Six Amazing Benefits of Giving Up Alcohol and Joining a Sober Community
We no longer look for short-lived highs followed by compounded messes and erratic emotions. In our willingness to be present, to be aware of our inner lives, step by step we create the lives we really want to live.
We don’t want to be like everyone else. We want to be exceptional.
By Karolina Rzadkowolska
Originally posted on August 22, 2019 on The Fix
Hi, I’m Karolina and a proud member of the sober community. I didn’t really think I’d ever find myself here. Sure, I had a love-hate relationship with alcohol that filled me with more hate after each hangover, but who doesn’t? I didn’t identify as a “problem” drinker as a lot of my drinking looked like what everyone else was doing. Was I even allowed to quit?
And yet there was that unease, that cognitive dissonance; I knew I was made for more than hangxiety and regret. After years of feeling stuck, I finally tried sobriety as an experiment and fell in love with my new life. It turned out everything I truly wanted was just on the other side of my fear: happiness, purpose, friendships, love, and growth.
And so here I am. I’m not in AA or traditional recovery (although I’ve been working on my self-development through other tools, books, and community groups since I quit).
I wondered: did I fit in here? Into this landscape of sober people? For a long time, I didn’t even like using the word “sober,” because it felt so antithetical to what I was experiencing in my alcohol-free life. I was discovering joy(!) and gratitude, not somber misery. Why was it painted to me so grimly before? This was life in HD technicolor.
The love I have for my new life is the result of the connections I’ve made with sober women and men. In all the other associations and lives I’ve led, I have never found such an openhearted, empathetic group of support and friends. Adding my own voice to the sober community and sharing advice with those who are still on the other side of fear has given me a new purpose. A sense of place. A calling.
And yet it’s such a diverse space. We all have different stories, different identities, and life experiences. And we use varied methods and paths to find our happier selves. Some of us are in AA, some of us make our own way. Some of us have experienced deep trauma, others are the epitome of privilege or luck. Some of us turn to logic-based approaches, while others turn to spiritual ones.
We may have our own unique paths, but we have so much more in common:
- We No Longer Settle
We knew it well. Waking up frazzled, in pain, sad, and ashamed. Is it possible to have a hangover without having an existential crisis at the same time? Who was that person last night? Why did she do this to me? I can’t keep on like this. And yet it keeps happening, because alcohol is our plus one. The world told us to drink. We listened. And even though it feels miserable at times, drinking seems safer and easier, a comfort zone of sorts.
And then one day it hits us. Screw “safe” and “easy.” We stop settling for hangovers. We stop settling for complacency. We stop settling for mediocrity. And it trickles down into our lives, because when you stop asking yourself if your life is okay and instead ask if it’s actually fulfilling, you get to the real heart of the matter.
- We Look for Deeper Connection
Scientists say humans are prone to addiction when they are isolated and lonely. And what’s lonelier than pretending everything is fine? Or fake friends forged over boozy conversation that you can’t remember the next day? It’s a disconnection that hurts our souls, and once we go sober, it doesn’t stand. We can no longer fake it, and we open up to the vulnerable inside us.
We look for real connection, with people who really see us and honor our life. We strengthen bonds with loved ones, free to finally be comfortable in our skin instead of always looking for something outside of us to find comfort. And we look to see our empowering lifestyle reflected in other badass men and women. The friends I’ve made in the sober community have completely transformed my life. It’s a space designed for love and support, ever growing with enthusiasm. Just look at the sober parties, the meetups, the community groups. We are hungry for the real deal of connectedness, and not the flimsy social glue served in a cup.
- We Are Present in Our Lives
Life comes with feelings and stressful situations and doing hard things. And it also comes with joy and meaningful development and growth through adversity. Instead of being present with our feelings, we’re taught to have a drink, release a chemical reward, and numb uncomfortable thoughts. Abracadabra, instant gratification. A drink, the easiest solution to not deal with your life. And to train your brain to look for the easy rewards, to find entertainment so passively, you literally just sit on the couch.
But screw “easy,” we said. We want to be active agents in our life. We want to create, build, dream, and we want to feel. We no longer look for short-lived highs followed by compounded messes and erratic emotions. We embrace the uncomfortable and do hard things. Because that’s how you build your dream life. In our willingness to be present, to be aware of our inner lives, step by step we create the lives we really want to live. Finding gratitude, awe, beauty and the fulfillment that comes with awareness of your true desires.
- We Rebuke Societal Conformity
How many people wouldn’t dare refuse a social drink for fear of standing out? Or because they worry others would assume they have a problem?
We sober folk not only have the bravery and courage to say no to drinks at cocktail parties, and networking events, and lately even yoga studios, but we also say no to societal conformity and the whole idea that alcohol is requisite to a fun and fulfilling life. Who said? Who profits when we believe this? We don’t and instead we question that entire line of reasoning and find our own self-actualization instead. When you look past societal pressure and a desire to fit in, you can find your true voice. It’s not just passing up a drink at the company happy hour. We don’t want to be like everyone else. We want to be exceptional.
- We Smash Our Self-Limiting Beliefs
If we can quit alcohol, our Achilles heel, in a booze-soaked society, we can do anything. And we finally start to believe this ourselves. My love-hate relationship with alcohol led me to believe a number of things that weren’t inherently true about me: that I couldn’t have fun without booze, that I was awkward at socializing, that I couldn’t do hard things like run long distances or launch a business. And that most of all, I couldn’t go against the grain and opt out of drinking.
But I did it anyway. I smashed my self-limiting beliefs about alcohol, giving me the courage and confidence I needed to do a whole host of things I was scared of. I’ve seen it all around me in the sober-sphere. We speak up, write books, launch businesses, share our stories, run marathons, show our children healthier coping skills, and do so many things that our drinking selves were way too stuck to even attempt.
- We Know the Art of Transformation
Our lives are masterpieces. We came here to expand our souls; we were meant to evolve and grow. And the role alcohol played in our lives and the ways we surmounted that allowed us to completely change everything. Most people say quitting alcohol was just the very first thing. The foundation that allowed everything else to fall into place. Our lives are dedicated to health and well-being and love and connection that not too long ago were overrun with shame and despair and insecurity. We practice gratitude and self-acceptance and self-love.
That’s the art of transformation and we know it well. We feel such hope and possibility for anyone coming to the same questioning about alcohol in their lives, because we know how much happiness and fulfillment lies on the other side. Change is scary and uncertain. And yet by letting go of what no longer served us, we completely reinvented our lives for the better.
From the very outset, I’ve been in awe by the bravery, whole-heartedness, and full embrace of life I’ve seen here. That set my aspirations way above a happy hour and allowed me to completely reinvent my life. Thank you for welcoming me.
Karolina is passionate about empowering women to find freedom from alcohol for happier and healthier lives. She is the founder of Euphoric Alcohol-Free, a space to reevaluate the role of alcohol in our lives – grounded in choice, individuality and happiness. As a former gray-area drinker, drinking made her feel small, stuck, and not living up to her fullest potential. She finally found the most tremendous joy by leaving alcohol behind. Done with sitting on the sidelines of her own life, she became the star instead.