Alcohol is often synonymous with the hustle life — and as someone who started my first business at the age of 24 back in the 90’s, in the heavily male-dominated insurance industry, I know this lifestyle well. Wrapped up in the pressure of trying to close deals and build the business while keeping up with my male peers at boozy networking events and industry conferences, alcohol naturally permeated my day-to-day.
But times are changing, and damp or dry movements — like One Year No Beer and Sober Sisters — are starting to prevail as more people re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol and question the impact it has on their health and relationships in their personal life and at work.
I’ve battled unhealthy weight gain and anxiety throughout my career as an entrepreneur, which wasn’t helped by being surrounded by alcohol. And as a woman of 48 years old, health is at the forefront of my change, with studies showing women are more prone to having alcohol-related health issues even when consuming small amounts.
After I took some time to reflect on why I drink, I concluded it wasn’t necessary in my life. So after having dipped in and out of being “sober-curious” a few times, in October 2022 I finally made the decision to eliminate alcohol from my life. Here are the benefits of being a sober CEO.
Boosted brain power (and sleep!)
Without booze, my sleep and mental clarity is so much better. I can think clearly and make quicker decisions. In the past, even if I was just drinking on the weekend, it wouldn’t be until midweek that I’d be fully recharged, which isn’t ideal when you need to be on your best form at all times when leading several businesses.
Since making the choice to be sober, I feel great and know that each decision made in business and in life are made with clarity of mind.
Better stress management
Inevitably, stress can permeate business (and life). And although alcohol can often be used as a crutch or coping mechanism to overcome it, I’ve discovered stress is much easier to deal with sober.
You can often feel anxious when drinking, and overly worrying about something can magnify the problem, making it feel bigger than it actually is. I’d often spend Sunday nights overwhelmed and stressed at the prospect of the coming week’s meetings — but that feeling has evaporated since I cut out alcohol. I now back myself so much more and have confidence in my decisions because my head is clear and my mind is sharp.
How (and how not) to run a startup.
Ownership and purpose
Be confident with your decision to make the switch rather than apologetic, and try changing your vocabulary. Instead of saying "I can’t drink", own it and say "I don’t drink". If you come across uncomfortable with not drinking, everyone else will be uncomfortable with you.
One of the best things I did was commit to the One Year No Beer challenge. Taking part helped to positively reinforce my decision to go dry and also held me accountable. It’s also a great opportunity to use your sobriety to raise money for charity.
I do think businesses are the slowest to move in terms of the damp or dry lifestyle, because of the association between alcohol and forging relationships. But not everyone can or wants to drink.
As a leader in the workplace, encourage people to be open about their choices to not drink and consider adding in more activities outside of drinking for work socials and team bonding sessions. We’ve shifted to walking or hiking meetings if we want to bond or solve a work challenge. Escape rooms can also be fun. Work drinks still happen, of course, but more people have been coming forward with alternative options.
I definitely struggled a little at first to adjust from being expected to be the most "fun" in the room to being comfortable saying no and showing my peers I can enjoy my time without alcohol. If anything, I come away with better conversations and am able to build stronger relationships as a result.
Remember it’s a process
If you find yourself falling off the bandwagon, don’t see it as a failure. Instead, see it as the process of laying the foundation for when you’re ready to commit 100% to the dry lifestyle. Change doesn’t happen overnight and for many industries, alcohol will always play a huge part in work socials, particularly in the world of business. But you’ll never regret going sober — give it a go and watch your business thrive!