I stopped drinking for a month – here’s what happened!
At least one of my friends does Dry July or Sober October every year. And it got me thinking about how alcohol is central to so much of my social activity. But, for some guys in queer communities, drinking sometimes goes far beyond a casual meet-up with friends.
The venues we love to gather and feel safe in serve alcohol. I can’t think of many gay social spaces that don’t! Drinking can promote a sense of confidence, making it easier to talk to whoever’s beside us (and perhaps more!).
But there can be a dark side to drinking, too. One study concluded that younger queer folks are more likely to drink alcohol at high-risk levels. This is more than ten standard drinks per week, or four on any one day, according to health guidelines.
It seems drinking is one way to change how we feel about navigating a sometimes complex world as queer men! But I also know that a night out with my mates is a lot of fun!
I enjoy having a drink. So do my friends. Though lately, I feel like maybe I’ve been enjoying it a little too much. It’s had an impact on my mental and physical health such as stomach bloating, poor quality of sleep, exhaustion, and beginning to feel a little out of control. So, I felt like I needed a pause to breathe and find myself again. Here’s what I experienced.
1. I was in a better mood
I found myself generally in a better mood! As each week passed, I felt more relaxed and held deeper reservoirs of energy. As a result, I had higher levels of patience. Things that previously bothered me weren’t an issue anymore. The people around me hadn’t changed, but I was noticeably more grounded and balanced.
2. I had more meaningful social interactions
I’m lucky to have incredibly supportive friends. We still went out to nightclubs and pubs together. And although it was a bit weird at first, my sobriety paved the way to having some of the most authentic conversations with them.
Without the veil of liquor over my senses, I engaged much more meaningfully than usual. It didn’t make my past experiences with them any less valuable. I simply found I enjoyed spending time with my friends more when I didn’t drink.
3. I saved money!
Avoiding alcohol saves you $$$, big time! I was paying around $5 for a soft drink in a nightclub. I only ended up spending $10-$20 while out — a vast difference from the usual $60-$100 I’d pay. For once, I didn’t dread checking my bank statement the following morning!
4. I made more conscientious choices
Have you ever had so much to drink you made… ‘choices’ — ones you wouldn’t make sober? I’ve been there. I’m not ashamed, but I didn’t worry about it when I was off the drink. I became more aware of my decisions and the people around me. I was the safest I’ve ever been on a night out.
While we’re talking safety, I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of unexpectedly getting lucky on a night out! There’s only so far you can prepare for the unexpected — taking a ‘just in case’ starting dose of on-demand PrEP and popping a condom in your back pocket, perhaps. But if you know you’re up for a big one, a little forward planning can go a long way. More on that in The Two-Week Party Plan – a new way to get set for your next big night.
5. I felt better physically
Everything about my body changed. I was more motivated to go to the gym and could sustain longer workouts. I woke up each morning feeling energised. I was able to enjoy a home yoga workout before work, which helped ease me into the day.
My skin was clearer and hydrated, and those dark circles beneath my eyes disappeared (without under-eye concealer!). I developed a new sense of what it means to feel good.
It doesn’t start or stop in July!
You don’t need to wait for Dry January, Dry July, Sober October or any other designated month to change your drinking!
Some of my friends have never done Dry July, and neither had I until recently. But I’m glad I did. It helped me process a lot of what’s happened in the last few years and get back to my centre.
I am, however, looking forward to a cocktail this Friday! Just one, though.
The best advice I can give you is to let a month off alcohol be the launchpad, not the journey. And don’t just take it from me — here’s what Australia’s Alcohol and Drug Foundation have to say about it.
To take a closer look into your relationship with alcohol, try the online self-assessment tool at Hello Sunday Morning. Resources there can also help you with choosing to change your drinking — even if you’re a heavy drinker. For guys who use alcohol heavily, stopping suddenly could result in alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Start a conversation with a doctor to get help. You can find an LGBTQ-friendly one here.
For online drug and alcohol resources developed specifically for LGBTQ+ people, check out:
- Touchbase: An online knowledge hub with information about mental health, sexual health, alcohol, and other drugs.
- Pivot Point: information on alcohol and other drugs, as well as party and play. You’ll find tips for quitting and reducing, as well as links to further resources, assistance and support.