Matt Shumate took a 30-day break from alcohol—and he’s still not drinking. Here’s why.
I’ve never been a regular drinker throughout the week. Most weekday nights, I imbibe only water, but come the weekend I typically go pretty big.
When you’re a single guy getting out and meeting new people, it almost seems like a prerequisite to have a cocktail in hand. Scotch on the rocks at happy hour on Friday. Bacon-infused Bloody Marys at brunch. Pitchers of beer at the sports bar on Sundays.
When you’re having a good time, why stop with just a few beverages? Without a significant other to come home to, there’s little holding you back from seeing if that night out is going to be an epic one.
I have had a blast on some phenomenal Miami nights getting after it. Bars, clubs, house parties. Every Saturday night was an exciting, booze-laden adventure to explore with endless possibilities.
But then the inevitable happens … the harsh knock of nature’s withdrawal, the hangover. I’ve spent many a Sunday lazing on the coach, nauseated and nursing a headache, crushing old episodes of The Office hour after hour.
At one point this summer, I became fed up with this routine. I realized that during the week, I pride myself on a positive daily ritual of green smoothies, clean eating, exercise, meditation, and gratitude—and then on the weekends, it all fell to crap. The culprit: booze.
So, I started reading about people who have given up drinking for a finite period of time and the benefits they enjoyed throughout the process. After their hiatus, many of these folks decided to give up alcohol altogether and have never looked back. The pros of ditching drinks for a trial period seemed to add up, so I decided to give it a go. Here’s some of what I learned …
- It’s called the “social lubricant” for a reason—You start to realize just how much social situations rely on alcohol. At the majority of social gatherings, it’s almost looked down upon not to have a drink in your hand. You wonder why that is? Obviously, drinking can provide a good time—don’t get me wrong, but is everyone drinking to take the edge off because we all have so much anxiety built up? Or are we eager to escape reality through pounding shots? You start to wonder what drives the need to have a constant drip in your boozy IV.
- Some “friends” may just be drinking buddies—When you tell friends you’re giving up alcohol for a month, some may be very confused. They may look at you in disgust and tell you how awkward that will be for you. Will it though? Or is it just awkward for them because you’re not matching them drink for drink? You’ll see which of your relationships are founded more on the hilarious shenanigans and drinking antics vs. those based on a solid core of a friendship.
- Your productivity skyrockets—The physical benefits of flying sans cervezas are numerous, and I won’t extol them here in totality, but they include better sleep, more energy, and increased clarity. This ups your output in a major way. Motivation for your career or business increasess dramatically. The side projects you’ve been meaning to get to on the weekends are now somehow getting accomplished in record speed. Everything starts falling in line much more easily when you have an extra day or two to dedicate to productive accomplishments.
- You realize you don’t need alcohol to relax or take the edge off—I’ve always had a certain level anxiety, whether stress induced or socially-based. Drinking to me was a way to unwind, get loose, shed the stress, and be myself. Now, I realize that drinking can add more stress in multiple ways. From one perspective, you depend on it so much to take the edge off, you’re almost building it up too much in your own head, saying “I need this to chill.” So you pound until your faculties are limited and then you can officially “relax.” But now I’ll go to a bar and not even feel the pre-drunk anxiety; I am loose instead of waiting to get loose, because I know the alcohol is not coming. Anxiety never has a chance to take control.
- You save a TON of money—When you’re a few drinks deep, dropping $16 on an app or picking up a round of shots doesn’t seem like a bad idea. The next day, you shudder at the thought of looking through your credit card transactions. Sometimes it can equate to several hundred dollars over a weekend. It’s not just the drinks, but all the crappy food, Uber rides, and other bad decisions you make as a result. They add up. I’m enjoying having some extra scratch to invest in new business opportunities or awesome experiences. I find this type of spending much more compelling than beating up my liver for a temporary stint of joy.
So, here I am on day 36 of a 30 day challenge. Around day 14, I had my first drink all planned out. Ice cold Mojito on a hot summer Miami night. Day 30 came and went. I’m feeling too good to drink just for the sake of it, and I want to hold on to that good feeling.
Each weekend I’m getting outside and exploring the great outdoors that South Florida has to offer. I’m trying new things like a weekly yoga class, meditation sessions, paddle board meetups … finding new ways to meet like minded people outside of the bar scene—all things that won’t happen if I’m too hungover from vodka sodas from the night before.
Will I go back to booze at some point? I’m sure I will. Could be tomorrow, could be six months from now. I’m not going to put a timer on it. When the time is right, I’ll enjoy a frosty cold one. Until then, I’m digging life with the beer goggles removed.