Sam Holstein

Why I’m Quitting Alcohol For Good

Why I’m Quitting Alcohol For Good

“I have fought too many times,

But I don’t think I’ve ever won.”

— Front Porch Step

If you ask my friends and family, they would say I don’t have a drinking problem. If you go by our culture’s common definition of a drinking problem, I don’t. I drink less than once a month. I’ve got a handful of stories of crazy things I’ve done while hammered, but who doesn’t? And I’ve had a few miserable hangovers too, but that’s what happens the morning after those crazy stories. If you make it to age thirty without at least a few stories like that, you’re the odd one out.

But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s okay. If you actually think about it, drinking alcohol is bonkers.

I’m not a sober person. I’m not here to tell you all drugs are bad. I like some drugs. But not only do we act like alcohol is safe, we act like alcohol isn’t even a drug.

This is all especially concerning because alcohol is one of the most dangerous mind-altering substances. It’s up there with opiates in terms of danger to your health.

For short-term use, alcohol is a clear killer. It’s impossible for a fully-grown adult to overdose on cannabis, and people have taken as much as 550 doses of LSD and survived with no lingering ill effectsBut alcohol is so fatal in high doses that one of my high school friends almost died at a party ten years ago. He’s only alive thanks to an off-duty lifeguard at the party and the hospital ventilator. This is not unusual;there are 2,200 deaths from alcohol poisoning every year in the US and there were 10,511 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the US in 2018

For long-term use, alcohol is… a clear killer! Surprise! Or, maybe not so much. It seems like everyone has a family member that drank a little too much, and then a little too much, and then a little more too much, until either they needed hospital support to detox lest they die from the withdrawal or they died from their use.Excessive alcohol use is responsible for over 95,000 deaths in the US every year.² According to the CDC, “[Alcohol use] is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States.”

All of this is clearly summed up in this chart from the Economist:

The fact that they rated alcohol as the most dangerous, despite being universally beloved, tells you about how dangerous it truly is.³

I think we all know this about alcohol, really. But I think we all do what I did for the last three years; overlooked the knowledge in favor of going to my favorite dive bars and having a drink with my friends.

I did that a few days ago, actually. And then had another, and another. I played a round of pool where I sank three balls in a row, while hammered, which felt like the greatest thing I’d ever accomplishedI had a few more drinks, and a few more, until the night ended at last call and my sober and disgruntled boyfriend drove me home.

The misery of a hangover has caused a great many people to claim they are “never drinking again,” but when I woke up at 8 AM, I was still drunk and hours away from my hangover. I decided to quit drinking while I was still drunk when I realized one basic thing:

If I don’t stop drinking, I’m not going to stop drinking.

Drinking sucks. It’s expensive to run up a bar tab, expensive to buy liquor from the store, and expensive to order food for delivery the morning after. It’s hard on your organs, hard on your muscles, and hard on your cells. A mild hangover gives you a pounding headache and a heavy hangover flattens you more than the COVID vaccine. I love going out late at night in a less-than-sober condition as much as anyone. But the more you drink, the more you want to drink, and all too quickly a pattern of binge-drinking and sucky hangovers can develop. And in this culture, that’s totally normal.

Like everyone else, I’ve got family members who engage in this normal drinking. I watch them drink normally on holidays. I watch them drink normally at bars. I pick them up at 2 AM when Last Call finally forces them home. I worry about their livers while they’re laying in bed with their normal, miserable hangovers. I wish they would open their eyes to what their normal drinking costs them. And if I don’t stop drinking, I’m going to end up exactly like them.

My family members are normal people. Wherever they are drinking, there is always an army of other normal people with them. Whenever they have a bad hangover, their friends are quick to laugh it off. If you met them, you wouldn’t call them alcoholics. You wouldn’t call me one either. But that’s precisely my pointWe normalize drinking so much that by the time everyone admits there’s a problem, it’s already too late.

So I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore. I will only be alive for eighty years at most, and I don’t want to waste any more of my precious, limited time participating in a cultural ritual that ultimately only ends up benefitting bartenders and Uber drivers. I never even liked alcohol anyway.

1: I would have included more recent statistics if I could find them, but since the pandemic, it’s hard to find up-to-date statistics about things that are not the pandemic.

2: Interestingly, 70% of these deaths were men, but that’s not something you ever hear the manosphere talking about…

3: I don’t agree with everything about this chart. For example, they’ve rated cannabis as more dangerous than benzodiazepines, but benzodiazepine abuse kills tens of thousands each year. They’ve also rated ketamine as less dangerous than cannabis, which also routinely kills people who use it recreationally. The fact that alcohol still tops the chart despite the obvious bias against illegal drugs really tells you something.