I decided to quit drinking on January 1 this year. I’d woken up with a horrible hangover and decided I’d try for a month off the booze. In the last decade, I’d constantly been trying to figure out how to effectively stop drinking alcohol but I’d never even managed to do a full month off drinking. It’s now been nearly seven months since I’ve had an alcoholic drink.
Aside from the health benefits, the change has also provided incredible content fodder. I’ve written about it again and again: I Quit Drinking for Two Months, and the Only Downside Is I Can’t Shut Up About It, I Haven’t Had a Drink in Over 3 Months — This Is How I’m Feeling and What Happened When Popsugar Lifestyle Editor Sangeeta Kocharekar Swapped Shots For Self-Care.
So, because I think I’ve covered my story well, to say the least, I thought I’d share the stories of other women who quit drinking.
I reached out to one woman — Alex — who came up on my TikTok For You page last year and in fact was part of my inspiration for leading a life without alcohol. I then put a call out on my Instagram to find two more. To my surprise, I was bombarded with suggestions. If that’s anything to go by, it seems like it’s certainly becoming more and more common to quit booze.
If you’re thinking about doing it too and wondering how to stop drinking alcohol, or you’re simply just curious about what life would be like if you did, you’ll love reading the stories ahead. I know I did.
Alex, 26, 1 year sober
I worked in the entertainment industry and had crazy long and stressful hours. I got into an incredibly toxic relationship with alcohol, initially as a way to release stress. I then went through a breakup and moved cities, using it as an excuse to be social and get out of my shell. I was generally drinking most nights of the week, if not every.
The moment I decided to quit drinking I’d woken up for the fourth weekend in a row, crying my eyes out with the worst hangxiety. I decided then I had to make a change and stop wasting my life. My mental health was hanging on by a thread. I decided that if I knew that my negative mental health issues and feeling of stagnation were caused by drinking, then I needed to stop and try to take the steps to fix it.
I did used to get awkward not drinking, usually at bars and house parties where there’s a lot of standing around and talking. Now, if I go out, I exclusively go to places I know I can dance since movement really helps. And, if I’m bored, I know that’s my cue to get an early night.
My advice for anyone who’s looking to quit drinking is to connect with different people, especially in the wellness circle. As I didn’t drink, I started to do other activities like running, daily saunas, ice baths, and spin classes. I’ve met so many amazing people through these activities, the majority of whom don’t drink. Surrounding yourself with supportive people with a similar mindset will be your biggest key to success.
Jane, 45, 5 years sober
My drinking was much like anyone else’s and was probably considered pretty normal. I liked to have a drink after work with a friend, I went out on the weekends to bars and restaurants, and I’d drink wine with dinner. Where it became problematic to me was that I was past the point of intending to get drunk. I was tired of doing silly drunk things, drunk texting, waking up with a hangover – they absolutely get worse with age – and I just didn’t want to be that person anymore.
Inevitably, after a few drinks, I would be a bit drunk and then I’d make decisions that I wouldn’t have made sober and end up the next day full of regrets. For me, I felt like it was holding me back from being the person I could be. I had a feeling that if I could stop drinking, life would get a lot better. I would be better.
I stopped drinking six months before my 40th birthday. I was in New York. I’d just had an epic holiday with my friends and I decided that was it. I had tried to quit earlier that year and it didn’t stick. I’d previously tried to moderate, I’d tried to stick to only having two drinks, I’d tried having several alcohol-free days a week, and it all became too hard. So, I decided that rather than try and moderate my drinking, I would just go without.
I hardly told anyone when I quit drinking because I was scared of failing. When I made it to a year and posted about it on my Instagram announcing to the world I was sober it was a really proud moment for me. People were so supportive it blew me away.
Life is easier when I’m not drinking. I show up to things. You can count on me. I’m a better friend, sister, aunt. I’m more reliable — if I say I’m going to do something I’ll do it. I won’t suddenly be too hungover because I drank more than I meant to the night before. I don’t waste days. I treat myself more kindly. Oh my gosh, life is so much easier. Everything is easier.
Not drinking isn’t as awkward as you’d think. You can go to a wedding sober or on holidays or catch up with your friends. You don’t need to drink to make any of that fun. I don’t go to a lot of bars anymore but if I do there’s a point in the night when everyone is taking it up a notch that I’ll go home. I do get FOMO when I see cute wine bars that I’d like to sit in and sometimes I’m nostalgic for the days when I would have sat in them but it’s pretty rare that I miss it at all. When I wake up with a clear head and it is always worth it.
The advice I’d tell someone who’s considering stopping drinking is: “Don’t start with forever”. I started with 100 days. For 100 days I could do anything except drink. No matter what happened or how I felt, I could not drink. I could do anything else: cry, scream, go for a walk… I ate a lot of sugar, but I did not drink.
After 100 days, I didn’t want to drink again yet so I decided to try for six months. After six months, I extended it to a year. Now it’s six years later and I just don’t want to go back. Start small and give yourself an end date so you feel like you achieved your goal. Go on from there. It gets easier.
Beck, 41, 2 years sober
I’d managed to wean myself off drinking during the week but then used to binge drink on either Friday or Saturday night. I found it very hard to have an ‘off’ button.
The moment I decided to stop drinking was the morning after I went to a friend’s dinner party and then dragged everyone out to a bar. I came home and left the front door wide open. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember anything. I had a huge anxiety attack and thought “enough is enough”! I quit that day.
This was after a string of other nights like this. Not every weekend, but they were happening more and scared the hell out of me. Firstly for my safety and secondly, I didn’t know if I had embarrassed myself. I couldn’t deal with the lack of control. And the 4am anxiety attacks it created. I would wake up with my heart pounding and I would have trouble breathing. Plus, looking after my kids on a hangover the next day was just horrible.
I had tried to stop drinking a few times but could only make it for about two weeks. I then decided to join a 6-month course-slash-challenge that I had found, and it was life-changing. I received expert advice and did the challenge with a group of people. I think when you do it together, first of all, you don’t want to let the others down and the support you get from each other is so inspirational and encouraging.
We learnt how to change our way of thinking, sit with all our uncomfortable feelings and not numb out as I had previously done. After about three months, I started to feel amazing and knew I didn’t want to go back. Just those beautiful mornings when you wake up with a clear mind and energy to deal with the day. It never gets old.
I would be lying if I didn’t sometimes think, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go out to a dinner party and be able to drink?”. Though, I have learnt some tricks. Once I eat, that craving usually ends. I also don’t stay at a house party or bar too long to be tempted. I focus on the positives of not drinking when I am out. Like, what I am going to do the next morning, like going for a run and not having an awful headache the next day. And spending quality time with my kids.
Not drinking doesn’t make me an incredible person but it does allow me to be so much more present with my kids. Exercise in the morning has been key to all of this too. It gives me the mood-enhancing feeling that alcohol once gave me.
What I’d say to anyone looking to stop drinking is to put the work in. It’s really hard to just white-knuckle it. If you think you are depriving yourself, you won’t survive long without drinking. Learn how to turn around how you look at drinking. There are loads of fabulous courses, therapists, podcasts, and books out there. If you put in the work, you will be much more successful. I also developed this line of merch that normalises and celebrates being sober.