What happens when you stop drinking? I’d always imagined my life would remain pretty much the same as it always had been.
I figured I’d still be the same person, doing the same things, living the same life… just minus the booze.
How wrong I was.
Removing a mind-altering, time-sucking, hangover-inducing, anxiety-creating, mood-destroying drug from your life turns your world upside down… in a good way!
Sobriety brings with it some surprising side effects 🙂
1. You become easily pleased
There will come a time when you return home after a bad day and find yourself massively cheered up by a bubble bath and an early night. You – the person who used to need an entire bottle of wine to switch off – are happy with a cup of tea and a good book.
Even though you sometimes worry that it sounds a bit sad and nerdy, you don’t really care because a) you’ve finally mastered the art of self care and b) you feel so awesome in the morning.
2. Your productivity levels go through the roof
When you’re trying to function through the fog of a hangover, just getting to work on time feels like an achievement. When you stop drinking, you acquire a new superpower: the ability to get stuff done.
The problems that used to have you diving face first into a glass of wine just get dealt with, and you begin to wonder how on earth you ever managed before.
3. Your tastebuds change
Herbal tea? Infused water? All that flowery, namby pamby stuff that you used to hate? Well, you will probably start drinking that.
A lot of people find their sense of smell and taste improves in sobriety, so you can pick up subtler flavours. When meal times are about eating rather than drinking, you have a new appreciation for good food.
4. You can basically eat what you fancy
A bottle of wine contains around 600 calories – that’s the equivalent of eating three doughnuts. When alcohol stops sabotaging your weight loss efforts, it’s a lot easier to lose a few pounds without having to be super strict with your diet.
Plus, the fact that you’re not hungover all the time means you’re far more likely to do some exercise and actually stick to your workout goals.
5. Some friendships may change
There’s no avoiding this one: you will have friends who feel unsettled by your decision to change. Maybe they think you’re overreacting or they miss having you as a drinking buddy. Don’t worry about this.
Some people will drift away, but your real friends will stick around, or move in closer. Sobriety is a great filter for your life – it helps you get clear on who and what should be in your world.
6. You realise you’re not quite who you thought you were…
Alcohol-free living forces you to go against the grain and stop following the crowd. If you’ve spent a lifetime trying to ‘fit in’ and stay under the radar, you might find that suddenly, you’re not so bothered about that anymore.
One of the top regrets of the dying is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself”. Now’s your chance to make sure that happens.
7. You discover you’re capable of far more than you knew
When you stop drinking – and you achieve something you thought you couldn’t do – something shifts within you. I’ve seen this time and time again with the women I coach.
Once you’ve overcome one big challenge, it forces you to reassess a lot of other stuff you’d previously dismissed as ‘impossible’. Who knows what you’ll tackle next – the possibilities are endless 🙂
Let me know:
What’s surprised you in sobriety? No matter where you are in your alcohol-free journey, I’d love to hear what unexpected side effects you’ve noticed!
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I was flicking through some magazines earlier and couldn’t help but notice all the diet tips and fitness plans.
At this time of year there always seems to be a big demand for advice on how to slim down and tone up.
As I was reading through the countless ‘diet hacks’, I was surprised to find that alcohol rarely got a mention.
There were all kinds of tips about upping your protein intake, lifting heavier weights and cutting out sugary fizzy drinks… but quitting drinking? I didn’t see that suggested anywhere, even though alcohol is a diet disaster! It’s full of empty calories.
So I wanted to put things right.
If you need a bit of motivation to stick to your alcohol-free goals this week, let’s talk all about the beach body benefits of a booze-free lifestyle…
1. You’ll save thousands of calories, making it easier to lose weight
I strongly believe there should be clearer calorie labelling on bottles of wine. I haven’t met many people who truly understand alcohol units, but calories? Most of us get that.
A glass of wine contains around 200 calories. A whole bottle is 600 calories – that’s the equivalent of scoffing three donuts or a McDonald’s Big Mac. It’s no wonder the average wine drinker puts on half a stone a year due to the excess calories.
2. You’ll be more likely to eat healthy food (and stick to your diet!)
When I was feeling hungover, my motivation went out the window. I snacked on pastries, chocolate, crisps and caffeine. Eating salad was rarely on the agenda!
I’m not going to pretend that sobriety has turned me into some kind of saint – I’ve always had a sweet tooth and still do. But in sobriety, I can get away with my chocolate habit because the rest of my diet is now pretty good.
I don’t skip breakfast anymore, I eat a healthy lunch, I drink plenty of water and I cook a proper dinner in the evening. When you’re being fairly healthy, most of the time, it makes a big difference to your waistline.
3. When you do go to the gym, you’ll make it count
As a drinker, I’d sometimes drag myself to the gym despite my hangover. (I was convinced I could sweat the alcohol out.) But all that effort was rarely worth it, because booze is a terrible workout buddy.
Alcohol can dehydrate your body for up to a week. Not only does this make you feel like crap, it also means you’re more prone to musculoskeletal injuries such as cramps, muscle pulls and strains.
Drinking also lowers your rate of protein synthesis, which is needed for building and repairing muscles. So basically, if you want to get results from your workout, alcohol is never going to be your friend.
4. You can wave goodbye to bloating and puffiness
There’s a reason why celebrities like Jennifer Lopez don’t drink – it’s because they don’t want alcohol to ruin their looks. Booze makes your face puffy, bloated and more prone to redness.
If you’re thinking about quitting drinking, take a selfie first. I get all the women I work with to do this and I love seeing the results (you’ll be amazed at the difference). Alcohol is so sneaky – the chances are it’s affecting your appearance more than you think.
5. You’ll get your beauty sleep
Alcohol screws up your sleep cycle, which is why you often wake up at 4am, tired but somehow wide awake.
Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect the bags under your eyes. There’s also a clear link between sleep and obesity. Let’s face it: when you’re tired, you’re more likely to snack and skip the gym.
6. Quitting drinking will get you better results, in all areas!
Take a moment to think about all the time, money and effort you put into trying to look your best. Perhaps you invest in nice clothes, fancy face creams, gym memberships or getting your hair done.
If you care about how you look – and most of us do – why not maximise your results and get your money’s worth?
Without alcohol getting the way, that expensive moisturiser might actually make a difference. Those nice clothes will fit better. And that gym membership might just start paying off 🙂
At the height of my drinking career, I’d often wonder:
Why don’t I have an off switch? Why can’t I control my drinking? Why can other people have 1 or 2 drinks and then stop?
Back then, my inability to control my drinking felt like such a personal failing – a weakness.
Nowadays, things are different. Not only am I five years sober, but my views on all this have changed too.
If you’ve been beating yourself up about your inability to moderate, this blog is for you.
Why can’t I stop at just one drink?
A better question to ask is, why should you be able to stop at one? After all, alcohol is a powerful, mind-altering, addictive drug. It zaps your willpower and changes the way you feel. It makes you lose control.
When it comes to other drugs, we seem to understand this. We don’t shame smokers for becoming addicted to nicotine – we just accept the fact that it happens. We should be doing the same with booze.
You are not weak or broken because you can’t ‘control’ alcohol. Becoming addicted to booze is a completely normal (and predictable) side effect of consuming an addictive substance.
But some people DO seem able to control their intake!
Moderate drinkers do not have superhero powers or huge reserves of willpower. Instead, their drinking is likely to be controlled by other factors.
For example, some people don’t like feeling drunk or out of control. They actively avoid that sensation rather than chase it. For others, drinking just isn’t their poison – it’s not a coping mechanism for them. When they’re feeling down, they don’t turn to booze. Perhaps they have healthy coping mechanisms in place, or maybe they overeat or gamble or do something else instead.
Other drinkers will be seriously restricted by finances, responsibilities or the influence of those around them.
So is moderation something I should work towards?
Yes and no. If you’re honestly just beginning to evaluate your relationship with alcohol, cutting down is a logical place to start. But the chances are that if you’re reading a blog like this, you’ve already had a good go at moderating. (I bet you’ve tried a few things on this list.)
There’s no secret to moderation. There’s no magic trick that you haven’t discovered yet. If moderation was something that worked for you – on a consistent basis – and made you feel good, you would know that by now.
Here’s the big problem with moderation.
Cutting down, rather than cutting out, stops you from exploring sobriety properly. It reinforces the idea that you cannot truly enjoy life without booze.
Moderation makes a drug like alcohol seem extra special. And because you’re trying to be ‘good’, you’re never satisfied. There’s never quite enough and all your focus is on alcohol (the thing you’re trying not to have so much of).
Plus, moderating requires a lot of effort. It ain’t for wimps. You’re constantly having to make decisions. What will you drink? When? Where? How much? It’s much harder than just making one wholehearted, committed decision not to drink.
If moderation is off the table – but I don’t want to quit forever – what should I do instead?
It’s normal not to be ready to quit ‘forever’ as that is a pretty overwhelming idea. But what about an experiment instead? You only get to find out what sobriety is really all about when you do it and keep doing it… so why not take a break from booze?
Commit to going alcohol-free for a month or two. Give sobriety 100% (no ifs, no buts) whilst feeling safe in the knowledge that at a set point in time, you will stop, review and decide what happens next.
Maybe you’ll go back to drinking. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and fall in love with this awesome alcohol-free lifestyle. (I talked more about taking a break from booze in this video.)
The days of me waking up and feeling sorry for myself are long gone, thankfully. I never feel as if I’m missing out by not drinking – I just feel relieved that I don’t have to drink anymore.
I don’t know anyone who’s struggled with alcohol and then morphed into a happy, carefree, moderate drinker.
However, I know a LOT of sober women who are living fulfilling lives after letting go of booze. They got their happiness back. And their freedom. Isn’t that what we all want?
How many times have you asked yourself, “Do I really need to stop drinking?”
Answering that question can be tough.
Towards the end of my drinking career, I found it helpful to hear about other people’s experiences and the moments that made them decide that enough was enough.
Life isn’t black and white, and sometimes the call to be sober can feel pretty subtle. Other people’s stories had more of an impact on me than filling out some online quiz, or going through a checklist of warning signs.
I thought this might be something you’d appreciate too – so a few days ago, I asked some of my Getting Unstuck students to answer a simple question: “How did you know it was time to quit drinking?”
Their responses are really interesting (and probably not what you’re expecting!)
“On Mother’s Day 2017 I invited my mum and daughter for Sunday lunch and was really looking forward to spending time with them. As usual I had lots of wine.
Before I dished up the meal, my daughter asked me if I was OK and I knew she could see I was drunk. I felt really bad. I don’t remember the rest but my mum and daughter were really sad for me and I felt disappointed in myself.
I knew then that I had to do something. I’m so glad I did – giving up alcohol was the best thing I’ve ever done, and my mum and daughter both say how proud they are of me.” Christine
“I had a 2 week booze break before Christmas, but then I started again. I was horrified one night to find I’d drunk a whole bottle of wine in about an hour and a half, on a work night. I thought to myself… if a whole bottle is now not enough on a Tuesday night, where is this going? I knew I had to stop it.” Kathy
“For me it was no one thing, just a gradual acceptance that it couldn’t go on. I was moving into my 60s and worried about my health. I had tried to moderate – it didn’t work. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and The Sober School popped up! I thought ‘this is an omen and this is my time!’ 265 days later, it is the best thing I have ever done.” Lynne
“I’d been trying for 5 years to cut back and moderate, but things just seemed to be getting worse. The day after my best friends 50th birthday party was my decision to stop – it took me 3 days to feel ‘normal’. It just wasn’t worth it anymore and I deserved better.” Sharon
“I came home drunk from a work do again, having failed to meet my husband at the station as planned. A colleague had to put me in a taxi and to this day I don’t know who paid. The next day my husband said he’d had enough of my shit and if it happened again we would be looking at a divorce. That’s the day I signed up for your course.” Tessa
“I was supposed to wake up early to make my daughter’s favorite birthday breakfast. Instead I overslept due to drinking the night before. When she left for school, I went back to sleep and dreamed that my younger self was crying and begging me to take care of her.” Stephanie
“For my birthday I got all alcohol related cards and presents – things like a make your own cocktail set, drinks glasses, bottle stopper, signs saying ‘in the garden drinking prosecco’. It struck me that to all my family and friends, alcohol was my thing. I felt shameful.
I’m 173 days AF now and the gifts I got for Mother’s Day made me realise how much my life has changed for the positive. My children see me in a much different way now.” Rebecca
“I had known for years that I needed to stop drinking. The tipping point for me was when my grandson was born with serious medical issues and I realized that I couldn’t help care for him unless I quit drinking. I deeply regret that I didn’t stop drinking when my own children were young and equally needed an alert, attentive mother.” Kristen
“One day I looked – really looked – in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It seemed the only thing I looked forward to was the end of the day, so I could hit the bottle… again.
I had to get out of the vicious cycle I’d been in for so many years. Googling ‘how much is too much’ etc, is how I believe you ended up in my inbox Kate. Lol.
The best decision I ever made was to trust your statement that ‘If an AF life was really all that terrible, I’d have gone back to drinking long ago’. I’m paraphrasing….but you get the gist. Turns out it IS amazing.” Madeline
“I knew that my drinking was escalating – I was alone and depressed after the death of my husband. Wine seemed like an answer but it was isolating me. Then there was the family dinner when my siblings all glanced at me when I opened yet another bottle of wine as the meal was winding down… Celebrating day 352 today.” Cheryl
“I had some silly misunderstanding with my husband. After he went to bed, I decided I needed to go out partying in random clubs. I am like, 39, trying to be, what, 25? Random old dudes hitting on me and younger ones screaming NO!! to me trying to salsa with them…” Jody
“Valentines Day coincided with the first day of Lent. I decided that it was time for me to start loving ME! My Heavenly Father gave me one body while I am on this earth – it is time for me to take care of it.” Lisa
“My daughter attempted to take her life. As I sat in the hospital with her the next day, listening to the psychiatrist talk to her, I knew without a doubt that my drinking had, in some part at the very least, contributed to my daughters despair. I also knew I needed to be sober if I was going to be able to support her back to full, strong, mental health. She needed a positive role model, not a pissed one.” Susie
“Losing my Mum to cancer made me wake up to the fact that I was wasting and probably shortening my life.” Tracey
“I tried and failed to moderate for the whole of 2017. When I looked at my New Years Resolutions for 2018 – with the moderation ‘rules’ included again – I knew that however much I wanted them to, they wouldn’t work… Sober was the only way forward.” Hilary
“The main thing for me was that I could not moderate my drinking, and thinking about drinking was consuming every moment of my life. I was reading books, feeling like so much was wrong with me, but mainly I got tired of worrying about it. I heard Kate on The Bubble Hour and signed up for the course. It has been so helpful and I am grateful to have found the way for me to stop!” Sharon
“I made some bad decisions whilst drunk but those were rare occasions so I pushed them to the back of my mind. It was realising that I struggled not to drink every single day that made me feel utterly pathetic and worried for my health. Now I feel like the old me is gradually coming back.” Nicola
“My 9 year old son asked to drink from a wine glass. When I asked why, he said he ‘needed to get used to it, coz wine is what adults drink’. I signed up for your course the next day.” Cher
“Too many things to mention! But the massive wake up call was going out with the girls from work, getting absolutely plastered, coming home and falling over twice. I woke up the next morning at my brothers house, because my partner had rang him to come and get me as he couldn’t cope anymore…. it was so embarrassing.
I had a choice… give up the booze or lose my relationship. Day 256 today and I love living AF.” Janice
“I was literally sick and tired of looking at my face in the mirror and making the same deal that I wasn’t going to drink today… to then fail again at 5pm!!! I celebrate one year next week of not having to make that bullshit deal.” Liz
“I realised that alcohol was taking much more from me than it was giving – it was beginning to affect my health, my energy levels, my job performance, and most of all, my relationships with those closest to me.
One day at the middle school where I work, I saw a colorful bulletin board advertising this year’s senior slogan, ‘Today I choose to be the best version of myself’. I was ashamed to realize that I wasn’t choosing that, and hadn’t been choosing that for quite a long time.
I made the decision right there in the hallway that I wanted to make a different choice going forward. I wanted to stop wasting time drinking and start living the active, exciting life I knew I was capable of living, and that I believe I was born to live.” Mary
This week I’m writing to you from sunny California!
A few days ago I was in LA doing lots of touristy things in Hollywood, where they’re getting ready for the Oscars. Walking around such an iconic place got me thinking about sober celebrities.
In this crazy, boozy world of ours, it’s easy to assume that everyone drinks – especially in showbiz, with all that glitz and glamour.
But the truth is that some of the most successful people on the planet have got to where they are because they don’t waste their time, money, health and energy on alcohol!
As I mentioned in the video, not every sober celebrity has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
There are tons more sober celebs who don’t get a mention in the video, so I wanted to give them a namecheck here:
Kristin Davis (Sex And The City) Bradley Cooper (star of The Hangover films!) Jada Pinkett-Smith (actress) Simon Pegg (actor) Sarah Millican (comedian) Jim Carrey (actor) Fatboy Slim (DJ) Gerard Butler (actor)
Christina Ricci (actress) Ewan McGregor (actor) Stephen King (author) Russell Brand (comedian) Robert Downey Jr (actor) Kendrick Lamar (rapper) Jonny Wilkinson (former rugby union player) Frankie Boyle (comedian)
Freddie Flintoff (former cricketer) Calvin Harris (DJ) Rachel Stevens (singer) Brad Pitt (a new edition to the sober club) Anna Wintour (Vogue editor) Blake Lively (actress) Christina Ricci (actress) Davina McCall (TV presenter)
Eva Mendez (actress) Leona Lewis (singer) Natalie Portman (actress) Zoe Ball (TV presenter) Chris Martin (from Coldplay)
For a long time, I was very keen on the idea of moderation.
I was drinking too much and feeling awful… but I didn’t want to stop completely. Sobriety was way too radical a step for someone like me, right?
I was one of those people who bought nice wine. I didn’t drink every day of the week. I held down a good job. I went running and drank smoothies and practised yoga. I was definitely not some rock bottom, down-and-out drinker.
But… when I did drink, things went a bit crazy. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I definitely seemed to be missing an off switch!
I was convinced I just needed to find some better strategies for cutting down.
So with the help of google, I devised some creative schemes to help me manage and control my alcohol intake.
I’d really hate for all that ‘research’ to go to waste, so please do let me share it with you…
(Consider this the opposite of a list of suggestions!)
Buy low alcohol drinks
Keep alcohol out of the house
Don’t drink alone
Wait until 6pm to start drinking
Buy alcohol you don’t actually like the taste of
Only drink with meals
Only drink wine
Only drink beer
Only drink during happy hour
Only drink at the weekend
Only drink on alternate days
Buy miniature bottles of wine
Use smaller glasses
If buying regular bottles, tip away some of it first
Draw a line at the halfway mark on the bottle
Add water or ice to your drinks
Drink a glass of water after every alcoholic drink
Take less cash out with you
In pubs, buy all your own drinks and avoid rounds
Drink only low calorie drinks – use weight loss as a motivator
Book an early morning gym class as a deterrent
Pace yourself: commit to only having one drink an hour
Or set a timer and have one sip every 5 minutes
Keep an alcohol units diary where you set goals and targets
Take a week off every now and then to try and ‘reset’.
Here’s what I learnt…
When it comes to dealing with a mind-altering, addictive drug that zaps your willpower and changes the way you think, it’s really hard to stick to your plans, no matter what tricks you use.
The methods above would work every now and then, but never on a consistent basis. Plus, sticking to these self-imposed rules was really hard work. I’m nearly five years sober now and just looking back at this list makes me feel exhausted!
It’s the decision-making fatigue that gets you. You’re constantly having to exercise willpower, negotiate with yourself about when you’ll drink, what you’ll have, whether you’ll stick to the rules, break them, push the boundaries, etc etc… it’s a constant drain on your energy.
I wish I’d known back then…
That not drinking at all was actually so much easier. Honestly – it’s such a breeze by comparison! The problem with cutting down (rather than cutting out) is that it reinforces the belief that you cannot properly enjoy life without alcohol.
You carry on feeding that part of you that’s been duped into thinking you can’t be truly content unless you have a little bit of this liquid drug in your life. Putting a toxic, cancer-causing poison up on a pedestal like that is really not a good idea.
When you’re sober, you get to see booze for what it really is i.e. a load of crap that’s holding you back.
Tolerance will bite you on the bum
Here’s the real kicker. Even if you’re determined to play the moderation game – and you’re happy to put lots of willpower, effort and energy into controlling booze – tolerance WILL screw you over in the end.
No matter what your alcohol intake, there will eventually come a point where you need more booze in order to feel the same effects.
Ok, so what do I do now?
Pause and reflect Be honest with yourself: how long have you been trying to cut down for? How have those attempts to control your drinking made you feel? As I discovered, there’s no real secret to moderation: it’s highly unlikely that there’s a magic trick out there you’ve missed.
Ask the right question Too often we focus on whether our drinking is ‘bad enough’ for us to quit, when really, we should be asking, “Is this good enough for me to stay as I am?” In other words, are you willing to keep on putting up with all the downsides to drinking, because they’re not going to go away. I wrote about this here.
Take a break from booze If you’re ready to try something new, take sobriety for a test drive. Give it 100% for a set period of time e.g. six weeks. Then you can see how you feel at the end – you might just be surprised how much you love it! For more help with this, check out my stop drinking course. I also talk more about taking a break here.