to do with drinking alcohol.
When you stop drinking, these activities may mostly vanish. At least, that’s what happened to me.
Less social life may be an advantage to you if you are building a business because you will have more time to work. But, still, we are social animals and socializing is fun. Sure, you can do it without alcohol but it was harder to do for me.
I also may add that this can change from person to person. If you enjoy sober activities, not drinking alcohol can make you more social.
What Happened After Completing One Full Year Without Drinking Alcohol
I listed the pros and cons of not drinking for a year, from my perspective.
Life without alcohol is better
For me, the benefits substantially outweigh the downsides. My life is a lot better without alcohol.
So, after I finished my year without drinking, I continued not to drink except celebrating my year without alcohol. It sounds stupid to celebrate 1 year of not drinking alcohol by drinking alcohol but that’s exactly what I did.
It’s now a cakewalk not to drink
I kept the celebration brief and got back to no drinking again. Now it’s much easier not to drink because I already did the hard work in my first year without drinking.
Instead of quitting forever and feeling miserable for a lifetime, I quit for a year, evaluated the pros and cons of not drinking.
I’ve seen with my own eyes that the benefits of not drinking greatly outweigh the downsides. Since I already endured a difficult year without alcohol, it’s now a cakewalk not to drink.
Alcohol is no longer a problem
Alcohol was one of my biggest problems until a year ago. Now it’s a non-issue. I developed the resilience to push through life without the help of alcohol. I also made peace with my boredom. When you are building businesses, you get bored a lot. The ability to deal with boredom is priceless for building something worthwhile.
I kicked alcohol’s ass without having to deal with the horror of quitting forever.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for a Year
If you made this far in the article, you are certainly interested in quitting drinking. At least for a year.
Let me first state that I don’t have any moral judgments against drinking. A lot of my friends and family members drink alcohol and I love them.
Decide whether alcohol is holding you back in life
Quitting drinking is more about how much it is holding you back in life. Ask yourself whether alcohol is holding you back in life and give an honest answer. If you can’t handle the thought of quitting forever, try doing it for a year. The results may surprise you.
Planting seeds of success in your brain
I don’t expect you to read this article and suddenly stop drinking for a year. I aim to plant the seed of the idea of quitting for one year in your brain. Sometimes ideas are planted in our brains and quietly grow without us noticing. One day the seed will grow, mature and bear fruit. Then you will try it. I’m not saying you can’t start today because you can. What I’m saying is, don’t fret if you immediately can’t do it. If you take it seriously, you will do it one day.
What to do in case you relapse
I nailed it at the first time I tried it. I said “I’m not going to drink for a year” and I did it. It’s perfectly possible that you will give in and drink after a few weeks or months without drinking. This happens to a lot of people. Don’t beat yourself up about it and go back to your wagon as soon as you can do it.
Stop drinking on your own
I don’t advice seeking support. Seeking support is feminine behavior. Make a decision and own it like a man. You don’t need a pat on the back by others to achieve something in life. Always keep in mind that you have the complete power and control to quit drinking on your own. After all, nobody can force a drink down your throat.
I don’t recommend support groups like AA. You have the power to quit drinking without AA. Most people in life are losers and it’s a certainty that you will run into a lot of losers if you go into any “let’s support each other” meetings. Associating with losers is not a good idea. They will try to bring you down to their level.
When you see other people happily drinking, don’t feel sorry for yourself that you can’t drink. You are doing something that’s worthy of pride. Not sorrow. It’s not the end of the world anyway. Complete your 1 year without drinking, then evaluate the benefits and the downsides. If you decide that the juice was not worth the squeeze, you can go back to enjoying your drinks.
Having other goals is my secret to successfully quit drinking for a year
As I said before, I decided to change my life in 2011 but although I did my best to take full control of my life, it wasn’t until 2015 that I managed to quit drinking. I quit drinking in 2011 for 3,5 months but I simply replaced drinking with playing video games which didn’t help me to solve my other problems.
The difference in 2015 that made it easier for me to stick to my decision to quit drinking was that I had lofty goals to achieve. When I wanted to quit drinking in 2011, I hadn’t set any goals for myself. My priority goal was to quit drinking which isn’t a goal by itself but rather an action that facilitates reaching my other goals.
The saddest part of my failure to quit drinking in 2011 wasn’t that I failed to quit drinking but it was realizing that alcohol wasn’t my only problem in life. I had thought that if I quit drinking, the rest of my problems would automatically sort themselves out which didn’t turn out to be the case.
Taking full control of my life required me to do far more than quitting drinking but when I finally figured out how to do it after years of trial and error, it made it easier for me to stick to my decision to quit drinking.
Getting into the full details of how to properly set goals or take control of your life is something beyond the scope of this article. The good news is, I’ve already written an entire book on how to do these including a chapter on how to quit drinking (and other vices if you have them). Feel free to check it out.
Stick to your guns no matter what
I put a reminder on my smartphone that popped up every evening at 8 p.m. My reminder said: “Stick to your guns no matter what”. I had an established, strict conviction to not drink a single drop of alcohol for a year. Don’t decide to quit drinking on a whim. Nobody is rushing you, so think about it for a while. If you are certain that you will benefit from a year without drinking alcohol, then do it without wavering. Once you build your decision on solid ground, it will be harder to break it. Otherwise, it will crumble on the smallest bump.
I told you what to expect when you stop drinking for a year. Now the ball is in your court. If you are a hard drinker like me, I strongly recommend you to quit for a full year as the benefits of not drinking alcohol greatly outweigh the downsides. I am fairly certain that 1 year without drinking will tremendously benefit you too. If you are a moderate drinker, you probably don’t need it.
The decision is yours.
Update as of December 27, 2019: It’s been more than 3 years since I’ve published this article. Many of you have been asking me what happened since then. I wanted to write an update today because this article gains tremendous popularity around these times every year right before the new year’s day (which goes to show you that there are a lot of people badly burned by the booze and want to turn a new leaf in their lives by the new year).
I want to encourage you to bite the bullet and quit drinking for a year. If I could pull this off, you can do it too.
I’m proud to announce that I am still going strong. I’ve had the most productive and healthiest years of my life since I quit drinking. I started this website during my first year sober, I went on to grow it with more articles, wrote a bodyweight training book and I recently published another book on self-improvement for men.
I will see how it goes in the future and keep you updated.
The better the life you are living the less you will want to escape from reality by drinking alcohol. Check out my resources to make your life better:
- Be a Better Man in 30 Days Program, Chapter 7: Develop Rock-Solid Self-Control
- Be a Better Man in 30 Days Program, Chapter 2: Take Control of the Direction of Your Life (The Difference Between Wants and Goals)
- Dopamine Fasting 3.0: How to Get Motivated to Succeed in Real Life
- 10 Ways to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up
- 24 Ways to Get Rid of the Victim Mentality and Adopt a Victor Mentality