A couple weeks before two friends were set to visit me in L.A. this summer, one texted me with a small request: They were both on a health kick, she said, and were hoping that much of their trip could be spent hiking; exploring healthy, produce-centric restaurants; and keeping drinking to the very bare minimum. "You're definitely visiting the right city—and person—for all of that," I replied. And, frankly, I was relieved. As much fun as I'm sure we would have had hitting up some of my favorite bars and dancing into the wee hours, I knew my body (and mind) would ultimately be the worse for wear if we did.
We ended up having a truly perfect weekend—and I don't think it's a coincidence that hangovers and sleep deprivation never came into play. Interestingly enough, this particular instance speaks to a larger movement I've noted among my friends. Many of them have either recently cut back on drinking or given up alcohol altogether.
Their reasons aren't identical. One peer has been trying to address certain digestive and hormonal imbalances, which alcohol is known to exacerbate. Another, after drinking and smoking weed somewhat regularly for years, wants to see what it's like to experience the world through a completely sober lens. I haven't given up alcohol entirely but have played with dry periods over the past several years, finding that I feel truly awful if I have more than two drinks at a time. No matter how specific our circumstances, there seems to be one general through-line: We're all just looking to feel our very best.
With this all in mind, I put the call out to our readers to see if and why they had cut back, and their answers were very telling. Below, eight 20-something women share exactly why they decided to give up alcohol.
"While I am not a stickler on totally cutting it out, I decided to cut out regular drinking at the beginning of 2018 after being diagnosed with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). I found that alcohol and the side effects of alcohol (read: hangovers) made me even more irritable with little to no upside. My happiness, stability, and clear mind were way more important to me than any buzz. While I still enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail on occasion, I certainly don't drink heavily or often anymore."
"I've actually decided to temporarily cut it out for stomach reasons. I also have realized that, even at home, drinking one to two glasses of wine doesn't make me feel great. I have a sensitive stomach, and I know alcohol can be an irritant. I also deal with migraines, and sometimes alcohol can bring one on for me. I don't really miss it, my stomach has felt a lot better, I'm saving money, and I've even dropped a few pounds."
"I quit drinking when I was 28. It's been three years. It was the single best decision I ever made in life. It helped me deal with anxiety and depression head-on rather than suffering behind something that only exacerbated it. I wasn't an everyday drinker, but when I drank, I'd either wake up depressed or behave in a way that triggered anxiety. I found that though this behavior may be excusable to some, it created an unbearable shame that was no longer excusable as Don't worry—you were just drunk to me. Since quitting alcohol entirely, my career, relationships, and life have become entirely better."
"I realized that while I was in college, I was using alcohol as an excuse to justify really poor decision making, from food choices and bingeing to the choices I was making with men. I decided to significantly cut down when I realized the toll it was taking on both my physical and mental health. Now I really only drink two or three glasses of wine a month and a cocktail here and there. I really only go out 'partying' with friends every few months, and even then, I'm more likely to get drunk because I really like the drinks I'm having and not because I'm trying to black out as some emotional crutch."
"I just truly detest the feeling of being drunk, and for the times it has happened, most of the time, I've woken up the morning after feeling mortified and guilty over treating my body that way, irrelevant of how the night went. I like to be in control of my thoughts and actions. I'll enjoy a beer or an Aperol spritz from time to time, but I try to do it afternoon or early evening, or it disrupts my sleep."
"I've personally made the decision to cut out alcohol this year. I have depression and anxiety, and when I drink, I feel like I feel the effects of alcohol so intensely. I used to drink a lot in college and never felt like I had a handle on much. This year when I finally decided to see what it would be like to stop it completely, I noticed so many changes in my mood and sleeping patterns. It has changed how I view my weekends. Instead of going out, I now have more time to focus on my personal wellness and can feel so much more relaxed for the upcoming workweek. Less of the Sunday Scaries!"
"I cut down drastically a couple of years ago. Now I drink maybe once or twice a month and a maximum of two drinks at a time. I read about the link between leaky gut and overall health, and alcohol is a major no when you're trying to improve gut health. I also love not waking up with a hangover every Saturday!"
"I've decided to cut back on drinking since I started on anti-depressants this month. I'm in college, so getting drunk is a somewhat regular occurrence, but I've recently made a vow to only have a single drink at any given time. I get pretty nasty hangovers, and I spend the next day just lying around and feeling sad, which isn't good for me mentally, emotionally, or physically. Everyone is different, and it's a personal decision, but while I'm trying to get to the best place I can be mentally, I feel like getting drunk doesn't belong in my life at the moment."
*Ed. note: Name has been changed.
Next up: six common myths about alcohol that we're debunking once and for all.