While everyone was decked out in red, white, and blue celebrating America’s independence from England just a few days ago, I was celebrating another accomplishment myself: my independence from alcohol. Just six months ago I was hospitalized for alcohol abuse, depression, and anxiety, and as of January 4 this year, I haven’t had a drink.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that it’s been easy — because my God, it has not. But the more I remembered the type of person I was while I was drinking, the more I realized I liked sober Jenn a lot more than blackout Jenn. And the easier it became.

No longer do I drink a bottle or two of wine every night to numb my pain and kick insomnia’s ass. No longer do I wake up every morning with my anxiety at an all-time high, dry-heaving at my bathroom sink as I get ready for work (with a ginormous headache to accompany it all). And let me tell you, the freedom I feel from all of that is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

Here are some more things that happened after I’ve been sober for six months. (And if you’re contemplating trying out a sober lifestyle, let me tell you: if I can do it, you can do it, too.)

10. I lost 10 pounds.

Those bottle(s) of wine I drank every night had ~a lot~ of one thing I never thought about: sugar. And that sugar was taking up residence in my stomach and my face. After I stopped drinking, not only did my body start to thin out, but my face was no longer as puffy as it used to be.

Two birds, one stone.

9. I became a morning person.

I’ll never forget trying to get my sorry butt out of bed at 9am to go to work, wondering how I was supposed to shower in my condition, let alone go on with my day. Those days are long behind me now, and I can’t tell you the relief that brings me. Now I absolutely love waking up at 6 or 7am — hangover-free, I might add — and starting my day out with meditation, a long cup of coffee, and a clear mind.

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8. My anxiety and depression lessened.

Adding alcohol (a depressant) to my already anxiety-ridden, depressed body only caused one thing: my mental health to fail me. I remember mornings waking up, feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest and shoulders, sometimes so bad I literally felt like I couldn’t move. Not anymore. Living a sober lifestyle for the past six months has cleared my head and given me the freedom to recognize where my anxiety is coming from and work through exercises to lessen it. While I was drinking, I didn’t have the clarity of mind to do this.

7. I have more money to spend on non-alcoholic activities.

I didn’t realize the toll my drinking habit took on my bank account until I became sober and saw that I was spending $20-$30 on alcohol a night (and that’s if I was drinking at home). Add another $30 to that if I was out drinking with my friends, and that’s almost $800 to $1000 a month I was wasting away on, well, getting wasted. Even if you’re just going out a once or twice a week, that can still rack up quite the bar bill. Now I have more money to spend on eating better, doing activities with my friends, and even saving some for upcoming trips.

6. I rediscovered my love of drawing, crafting, going to museums and doing things outdoors.

When you’re drinking all day, every day, you forget about all of the things you used to love doing sober. Having more clarity of mind and time to spend doing things I love, I started drawing and crafting again — two things I’ve always enjoyed doing but put on the back-burner to sustain my lifestyle of getting wasted every day. I’ve gone stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) four times this summer, something I can’t imagine having had the agility or patience to do if I were still drinking like I had been.

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5. My memory improved.

This is probably my biggest accomplishment since not drinking. TBH, 2016 feels like one huge blur of drinking, drinking, and well, drinking. I can’t tell you really anything I’d done, stories my friends told me, or any details of my experiences because my drinking stole all of that from me. Living life sober, I can remember the tiniest details from museums I’ve visited, conversations I’ve had with my friends, or just what I did last Monday. It’s a huge relief, and the longer I’m sober, the stronger my memory continues to get.

4. I developed closer relationships with my friends and family.

You know what no one wants to do? Hang out with a person who gets wasted after what was supposed to be a quiet dinner with friends. Or someone who’s so drunk all the time that they don’t remember a single word that was said in phone calls or conversations. Now that I’m not drinking, I have the clear mind to actually listen to my friends, register what they’re saying, and offer worthwhile advice. And my mood around my family has improved ten-fold. No longer is my anxiety wreaking havoc when going home for holidays or being around a lot of conversations and noise (I have a ~big~ family). It’s a relief to be able to enjoy my friends and family, as opposed to just ~being there~, worrying about where my next drink is coming from.

3. My body became healthier.

Living in Brooklyn, you walk everywhere. I can remember the shortness of breath I’d get walking to the liquor store or just to the corner bodega for some hangover juice. My body felt weighed down by all of the alcohol and sugar that was slushing around in me. My stomach was constantly bloated, and it was uncomfortable just sitting up for too long. Thank God those days are behind me. Now I’m fine walking to the subway or taking a walk over the Williamsburg bridge. I have the energy to go to the gym or try outdoor activities I never would have before, like SUP or white water rafting.

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2. I met incredible people I never would have interacted with before.

If you would have told me I’d not only ~enjoy~ going to Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), but would also make some incredible friendships there, I never would have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened. The friends I’ve made while going to my daily meetings are unlike any I’ve had before. They’re not just supportive of my recovery, but they’re invested in my life and how my mind, body, and spirit are doing every day. It’s an amazing feeling to know that these people not only have my back, but are nonjudgmental and will help me through anything.

1. I came to understand the world’s obsession with La Croix.

When you’re used to drinking ~anything~ alcoholic all day every day, it can be weird to get sober and literally not know what to do with yourself (or your thirst). Enter: La Croix. This really has been my savior since I stopped drinking. My favorite flavors? Watermelon-kiwi and Blackberry-Cucumber FTW.

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