If we all looked at how much alcohol costs us, then our relationship with it might change. Just to be clear here, I am not talking about money. Although it is an interesting exercise to add up how much money you spend on alcohol. Not just the money you spend on buying it but also cab fares, take-out food, lost items, missed opportunities, and so on. I think you will find the total a real eye-opener.
The other aspect to consider is how much time does your relationship with alcohol take up? How many hours a week do you spend drinking and recovering from drinking. We can always make more money, but we can never get time back.
But the cost I am really talking about is the unseen price we pay: The embarrassment of how we may have behaved, the shame we may feel at something we did or said, the casual sex we may have had that feels deeply uncomfortable the morning after, the broken relationships, the little bit of dignity we lost when we fell over and everyone laughed at us, or the dangerous situations we can encounter when intoxicated, not to mention the effect it has on our bodies and our minds.
[Read: “Tai Chi Battles Depression.”]
Alcohol is a depressant, and if you drink regularly you are going to start feeling depressed. There is also the cost to our integrity when we become someone we don’t recognize, someone we wouldn’t want our children or our parents to see, as well as the cost to the people who have to clean up after us—our families, our coworkers, our children. All of these things add up to a price we pay every time we abuse alcohol.
I do believe that if everyone who abused alcohol on a regular basis had a true look at what it really costs them, they would be horrified. And if you peer a little closer, the whole idea that it’s fun begins to fall apart a little bit too. Have you ever wrapped your arms around your “new best friend” on the next barstool only to avoid them in the grocery store the next week, with a feeling of shame flooding your body and no idea why? Have you ever had a rousing time drunk with a bunch of people and felt that alcohol helped you bond deeply, only to discover that they were fair-weather friends who really had no idea of who you really were?
The biggest price I see people pay is in their precious bandwidth.
Alcohol costs us scope and breadth. It costs us energy, resources, and time, and we have to decide if our relationship with alcohol is worth that loss. Going through life without full access to this bandwidth is like having to put up with 2G internet. I mean, it works, but the video and downloads are slow, and pictures don’t load. It’s frustrating that we can do some things, but not everything the way we want. But for some reason we put up with it because it hasn’t occurred to us yet that we don’t have to drink, that we could actually live our entire lives not drinking and be completely fulfilled and happy, with access to 100 percent of our bandwidth.
We only have finite resources, and I’m going to hazard a guess that the average drinker loses about 20 percent of their bandwidth to alcohol. When we still have that 80 percent, we have our jobs/careers, we can go to college, pay our rent, and have a holiday or two. We can do all the outside stuff, so everything looks the way it should. But what we can’t do is fully grow into the people we are capable of being. Things are a little fuzzy, and we would like to give this a little bit more thought because it feels important, but for some reason, we just don’t have the ... yep, you guessed it, bandwidth!
[Read: “5 Ways to Bring Intention Into Your Day.”]
Drinking, thinking about drinking, thinking about not drinking, recovering from drinking. These things take up time, energy, and space in our heads. When you look at the cost-benefit analysis, you can see that alcohol is not worth the price you pay. Imagine who you would be or what you could do with that magic 20 percent back.
The reason that extra 20 percent is magic is because that is where our growth is. It’s where our extraordinariness is. It’s important to understand that if we want to grow into the people we are capable of being, we need that missing 20 percent.
Lastly, I just want to say that I know lots of people can use alcohol safely and mostly harmlessly. I have several friends who use alcohol in this manner; it’s not the main event but in the right circumstances, it can add a little spark to an evening. These people, however, do not depend on alcohol to have fun or feel like they belong.
Adapted excerpt from SOBERFUL: Uncover a Sustainable, Fulfilling Life Free of Alcohol by Veronica Valli. Sounds True, January 2022. Reprinted and adapted with permission.