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How I Quit Drinking

August 23, 2012
By Guest Blogger
|39Comments|


Three years ago today, I quit drinking. I was 27 years old and a regular social drinker. But I was also a health coach working at a nutrition school and I was training for the Big Sur marathon. These two parts of me — party animal and health nut — were not in alignment. After a weekend partying in London with friends, I decided to stop drinking until the marathon, which was a month later.

After the marathon, everyone asked “Are you going to start drinking again?” And I said, “No, I’m feeling much better, so I’m going to keep not drinking.” And I was feeling so much better — I had rocked the marathon, I was more focused at work, I was getting better sleep and waking up with more energy, and my life had less unnecessary drama and more calm. I knew there was no turning back.

Despite how much better I felt, stopping drinking was not the easiest thing to do, for several reasons:

1. My social life revolved around it. Getting a glass of wine with a friend, going to bars on the weekends, having wine at dinner, parties with my big Irish family, weddings, holidays, cocktail hours, Jazz Fest in New Orleans, beer at concerts.

2. Drinking was a way to unwind. So stopping meant that I needed to find other ways to unwind.

3. It made me stand out. It made me different. People asked questions. I didn’t want people to think I was an alcoholic. Drinking was part of the script, and changing that was uncomfortable.

4. I was single at the time. I thought it would be strange to date and enter future relationships as a non-drinker. I live in NYC and people in NYC drink!

But I was clear that alcohol and I did not go well together, and I knew I wanted to stop for good.

I’d like to share some of my tips and the things I learned. The scope of this post is not to address a serious drinking problem, but if you think you have one, please do seek professional help. Rather, the idea is to share some details of what it was like to stop, some tips, and some things that surprised me along the way.

Here goes:

1. You can still go out with your friends. I continued to go out with my friends, and I would just order soda water with cranberry and lime. I didn’t make it a secret that I wasn’t drinking alcohol, but I also didn’t make a big deal about it and I never made anyone feel defensive about their own drinking.

2. You can make up an excuse. There are a million reasons you might not drink, so go ahead and give whatever one makes you feel at ease. You’re on antibiotics, you’re pregnant, you have to drive, you’re doing a cleanse, you have to get up early tomorrow, you’re running a marathon.

3. Yes, your friendships will change. I think people worry a lot that their friendships might change if they stop drinking. Accept that they may change and be confident that you can handle that gracefully. Some friendships may fall away — that happened to me. Other friendships got better. Some people were thrilled, because they used to be the only one not drinking. Change is the only constant in life. It just didn’t occur to me that so many things would change for the better; that was a pleasant surprise.

4. You will be better rested. I didn’t realize how much drinking on the weekends was wearing me out. Sure, I could party and train for marathons, but at what cost? It’s the combination of alcohol and staying out late that’s so exhausting. When I stopped drinking, I would still go out, but usually be home in bed by 12 instead of staying out till 2 or 3. On Saturday or Sunday morning, I would feel so much better, it was amazing. It was like I gave myself a huge gift of time and rest.

5. You will find new ways to unwind. When I stopped drinking, it was springtime, and it actually kicked off a little renaissance in my life. I took some of the buckets of money I was saving and treated myself to a massage. I started hiking with Outdoor Bound; I did the Artist’s Way course with Julia Cameron; I started meeting friends for juice or yoga instead of wine. I began to see drinking as a rather uncreative way to socialize and unwind, and found juicier stuff to do.

6. The right guy won’t mind. I’m in a great relationship now and my boyfriend likes that I don’t drink. When we have something to celebrate, I’ll order a virgin mojito, or I’ll ask a bartender to make me something “festive and fruity with no alcohol.” They are good at that. I’m an awesome designated driver and a cheap date — what’s not to like?

7. It’s not a big deal, in terms of social pressure. I thought it would be such a big deal! Especially the first time I went to a wedding and didn’t drink, or New Year’s Eve, or an office Christmas party. In the beginning, I felt kind of nervous and uncomfortable, but I soon realized that it’s not a big deal. Events that are fun are still fun.

8. It’s a big, huge deal. For me, stopping drinking was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’m so grateful I had the courage to do it. I haven’t looked back once over these past 3 years.

I hope this is helpful and that, if you want to stop drinking or even just take a break, you can see it’s possible, not so scary, and can open up lots of wonderful new possibilities in your life.

Kerry Monaghan is a Certified Health Coach at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. She supports patients to make powerful choices to support their health and healing.

Photo credit: Evan G



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39 responses to How I Quit Drinking
  1. That is a really good post and it’s great that you shared this! I quit drinking 2 years ago because I am an alcoholic and I had no choice. I had hit bottom and if didn’t quit I was going to lose everything. It was the best decision I have ever made. When I quit, I started eating better and I started running. I lost 40lbs. and will be doing my second half marathon in November along with my first full in February 2013. I love this way of life and I know I can never take another drink and that it perfectly fine with me. Again, thanks for sharing!

  2. Great and very helpful post. I go back and forth about drinking, knowing I feel better without alcohol, but also enjoying a drink now and then. But really I feel it’s not worth it, and this article puts it in clear perspective. Thanks! And to Regina – good for you girl! xoxo

  3. This is a great article and came just at the right time! I actually visited a traditional Chinese doctor today to see if he could recommend a treatment that would aid my weight loss. I eat healthy, I exercise, but somehow I still have these 8 to 10 pounds that I can not shed. The first thing he mentioned was: do you sleep well? Do you drink? He said your liver is tired. You need acupuncture, no coffee and no alcohol. I was definitely inspired to read your article! Thank you.
    Not to mention that I am also training to become a Holistic Health Coach and my party lifestyle is really starting to not fit in with my future plans. :)

  4. Regina, thanks so much for sharing and congratulations! I think of that as the “domino effect” of healthy choices. Good luck on your upcoming races. And thank you to Jamie and Gio as well. Gio, I love the advice of your doctor … it’s a good reminder to get plenty of rest and go easy on the caffeine too :)

  5. OMG. Thank you for this article. I stopped drinking months ago and have been getting so much grief for it. I could not believe how much of a big deal people made this out to be. I, like yourself tried the whole going out and getting a soda or juice but the comments got to be too much. As a result my social life has suffered severely (I work in finance- everyone drinks!) but I just feel better this way. I’ve been down about this for a long time but just keep trucking on hoping to meet more like minded people or accepting people. It’s nice to see its not just me.

  6. Thank you for an insightful article about making personal choices and how to frame them to your family and friends who might not understand them or judge them. For a time in my life in my early 20s when I first moved to NYC, I had a lot of “friends” that engaged in the use of drugs. It was not a something that I embraced, nor did I approve of, so I did not engage in those activities that were a normal part of their social lives. I was an athlete and I didn’t want to pollute my body with toxins. I worked way too training and practicing to undermine it with unwanted chemicals, stimulants, and other substances to “relax”. Those “friends” did not understand my choice not to engage or participate and judged me for it, saying that I was a prude. Needless to say, some of those friendships fell away while others accepted my choices as the resident psycho workout-a-holic health nut. I am much more selective with the friendships that I cultivate, respecting the choices, but certainly favoring people whose lifestyles and philsophies are more congruent with mine.

  7. m said on August 23, 2012

    I basically quit drinking awhile ago. I do have an occassional glass of wine with a friend, or a sip (OK glug) of my boyfriends frosty beer on a hot day….
    I found that in social situations, if I walked around with a glass of water (or whatever) that no one ever even noticed that I wasn’t drinking. There were no questions or comments. It was really easy.
    No worries. I do feel better. My body thanks me. I don’t really miss it at all.
    I do enjoy a really good glass of wine with really good company for an occassion, I will not deny myself that gift, and now it doesn’t seem to lead to two or three…..

  8. Joanna, I’m sorry to hear you got grief for stopping drinking. I actually had a similar experience to “m” … I found that as long as I was holding a glass even if it was just water, people really didn’t notice. I think there’s a combination of being certain of my decision + not making other people defensive that I was able to capture. The marathon also was something people could understand and was a good conversation-starter, so that helped to take the focus off drinking/ not drinking. Good for you for sticking with it and I hope you find more like minded souls, I’m sure you will!

  9. I really needed this! I’ve been going back and forth in my head the idea of quitting drinking. I don’t drink often, but every time I do I end up really depressed the next day. This last time I drank, the following 2 days I had full blown anxiety attacks. It just doesn’t seem worth it at all. I’ve wondered how my social life will change. I’m going to try it… see how I feel, how I can manage it with my social life. I’m excited to see how it goes :) Thank you

  10. I slowly tapered off and stopped drinking a few years ago. I started meditating and, it was funny, I would order a beer or a wine but after a certain point I just couldn’t drink it. I would have a sip or two and then slide it over to my boyfriend (score! free booze!). I don’t miss it, but I have had moments of missing the socializing that went along with it. Hanging out on a patio for hours, talking about everything. Having dinner with friends and lingering over a few glasses of wine. I realized, that it was actually those connections I was missing, not the alcohol. My new thing is tea. There are so many different kinds, I have my beautiful teapots and cups and it’s something to be shared and lingered over.

  11. I have been struggling with the same thing. It increases your sugar and estrogen (or so I am told) in my body and as a breast cancer survivor- I really shouldn’t be drinking. I don’t sleep well when I do- and I tend to have hot flashes after I drink and they can last several days to a week. So thanks for making me feel so not alone.

  12. I was so happy to read this article!!! I don’t have a drinking problem, but I simply choose not to drink. I date a man who has been sober for 20 years, and it feels good to be with someone who also doesn’t drink – although for different reasons. The older I get, the more I realize that drinking doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I’m glad to see I’m not alone.

  13. Great post! I love to hear when people are “choosing” not to drink. I made that decision back in 1988, I was 30 years old and wanted no part of the NYC party life anymore. Although I sometimes feel very alone in a world that glamorizes alcohol, I love living alcohol-free and have never had any desire to start drinking again. I love that I’m able to be a sober role model for kids and show them that they have a choice and that not “everyone’s” social life revolves around drinking…

    Cheers to being sober and free!

  14. This is a great post…Thank You in advance. I am an alcoholic…but the “ism” is just a part of me, it’s not all of who I am. I can’t drink because 1 is too many and 99 is not enough. Kerry, I do like the way you came at it in such a positive approach. The label “alcoholic” is such a stigma, people don’t know what to say to me, when I tell them I’m an alcoholic. It’s almost as if an elephant was dropped in the room from 50 feet above. I shouldn’t have to say I’m on an antibiotic in this day and age, but I seldom do just so that elephant doesn’t appear at a social function or a charitable event. Maybe one day it will be accepted but until then, I will just enjoy all the gatherings and knowing that I can leave in my own car whenever I want to, soberly.
    I hope your day is filled with sunshine and laughter.
    Michele

  15. !thanks for your post! have been tossing up whether to stop drinking altogether for quite a while now, i too work really hard at being healthy most of the time but most weekends seem to undo this by binge drinking(such a big part of Australian society where we usually start at 13-14yrs of age!) I generally get mild anxiety and post-drinking blues but it’s also my risky behaviour while under the influence of alcohol that concerns me. The shame and regret the day after i feel chipping away at my self-esteem. If i think about it most negative events in my life have all had one common factor-alcohol. The thought of not drinking altogether is scary. But i know that i would flourish in my life without it. Apart from AA are there any other ways that you can suggest to support in changing in to a non-drinker?

  16. E.N., yes, that Aussie binge-drinking habit starts early, doesn’t it? Your story sounds so similar to mine – all that chipping away at your self-esteem is so debilatating and completely unecessary. I’m pretty sure you deserve better! When I first stopped drinking it was so hard, no point denying it – my complete life was based around drinking with “friends”. For me, stopping drinking meant the sudden disappearance of my “friends”. But I managed! The relief of feeling shame-free spured me on, life got better and easier and clearer. Perhaps you may think about seeing a councillor, or a psychologist for support instead of AA – they may help you have a look at any issues that may be at the root of your drinking. You can do it! Find a focus, put in the effort, get determined – yes!

    xxt

  17. I find you article very inspiring. I’m trying to quit drinking and read this made me feel better about my decision. At 22, I realized that I couldn’t control my drinking and the results were making me anxious, embarrassed and unhappy. So, I decided that I should stop drinking before it becomes a bigger problem. I think some of my friendships that were based on alcohol and partying are falling apart but if that’s what it takes to make me feel better and make me happier I’m willing to let go and meet new people who have more in common with the new me and even reconnect with old friends who weren’t too happy about my drinking habit.
    Thanks for sharing your experience so that others can learn from it!!
    Lilly

  18. Thanks Tracy :) very inspiring to hear your experience and great suggestions-thank you – My journey begins today. xx

  19. All the best for you, E.N. – go for it! xxt

  20. Love how you create not drinking as way more interesting and empowering than drinking. If you want to excel, look at what everyone else is doing, and do the opposite. :)

    It took me a long time to put two and two together.. the use of alcohol was keeping me from being the person I want to be. Alcohol-free for nearly two years…I am happier, healthier, and wealthier! What’s not to love?!

    Did you know that 70% of all rapes, including date rape, involve alcohol? Startling statistic and a place where the attention could be to create greater safety for ourselves and each other.

    Thanks for a great post!

  21. I have been sober for almost 1 year working a 12 step program through Al Anon.
    I love feeling clear in social situations without the numbness that would eventually come with getting buzzed. Occasionally I miss a glass of wine but if I take it one day at a time, I don’t need it. My self esteem has increased and I am taking better care of myself. I have more sober friends now and when you take the alcohol away, it’s amazing how much more real we can be. Thank you!

  22. Thanks so much for this article! I was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis- an autoimmune disease which attacks my joints. Although I do not have visible joint destruction, it’s extremely painful. The treatment is a low dose of chemotherapy and doctor’s orders are no drinking. I was an occasional drinker. Mostly, I enjoyed winding down with a nice glass of wine after work. Part of me was devastated that I was told I cannot do sometching and the other part of me felt this aligned more with my personal philosophy. It is difficult in social situations as most things seem to revolve around cocktails. I find it bothersome to watch people excessively drink. I start to feel upset about people causing harm and taxing their otherwise healthy bodies. I’m sure this will pass. I do feel better without alcohol and am learning how to unwind without it. Thanks again!

  23. After 25 years of drinking (starting at the age of 12), I have been struggling with leaving alcohol in my past. I am also an estrogen+ breast cancer survivor. One study showed a >30% increase in recurrence among women who have a drink a day. In San Francisco, wine is woven into the fabric of our lives. It’s been a huge change, but one with many positive benefits. More money & energy on the top of the list!

  24. This is brave! I have started to be suspicious that drinking is related to my struggles with depression (duh, it’s a depressant). I have greatly scaled back my drinking, but I do notice that when I drink regularly, I don’t do as much yoga and meditation, and I have much less patience with myself and my children.
    My best friend in the world just found out she is pregnant, so this might be the perfect time for me to “take a break” from alcohol, and just see what it can do for me to go without.
    Thank you for the inspirational words!

  25. I am going through the social ramifications of cutting out the alcohol right now. This is great advice. I had to give up the sauce for a while because I am recovering from a concussion. Since alcohol is a neurotoxin, it had to go.
    The boost of energy, extra money, and disappearance of hangovers have all been great additions to my life. I’m doing yoga every morning, even on Saturday and Sunday! However, it gets awkward around some of my friends. I never realized how much of my social life (and work life) revolved around alcohol until this injury.
    While abandoning cocktails has been difficult at times, it’s also been an eye opening experience. I think everyone could learn a lot about themselves and their bodies going on the wagon, at least for a little while.

  26. Wow, I was away for the weekend and I’m just reading through all these lovely comments. Thank you so much to all for sharing your stories. We can all learn so much from each other. I honor each of you on your journey! Lots of love to all. Kerry

  27. Fair play to all your lovely messages, It’s amazing that so many of us share such similar histories and dreams. I have been in an emotional and dramatic, to say the least, relationship with alcohol for years and years. I fully understand the feelings that can follow any given weekend. Pretending to laugh off risky behaviour to my friends but internally dying, talking out and listening to the many many offensive things that get said without anyone really having a clue what actually happened. Anyway, unemployment has kinda helped me to give up drinking. I just couldn’t justify the expense anymore and then I realised I was waking up happier and not worried about the night before. So I think I may try to continue on this road, the sober one and even though I know it may be hard, I am really grateful to know there are so many of us out there. xx

  28. Great post and thank you for sharing. I’m 26 years old right now and I’m trying to decide if giving up ALL alcohol is right for me. I gave up drinking anything hard a couple months ago as it was leaving me depressed the next day just like Nicole. I decided to just enjoy wine and it’s been helpful but I wonder how I would feel if I gave up the wine too? I look back and I remember weeks where I didn’t drink I felt amazing and full of energy. Hmm maybe it’s time! Like you mentioned, I’ll have to find a new way to unwind. This will be a challenge but a good one! Thanks for sharing your tips.
    -Michelle {LiveLoudly}

  29. First day of no drinking for me! I have given up for a
    Month or 2 over the years but always get sucked back into annihalating myself which also leads to using cocaine (no good and way to expensive). I’m 31 now and think alcohol has no good future for me! I would say their is no point have drinking buddies who don’t really care about you! Hope I have a prosperous alcohol free journey. Redbush tea is my new tipple try it you might like it ;-)’ All the best everyone!

  30. This is awesome! I gave up drinking for 3 months while getting rid of Candida, and as soon as I was allowed to, I easily got pressured into doing it again. Now, when I drink, I get depressed for days afterwards…not fun. Still, it’s hard to give it up at 24 when its a social thing that everyone does. There is this stigma that drinking makes you fun and you start to believe that you can only be fun if you are drinking. I’m looking forward to taking this advice and learning to ease off again until I can give it up completely.

  31. Day 7. A full week under my belt nearly faltered over the weekend ;-)’

  32. Hello,
    Your post just solidified why I need and can stop drinking. I am a social drinker and never felt I had an issue with alcohol. I have had some pretty intense health issues this past year and have cut down significantly. I do sleep much better and have more energy, I don’t have much to begin with but hope to regain a lot of that with clean eating. So, yes quiting drinking would be a very smart decision for me. Thank you for your post and the encouragement that it has given me.

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  34. Liz said on May 31, 2013

    Alcohol takes everything from you. It pretends to be your friend until it has you in its grasp and then you
    spend your life struggling to escape its clutches. But when you do manage to escape it is the most amazing feeling of peace and freedom in the world. Check out this book for loads of inspiration on how you can escape the alcohol trap

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  35. Thanks designed for sharing such a nice thinking, piece of
    writing is nice, thats why i have read it fully

    • This is what I needed to understand and hear this the most right now! I’m a very beginner in giving up drinking. Thank you!

  36. Great to read what you have to say about quitting drinking. Where you say “its clear that alcohol and I did not go well together, and I knew I wanted to stop for good.” That really resonates with me. I’m at that point now and reading your words makes me feel positive about making the change. And yes, change is the only constant in life which makes me realise that just because I’ve drank for around 17years of my life, it doesn’t have to mean that I have to do the same for the remaining years. I can change my mind as i realise that drinking is no good for me and i don’t need to continue doing it in order to ‘fit in’, or moreso for the fear of NOT ‘fitting in’.
    Thanks for this and love and respect to all who are in the same place, it feels great to realise I am not alone. We can do this!! X

  37. I’ve never posted a comment in my life (excluding Facebook) and that should give an indication of how passionate I am about this one topic.

    I’m a 27 year old male now and an absolute out of control party animal. However just like you I’m also a lifelong fitness freak. And the 2 don’t go together!

    I’ve tried quitting many times over the last few years and even managed 2 weeks sober whilst going out every night on a party island in Honduras. Whilst enduring all the comments!

    My problem is that I earn very decent money and end up travelling all over the world, mostly hunting down party islands. 30 days straight is not uncommon.

    My biggest problem and mental barrier would be the social change.

    I’m big on kitesurfing, BASE jumping, running, the lot. I’ve fought for 7 years to get residency in Australia.

    I’m popular, attractive, very confident and in great shape. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear that, facing the music is still so damn hard.

    What I’m trying to say is thank you for posting this. It’s inspiring and people like you help make a difference.

    I’ve just left a party island in Fiji and I’m off to Boracay for a month in a few days. I’m gona hit the kitesurfing and God help me stay off the bottle.

    And then we have Xmas and NY to deal with!

    My dream would be to post a similar article to yours. Mission complete! Thanks for inspiring!

  38. I forgot to mention the many reasons for quitting…

    Lost my driving licence at 17 drunk at the wheel

    Broke my arm in a street fight at 25

    Lost a thousand jobs thanks to alcohol along the way

    It completely messes with my fitness

    I’m a yes man. And it sure slows down my progress

    And you know all the other reasons. Endless…!

    I’m with you. It’s all about just how confident are you willing to be!