It’s been hot, hot, hot in my part of the world and it got me thinking what a brilliant time of year it is to take a break from booze.
Obviously alcohol-free living is amazing all year round, but there’s something about the summer months that makes hangovers especially awful and clear-headed sobriety extra wonderful.
I know summer brings its fair share of boozy events – from holidays and weddings, to beach trips and BBQs. But honestly, you can totally do all those things without alcohol (and I’m willing to bet you’ll have a better time NOT drinking.)
If you’ve been toying with the idea of having an alcohol-free summer, here are 10 reasons that might sway you in the right direction….
1. You’ll be a better parent and partner
Cutting out alcohol frees up your time immensely, so you can finally get round to those things you keep promising (but failing) to do. Maybe it’s taking the kids camping again or an impromptu trip to the beach. Sobriety gives you the time to build better relationships with those you care about most.
2. You’ll make some massive personal breakthroughs
Taking a few months off from drinking will give you a lot of clear-headed clarity about you and your life. You’ll start to see where you’re making bad decisions and you’ll have the time to address problems, rather than drinking your way through them. It’s time to start creating a life that you don’t need to numb out or escape from.
3. You’ll have more energy
Alcohol seriously disrupts your sleep. When you combine that sleep deprivation with a hangover, you feel pretty sluggish and awful. Sober, you start each day off on the right foot and you’re far more likely to do things like exercise and eat proper, nourishing foods.
4. You’ll look better
The vanity argument for stopping drinking motivates a lot of people and rightly so. Alcohol dehydrates the skin, increases redness and can make you puffy and bloated. Basically, it’s not a good look, especially in summer when you don’t want to be wearing tons of makeup. (I wrote about the beauty benefits of sobriety in more detail here.)
5. You’ll be able to eat more ice cream
Here’s a quick bit of calorie maths for you: a large glass of wine contains approximately 200 calories. That’s the same as eating a doughnut. A bottle of wine has around 600 calories, the equivalent of 3 doughnuts. By cutting out booze you can trim down without having to go on a strict diet. Bring on the ice cream!
6. Socialising alcohol-free will sky rocket your confidence
Being able to socialise sober is a really good skill to have – there’s something incredibly powerful about realising you can handle events and have a good time without alcohol. Don’t make assumptions about what it’s going to be like. If you’ve not been to a party sober since you were a teenager then you’re probably a little out of practice!
7. You’ll have more spare cash
When you’re drinking, you throw money down the drain every single day. If you’re buying a few bottles here and there, it can quickly add up without you knowing. I did a poll of some of the women I’ve coached and on average, they saved £350 in six weeks – that’s $446 US dollars. Don’t put this spare cash in your piggy bank – spend it on yourself! You deserve it.
8. More headspace
When you’re trying to moderate, you have that constant ‘Will I? Won’t I?’ battle. Taking a summer break from drinking takes that issue off the table. There’s no need to waste hours wrestling with yourself because you’ve already made the decision; now you’re free to focus on other things.
9. Less drama, more zen
An alcohol-free summer means you won’t have any booze-fuelled meltdowns that you’ll have to apologise for later. You’ll also skip the emotional hangover that comes with drinking. That alone is pretty much worth it, because that morning-after anxiety, guilt and regret is incredibly draining.
10. You’ll make the most of your holidays
Lying in your hotel room feeling ill is not a good way to spend your hard-earned time off. Without a hangover, you can get out there and explore. And with that free time, who knows what new things you might discover, or what exciting life experiences could be waiting around the corner.
Alcohol affects our lives in surprising, sneaky ways.
I think you’ll be amazed at how much changes when you take a proper break from booze. Get out there and enjoy summer while it’s still here – no drinks required 🙂
This week I’m answering a reader question from Jenny, who writes:
“I’ve been trying and failing to cut down my drinking for a while now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter what I do, once I start I can rarely stop. I hate myself for being so weak. The last few weeks have been especially awful, and I’ve said and done things I regret. I know that I should probably quit completely, but part of me still loves the idea of having a few drinks and wants to believe I can achieve that. Other people, like my husband, have no problem stopping after one or two. I feel so fed up.”
If you’ve got any ideas or advice to share with Jenny, please post a message in the comments section below. Here are my thoughts:
First of all, congratulations on taking action – the very fact that you’re thinking about this stuff puts you way ahead of the game. I understand how frustrating it is when you feel stuck between what you know you ‘should’ do and what you actually want to do. But if you’re repeatedly drinking more than you intend to and it’s making you miserable, then you owe it to yourself to keep working on this. Here are some suggestions to help you move forward:
Review your attempts to moderate
I think you might find it helpful to make a list of all the ways you’ve tried to moderate so far. It’s easy to drift along, convinced you just haven’t discovered the ‘secret’ to moderation yet. Once you start writing, I think you might be surprised by just how much you’ve already tried, and how long it’s been going on for.
Here are some examples of attempts to moderate: waiting until a set time to start drinking, only drinking at the weekend, only drinking on certain weeknights, sticking to one kind of drink, buying wine in small bottles, drinking from small wine glasses, keeping alcohol out of the home, only drinking in pubs and bars, only drinking with other people, alternating alcohol with water, pouring some of the bottle down the sink first, buying cheap wine that doesn’t taste nice… the list goes on.
You don’t need to have tried all of the above to realise that it’s extremely unlikely that there’s a special trick you’ve missed. If cutting down worked for you on a consistent basis then I think you would’ve cracked it by now. Life is short – too short to spend it doing the same thing, over and over.
Get this in perspective
It’s a myth that people who drink too much are weak or lack willpower. The women who join my stop drinking course are always incredibly driven, motivated and successful – and I’m sure you are too. Let’s face it: you have to be a strong and determined person in order to cope with a hangover AND juggle everything else!
Alcohol is a highly addictive, toxic substance that gives you an artificial high followed by a crushing low – it changes the way you think and eats away at your best intentions. We wouldn’t ever expect to be able to ‘control’ ourselves whilst under the influence of other addictive drugs, so why do we demand this of alcohol? Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Stop comparing yourself to others
There are many, many reasons why people like your husband naturally drink less. Some people don’t like the sensation of being drunk or out of control. Others are influenced by family commitments, financial restrictions and other responsibilities. Some people might simply have a different crutch, or other, healthier coping mechanisms they rely on when they want to change the way they feel. Whatever the reason, alcohol just isn’t something they’re drawn to in a big way. They don’t have to ‘control’ their alcohol intake because that intense appeal just isn’t there.
Flip your assumptions
The old saying, ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’ might be true of sweets and crisps and other unhealthy treats, but it doesn’t apply to addictive substances. People often assume moderation is easier than complete sobriety, but I disagree.
The big problem with moderation is that it reinforces the idea that alcohol-free living is awful, and that without this magical, wonderful, life enhancing drug, you are going to be missing out. Trying to control your intake of something that you’ve put up on a pedestal is always going to be hard. Even if you do succeed, the chances are you will feel deprived.
Moderation keeps you stuck in a story: a story where you need alcohol in order to have a full and happy life. A big part of successful sobriety is opening your mind to the possibility that life can be lived a little differently. Moderation stops you from doing that – it stops you from making that mental leap.
Take a proper break from booze
Jenny, I would love you to take a six week break (or longer if you wish). You don’t have to quit forever (that’s way too intimidating) but you do have to give yourself some time to test-drive sobriety properly, and work on the other key ingredients of a happy and healthy alcohol-free lifestyle.
For example, you need to get really clear on what you’ve been looking for in alcohol and find some alternative coping mechanisms. And you’ve got to give yourself the chance to experience the ups and downs of life sober, handle a few challenges and come out the other side.
Taking a proper break from booze will give you time to explore these issues properly. At the end of your break, you can reevaluate and decide what you want to do next. It’ll be completely up to you whether you continue with alcohol-free living… but if you give it a proper try, I suspect you might just love it.
All the best,
Your Out of Office is on, your passport is packed and you’ve found your bikini. Now there’s just one thing left to decide: are you going to drink on holiday or not?
If you’re newly sober, or trying to be, then your first alcohol-free trip abroad can feel like a big deal, because most of us associate holidays with alcohol. Airport bars are always busy, even in the morning; on the beach it’s perfectly acceptable to open your first beer before lunch; and the pool bar has more cocktails than you can shake a stick at. You couldn’t possibly order a mocktail. You can’t go on holiday and not drink, it’s just unheard of… right?
Alcohol-free holidays are absolutely brilliant. If you haven’t tried one yet then you really, really must do – I have a feeling you’ll love it.
Not only will you come home properly rested and refreshed, you’ll be able to remember every single moment.
Booze, hangovers and guilt don’t have to feature in your holiday plans. If you’re contemplating your first sober trip, here are a few things you might like to stash in your suitcase:
Now is the time to stock up on sober memoirs and self help books. They’ll help remind you why you’re doing this. If you’re too embarrassed to be seen reading that kind of thing by the pool, you can always download a digital copy or buy the audio version.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I love exercising on holiday – all those endorphins make you feel so good. Exercise doesn’t need to involve running or working up a sweat in the sun – a walk along the beach or a yoga class is great too.
3) A guide book
Feeling bored often triggers people to drink. The chances are that in the past, recovering from a hangover took care of quite a bit of time on holiday. Sober, you might discover that you can’t sunbathe all day, every day. Use this time to explore the local area and see what’s happening.
4) Your own drinks
If there’s a particular drink you absolutely love, that you just have to have at 5pm, take it with you. You can fit a few drinks in your suitcase. Or go to a local supermarket on your first day and stock up. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of options you like, close at hand.
5) A bit of extra cash
Alcohol-free holidays are about treating yourself and taking care of yourself. (Alcohol is not a treat. It’s a poison that pretends to be a treat, but makes you feel like crap instead.) You’re saving lots of money by not drinking, so if you want to book a massage or a beauty treatment, go for it – you deserve it.
Feeling hungry and thirsty can make you more prone to cravings. Drink lots of water and pack some healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit.
7) Your phone
Yep, I know the idea of a digital detox is really appealing. But it helps to know you’ve got a way of getting online if you need support or motivation. (You can always remove the Facebook app from your phone temporarily!)
8) The right companions
Pass on the invite to go away with friends who you know do nothing but drink, drink, drink. If it’s your partner who drinks a lot, it’s a bit harder to leave them at home, obviously (!) but you can still manage expectations in advance. Don’t wait until you land to let people know you aren’t going to be drinking.
9) The right mindset
Definitely don’t go away without this! Your mindset is key. You get to decide how you feel on holiday. You can choose to spend the whole trip feeling as if you’re missing out and viewing everything through the lens of what you’re not doing. Or you can choose to live in the moment, and appreciate the fact that your holiday is pretty amazing, just as it is. Sunbathing, reading, playing in the pool, eating out … what’s not to like? They’re fun activities just as they are. Why would you need to add a mind-altering drug into the mix?
Got a great tip to share?
What are your must-pack items that you’ll be travelling with this summer? Have you got a holiday coming up? Let us know!
You’ve dabbled with alcohol-free living, on and off. You’ve read countless sober memoirs. You lurk on sober blogs. You are officially sober curious.
You spend a lot of time THINKING about quitting. You know you need to do something, and taking a break from booze seems like a good place to start. And yet… you can’t quite bring yourself to actually do it.
Next week, you promise. I’ll do it next week. I’ll be ready then.
You’ve already calculated how much money you’ll save when you quit.
You know you’ll sleep better.
You know you’ll feel better.
And you love the idea of waking up without a hangover.
But still. You’re just not quite ready yet … right?
Well actually, I’d suggest you are.
It’s very likely that right now, at this very second, you’re as ready as you’re ever going to be. Here’s why:
There’s never going to be a perfect time to do this.
You will always have a work event, a birthday, a boozy BBQ or a holiday just around the corner. (And when all else fails, Friday night rolls around every 7 days and well, don’t you deserve a drink on a Friday?!) If you look hard enough, there will always be something.
Life doesn’t stop when you’re sober. (This is actually a really good thing. If alcohol-free living meant never going out, and never having fun, it’d be a pretty awful way of life!) There will always be a reason why now just ‘isn’t the right time’. And in a way, that takes the pressure off. If there’s never going to be a ‘perfect’ time to do this, why wait? Make this the right time by taking action.
Look at the flip side.
Whatever your reason for not quitting this week, the chances are it’s the very reason why you should stop right now.
For example: got a busy week coming up? Know that you’re going to be stressed out at work? That’s fine – all the more reason NOT to drink this week. Alcohol is such a time thief. Sobriety will make you more productive so you stop feeling so overwhelmed. Alcohol is scientifically proven to make you more anxious and less able to cope with stress, so why make a tough week harder than it needs to be?
Or perhaps you’ve got a holiday coming up? No problem. What a great opportunity to stop drinking, look after yourself and come back feeling genuinely refreshed. Why would you need to drink anyway? Holidays are lovely – they’re fun and relaxing, just as they are. Why would you need to throw a toxic poison into the mix? Alcohol-free trips abroad are the best – seriously, I’m excited for you!
You don’t need to be perfect.
A common reason for putting things off is a fear of trying and failing. And to be honest, that fear is well founded. If you’re anything like the rest of the planet, then you probably will screw up at some point. It’s almost inevitable, but it’s also ok. It’s called being human!
What’s better: not taking action for fear of making a mistake, or going for it and falling flat on your face? In what scenario do you think you might learn the most and make the most progress?
Success is built on failure. The only enemy you need to defeat right now is not getting started. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
You become ‘ready’ by taking action.
One of the biggest myths about sobriety is that one day, out of the blue, you’ll just know that it’s time to quit. In my experience, it’s rarely as clear cut as that.
When I stopped drinking, it was because I felt fed up. I was tired. I’d been wondering what a proper break from booze would be like. So I challenged myself to stop for 100 days, so I could test drive alcohol-free living properly. I told myself that if I hated it, I could always go back to drinking, but I had to do 100 days first.
That was four years ago 🙂
I became ‘ready’ to stop after I quit. After I started taking action. I see exactly the same thing happen with the women I coach. It’s rare for anyone to start off feeling 100% sure they want to stop. But most people are curious about alcohol-free living, and it’s that curiosity you need to pay attention to.
If you’re regularly drinking more than you intend to, and it’s making you miserable, don’t you owe it to yourself to see what a proper break feels like? You don’t need to label yourself, go to meetings or take any online tests. You don’t need to have it all figured out, you just need to begin.
That’s the secret to success – starting before you’re ready.
When it comes to stopping drinking and staying motivated, one of the best action steps you can take is to figure out your WHY.
Because let’s be real here – sobriety ain’t no walk in the park. There will always be ups and downs, challenges and times when you think ‘I can’t be bothered with this.’
In those moments when you’re close to giving up, knowing your ‘why’ can give you the extra push you need to keep going.
Most people think they’re stopping drinking because they’re fed up of feeling hungover. Or they want to be healthier or save money.
And those are all great reasons for quitting, but they’re probably not the real reason you’re doing this. Your real ‘why’ goes much deeper than that – and this is exactly what you need to tap in to.
Here are 3 steps to help you do just that:
Get a pen and paper.
Write down why you want to stop drinking, so you can see your reasons in black and white. Just thinking about them isn’t the same – your thoughts will come and go, sometimes they get jumbled up and sometimes we just forget. You can write your reasons on your phone or laptop if you like, but experts have found that we’re more engaged when we write things out by hand.
Set a timer for 20 minutes and keep writing.
You want to write down as much as you can, as soon as it comes into your head. Once you’ve written down everything you can think of, go back to each reason and ask ‘but why?’. Keep doing this over and over again, until you get to the heart behind what’s really motivating you.
I want to stop drinking because I hate not being able to recall what happened the night before.
Because I keep having conversations I can’t remember.
Because I hate the way my children sigh when I start telling them something I’ve already said.
Because I want to set a good example for my kids. I want to look after them and protect them.
I want to stop drinking because I hate how hungover I am the next day.
Because when I feel hungover I’m so lethargic, I never seem to get anything done.
Because I’m falling behind at work and I’m scared my boss will notice.
Because I know I’m not living up to my potential – I’m drifting through life.
I want to stop drinking because I keep saying things I regret.
I’m fed up of being that woman – the one who always makes a fool of herself.
Because I want to be in control of myself. I want to be happy and calm.
I want to stop drinking because I’m scared of people finding out how much I really drink.
Because I’m tired of hiding my drinking. All the covering up is exhausting me.
Because I don’t want to have any secrets from my family.
Because I want my loved ones to be proud of me.
Do you see how when you dig deeper, you uncover reasons you hadn’t thought of, or perhaps hadn’t acknowledged?
These reasons are far more powerful than just ‘I want to stop drinking for the sake of my health.’ Of course, health is important, but it’s also quite vague. You should always get specific; what is it about your health that concerns you exactly? Have you put on weight? Is it something your doctor said at your last check up? Drill down to the nitty gritty.
Put this list somewhere you can see it daily.
Tuck it into your purse or diary. You could photograph it and keep a copy on your phone. Just make sure you can come back to it easily. This is going to be your motivation. This is what’s going to power you through those doubts and wobbles. Don’t be scared of looking at this list and don’t forget about it. This is why you’re doing this. This is why you want to change.
So, what’s your why?
I’d love to hear what’s motivating you to stop drinking. Be very, very specific!
You know that drinking is bad for you.
You hear the warnings. You understand the health risks. You also know that alcohol has some other, unpleasant side effects: it drains your wallet, it makes you do things you regret, and it leaves you feeling awful the next day.
But there’s something else that booze does. It’s something you might not know about, or you might try to not think about.
Alcohol really affects your appearance.
Booze seriously undermines your attempts at health and beauty, leaving its mark on your face and body.
The good news is that sobriety has the opposite effect. It will make you look GREAT! It’s better than any expensive face cream or beauty treatment, and it works its magic pretty quickly.
If you need some motivation to stay on the wagon this week, let’s talk about the vanity argument for quitting drinking…
The weight loss
A large glass of wine contains approximately 200 calories. That’s the same as eating a doughnut. A bottle of wine is the equivalent of three doughnuts. THREE!
When I was drinking, I could quite easily knock back an entire bottle of wine, plus a beer or two afterwards – that’s almost 1,000 calories. And then there was all the other junk food that I’d eat the next day… This article tells you how long you’d need to spend on the treadmill in order to burn off those wine calories.
If you’re watching your weight during the day – and doing your best to stick to a healthy diet – don’t ruin it by pouring calories down your neck at night. An alcohol-free lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for your health and waistline.
Whilst you can try and counteract the alcohol calories by dragging yourself to the gym the next day, the one thing you can’t do much about is your skin. Alcohol dehydrates the skin and reduces its elasticity. It also increases redness and can make you look puffy and bloated.
Dr Jairo Rodriguez, a New York-based nutritionist, puts it like this, “Alcohol is one of the worst, most aggressive compounds in destroying your skin. I always joke with patients, ‘If you want to get older, go ahead and drink!’” Some dermatologists claim it can take a month for your skin to get over a hangover.
It’s no wonder that celebrities like Jennifer Lopez don’t drink for this exact reason. Even Robson Green has given up booze for the sake of his appearance! This Drinking Mirror app shows you what your face will look like if you continue drinking at current levels. (It’s not the most sophisticated app I’ve ever seen, but you get the idea.) The Daily Mail put Beyonce and Jennifer Aniston through the same test here.
How much would you pay for a moisturiser that could make you look younger, reduce puffiness, clear dark circles and give you great skin? I think most people would hand over quite a bit of cash for that. Well, sobriety is free. If you’re in any doubt about the benefits of giving up a toxic poison packed with chemicals, take a photo of yourself just before you quit.
When I coach women to stop drinking, one of the first things I ask them to do is to take a selfie. Six weeks later, they take another. (If you’re thinking of stopping drinking, make sure you do this too.) Here’s what some of my April 2017 students discovered:
“People have commented about how slim my face is but also how my skin is really good.”
“My eyes look clearer than when I was drinking. And I look less tired.”
“The rosacea on my cheeks is almost non-existent and my skin looks soooo much better and less dry.”
“People are saying my skin looks smoother and my eyes sparklier! I’ve also lost 10lbs.”
Don’t underestimate how much you might change – take a look at this article for some impressive before and after pictures.
Just take a moment to think about all the things you do in order to look good.
Maybe you’re paying for a pricey gym membership. Maybe you have a personal trainer. Perhaps your dressing table is cluttered with anti-ageing creams or your wardrobe is bulging with too many clothes. Maybe you spend a small fortune getting your nails done or your hair blow dried.
We’re always trying to be the best versions of ourselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s worth pointing out that if you really do care about how you look – if you’re prepared to invest time and money in your appearance – then logically, you should care about your alcohol intake too.
And if alcohol is affecting the way you look and feel, consider taking a proper break from booze. Who knows … it might just be one of the best things you ever do.