I’ve spent the last half-decade of my life perfecting the art of drinking. I say that in the most sarcastic tone possible, but you can’t tell. It started in college, where most bad habits are either developed or dismissed, and continued through the beginning of my professional career. What I took from this time of trial and error was that there are two types of drinkers – those who have a problem, and those who don’t. I fell into the non-issue category, doing the normal “party thing” for a while, then learning that alcohol isn’t a necessary rite to adulthood (contrary to what every 21st birthday celebration tells you) and confining my habit to weekends and special occasions.

Though I’ve been pretty successful in limiting my weekday alcohol intake, I still felt like I needed to prove to myself that I actually could take a break, clean out, and save a few bucks.

I decided to go for 30 days of sobriety – an entire month with no alcohol – and see where it took me. It was important to show myself that I was strong and confident enough to cut a slightly detrimental social aspect of my life away and see how it affected the rest of me. Here’s what I found:

Holidays Are Hard

If you decide to do your own month of sobriety, I would suggest doing it in a month with no major holidays. That includes but is not limited to Thanksgiving (if your family are avid drinkers), Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, etc. I say this because Halloween fell within my month, and that night was the only time that I was inches from breaking my fast and taking a shot of cheap whiskey – it’s so much fun to go out with your friends on holidays but the temptation is very, very real and you may end up making a decision that you regret the next day. Thankfully I was able to resist and ate a piece of cake instead… but dessert won’t always save you.

Don’t Go To a Bar!

I only went “out” once in the last 30 days. It was awkward and actually pretty sad to be on the outside. It helped a little that I was able to go to the bar and order a soda with lime, and a vodka-cran for my friend – and pay for them together. That way I didn’t feel so bad that I was taking up space and not contributing to their alcohol sales or tip pool. Other than a casual weeknight where the bar is slow and you just want to catch up with a good friend, I suggest staying away from your regular “stomping grounds” at the risk of seeing someone who wants to buy you a drink – regardless whether they know you’re sober or not.

Go With the Flow

If you are feeling sad, mad, or frustrated that you want a drink and “can’t have one” – remember why you decided to go sober in the first place. No one is forcing you to take a sobriety pledge and if you can’t convince yourself that it’s worth it, then don’t. If you feel like another month would be a better option for you based upon what’s going on in your life or how many parties you know you’ll have to attend, try again next month. I first tried going alcohol-free last September… it didn’t work out so well. I ended up giving up on the fifth day, re-calibrating my will power, and trying again on October 13th. (Don’t ask me why I chose this date – I was just feeling confident and didn’t want to wait until the first of the month.) Choose a month that you think you will have the least amount of resistance – there’s no use in setting yourself up to fail.

Your Digestive Tract Will Love You

For the last two years I’ve struggled with on-and-off IBS symptoms and stomach issues. I thought it was due to a lactose-intolerance, maybe just bad genes, or too much coffee – but in the last 30 days I haven’t had a single issue with my stomach. Alcohol will rip your digestive tract apart, especially if you’re more of a liquor-drinker like me than a beer connoisseur. Take note of your medical problems before you begin your sober month and see if anything changes between the 1st and the 30th – you might be surprised to see your skin clear up or your stomach smile a little more.

Be Proud Of Your Results

Being tall and thin my entire life, I’ve never struggled with serious weight fluctuations. I’ve maintained an average weight over the majority of my twenties but will also be the first to say I have never been completely satisfied with my figure (is anyone?). I see flab in the mirror, just like everyone else. But with a month of no empty calories and a little extra cardio (done with the time I would’ve spent at the bar) I’ve toned up a bit, and I’m happy. I’m not saying you should base your joy on your figure or weight loss, but it’s a great feeling to know you made a sacrifice and saw results from it. I am even more rewarded by the fact that I was steadfast enough to go an entire month without alcohol – the physical side-effects are just an added bonus!

Take a Leap

If you feel like you could use a break from the bars, beers, and bloating, but aren’t totally convinced, write down some reasons why you think it would be beneficial. I promise you won’t regret it and will certainly find that you feel stronger, are more awake, and boast a higher spirit than you did before. Plus, when I did the math, I was floored to see how much extra cash I could put toward things that are more important to me than a weekend out.

If you had asked me two weeks ago how much fun I was going to have on my 30th day when the fast was broken, I would’ve told you way too much. But now, on my 32nd day, I think I’m going to stick with it for a while. If I can get through 30 days of sobriety, who says I can’t do 60?