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The Benefits of Quitting Drinking Didn’t Make All My Dreams Come True

I looked in the mirror and tried to focus my bleary eyes on the day old makeup that formed a crust around my lashes. My creased, blotchy skin cried out “Laura, please, moisturize me!” My mouth tasted like I had squeezed a tube of onion rings on my toothbrush and rinsed with an IPA.

Six months ago—whether it was after a glass of wine at home or a handful of beers at happy hour—this was a frequent morning ritual. Then I quit drinking.

My decision to stop drinking and join the increasingly trendy sober-curious movement sweeping Millennial happy hours, was months—maybe even years—in the making. I didn’t think I had a problem with alcohol per se, it just wasn’t helping me live the life I wanted. (One without mascara smudged, mildly hungover mornings.)

About a year ago, it suddenly seemed like alcohol-free living was everywhere. I read memoirs, articles, and comics created by sober women I admired. I hunted for podcasts and YouTube videos that could convince me life without wine time would be fine—even fun. Sometimes I’d crack open a cold one and settle in to enjoy a Reddit thread about a stranger’s journey to sobriety. Reading about quitting drinking—sometimes while drinking (yes, I see the irony…)—became a hobby of its own.

The more I read, the more convinced I became. These women made the benefits of quitting drinking sound awesome. Sobriety, it seemed, was the answer to pretty much every wellness wish I’d ever had: weight loss, better skin, and improved mental health.

Deep in my sober content consuming vortex, I imagined a blissful alcohol-free future for myself:

I would lose weight because I’d quit consuming hundreds of liquid calories in the form of beer each day. Never mind the fact that I haven’t done a single crunch in a year. I was certain to have washboard abs hiding underneath the layer of cushioning that my fondness for craft beer produced. Plus, hangovers make me crave bagel sandwiches but in my sober life I’d only crave kale.

My skin would be bright and crease-free. Like, not a single wrinkle. I hear that your pores essentially disappear when you aren’t drowning your cells in alcohol.

My mental health would be out of this world. In fact, I’d probably adopt an entirely new, vibrant personality because I’d be able to channel the energy I used to spend drinking (and recovering from drinking) on being vivacious. My entire wardrobe will be brightly colored sundresses and I’ll dance down the street to upbeat 70s pop music while greeting shopkeepers and singing to birds each morning. I’d probably never have a bad day or feeling of anxiety again.

Finally, it was perfectly clear to me: My purpose on this earth, I decided, was to be the physical manifestation of productivity and wellness—the only thing standing in my way was alcohol. So after an indulgent 30th birthday, I decided it was finally time to quit.

I’m now six months into my alcohol free life…and not exactly the poster child of wellness I’d expected to turn into in one gleaming sober Cinderella moment. The reality is, cutting out alcohol was less of a magical fix and more of an incremental lifestyle change. (Ugh, what a buzzkill.)

To my dismay, I did not turn into Alex Morgan’s ultra-fit body double overnight. In spite of my impatience to see immediate body-changing results, my excessive research offered up some very good advice: when you first quit drinking, focus only on cutting out the alcohol. Afterall, I couldn’t expect to suddenly quit drinking, transform my diet, and workout six days a week, too. I’ve never been someone with a sweet tooth, but suddenly all I wanted to do was eat ice cream. I was still going to happy hour—it just now took place on my sofa with my buddies Ben and Jerry. Eventually, I made exercise a regular part of my routine and have started making better food choices to support my workouts but I’m still working on cutting back the sugar intake.

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