Have you been thinking about taking a break from booze?
Perhaps you planned on quitting this month – yet you can’t seem to get motivated enough to actually do it?
I know what that feels like.
One of the things that helped me to quit was reminding myself of everything I was missing out on by continuing to drink.
Yes, you read that right. People always think that sobriety is about missing out and feeling deprived, when in fact, it’s the other way round.
By staying stuck in the same miserable cycle of hangovers and guilt, you’re missing out on a very happy, healthy, feel-good lifestyle.
So… if you’re sober curious, get ready to make the leap! Here’s what you’ll get in return:
1. You’ll look better naked
A bottle of wine contains around 600 calories… that’s the equivalent of three doughnuts! Add in a bit of junk food (helpful for battling a hangover) and it really adds up. Your waistline will thank you for cutting out all those empty calories.
2. You’ll be happier
Alcohol gives you a very brief, artificial high, followed by a long and painful low. You know how awful it is when you feel hungover, depressed and anxious; you spend all day beating yourself up. When you stop drinking, it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted.
3. It’s easier than trying to cut down
Yes, really – trying to control a mind-altering substance is super hard. (I wrote more about moderation here.)
4. Bye-bye puffy face
The vanity argument for stopping drinking motivates a lot of people and it should do. I get my students to take a picture at the beginning of their 6 week course and another at the end. The results are always impressive.
5. Your confidence will skyrocket
When you go without alcohol for an extended period of time – whether it’s six weeks, or two months, or whatever – you’ll likely end up in some social situations where you’d normally drink. This is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing! Being able to socialise without alcohol is an excellent skill to have.
6. You’ll become a badass
Taking a break from alcohol will force you to shake things up and act a little differently from the masses. This can be scary at first. But once you’ve done one brave thing, who knows what you’ll do next? If you found the courage to stop drinking, you might find the courage to ask for what you want in other areas of life too.
7. Your weekends will get longer
When I was boozing, weekends passed by in a blur of drinking and feeling hungover. Before I knew it, Monday morning had rolled round and I was moaning about not having enough time off. When you’re alcohol-free, you have 24 quality hours in a day.
8. You’ll actually DO stuff
You know that yoga class you keep saying you’ll go to? That family trip you promised to organise? Or that book idea you’ve told everyone about, at least a hundred times? When you take action and cut out alcohol (a willpower-sapping, confidence-destroying, time-sucking drug) you set off a whole chain of events. You become a doer.
9. You’ll sleep better
Alcohol really screws up your sleep cycle. It might help you pass out at night, but it also stops you from getting the deep, restorative sleep you need in order to feel truly rested. (Don’t worry if your sleep takes a little while to settle down in early sobriety – it will work itself out, especially if you take a proper break from booze.)
10. You’ll have lots more energy
If you’re fed up of feeling drained and exhausted all the time, taking some time off from drinking will make you feel so much better. It will give you a huge energy boost.
11. TV shows won’t be so confusing
I find the storylines sooo much easier to follow when I can actually remember what happened in the last episode…
12. Your bank manager will love you
Alcohol ain’t cheap – when you’re drinking, you’re throwing money down the drain all the time. When I polled some of the women I’ve coached, they saved on average £365 in six weeks – that’s about $480 dollars. (Tip: before you stop drinking, start measuring. How much are you really spending on booze each week? Look at those receipts – you might be surprised.)
13. You can get ready for bed properly
How many times have you fallen asleep on the sofa, fully dressed – or gone to bed with makeup still on and your teeth unbrushed? Being sober enough to put your PJs on might not sound like a big deal, but it sure feels good in the morning.
14. You’ll have a better sex life
Alcohol numbs your feelings – and in the bedroom, this is not good…
15. You’ll feel fantastically proud of yourself 🙂
It’s horrible when you know you should be doing something about your drinking, but you aren’t. The feeling you get when you take action – and follow through on your goals – is amazing.
If you’re thinking about quitting drinking – or taking some time off from booze – the chances are you’ve been mulling over a few important questions.
Things like: do I actually need to quit? Should I just cut down? Is my drinking really so bad? And if I do need to stop, what does that say about me?
Maybe you’ve been doing what I used to do: sitting at my laptop late at night, typing ‘am I an alcoholic?’ into google. (My other hobby was filling out drinking self-assessment quizzes, and doing them again and again until I got the answer I wanted…)
When you’re trying to figure out your relationship with alcohol, there are some questions that are bound to keep crossing your mind…
Here are 5 common queries and my answers to them:
Q – Should I stop completely or just cut down?
If you’re worried about your drinking, then trying to moderate your alcohol intake is a great place to start. But – and this is a big but – if cutting down doesn’t work, then you need to be prepared to take further action.
So, dig deep and be honest now: have you already tried to cut down? (Most people have been trying to do so, on and off, for years and years.) How has moderation worked out for you so far? Are you happy?
Cutting down always sounds like a great idea, but the reality is that you’re trying to exert control over a drug that makes you lose control.
And consider this: a big part of successful sobriety is opening your mind to the possibility that you can live a full and happy life without alcohol. Booze is just a crude, toxic poison. It’s a drug. Yet by trying to keep a little bit of it in your life, subconsciously you’re telling yourself that alcohol is special and you won’t be happy without it.
Q – I think I need to stop, but I haven’t hit rock bottom yet…
You do not need to hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to decide that you’ll stop hurting yourself. (Besides, what exactly is rock bottom anyway? It’s different for different people.)
Think about it: we don’t wait until we’re morbidly obese before we decide we should lose weight. We don’t wait until we’re bankrupt before we deal with our debts. So why is alcohol any different?
You can stop drinking now, before anything hideous happens. If you’re frequently drinking more than you intend to – and it’s making you miserable – then you’re already suffering enough.
Q – Do I have to quit forever?
Sobriety is a mindset game. As soon as we start talking about ‘forever’, things can suddenly feel rather overwhelming. Equally, many people find that taking things ‘one day at a time’ isn’t very helpful either, because you keep questioning your decision on a daily basis.
The solution? Commit to taking a proper break from booze. Make the decision once and then stick to it.
I recommend six to eight weeks, so you can put some decent space between you and your last drink. Treat it like an experiment – give it 100% and don’t be half-hearted about it. Go all in. Then you can see how you feel at the end, knowing that you’ve given alcohol-free living a proper test drive.
(After all, you can always go back to drinking if you hate it…)
Q – Do I have to go to meetings?
Only if you want to! Some people love them, some people don’t. The good news is that nowadays, AA is not your only option. There are lots of other inspiring, online resources available, including my fabulous stop drinking course. So if you want to find support from the privacy of your own home, you can absolutely do so.
Q – Am I an alcoholic?
There’s still a fair bit of stigma attached to the A word. In my opinion, there’s really no need to label yourself, unless you find it useful.
Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as an alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic. I’m just someone who got addicted to a socially acceptable, widely available, well advertised, glamorised, highly addictive, toxic drug that’s marketed as the solution to all our woes.
Nowadays, I choose not to drink because I feel a million times better without alcohol in my life. I choose not to drink in the same way that I choose not to smoke cigarettes or take heroin.
I’m not ‘taking things one day at a time’ or ‘battling the demon drink’. I’m just living a very happy, drug-free life… and I don’t think you need a label for that 🙂
I’m writing this from a little French café on the banks of the River Aisne.
I’m on holiday, the sun is shining… and I’m drinking my second café au lait.
Life feels GOOD.
It’s at times like this that I think, wow – alcohol free living is pretty flipping amazing. That thought is often followed by: why did no one tell me it was going to be like this?!
Back when I was drinking way too much (and feeling hungover all the time) sobriety sounded like a last resort. Something to be avoided at all costs. It seemed dull, bleak and oh so boring.
I know I’m not the only one who felt like that. Convincing yourself that sobriety is going to be dull is a very common sabotaging behaviour.
Here are some tips to help you get clear on this myth:
Being drunk isn’t the same as having fun
Remember, a boring party is always going to be a boring party. If you drink at a boring party, it just means you’re drunk at a boring party.
Yes, sometimes you will have rubbish nights out when you’re sober. But you also have rubbish nights out when you’re drinking! (We’ve all been to parties where it didn’t matter how much we drank, it wasn’t fun.)
Sobriety means you notice what’s happening around you and that’s a good thing.
Even bad experiences provide valuable information about your life. You shouldn’t need to numb yourself with alcohol in order to tolerate people you like or places you love. It’s much better to know and understand what the real you enjoys.
Focus on the story you’re telling yourself
Your mind is extremely powerful and often, what you believe to be true, will become true.
If you believe alcohol is key to happiness, then you will be miserable without it.
Just look at the way other people behave when they’re unexpectedly forced to be the designated driver; they believe the night is going to be boring before it even gets started. They believe they’re going to feel left out and so guess what? They do.
Think back to a recent good night out. What role did alcohol play in the success of the event, compared to: the people you were with, the conversations you had, the atmosphere, the mood you were in, your outfit, the location, the music, the food, what you’d done earlier in the day, and your general sense of well-being?
There are many, MANY things that determine how joyful a situation is. Yet for some reason, we live in a culture that tends to give alcohol the credit for everything positive! Make sure you don’t do the same.
Look to the comedians
You don’t need to drink in order to be funny or have a laugh. Just look at Jim Carrey, Russell Brand, Peter Kay, Lee Evans, Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle… there are so many comedians out there who don’t drink or hardly drink.
I went to the Edinburgh Fringe (a comedy festival) a few weeks back and saw performers getting on stage as early as 11.30am. They weren’t drunk and neither were the crowd.
(I should add, I was sooo glad not to be hungover in Edinburgh – we packed 11 great shows into 3 days. I would never have seen that many if I was feeling less than 100%.)
Don’t let thoughts about being ‘a boring sober person’ creep in!
Yes, there will always be boozers who think you’re weird for not drinking and who take it upon themselves to give you a hard time about it.
(I don’t know why they think that’s ok – we no longer bully people into smoking, so why drinking?)
If someone is questioning your choice not to drink, you have to ask why they’re doing that. Why are they so bothered about you letting go of a habit that’s been getting you down and keeping you stuck in the same old routine?
Remember that life without alcohol is just… LIFE!
A while back I received an email from a reader suggesting I write a blog post about how to make friends sober. I mulled this over for a while, feeling unusually stuck for what to write.
Eventually I realised what the problem was: I didn’t have anything to say, because making friends when you’re sober is no different to making friends when you’re drinking.
Alcohol isn’t some magic thing that bonds people together or seals friendships. Bonding with people is about listening, sharing, caring and connecting. Those things have nothing to do with booze.
My point is that alcohol is NOT an essential part of life. And sobriety is not some parallel universe where all the rules are different and you have to do everything a completely different way.
Sobriety is just your regular life… minus the doses of liquid poison 🙂
So, if you stop drinking and things start feeling a bit boring, the question to ask is why. WHY are you bored? How can you change that? (Alcohol won’t fix anything – it just masks and hides.)
What can you do to build a life that’s so good, you don’t need to drink your way through it?
Not long after I’d stopped drinking, a sober friend of mine suggested that I start taking self-care ‘a bit more seriously’.
I winced. The idea of ‘practising self-care’ seemed pretty self-indulgent and cringey.
(Back then, I thought self-care was just about getting manicures and facials – and I couldn’t see what that had to do with not drinking.)
The truth, of course, is that self-care really IS important – especially in early sobriety.
Self-care is about looking after yourself, at a deep level, in a number of areas.
Here are some of the fundamental self-care mistakes I see women drinkers making in early sobriety:
Forgetting to build in relaxation time
For many people, drinking is the start of ‘me time’ and a signal to relax and switch off. Some women quit alcohol and accidentally cut out that ‘me time’ as well – they stop giving themselves permission to relax and chill out like they used to. The problem is, no one can survive like that for long – it makes sobriety really hard work! We all need rest and relaxation. If you found the time to drink, you can definitely find time to do something nice for yourself, like reading a book, having a bath or watching trash TV.
Skipping meals and sleep
It’s no coincidence that we feel the strongest pull to drink at the end of the day, when we’re tired and hungry. Treat yourself to an early night (you’ll be so grateful the next day) and try not to exist solely on sugar and caffeine! Try to eat proper meals and nourishing food. If you’re hungry by late afternoon, have a healthy snack – it will really help with cravings.
Neglecting your sober toolbox
One of the things I talk to my students about a lot is finding new sober tools. A tool is basically anything you use as a coping mechanism, to change or relieve the way you feel. Tools can be unhealthy (like alcohol) or they can be healthy (like running, talking to a friend). Spend some time thinking about why you drank, what you used alcohol for, and what tools might be a good replacement.
Taking on too much
Our culture seems to glamorise stress and the idea of working to the max – it’s almost become a badge of honour. But if you’re consuming a mind-altering, dangerous drug just to cope with a very average day at work, that’s a sign that something in your day isn’t quite right. We aren’t meant to feel exhausted, unhappy and stressed out all the time – it’s unhealthy and unsustainable.
Missing out on fun!
I’ve noticed that quite a few women drinkers don’t have any hobbies or non-work interests. Over time, drinking has become their main social activity and the only ‘fun’ thing they do on a regular basis. If this sounds like you, start thinking about how you can change that. Successful sobriety isn’t about suffering, or feeling miserable without booze – it’s about building a life that’s so good, you don’t need to drink through it. Building a great life means finding the fun again – and rediscovering the hobbies and activities that light you up and make you feel good.
Final point: drinking alcohol is NOT self-care
Don’t listen to adverts or social media – anything that makes you feel ill, out of control and full of remorse is not looking after you. If you take just one thing from this blog, it should be this: next time you want a drink, ask yourself what you REALLY need. Are you just tired? Overwhelmed? Bored, lonely, hungry or thirsty? Get to the bottom of how you’re really feeling, and then take steps to address those issues head on, rather than masking them with alcohol. That’s where true self-care really starts.
“I’m not sure if my drinking is bad enough for me to have to quit.’’
This is something I hear a lot, and it’s a debate I had with myself for a long time. Did I really need to stop, or was I overreacting? It didn’t help that I grew up believing there were just two types of drinkers: Raging Alcoholics and Everyone Else. I definitely wasn’t in the first category, so I was ok… right?
It took me a long time to realise that I was approaching this from the wrong angle. By focusing on whether my drinking was ‘bad enough yet’ I was concentrating on completely the wrong thing. What I should’ve asked is this:
“Is this good enough for me to stay as I am?”
If you’re mulling over the same question right now, here are some points to consider.
Are you happy right now?
How much time do you spend beating yourself up about your drinking, regretting how much you had the night before, or struggling through the day with a hangover? How does that impact on your quality of life?
If, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really bother you, then great – no big deal. But if you are waking up at 4am, wracked with guilt and wondering what you did the night before, now’s the time to get real about that.
What benefits are you getting from drinking and staying stuck in your current situation? Examine this closely. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?
If you had some kind of illness that occasionally made you feel hungover and depressed, would you just accept it as ‘one of those things’, or would you be banging at your doctor’s door, demanding some kind of cure?
Compare your standards in other areas
Maybe you’re passionate about healthy eating, buying organic and avoiding highly processed foods. Perhaps you’re partial to the odd green smoothie, and you know your chia seeds from your goji berries. Maybe you’re a big runner or a yogi, or you obsess about getting your 10,000 daily steps in.
My question for you is: given your high standards during the day, does it make sense to take a dangerous drug like alcohol in the evening?
Alcohol is said to be a direct cause of 7 types of cancer. The NHS says there is no safe drinking level. Of course, the health risks associated with alcohol may be risks you’re willing to take. If that’s the case, that’s fine – but it’s worth making sure you know all the facts first. Wine is not just innocent, happy grape juice.
If this was a romantic relationship, what kind of relationship would it be?
The chances are, alcohol seemed like Mr Wonderful at first – fun, exciting and a little bit dangerous … but what’s it like now? For me, alcohol felt a bit like a doomed love affair. There were lots of great promises to begin with, lots of fun in the early days, but it dwindled into a stale, repetitive, negative relationship.
So what’s your relationship with alcohol like?
Is it a loving, enjoyable and stable one, or has it drifted into a slightly abusive relationship? Think about how that makes you feel. Are you willing to put up with that, or is it time to part ways?
Don’t let the fear of being labelled interfere with your decision
I don’t go around calling myself an alcoholic, because I’m not. To me, the term alcoholic implies that it is abnormal to become addicted to alcohol. And that’s really weird, because with all other mind-altering, dangerous drugs we seem to expect users to become addicted and we don’t judge them for it.
We don’t condemn smokers for becoming nicotineoholics, do we? We don’t berate them for losing control and getting addicted to an addictive substance. Booze is no different.
If alcohol isn’t working in your life, it’s really no big deal.
It’s not a sign that you’re broken, or weak or different. It’s just a sign that you’re consuming a toxic drug and you don’t like the side effects. That’s it. Don’t let the fear of being labelled hold you back from a lifestyle change that could be the beginning of a very exciting, happy new chapter for you.