The Sobriety Gift Guide: 11 Ways Drinking Less Gives You More

By Aisha Z. Rush, MD, MA, MBA

Though changing your relationship with alcohol comes with challenges, the journey can be an incredibly rewarding one. As you continue on your path of sobriety or moderation, enriching gifts will come to fruition. Best of all, these gifts are ones you’ve given to yourself. (Plus, they’re free, and tailor-made for you.)   

Throughout my many years of working with patients, I’ve noticed clear patterns in the areas of their lives that change for the better as they cut back or cut off alcohol. It feels like my own personal gift to witness their health and perspectives transform. This is no accident; medical studies can also affirm that when folks change their drinking habits, they change their lives. Here are 11 ways drinking less can give you so much more. 

For making the most of each day

Better Sleep: Alcohol affects how your body cycles through the four stages of sleep. Disturbances to these patterns diminish sleep quality as alcohol metabolizes overnight. Our REM cycle is disrupted, which makes us sleep less, and with more interruptions. According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 68% of Americans frequently lose sleep to alcohol. Many form a dependency on alcohol to combat insomnia, which often develops from unhealthy drinking habits in the first place. Drinking less can have powerful effects on your circadian rhythms.

Now here’s the gift: cutting back on drinking can pretty immediately improve our sleep quality. Really, sleep affects everything we do. The impact of more restful nights is an act of self-care and self-love.  

Productivity: Alcohol is a sedative (and a depressant): it decreases energy levels. Alcohol literally “depresses” our central nervous system, slowing down activity in the brain. Consuming alcohol chips away at a portion of the productivity we could have had the following day. Not only are there hangovers and fatigue to combat, but alcohol can also impair our memory, coordination, and reaction times. Eliminating or even limiting your alcohol intake can lead to a significant rise in energy, and therefore, productivity. Once people stop drinking or cut back, they often report functioning better in their workplace, getting through to-do lists more efficiently and effectively, and more. Who says you can’t add hours in the day? 

Better Mornings: With better sleep, you naturally have better mornings. Your body and mind are far more prepared to take on the day ahead. You can plan your day and tackle it — with energy! You can get to the workout you’ve been neglecting, or take your dog for an early walk with a cup of joe. Wake up with your young kids, and feel good. Maybe consider a hike! Let’s just say, the possibilities are endless. 

Increased productivity is infectious, and hangover-free mornings are invaluable. I assure you, you will want to do it all over again. 

person on jog

For feeling great in your own skin 

Physical Fitness: There are several reasons that abstaining from alcohol or drinking in moderation can improve physical fitness. Alcohol has a significant amount of calories, which is easy to lose track of or overlook. And as mentioned, drinking can take a big toll on our sleep. Poor sleep can lead to increased cortisol levels, which work against weight loss. Not to mention, waking up tired or with a hangover can impact our motivation to be active in the first place. Of course, everybody’s body is unique, and we come to sobriety on our own path. “Fitness” goals may look completely different for those recovering from an eating disorder, body trauma, or other challenges in their relationship with their body. The ultimate goal is for us to feel good in our own bodies, and drinking less helps us get there. Without alcohol, our bodies can recover and heal, both mentally and physically. 

Refreshed Skin: Alcohol dehydrates us, which can have vast effects on how our skin looks and feels. Drinking lowers antioxidant defenses in our skin, which makes it more sensitive to our environments. Stopping or cutting back on drinking can welcome a healthy glow to our face. And while not scientific, having calmer nights and energized mornings is a big help for keeping up with our skin-care routines. 

Money: While sobriety and moderation bring gifts in health and wellness, they can also have a significant financial bonus. Most people are often unaware of how much money they are spending per month and are astounded when they sit down to crunch the numbers. For example, if you are drinking four $10 drinks twice a week, that amounts to $4,160 spent on alcohol each year! Cutting out alcohol from your life (and budget), could allow for more financial freedom, increasing investment opportunities, planning for a better retirement, or just simply investing in what supports our ideal-self. Check out this calculator to calculate the savings of sobriety.

man splashing face with water

For finding self-harmony 

Self-Care: We have limited energy. Obligations like work and errands often consume our lives, and we neglect even the fundamentals of caring for ourselves. A healthy relationship with alcohol encourages us to establish a wellness practice. Our time and mental space is opened up for acts of self-care, and we start to discover just how rewarding a regular practice of TLC is for our self-esteem, relationships, and happiness. Changing your drinking is in itself an act of self-care and self-love, and it can proliferate into other incredible healthy habits. 

Emotional Wellness: Alcohol can worsen depression and increase anxiety. And many continue to use alcohol to cope. This, of course, can become a vicious cycle. Decreasing alcohol intake while simultaneously treating underlying mental health conditions leads to a more sustainable emotional wellbeing. Alcohol therapy can help people address their drinking behaviors, depression, and anxiety, holistically. Changing your drinking habits can be an incredibly powerful driver of improved mental health, and you don’t have to do it alone.   

Managing your drinking through quarantine

Managing your drinking can be especially challenging during times of heightened stress and isolation. Join the discussion about how to moderate your drinking or stay sober through quarantine.
Check out the Schedule

Confidence: Taking the initiative to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol can be incredibly empowering. Oftentimes, we become preoccupied by our drinking habits. Alcohol becomes important to us, and thus, other things take a back seat. As we begin to diminish the role alcohol plays in our life, we have more time to nurture who we really are, and get closer to our ideal selves. Navigating the early recovery identity crisis can be challenging, but it also brings about an opportunity for immense self-exploration. Changing your drinking behaviors to better align with your character will empower you to be the best version of yourself. And, our commitment in getting there becomes a major point of pride. What gift does all of this bring? Confidence. 

friends in a line

For building deeper connections 

Better Relationships: Our relationships with others can be significantly impacted by alcohol. Not only does alcohol affect behavior, but it often causes lapses in clarity. I often hear from patients who, after a night of drinking, wake up feeling anxious, embarrassed, and disoriented. Family and friends may have been hurt by their actions, and have to remind their loved one of their behavior. This stressful loop is broken when we take alcohol out of the equation — even a little bit. We’re more present, mentally, emotionally, and physically, for the people around us. Our relationships are able to mend (and grow!) in beautiful ways. 

Community: Changing your relationship with alcohol can introduce you to new, authentic, and rich communities where you are able to connect in genuine and meaningful ways. At Monument, we have a completely free and anonymous online community forum for our members to engage, offer support, and be heard. We also have virtual therapist-moderated alcohol support groups catered to different identities and interests. Join with your camera on and off. That is always enough. You are not alone.  

The best part about the gifts of sobriety is that they’re vast. The more sleep, time, and energy you have, the better you can dedicate yourself to self-care, relationships, and life pursuits. You’re on your way to finding your ideal-self. Over time, these gifts accumulate and reinforce the courageous decision to work toward getting from where you are to where you want to be. Learn more about how Monument can help you make this change possible. You don’t have to navigate this journey by yourself. There are resources to help you get there, and many, many gifts to be discovered.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Aisha RushAisha Rush graduated from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and completed her residency at Temple University Hospital. She has also obtained a Master’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s in Business Administration. She is Board Certified and is a member of several professional organizations. She comprises a vast array of skills and knowledge when it comes to medicine and the needs of patients, and focuses on each patient from a biopsychosocial model.