I was 28 years old when I stopped drinking alcohol, and it was one of the best decisions i’ve ever made!

I’ve never had a problem with alcohol. I never HAD to have a drink or was an out of control drinker, but I did spend a lot of my free time at bars with my friends knocking back a few cold ones.

I am an Australian who grew up in country Victoria about 30min out of Melbourne. As most people are aware, Australians have a reputation for enjoying all forms of alcohol, but if you live in the country this is amplified dramatically. There is not a whole lot to do, and all aspects of life revolved around drinking in some way or another.

You finish work, so you go to the pub. You watch sport, so you drink some beers. You have friends over, so you have some drinks. That’s how life is, and it’s from an early age that you realize that to fit in you must drink.

Growing up neither of my parents drank alcohol, except for the very occasional glass of wine, in fact neither did my grandparents. The were great examples to follow.

Going through high school you were an outcast if you weren’t at the big parties on the weekend drinking with all the cool kids. The pressure was always there and the precedent was seen for years to follow.

Drinking was a part of life, and it was tough to escape. Even my band had a reputation for partying pretty hard at shows, and ultimately this is what ended what was once a loving relationship with alcohol.

Giving up alcohol was not originally my choice. After many years of partying hard and excessive indulgence, my body had enough. I was starting to get sick. Doctors advised me that I was developing stomach ulcers and needed to stop immediately, and that after around 3 months I should be back to normal.

But that was not the case. 3 months later after only one beer on Christmas Day, I was violently ill once again. It was at this point I made the decision to give up alcohol for good, and change my life forever.

Almost 5 years have passed now and I can’t ever see myself ever wanting to drink again. I am loving my sober life and everything that comes with it, and there are a lot of other people who are in the same boat.

If I knew what I know now, i’d definitely have stopped drinking earlier so I could focus on creating more cool things on the internet. Stopping drinking is one of the key reasons to why I have enough time to be able to accomplish all of the things that I do in my life now.

There’s a lot of things that happen when you stop drinking alcohol though. Some are good, and some are bad. But it’s important to remember that this is a great decision to make and thing do get much better with time.

Here are a few of the things that you can count on happening:

You lose a lot of friends

This was the most noticeable of the changes that hits you straight away. People assume because you no longer drink that you won’t want to go out any more. This is never the case, I still love being able to go out and hang out with my friends in bars, and you can still do that without drinking, but people forget this. I started to not be invited to things with the same response being put forward after the fact. “We didn’t think you’d want to come because you don’t drink.”

This is one of the tougher things to deal with as you really find out who your real friends are in a short space of time. Those who you share a few words with over a crowded bar soon vanish, and your real friends emerge. You find that you might not have as many ‘friends’, however those that you do have will outweigh the others ten fold.

You have A LOT more free time for cool shit

Remember all that time you spent in bars and clubs on the weekend, not to mention the whole Sunday you spend hungover every weekend? You now have that back. As per my previous point, you might still be going out to see your friends, but you won’t be doing it anywhere near as much as you have in the past, freeing up a lot of your time.

It didn’t take me long to start wanting to do more with my free time. I had side projects and ideas that I was working on that I never had the time to complete properly. Now I had that time.

It was this time that allowed me to be able to build up my side projects and give me the opportunity to make the very tough decision to transition from being a civil engineer to becoming a marketing manager for a fast growing tech startup.

I got way healthier

When I first met my partner, she often commented on how I looked green and like I was sick. I thought nothing of it as I thought I looked pretty normal!

So it turns out that that was actually the alcohol that I was consuming that was having a negative effect on my health. As soon as I stopped drinking, the color quickly returned to my face and within a matter of months, I was in the best shape of my life with little to no effort.

Obviously the reason I had health issues in the first place was due to drinking, and it was my decision to live a happier and healthier life without alcohol rather than spending my weekends gradually shortening my lifespan.

If you are having any health related issues and are regularly drinking though, i’d highly recommend taking some time away from the alcohol and you will definitely see some positive improvements to your health.

I had a lot more money that I could save

So remember all that money that you used to spend at bars and on taxis? Well you can now save that! For the average person this could equal more than $200 every week as a minimum. When you compound that over the course of a year that’s a whopping $10k per year in savings that you’ve just accumulated that you can use for holidays, a new car or saving for buying a property!

No, I don’t hate drinkers at all

This is a very common misconception of non drinkers, and while some might hate drinkers, most don’t care what you are doing as long as it doesn’t effect others. If you enjoy having a few beers, that’s awesome! We all have our ways of relaxing and having fun (mine are now chocolate and making cool things on the internet) but everyone is different.

Like anything, drinking in moderation is completely fine and I still enjoy hanging out with my friends at bars while they have a few beers and I have my Dr Pepper. If drinking makes you happy, that’s awesome, please do it, but don’t let it have a negative effect on your life and those around you.

I look back now and wish that I had stopped drinking earlier. Mainly because I could have spend more time and money working on my side projects and building cool things on the internet, which I now realize is way more fun than a hangover.

Being the non drinker can be a tough thing to handle in the beginning, but if you are wanting to take this step or have taken this step and want to tell me about it, i’d love to hear your story! Post you positive non drinking stories in the comments below so we can let me people know:

IT’S OK TO NOT DRINK!

This article was originally published on Medium