I feel like a lot of people expect me to weigh in, somehow, on whether or not they should stop drinking

190512-186784-idunnoWhen meeting people, I don’t hide that I am three and a half years sober. I mean, I don’t bring it up apropos of nothing. But if someone asks me why I don’t drink, I see no reason to be coy or to make up a reason.

One common reaction to this, though, is that sometimes my interlocutor will say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been really feeling like I should cut back.”

I don’t think I’ve ever told someone that they should quit drinking, and I hope that I never will. If anyone had ever told me that, I would have been highly offended, and it wouldn’t really have done any good. Furthermore, many extremely heavy drinkers seem to be none the worse for alcohol.

Whether or not a person should quit drinking is entirely up to them. My only thoughts on the subject are that, well, let me start by saying that some people are much heavier drinkers than others, okay. I’d say that if you’re a man who drinks more than five drinks in a night and more than fifteen in a week (or 3 and 10, if you’re a woman), then in most cultural contexts (within America), that’s some pretty heavy drinking.

So, if you’re a heavy drinker, and you are:

  • Depressed*
  • Anxious
  • Unproductive
  • Unmotivated
  • Lonely
  • Subject to chronic health problems

Then there is a very good chance that if you quit drinking, those problems will either disappear entirely or be substantially alleviated.

Quitting drinking is a big step, but it really need have no negative consequences on your life, beyond the loss of the pleasurable moods that’re associated with intoxication. I think a common fear, for people, is that without alcohol they will no longer be socially successful. For instance, I used to think that the only way I could socialize was with alcohol. However, once I quit drinking, I became much more socially adept and am now able to do things (like dance) that I used to have a hard time doing even when I was very drunk. There is nothing that a person can do while drunk that is not easier to do while sober. Even partying all night is much easier when you’re sober (and you feel much better the next day). The only thing is that sometimes the motivation to do certain things is missing when you’re not drunk. For instance, I have never, since I quit drinking, had the desire to smash random objects upon the pavement.

So yes, I have no advice on whether you should quit drinking. All I can say is that: a) quitting drinking has no concrete downsides (other than the loss of periodic chemical euphoria–which is, of course, a fairly considerable loss =); and b) if you are a heavy drinker, there is not inconsiderable chance that quitting drinking will solve many of your personal problems.

Now, oftentimes people wonder whether these positive effects can be achieved by cutting back. To that, I have no answer. As an intermediate stage in my journey towards sobriety, I realized that I really did not enjoy moderate drinking–I only enjoyed out-of-control drinking. Thus, I decided that for me it would either be sobriety or out-of-control drinking. Even now, I am never tempted by the thought of drinking “just one beer”. The temptation is always to drink a whole fifth of whiskey =)

*At some point, someone will always point out something like, “Alcohol is a depressant, so of course it makes you depressed.” No. Please never say this to me. Drugs are not depressants because they make you emotionally depressed; they’re depressants because they cause central nervous system depression–decreased rate of breathing; decreased heart rate; loss of consciousness. When well-meaning misuse medical terminology in this simplistic way, it allows heavy drinkers to tune them out. Yes, alcohol can make you emotionally depressed (anyone who’s been super hungover knows this), but so can plenty of drugs that are not CNS depressants (i.e. most stimulants–cocaine, molly, amphetamines, etc–can also make you emotionally depressed). And there are also plenty of depressants that do not cause emotional depression. For instance, antihistamines are CNS depressants, but emotional depression is not a common side effect of taking Benadryl.

Comments (



  1. sunscald

    Did not know that asterisked last bit, but goodness knows that misinterpretation is in the water supply. Happy to be corrected.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      It’s okay; I’ve been told the bit about depressants by people who should know better, like drug educators and psychologists. I think they do actually know better, but they just don’t respect the intelligence of their audience enough to actually try to describe the real reasons why drug use can cause emotional depression.

  2. Bradley

    Sometimes I miss smashing things. Car parties! Fuck Dude.

    My life is so much better this way, but I do have pangs of nostalgia for the roller coaster and the loss of control. And I’ve gotten much less coy about why I quit drinking. At this point, I’m in it to win it, so I might as well own it. I

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yes, the excitement and loss of control is definitely fun; but I chalk all that up to the chemical aspect–I think the excitement is mainly caused by going from really sad to really happy to really sad so many more times in a week than one does while sober.

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