What A Month Without Drinking Taught Me About Going Out Sober

03/29/2017 03:46 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2017

Earlier this month – inauspiciously, it was the Ides of March – I returned to my old friend alcohol after a month of sobriety. It’s a more or less annual tradition I’ve followed since my early twenties, when alcohol and I weren’t on the best of terms. My rationale for it is a combination of general health concerns with the less-than-noble motivations of pride, avarice, vanity, and the like. That I was raised for several years in the Greek Orthodox Church, too, is likely not an insignificant factor.

At any rate, I’ve generally learned (and annually re-learned) the same lessons: that I look better, feel better, and save more money when I abstain from alcohol for a prolonged period. Invariably, my social life tends to suffer, too, but this year, I made the conscious decision to not let my teetotaling tendencies discourage me from going out. Here’s what I learned.

You’re a Better Conversationalist

Contrary to the above assertion in Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan, I found that my ability to hold a conversation on a range of topics – from books to politics to TV to, sure, social gossip – was improved, not impaired, by the lack of a cocktail in my hand. Less inclined to speak without thinking, my comments actually contributed to the conversation at hand, and I didn’t end up making any of the social faux pas over which my off-the-wagon self spends endless Saturday and Sunday mornings obsessing. Plus, if you order yourself a seltzer, you can still deflect attention with a well-timed sip after delivering any bon mots.

You Make Better Impressions On Strangers

If your own social group appreciates your new, improved self, how much more so all the people against whom you’re obliged to smash your body in crowded bars and clubs? In the crush at the coat check before exiting a warehouse dance party, I had a couple of surprisingly pleasant conversations, instead of the usual begrudging acknowledgement, stone silence, or downright combative interactions.

Dancing Sober Is Better – Not Worse

I’m the last person in the world to sing the praises of “going out dancing,” but if you’re going to do it – and sometimes you just are – give dancing sober a whirl. I found I had significantly greater patience for all the people around me. Plus, I didn’t seem like a drunk idiot on the dance floor (though I likely appeared to be just a regular one).

Everyone Appreciates A DD

There’s no awkward hemming and hawing over who’s going to drive home, and there’s no need to hire a Lyft, cab, or Uber, either.

You Get More Weekend

Even staying out late – until, say, 1 or 2 A.M. – still allows you plenty of time the following morning if you’re not forced to spend it battling a hangover. If you’re out dancing – or whatever – until 1:30, you can still be up by 8:30 and at Harriman State Park or the Hudson Highlands for a hike by 11.

So to those for whom hitting the bars sober seems counterintuitive, I say: Give it a try this weekend. Even if your friends don’t thank you for it, at least your wallet – and your hangover – will.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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