I’m often asked how. More than any question I receive, it’s always how. How do I quit drinking alcohol and live more? There’s always a stutter step in my typed reply, a huge hesitation. I don’t know HOW in a general, universal sense to quit drinking alcohol – I only know how I did it. And since I’m knocking on the door of 4 years of sobriety in January, it’s time for me to put my how into a post for you to read or skim or save for a rainy day or when the time is right.
HOW I QUIT DRINKING
I quit drinking on January 19, 2020. It’s actually pretty funny that I remember this date so specifically, as if it’s embedded into my personal code. I don’t count days in sobriety and never have, even in the beginning. More on that later, though. For now, I’ll tell you that prior to January 19, 2020, I hadn’t considered quitting drinking alcohol. I actually didn’t think it was an option for me – I had assumed that sobriety was reserved for addicts and alcoholics, relegated to church basements and lifetime declarations. That wasn’t my story.
My party girl college phase followed me well into my 20’s, and brought along with it a string of blackouts, one night stands and endless regrets. My relationship with alcohol had been problematic for a decade. I knew it and I felt it deep in my bones with every hangover and 3am wake up. When I met my husband at 30, I was ready turn the page to a fresh new chapter – one that didn’t include bottomless mimosas and lost phones and regretful texts. Our dating was alcohol-soaked at first, but we slowly found the ground beneath our feet and settled into a stable relationship. Our drinking became less. We moved, married and had our first baby within 3 years of meeting. Because when you know, you know and there is just no time waste.
In 2015 with my first baby.
DRINKING AND MOTHERHOOD
I welcomed the slower pace that motherhood offered and I was determined to make smarter choices when it came to alcohol. Growing up with a dad who drank too much, I knew too well that alcohol could come before parenting, love. I would do it differently. And, for the most part I did, despite Mommy Wine Culture and the barrage of messages convincing moms that wine is essential for motherhood.
For 6 years, I moderated my drinking with “success.” I didn’t blackout. I didn’t get tipsy around my kids. I rarely got drunk, save for a kids-free trip to NOLA to celebrate a friend’s wedding. Except I still HATED my relationship with alcohol. The shame I felt after drinking 3 glasses of wine felt identical to the shame that weighed me down in my 20’s. Identical. I was in a cage, assuming that I just hadn’t figured out the correct way to drink. If I could just drink in a more orderly fashion, I could declare success over alcohol.
It wasn’t until I gave myself a chance to break free from alcohol and cut it out completely that I experienced true freedom. And I’m so excited to share that with you.
HOW TO QUIT DRINKING AND LIVE MORE
Before I quit drinking, I assumed that living a life without alcohol would be a life of deprivation, filled with so much wanting and too much missing out. Damn, if I only knew then what I know now.
Very early into my sobriety journey, I began shifting my thinking around alcohol. Once I felt safe enough to tell the truth about the role alcohol had played in my life, it became very clear the destruction it had caused. It was essential for me to separate myself from this, and instead focus on alcohol. In doing this, I was able to see alcohol for the problem it is, rather than blaming myself and dragging myself over the coals for mistakes I’d made. Lord knows I’d felt enough of that in my life. I had been shouldering all of the blame, rather than seeing alcohol for the highly addictive poison that it is.
Once I could see alcohol clearly for what it is, I was able to slowly begin to build a full life without it.
THE IMPACT OF ALCOHOL ON YOUR HEALTH AND LIFE
Did you know that alcohol is ethanol? I didn’t. It wasn’t until I quit drinking that I felt secure enough to take a cold, hard look at what alcohol is and how it affected my health and my life. There are amazing resources and experts who know far more about this than I do:
BENEFITS OF NOT DRINKING ALCOHOL
This list could take up this entire post, but here are the benefits of not drinking alcohol that I’ve personally noticed:
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
- Increased patience with my kids
- Increased energy
- Better skin tone and texture
- More motivation to take care of my body with exercise and good food
- Deeper relationships
- More connection
If you want to take a deep dive on the benefits of not drinking alcohol, I highly recommend listening to my friend Gill Tietz’s podcast, Sober Powered.
SETTING REALISTIC GOALS FOR QUITTING ALCOHOL
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a success/failure thing. Far from it. This is your life’s journey of telling the truth about and examining the role alcohol has played in your life. This isn’t about white-knuckling and Day Ones. Chances are, you’ve already tried that and have ended up feeling deprived and bitter. This is something different. Better.
Moderation can be a very important chapter in your sobriety story. Often, we need to moderate to be able to see how much mental energy it takes, and to get sick and tired of alcohol taking up so much room in our precious lives. That’s OK. You’re not failing. In fact, you’re well on your way to a life without alcohol. As long as you’re noticing the effects of alcohol on your mental and physical health, you’re one step closer to a life without alcohol.
HOW TO DEVELOP HEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS & ALTERNATIVES
This is where we talk not about removing something (alcohol), but everything we gain. Chances are if you’ve been drinking for years (decades?), alcohol is going to leave behind some gaps. What will fill in those gaps?
HEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS
- Journaling (Not sure where to start? Listen to this podcast episode where we talk all about it!)
- Getting fresh air
- Listening to a sobriety podcast or Quit Lit
- A change of scenery
- Calling a friend
- Water – Taking a bath, swimming laps, taking a shower
- Listening to music
- Crying (Yes, give in to it! It feels so good and actually releases oxytocin and endorphins.)
EASY MOCKTAIL RECIPES
No, you won’t be stuck drinking sparkling water until the end of time! For many, mocktails are a great alternative to alcohol. It hit me on a recent vacation just how much variety is in sobriety. The mocktail choices are endless! Play around and find out what you love.
Looking for simple mocktails? I share 21 of my favorite mocktail recipes in an E Book just for you!
HOW TO CREATE A PLAN TO QUIT
You’re ready to explore a life without alcohol and I’m sure you’re feeling ALL the things – excited, motived, and terrified. Good! You’re off to a great start.
Community is key in early sobriety, and you might not have people IRL who are examining their relationships with alcohol, too. That’s OK. You’re SO not alone. We have the most supportive women in the Cafe who are doing just that! We meet 4+ times a week and have an exclusive Discord channel where they connect all day (and night) long.
Other simple steps you can take? Remove all alcohol from your house. Then, when a craving hits during the witching hour, you’ll give yourself a chance to see that you CAN feel it, and it WILL pass. (I recorded a podcast episode on the witching hour! Listen to it here.)
HOW TO DEAL WITH WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS AND CRAVINGS
A note: Alcohol detox is extremely dangerous and life-threatening. If you are detoxing, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t go it alone.
Once you’re out of danger, you may still experience cravings, which is totally normal. Remember, so much of drinking can be habitual, and it can take some time to create new habits and lay new neural pathways. If you’re experiencing intense cravings that won’t let up, please seek medical help. There are medications available to help, but always talk with your Doctor before taking any medication.
When cravings hit, refer to your list of healthy coping mechanisms above. It will pass and you will get stronger and stronger with each craving that passes.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES, SLIPS AND STAYING MOTIVATED
Change isn’t linear, and quitting drinking is no exception. Try not to let slips be your whole story. If it happens, it’s OK and understandable! How many chances did you give alcohol? How many years did you drink it? As much as we want it to be a switch that we can flip off, that’s most likely not that case. And that’s OK.
It’s helpful to keep in mind the 5 Stages of Change. My mom, our resident therapist, and I recorded a podcast episode about the 5 Stages – listen to it here.
Our SML Cafe community is here to help remind you of what you know and how much you’ve learned, while celebrating each and every milestone along the way.
CELEBRATING MILESTONES AND REWARDING YOURSELF
Let’s talk about rewards! Now is the time when you can spoil yourself and celebrate every little milestone. Make it through your first witching hour without wine? Reward yourself! Whether that means a treat before dinner (don’t worry about sugar right now), or your favorite Bravo TV show, it’s so important to reward yourself for those smaller moments, too. They’re the building blocks that will add up to a full life without alcohol.
In my early sobriety, I would reward myself with new workout clothes when I hit special milestones. It felt like a great way to spoil myself, while also motivate me to continue working out. A win, win.
EMBRACE A SOBER LIFESTYLE AND RECLAIM YOUR LIFE
Despite what society (and Big Alcohol) would have us believe, quitting alcohol is NOT about deprivation. In fact, it’s the opposite. Connection, joy, curiosity, childlike wonder, freedom and so much more are waiting for you, and alcohol is a barrier to all of it.
For more of my perspective on my sobriety and all that has come from it, listen to this episode – How I Think About My Sobriety
Looking for a sober community, but not sure where to start? Here! I created The Sober Mom Life Cafe for women who want to examine their relationship with alcohol without judgment or shame.
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