Kate's Blog

How To Relax And Manage Stress Without Alcohol

I used to have a fridge magnet that said: “Keep Calm And Drink Wine!”

The message was spelt out in large capital letters and for a long time, it seemed to be my mantra.
If I wanted to relax, I drank wine. If I wanted to switch off, I drank wine. If I had a stressful day, then guess what? I drank wine, and lots of it.
When I started thinking about quitting drinking, the idea of coming home and not opening a bottle seemed unimaginable. 
If you can relate, check out my tips below. When it comes to alcohol, stress and sobriety, there’s some stuff you really, really need to know…

Make sure you’re clear on what alcohol does and does NOT do

The first step to learning how to relax without alcohol is to understand what’s actually going on.

Alcohol does not have magic powers
The idea that alcohol can ease or relieve your stress is a myth – it’s all smoke and mirrors (and a bit of wishful thinking). You do not deserve to fall for this lie!
True relaxation is achieved by removing the source of discontent. Alcohol, by definition, just cannot do that. It can’t remove annoyances and stressors.
All booze can do is numb your brain and your senses. That doesn’t relieve you of your stress – it just zombifies you, and numbs you from your one and only life.
If anything, alcohol is a stress delayer
If you drink enough, you will pass out and therefore be unable to feel anything. That much is true. But when you wake up at 3am – thirsty, hungover, guilty and exhausted – that stress will still be there, tapping you on the shoulder. (And in the middle of the night, everything feels ten times worse.)
Look at your stress levels right now
If alcohol really was capable of gobbling up stress and making it disappear, then surely all drinkers would be super-chilled, laid back people? And if alcohol genuinely destroyed stress left, right and centre, surely your need for it would reduce, rather than increase over time?

“Alcohol causes low blood sugar, drains the body of water, overworks the liver, pancreas and kidneys and leaches oxygen from the brain. That doesn’t sound very relaxing to me.”
Jason Vale


Acknowledge the truth: alcohol doesn’t relieve stress, it creates it!

When you’re drinking, you’re literally pouring stress into your life, glass by glass.
Stop adding fuel to the fire
How many times have you said something you’ve regretted whilst drinking? Or perhaps you’ve missed a deadline, or forgotten something important as a result of being hungover. That kind of stuff sets you up for another stressful day and then another, and another…
In sobriety, you have less to stress about in the first place
How much time do you spend worrying about your alcohol intake, beating yourself up and battling with yourself about your drinking? That is all stressful in its own right! Cutting out alcohol means you cut out stress.
Sobriety makes you more resilient
Here’s the real kicker: alcohol reduces our ability to deal with stress and anxiety. (This article explains more.) The good news is that sobriety can help reverse this.
Cheryl, a student from my Getting Unstuck course, was taking two different antidepressants and a prescribed sleeping pill when she joined my class last year. She’s now 12 months sober and off all her medication. What a result!

Experiment with new ways of relaxing and unwinding

It’s time to find some new coping mechanisms. This is the fun bit, so get experimenting!
Find out what works for you
I think exercise is great because it releases endorphins that give you a natural high. I also like journaling because getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper helps me make sense of them (and take action).
I’d also recommend listening to music, practising meditation, calling a friend or doing anything that brings you joy, be it having a bath or listening to an audiobook whilst walking in the fresh air.
Don’t forget to take care of the basics: so often what you really need at wine o’clock is food and water. Hunger and dehydration are massive triggers that can be easily taken care of.  
You have got time for this!
If you can find time to drink – and recover from it, worry about it and beat yourself up over it – then you can find time to do stuff that genuinely relaxes you.
Look at your current routine for clues
Think about what you already enjoy doing and look at what’s really going on there. For example, one of your favourite ways to ‘unwind’ might be talking to your partner over a bottle of wine.
Most drinkers have been trained to think that alcohol is the special ingredient that’s making that scenario relaxing, but as I explained above, that isn’t really the case.
However, there ARE some things about that scenario that are genuinely relaxing: you’re coming home and removing yourself from a stressful environment. Maybe you change out of your work clothes. You’re also spending quality time with your partner, talking through your day and getting stuff off your chest.
My point is, you can still go home and do all of that over a cup of tea – and it will be just as therapeutic, if not better.

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


82 responses

  1. Hi. I’ve now been sober for 1 month and 7 days. Feeling really proud of myself! Im finding Im going for lots more walks and reading a lot. Definitely sleeping better and coping much better with stress. .Win win xx

      1. Give yourself the 30 day dry out challenge. I am doing that and it is not easy, but I am learning a lot about why I drink and hopefully can go forward with mindful drinking when I choose to do so.

      2. Hi Charlie
        My husband and I just decided to try to go dry for February, just to see if we could. There have been moments, and we still have alcohol in the house, but the moments are usually easy to get past.
        I’m drinking gallons of diet lemonade (in my wine glass?), but sadly, I’m avoiding social engagements as I don’t want to be tempted and I’m not sure I can have a good time without alcohol just yet. It’s a learning curve.
        Only thing I can suggest is set a small goal, achieve it and move onto bigger goals.
        Just start somewhere 🙂
        Good luck to all of us!

  2. Love this! It’s true – if alcohol was helping me deal with everythin I’ve got going on right now, I should feel a whole lot more relaxed than I am! Lol. Tonight I am going to try going for a run and having tea early, that has really helped me in the past.

    1. You can do it Liz. Having something to eat early on is a great idea – often what your body is asking for is food / water / rest 🙂

  3. A month for me and made it thru Mardi Gras with no desire to drink- for sure an eye opener! Hardest part is dealing with the drinkers and also not making them feel uncomfortable

    1. Congratulations on your month sober Dodie! Don’t worry about other drinkers too much (we wouldn’t worry about how smokers feel if we’re not smoking, and this is just the same) And never be apologetic about not drinking – it’s a great move!

          1. Dawn, I totally relate, my husband wants me to drink with him it’s incredibly hard not to. I did 2 weeks before giving in but your comment has inspired me to go for it again. Well done for sticking with it.

          2. That’s my problem too and it’s been going on for years just sitting there on the couch makes me think about drinking . This is very difficult as he is not on the same page.

  4. Love this too!! Yoga has been extremely helpful. I especially love relax and restore and take yoga workshops a lot- especially on Friday nights!!! I also love to read, and it’s impossible to enjoy a good book tipsy. I try to fill my life up with beautiful moments and to feel grateful for the little things.

    1. Reading is so much better sober – it’s a lot easier to remember the storylines! I love the sound of Friday night yoga 🙂

  5. I am on day five, and already feeling better, although not sleeping that brilliantly…
    Am proud that – after a stressful day at work today – I have come home and had a zero alcohol beer instead of the usual glass of wine – or three. Can I keep this up for the whole month of February? Wish me luck, because I’m a heavy drinker in my sixties!

    1. You can do it Jilly. I was a heavy drinker in my 60s when I made the commitment to live AF. It is SOOOO much better on this side.

      Been over a month for me and I havent slept this good in years! I also dropped 10 lbs and am eating whatever I like and not gaining weight. Going to start a healthy food diet and exercise program to lose more weight.

      1. Hi Jojo
        I have also discovered Eisberg sparkling wine. If you drink it very cold, in a champagne glass, it really hits the spot on all levels. I’m on day nine now…

        1. Thank you Jilly and well done on day 9. I managed af last night and I feel great can’t remember a Friday night without alcohol. I put £40 in a jar as that is what I would have spent on alcohol this weekend and that was powerful I had sparkling water and lemon instead.

          1. Fabulous! Keep going everyone! I did dry Jan and now enjoying alcohol only on a Friday/Sat..and enjoying sober weekdays so much! Sleep…weight loss..great skin, more productive, more hours in day instead of hangovers in bed! Also, saving £200 booze-money a month by Standing Order into a savings account for a special holiday!

          2. I did dry January but this weekend succumbed to pressure from my husband to have a glass of wine with him and ended on a bender and yesterday in bed with an awful hangover and some really unpleasant vomiting. I wish I could only drink a glass or two occasionally but I can’t. I think many people here are the same. I’m going to pick myself up and consider it a blip and not a failure and get back to the wonderful feeling of being sober. I did it January and I’m going to again. This site is so encouraging and I will succeed

  6. I have been sober for about 10 months now. It isn’t easy but worth it in the long run. I never had an off switch after numerous attempts it always failed. I find exercising really helps with my mood..

    1. Alcohol-free living is the best, right? I wouldn’t go back to drinking if you paid me. Keep going Jenny, you’ll be at the one year mark in no time 🙂

      1. Thanks! I also love this quote “Alcohol is a drug we have to justify not taking.” People don’t realize how bad it is..

  7. Hosted a Superbowl party…Drank my N/A beer… later VERY cold N/A sparkling wine in a flute. I partied down… guac and a lot of tasty homemade foods.
    Really enjoyed my pals, the gathering. Woke up energized. Loving my AF life. Now I am tackling my new interests with excitement. Kate; you rock!!

  8. Im 1 month, 3 days without alcohol. I did give up before Christmas but got wrapped up in the Christmas drinking spirit. I decided to give up on the 2nd of January and haven’t drank since its been really hard sometimes and the cravings I get are ridiculous. To relax I like to take a long bubble bath or go for a walk.. I’m hoping to start up running again soon.

  9. Thanks, Kate, for this blog entry. It is a great support for me. I am finding I can actually read more books from my book list since giving up red wine (and all alcohol, but wine was my thing). I enjoy cooking more, have started meditation, and sleep is so much better!!

  10. I am in my sixth week alcohol free now, feel happy, peaceful, no guilt, sleeping better…plus much much more. I have been reading again which has been great, I even got back on my bike and went riding with my son!! I have had a couple of nights out too and feel really strong and proud ordering a sofa water

  11. I can totally relate to this. I had a stressful event coming up for a few weeks that was this past weekend. I was worried and, in the past, would have used it as an excuse to drink wine all evening. I just kept thinking I could get through it and I did and it turned out just fine. I am in the class that is going on now and couldn’t have done this on my own. I’m very grateful for Kate and the class.

    1. Thanks for the lovely feedback Sharon and well done for successfully navigating that event! Just shows how powerful positive thinking can be. Well done 🙂

  12. I was doing ok in Jan but it all went wrong last week. I am struggling to get back on track. This blog has helped but I need to get back to my previous mindset

    1. Claire think of early February as a hiccup. Look at what pulled you back to the old pattern so you can recognize it and replace with healthier thoughts,choices,and supports. You did a whole month. You can do this!

  13. Thanks for the reminder that alcohol is NOT a de stressor !
    I’m 40 days sober today and after a very long and stressful day, this post reminded me to keep doing the relaxing things, and not to revert to thinking alcohol is the quick fix I need!
    For me, I’ve taken up running and this is a real stress buster. I like to listen to music and podcasts. I still feel pretty wobbly so have to keep reading sober blogs and books to keep my mind focused on the reasons I’m doing this!

    1. Congratulations on your 40 days Emma! Keep up the blog and book reading – think of it as sober homework. It will all pay off 🙂

      1. Thank you I will continue to te read the blog on stress. I’m now on two drugs citalopram and amitriptyline for anxiety….. what did I do last night? Drank! The urge is so great it’s horrid. Why why why do I do it. I’m loathing myself this morning and NEVER learn. I’m now desperate

  14. I’m taking small steps. Trying to have at least 5 AFDs a week. Then will look to have a month off and go from there. I hate hangovers and it’s common to loose half my morning trying to get out of bed on a weekend. If I don’t drink on a Fri/Sat night, I love to get up and go for a run.

  15. Today is day 38 AF for me and I am feeling like a real person again, like my true self. It’s been awhile since I’ve let myself surface. When I was drinking I thought of myself as such a chill person who always rolled with the punches. Turns out I was actually just numbed out all the time. Now that I’m AF, know what really does feel relaxing and stress-free? Waking up in the morning feeling joyful and hopeful about the day that lies ahead, rather than being jolted awake by the crushing thought: “Oh God did I drink again last night?” Followed immediately by “What stupid things did I say or do?” Talk about a stressful way to wake up. Now my first waking thoughts are of how filled with gratitude I am, and how I can look my beautiful children in the eyes knowing I am giving them my best sober self.

  16. They say that glutamine tablets are good for alcohol cravings. I’m trying them. May be the placebo effect, but I do think they help. You need to take them on an empty stomach.

    1. Any supermarket has it, not sure about the bottle shops. As someone said earlier the wine has to be very cold, it can be very sweet.
      A good alternative is a wine glass with sparkling water and fresh lemon and lime juice or for ‘red’ wine, sparkling water and cranberry (or any other berry) juice.
      Congratulations to all you ladies on the path to alcohol free living.

      1. I have discovered a new product called Seedlip an alcohol free gin
        I like it because it isn’t sweet, I don’t even need tonic have it with just
        sparkling mineral water

  17. I have been sober since the 1st January. I feel alive and well. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and people I’m meeting are commenting on how well I look. I spend my evenings sewing. I’ve never been so productive, My only problem is a husband who drinks every night and wants me to drink with him. Not sure how this will play out as I have no intention of having a drink.

  18. I’m so ready to be AF for good. I’m just prolonging the inevitable. I know how good it feels to be sober. I’m not sure why I’m hesitating. Maybe I’m afraid of being a failure after feeling so passionately. I hope I can do it.

    1. Deciding that you’ll take a break from booze is a good place to start. It helps you avoid the overwhelm of quitting ‘forever’. If you’d like my support to stop drinking, do take a look at my online course. I’m still teaching the January class at the moment, so the next intake will be in April: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

  19. 45 days sober and what I have found helpful with breaking the habit, has been 30 minutes of yoga a day, which I do of an online yoga practice site so there is no excuse for not fitting it in when you want to do it. Secondly has been a pot of green tea that has now become a ritual in the evening and I share with my partner sometimes with a sweet treat 🙂 . Seems to be working so far !

    1. Yes Jude I completely agree; replacing my drinking with other “rituals” has been absolutely critical for me too. I’ve made meditation, tea-drinking, writing, yoga, and even the new direction I walk my dog into little, special, fun rituals that I look forward to throughout the day. All the best to you! Keep going!

  20. Day 1 here. I drank an O’douls and a Lacroix to help with getting through the night. I’ve been tapering off the last few days, but didn’t have anything left in the house and decided not to buy any on my way home.
    HUGE deal for me! Meditating at the Buddhist temple and support groups like these are saving my life

    1. Keep going Meg! I am struggling to stop as well. I made it three days then fell by the wayside for a few days but I am determined I will eventually make it!

  21. Love and agree with all these alcohol free doods , their blogs are awesome , inspiring , but where and how do I begin to break the cycle ? In other areas of my life I could probably say at the begining , but throwing my alcohol crutches into the skip and walking without them seems sooooo scarey . Do I just “feel the fear” and do it anyway ? Do I change my routine , I do what I call “around robin” which means going to the supermaket for something for tea , the obligatory bottle of wine , then walking my dog, then it’s almost wine o’clock ! Has anyone else got themselves out of this cycle ? Feel like a whimp asking , because the word STOP , springs to mind , just don’t do it like that anymore , but that strength weakens as the afternoon wears on can you advise me Kate what to do ? I’ve got my name down to jion your next session . Help !

    1. Hi Moya, it’s great that you’re on the waitlist for my next course – that is the best way for me to work with you and help you stop drinking. In the meantime, I’d recommend you work on cutting down the amount you’re drinking and building up the number of sober days you’re having each week. If you read through my blog archives I’ve got tons of tips for you. They’ll help you get into the right mindset for my course in April.

    2. There are great videos on YouTube from Annie Grace, author of the Naked Mind, she answers lots of questions about sobriety and temptation, she is like Kate, very inspirational x

  22. OMG!
    I’ve just had a fabulous long weekend in Ireland with my hubby and I didn’t touch a drop! I can’t believe it! I haven’t had a drink since 1st Jan this year and feel great! In fact my weekend was even better without booze(I can’t believe I’m actually typing that?)
    Usually when I come back from a break or a holiday I’m tired, hungover and miserable, I need another break to get over the one I’ve just come back from… crazy!
    This time I was up early every morning, clear headed, well rested and ready to sight see. It was abit tough around about 5 in the evening when I would usually start having a few drinks but as soon as I had some food it took my mind off it and I just drank AF beer.
    I have a big weekend away though soon with some girlfriends and usually it’s a boozey affair…… I am worried about it…. any tips would be welcome?

  23. I am sober 9 days today. I lost a whole beautiful day two weekends running suffering with hangover. Life is too beautiful and precious to be bleary eyed, fatigued , stressed. I have not even thought about it Xxx thank you for the updates Kate

  24. Loving being sober!
    Mood, temperament and sleep is so much better.
    Feel like I’m a better example to my daughter and a nicer wife to my Husband.
    Realising I need to forgive myself for my past drinking, robbed me of many events I wasn’t really present for due to being intoxicated!
    Don’t want to be like some people I know who are 30 years my senior and are still in the clutches of alcohol and as a consequence see daily life as an inconvenience until wine time! Sad to see.

  25. Okay, everyone. Today is day one for me. No wine in the house, nor will there be this evening at wine:thirty! Looking forward to being present with the kiddos and my boyfriend/husband guy. Thank you for this blog!

  26. We adopted a rescue dog so instead of coming home and crack Ne open the wine I change out of my work clothes and take him for a walk. He has been a great way for me to change my wine o’clck routine and replace it with something way healthier! It also gives me more energy to share evenings with my husband after our daughter goes to bed instead of passing out early and missing those special moments with him!

  27. Kate, I’m so very thankful to have found this blog. I was 10 years sober as of 2013 and have progressed rather rapidly with drinking. Stopping was not hard 10 years ago, but this time around I feel truly powerless to do so. Your emails/blog are a breath of fresh air and I hope to be “singing the same praises” very soon for myself.

  28. Thank you Kate, I have not yet stopped drinking but I’m preparing to, I’m reading your blogs and emails and other blogs written by women who have succeeded in sobriety. I’m now longing for this precious gift in my life and am so grateful for all the comments from your other readers, they are so inspirational for women like me who are on the brink of changing our lives for good. If you’re religious please say a prayer for me, if not, send me positive thoughts, I need them. And you Kate, I’d never have come to this stage without you

  29. Does anyone else have a problem with eating out in nicer restaurants where wine is all about. It still feels odd to be celebrating with others at a dinner and not joining in with a glass of wine. I know this is all about habits and is just in my head. I would welcome any tips or tricks as to how to still make it feel special, without using sugary substitutes. Thanks so much!

  30. Thanks Kate, I’m sitting here with another hangover, a headache that won’t go away and knowing I shouldn’t drink tonight but feel so powerless over it. The sad thing is I dislike myself so much for my weakness and stupidity. I know what it is doing to be but I keep doing it. I’ve signed up to you course and looking forward to your blogs.

  31. I have have just joined and I’m inspired by the comments on here. I have been drinking to excess for a few years and hate myself. I look older, have gained weight and beat myself up every day. I thought I was bad and that I was the only woman doing this! I am going to try for sobriety, thank you

  32. I’m 99 days sober today! After suffering 2 1/2 yrs w type 2 diabetes and 20 yrs of hard drinking, my body was done. So sick and swollen I couldn’t even get a shoe on, my wedding ring, ect. I’m so happy to report after 87 days of sobriety my dr took me off my diabetes meds! Im already so much better and effortlessly lost 21 lbs.I’ve been a sad woman in my 30’s feeling like a woman in my 60’s, until now! I’m free! And I still have many many hard days. I’m working from the inside out healing and forming healthy boundaries. And to my surprise, I’m inspiring to those around me,including former drinking pals! I’m team sobriety 100%! Sober and staying that way!!

  33. Hello Kate for my Birthday on April 2nd my gift to myself was to stop drinking wine! and its almost a month later I am alcohol free and to be perfectly honest I don’t miss it. It had gotten to a point that it was out of hand, I was drinking every night at least a bottle of wine to relax or switch off or just to forget and every morning I would wake to ask the question why? I had loss friends a new relationship with a man I was in love with and as I made my list this morning on why I quit it was a full page. I have to say its only been a month but I feel great! I have energy, I am sleeping, I have a positive attitude and my mind is clear. I will not get my relationships back that I loss but I will move on and make new relationships. But I want to thank you for this blog, I’ve enjoyed reading it.

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