Life-Changing Surprises that Come from Not Drinking for a Year

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

My name is Rachel, and I am not an alcoholic. (Hi, Rachel.) But I drank too much, so I decided to take a couple of weeks off.

A couple of weeks came and went, and as I neared the end of a month, I still didn’t feel ready to jump back in. I was feeling better — my head felt clear, and I felt more in control than I had in a long time.

ishonest No.142 - Humectant

No.142 - Humectant

So I decided to make it a full calendar year, just to see what would happen. Right now, I’m nine months in.

Why I decided to stop drinking

My anxiety had started chewing away at random parts of my life over the last year or two, and everyday activities had started sending me straight into heart- slamming panic.

One afternoon I was doing nothing more unusual than driving to PetSmart for cat food when I suddenly experienced crashing waves of anxiety, like a spaceship was going to zoom down at any moment and swoop me up.

“It shouldn’t be this terrifying to drive 20 minutes away from my house,” I thought. So I considered what I could change in my day-to-day life.

(Re)Discover your skin with our diagnosis and adopt the layering technique: Layer serums according to each one of your skin concerns

Learn more

Contributing to my anxiety that day was my hangover. I’d overdone it a little the night before, which had made me uncomfortable and physically ill, but more than that, it was interrupting my brain function.

All those neurons and synapses were firing off fight and flight simultaneously, creating a mental cocktail for panic. In that moment, I realized there was no way to combat my anxiety without cutting out the booze in one hard line.

Working in the alcohol industry

My lifestyle was so steeped in cheap beer and sparkling gin and tonics that it was practically impossible to imagine fully separating myself from booze.

See, my corporate career of nine years was in sales and marketing with one of those big, fat macro-breweries popular with hipsters, millennials, and celebrities who want to be seen drinking low-brow brew for a dose of street cred.

ishonest No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

“We’re all just functioning alcoholics,” one red-faced boss said as we walked into a big stadium to negotiate a placement for the season. “Highly functioning alcoholics.”

His shirt looked like he’d paid someone to wrinkle it, and he’d wrapped electrical tape around most of his fingertips in a bid to prevent himself from biting his cuticles and nails down any more than he already had. He looked puffy and untrustworthy.

When he said those words about us, I felt like I was being force-fed a half-dead rat.

“I’m not like you,” I thought. And maybe I wasn’t. But the thought made it hard for me to just blithely go from happy hours to tastings to beer fests. In the beer biz, there’s one irrefutable expectation, especially if you’re among the rare women: You have to be able to hang.

Moonshine at 7 a.m.

Skin care for targeted concerns

Learn more

One morning I met with a salesman to ride his route to try to sell his accounts on some new product we were pushing. He said he gets an early start, which I never do, so meeting him at a neighborhood bar in the morning was a stretch in every way.

Still, it felt like a kind of adventure. Walking in, I realized that the bar was full from one end to the other — at 7 a.m.

When a heavy glass tumbler full of Baltimore’s honey-and-cinnamon-laced moonshine, which is called “Evil,” came at me first thing with a clink, I thought “Ugh” but tossed it straight down the hatch. It was just going to be one of those days.

Over the years, these days became less surprising and more and more common. Some salesmen lived this drink-all-day life every day, so it gave me a strange sense of perspective.

ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

No.501 - Frizzy Hair

I could separate my drinking, a whole cut above the rest, and think, “I’m still not like you.” Comparatively, my relationship with alcohol was mild.

I wish I could say I found greener or more holistic pastures after I left the industry, and at times I did, but I still drank. Drinking helps so much with everything from anxiety to stage fright… until it doesn’t. And when it isn’t helping, it’s one hell of a choker.

What I’ve learned so far

I haven’t had so much as a sip, drop, shot, or beer in the past nine months, since the day I decided to try this on.

The closest I’ve come is the odd dream here and there where, for some ungodly reason, I drink a warm, cheap beer out of a plastic cup or an awful, fruity malt beverage — and immediately regret my actions. I wake up feeling so incredibly relieved that none of it actually happened.

What can clear severe acne?

Learn more

So here are my key takeaways, just in case you’re like one of the many people I encounter who are thinking about calling it quits and going sober for a while.

No booze means no hangovers

I didn’t realize how amazing never, ever getting a hangover would be. Yes, it’s even better than the boozed-up confidence that encouraged me to wear that dress and dance at the soul night and talk to a boy.

Not being hungover is gorgeous. The utter lack of hangover makes me feel like quitting drinking isn’t actually about cutting something out so much as putting something better in.

People aren’t really that scary

OK, some people will always be scary, but without the social lube, the scary ones become apparent super quickly. I can now move away from stranger danger like BAM instead of after half a dozen half-witted hangs in a dark bar, groping at intuition.

ishonest No.202 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

No.202 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

Otherwise, people in grocery stores and audiences and meetings are just people instead of automatic heart attack prompters.

Sleep is amazing

I get it now — sleep is restful. My dreams are wild, but I missed them so, so much.

Pro tip: If I ever want a “sober drunk” feeling, I just stay up way past my bedtime and get all the delirious feels that come with a little sleep deprivation. It really works.

Your appreciation for basically everything develops

I used to get antsy at concerts, and I couldn’t really appreciate a day at a museum, knowing there was a beer to be had at the bar after. (Portrait, portrait, war sucks, portrait, sculpture — got it! Let’s go.)

Anti-Aging for Summers

Learn more

My attention span for things I cared about was diminished, and so was my capacity to love. It turns out that love requires all kinds of stillness, genuine curiosity, and wonder.

Your social life will experience ch-ch-ch-changes

If I kept yammering on about all the amazing benefits of not drinking for a year, you might not believe me, and you’d be right: Some things aren’t easy.

A number of my friendships revolved around partying — it’s just what we did and how we spent our time. Some of those connections didn’t hold up without the crutch.

Alcohol can really rev up an argument for some people, but it can also cast a spell and make you think a connection is stronger than it is.

Damn, does the mirror become your friend
Secret to my mothers youthful skin

Learn more

In my experience, suddenly ceasing drinking means you’ll lose weight. Your face will look less tired. That stubborn belly fat ceases to be stubborn when you stop feeding it. IMO, you could exercise less and still look better if you quit drinking.

But if you’re like me, you’ll end up exercising even more because you feel like it and because it feels good to be physically strong. Before this experiment, I often saw exercise as a way to balance alcohol’s negative effects. Now it’s a simple matter of power.

I’m more confident

My life has been positively affected by quitting drinking in all these ways and more. Most of all, putting down the bottle has helped me build confidence.

I believe that a lack of confidence causes all kinds of trouble: It makes Sally anxious, and it makes Jon want to sabotage himself and others around him. It breeds dark, ungainly urges.

ishonest No.313 - Prevent Acne

No.313 - Prevent Acne

When you feel bad about yourself, chances are that negativity and doubt are going to express themselves one way or another.

Whether you throw yourself a pity party or use them to try to make someone else look bad, they’re going through you — making you age prematurely, that surly look on your face stick, your blood spoil. In short, it’s not a good look.

Drinking can ease insecurity and boost a kind of false confidence that starts unnecessary fires and leaves a trail of meanness that burrows a not-so-charming permalink in your brain. And this kind of damage is not easily undone.

If instead, in the clear light of day, you confront whatever monster is living in your head or your heart and telling you “You aren’t good enough,” you’ll be happier and have a more meaningful relationship with yourself and others.

Bottom line

Feel the difference of personal skincare. Start with a free test.

Learn more

In the end, I honestly can’t think of any good reason to drink anymore. The idea of the year off drinking was to change my behavior around, and relationship with, alcohol.

I figured a year would be long enough to hold a variety of experiences — holidays, breakups, hopefully meeting the man of my dreams, rejections, sleepless nights, congratulations, throw-down fights, and more.

If I could manage all that without the hard stuff, I’d have a pretty good idea of who I really am, what I really want, and how to make it happen. And so far, it’s working.

Read more on: live

What we do

We make skincare treatments and customize them for your skin-related problems, genetics, lifestyle, and environment.

How you benefit

You get total control over your skincare and the choice to change your skin. An impossible has just become possible.

How Custom Beauty Works

Desktop Mobile Graphic
Take the Quiz

Tell us about your skin, general health, lifestyle, environment, and all your skin goals. The quiz takes 4-8 minutes.

Outline of microscope
Create Your Treatment

Our algorithm creates a unique routine with a few customized products. The algorithm uses 50+ years of skincare research.

Outlines of Packaging
Divide and Rule

Every product is designed for one problem. Apply the product when the problem appears. Much like you treat flu or headache.

Product Values

A family sharing common values functions effortlessly and effectively. So do our products. All our products share these values.

Outline of bulb

Typical skincare routines confuse your skin with 20-50 ingredients. Our custom routines contain 1-8 ingredients, sending clear signals to your body to use the ingredients and recover faster.

Outline of Green Leaf

Our skin can use only active ingredients, also called actives. Most products contain up to 10% actives, whereas our products contain at least 90% actives. You get better value. Your skin avoids junk food.

Get Started

Never Used Before

Take the quiz below and discover a customized treatment for your unique skin-related problems, lifestyle, and environment.

Know Your Treatment

Every treatment has a unique 3-digit ID. You can find the ID on the product label. Search the ID on top right corner or click below.

Targeted Solutions

If a particular skin problem is bothering you, browse our products for your specific problem. You can customize your routine later.