An Experiment in Sobriety

This post has taken me forever to write. I am still processing a fairly big (for me) life change, so here is my first attempt at sharing my story. More to come!

I’ve had a long and kind of weird relationship with alcohol (which is 100% tied to my anxiety and self-medicating). Or so I thought. Once I started writing and talking about it, many many many women opened up to share similar stories, some of which I’ve shared below.

Six weeks ago I decided to take a break from alcohol entirely. It started with promising myself a week of sobriety just to see how it felt. That week went by and I felt so noticeably different in so many ways that I decided to keep it going. It’s now been six weeks and I’ve only had 3 drinks. Every single time I wished I hadn’t because of the inevitable headache and anxiety that followed.

Now I’m at the point where when I want to have a drink I will, but, and this sounds shocking even to me, I haven’t wanted one yet. My mental health is so much better. My physical health is so much better. I have more energy, I have less anxiety, I don’t get headaches anymore. I don’t wake up tired or groggy. And I don’t second guess the things I’ve said like I always did after a drink or two.

This all started when I got a touch too tipsy at a fancy wedding. It was such a fun night but the next morning I woke up with a hangover and terrible hangxiety. This was after many many weeks in a row of heightened anxiety that I now realize I was exacerbating by having a glass of wine every night or two.

I had been toying with the idea of taking an alcohol break (the kids these days call that sober curious) for a while. One of my good friends has been sober for 9 months and seeing how amazing she felt really inspired me. I asked her to share some of her story here:

Why I stopped drinking: I was not in a good place – incredibly stressed at work, drinking too often, not working out (which I love to do and missed).

How I stopped: I decided the mental math of “limiting” was never going to work for me. I failed at 2 nights a week, I failed at weekends only, I failed at only 4 drinks per week – there was always something that would lead me to botch these efforts. Going cold turkey meant the mental labor was over – no more trying to do wonky math to make my latest “rule” work, convincing myself Thursday counted as the weekend – etc. It became “zero, it’s just not even an option”. I found that was actually way easier. The hardest part to start was the muscle memory of a glass of wine while cooking dinner. I still make sparkling water with lime (in a fancy glass) to kind of anchor my day vs night. 

How I feel: 9 months later – I feel incredible. No weight loss or any number improvement, but I feel so much physically and mentally lighter regardless. No drink tastes as good as sobriety feels 🙂

When I decided to take a break, she was a great support system and cheerleader. When I had a night out or family in town, she would check in via text and encourage me in a non-judgmental way.

She also encouraged me to talk about it instead of just pretending to drink ala pregnancy days. For the first few weeks I would hold a canned cocktail or glass of wine while out with friends because I was embarrassed to explain my situation. But now I’ve told almost everyone and it’s so not the big deal that I thought it would be. No one cares! They’re more just curious about why I’m doing it and how I’m feeling. In fact, a few people have even joined me in this experiment.

I honestly have no idea what my future with alcohol holds. All I know is that I feel so much healthier and happier. I have more energy, my skin looks better, and best of all, my anxiety has improved dramatically.

Sobriety isn’t my whole personality trait, it’s just a choice I’ve made for myself. And the best part is that I’m in full control. If I want a fun cocktail or glass of wine, I’ll have one without judging myself. I just haven’t wanted one yet. Trust me, I never in a million years thought I would say that.

Here are just a few ways that my life has changed in the last six weeks:

Sleep: I wear an Oura ring at night to track my sleep and when I have even a single drink at 7pm, it changes my sleep and readiness scores for the night. In fact, after about a year of using it, I’ve noticed that the main factor in me not getting a good night sleep is when I drink. Go figure!

Sugar addiction: I mentioned this on Instagram last week but when I stopped drinking, I started replacing that sugar intake with candy. It started around Halloween and snowballed from there. I decided to quit candy cold turkey because it was becoming a real problem. This was harder for me than quitting the alcohol tbh. I had a terrible headache for two days straight!

Healthier food decisions: This really only applies to the days after I had more than one cocktail but I don’t feel like I need to carb load or eat greasy food to feel better in the mornings .

Weight: Quitting drinking, for me, had nothing to do with weight loss, but a nice added benefit is that my tummy is a whole lot flatter. I wasn’t expecting a drastic change but it has been one!

What I drink at night: If I’m having a stressful evening with the kids or feeling anxious after a hard day of work, I’ll take some CBD, pour myself a seltzer with some Seedlip (Garden 108 is my favorite) in it, and tell myself that if I still want a drink after I finish those, I can have one. I’ve yet to give in to that drink!

I’ve made a list of resources and anonymously shared some of your sober journeys below. I hope this inspires you to take the next step if that’s something you’re interested in. If not, zero judgment. You do you, I’ll do me, and that’s how it should be!

More Sober Curious Resources

1. What Alcohol Does To Your Body (Podcast): I highly recommend listening to the Huberman Lab podcast episode. It’s long (almost 2 hours) but worth it. I learned a lot about the physical and mental effects of alcohol both short and long-term.

2. Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington: I haven’t read this yet (I plan to), but it was recommended by multiple IG followers. According to them, it’s a non judgmental, positive book about sobriety in a drinking culture

3. Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker: If you watched And Just Like That, you have heard this title before. Miranda drunk buys it on Amazon then blacks it out.

4. Open Book by Jessica Simpson: Hear me out on this one. I read this memoire last year and was surprised at how much I loved it. Part of her story is getting sober. Unsure why it’s listed at $1.45 for the hardcover on Amazon which seems like a mistake.

5. The Sober Lush by Jardine Libaire and Amanda Eyre Ward: I ordered this book but haven’t read it yet although I’m excited to get started. The follower who sent it to me gave this review- “This was good to read because it focuses on fun, fancy alternatives to drinking which I needed and it frames sobriety as a badass choice rather than a buzz kill. Not sure many people have the budget for their particular brand of sobriety but it’s helpful in getting you to hone in on what you truly love about life in situations where alcohol may have normally been your default but didn’t need to be because fun things are fun without it.”

Even More Resources

I haven’t looked into any of these yet but they all come recommended to me

– This Naked Mind (Annie Grace)
– Easy Way For Women to Stop Drinking (Allen Carr)
– The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober (Catherine Gray)
– Nothing Good Can Come From This (Kristi Coulter)
– A Happier Hour (Rebecca Weller)
– Quit Like A Woman (Holly Whitaker)
– The Sober Diaries (Clare Pooley)
– Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety (Sacha Zimmerman Scoblic)
– Dry (Augusten Burroughs)
– Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (Sarah Hepola)

Your Sober Stories

“Stopping drinking had been on my mind towards the end of 2021 and through the beginning of 2022. I made the decision to stop drinking totally on Mother’s Day this year. I drank wine the previous night and just felt terrible and hungover on Mother’s Day – which was awful because it was my own fault. I was with my own Mother and my children and was so short tempered! I made the decision then – no more! I run and lift weights 5 days a week so drinking really didn’t fit in with my lifestyle. And I could see the affect of drinking when I slept at night with my Garmin watch.

My husband and I have always envisioned not having alcohol in the house while raising children – and I didn’t realize we would make the choice because of fitness (my husband is fitness focused too), but here we are. Both my husband and I have a family history of alcoholism so this really is best for us. I am currently training for my first marathon – so not drinking is really important to increase my fitness!!! I do miss drinking sometimes… but not how hungover I would feel! Saturday nights I will mix Topo Chico lime with orange juice in a wine glass and feel fancy. All in all, I am glad I am becoming the person I always envisioned – not drinking and health-focused – and thankful I got here the way I did (by choice). It really is great always feeling good :). Glad I made this choice at age 39!!!”

“I decided to quit drinking in the summer of 2020. I had been drinking more due to the pandemic and I was sick of waking up at 3am with anxiety and not being able to sleep. I also wanted to try taking medication for my general anxiety and thought that it would be best to not having alcohol, which I know is a trigger. I was super nervous to quit, as I still had friends weddings to attend, and my own!

It’s been a little over two years now and I am so happy that I did it. Weddings, even my own, have been more fun sober (shocking!). Not waking up hung over, angry at myself for again drinking too much is such a blessing. I do miss it sometimes, but the mental health benefits have been completely worth it.”

“I stopped drinking when my 2yo was going through a sleep regression. Being woken up constantly, and not able to sleep off my little self induced hangovers made me stop drinking. I was a ‘couple of glasses of wine’ to make it to bedtime kinda drinker. I gave up alcohol, don’t even get a drink at happy hour, because what’s the point? I feel SO GOOD. Happier, clearer mind, better partner and mom. Those few glasses of wine/couple of bottles a week we’re really not doing myself any favors. Truly never thought I’d give up my wine. It was such a part of my daily routine during peak COVID times. I’m so happy now and hope to not get back in the cycle.”

“I wouldn’t say that I ever had a drinking problem, but I was a consistent drinker with a one glass of wine each night regimen that became part of a nightly relaxation habit. A year or so ago, I started to notice just generally feeling fuzzy or cognitively foggy in the morning, and just off. I chalked it up to being overtired with 2 young kids. Then one night I decided not to drink and was almost shocked by how much better I felt at work the next morning. I work in medicine and it terrified me to think how I was almost impairing myself if that makes sense? I stopped drinking and only very rarely (ie vacation, wedding etc) will have a glass. I don’t want to be strict about sobriety because I don’t have a problem with one glass or anything, but I just feel so much better without it!!”

“I started my sober curious journey 60 days ago. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. I wasn’t drinking daily or often. But when I did I felt I couldn’t just have one. I found myself drinking after particularly tough days as a new mom and thought started to creep in… “if I had a drink during the day no one would know” so I made the decision to stop it in its tracks. I started to get the “ick” form mommy wine culture and when you’re out of it you start to see it even more as being strange and gross. Since stopping the biggest change is my energy and getting my weekends back. No more wasting away days with a headache from too much to drink. Im more present as a mom. Also I address my motherhood stresses head on, rather than thinking a glass of wine or beer will solve all my problems after bedtime.”

“I love this opportunity to talk about something I’m very passionate about- which is sobriety. My story is a probably a little different from others you’ll get l because I’m in my mid twenties and made the choice to stop drinking three years ago. I’ve always suffered from anxiety, and in college alcohol seemed like the perfect option- everyone said it would help me relax and it obviously would help me “fit in.” Except it didn’t seem to work for me the way it worked for everyone else. I would wake up the next morning crippled with the worst anxiety- like unable to leave bed anxious. For whatever reason the depressant side of alcohol hit me like a truck- and honestly? I never seemed to even hit that relaxed buzz everyone else did in the first place. It was just panicking out of control and then anxiety the next morning. But I was still an insecure, young college kid and I tried to make alcohol ‘work’ for me way longer than I should have.

And then…to cut a decades long story short, when I graduated college I briefly moved back home before I started my job and it became obvious that my mom had an escalating problem with drinking. This eventually escalated all the way to several traumatic injuries and ended with a stay in a detox and recovery center. It was at that point that I decided to cut ties with alcohol for good. So for me, the decision to take alcohol out of the equation wasn’t because I had some crazy rock bottom moment- it was because plain and simple it wasn’t serving me anymore, and I was frankly scared sober by what it was doing to my loved ones. To summarize for me- physically, mentally, and with a family history of alcoholism not drinking was the only choice for a healthy life. To this day it is still wildly confusing and a bit terrifying that alcohol is the only drug people continuously question why you don’t partake. As a young woman in my twenties I am constantly questioned about my choice not to drink. And the simple answer is because it’s the best, healthiest choice for me! In fact, I’m more fun, and a better person without alcohol. I’d love as a society to see a shift towards accepting and promoting sobriety as hard as we promote and glamorize alcohol.”

“I just felt like after the first year and a half of COVID I was using it to “process” stress and both good and bad emotions, and that it was an unhealthy crutch. I also read Quit Like A Woman and realized that it’s literally poison and it’s SO ingrained in our culture, which after you realize it, is kind of bizarre. It’s SO bad for your body, and prolonged use affects so much of your long term health and mortality. We all joke about how bad hangovers are once you get older and if you stop to think about it…maybe your body is telling you something? I started following @reframe_app on insta too and it just reinforced everything I was already thinking about. Have only had a few drinks in the last year and do NOT miss it!! But of course don’t care if others drink…to each their own!”

“I originally had to stop drinking because of medication I was on. I thought it would be the worst thing ever as I am always in social situations where everyone drinks. It was hard at first, but when my doctor cleared me to drink again I noticed how awful it actually makes me feel. Not drinking isn’t as awkward as people think. You can still have a good time! Plus, so many restaurants offer delicious mock tails these days!”

“I got sober because I wanted to feel better and not be such a tired mom. I never had a Problem with a Capital P per se but I found myself relying on alcohol to deal with the stress of being a mom and to quiet my anxiety. Moderating was honestly too stressful because it actually caused me to focus on it more (too many rules to keep track of) so cutting it out all together made me feel so free. There have been occasions where I miss the ability to numb out in that way as well as sometimes feeling like I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t drink but I’m at the point where I don’t even think about it anymore and feel so grateful for my sobriety of 4 years. It’s made me a better mom and partner. I still struggle with depression and anxiety but it’s so much better and I feel better equipped to deal with it when it does pop up. Things feel clearer.

I stopped by reading all the books and following all the Instagram accounts. I don’t go to AA but I do wish I had a community of non drinkers. Even though experiences differ for everyone it helps so much to hear other peoples stories. It also helps me to hear about celebrities who don’t drink. We’ve been taught that drinking is so glamorous but J.Lo and Anne Hathaway may have something to say about that 😉”

“I’m 34 in Phoenix. Married, newly SAHM, very active (corepower yoga 5x a week/peloton user), and have 2 young boys. Alcohol has been a part of my life since high school. I was in a sorority at a Big Ten college in the Midwest and alcohol defined every event. After college, it was about living in the big city of Chicago, drinking with friends, drinking at dinner, drinking at brunch. You name it. No, I did not have an alcohol problem and wasn’t that messy girl. Just any social event, cue booze. My hangovers have gotten worse as the years have gone on. Now, baby #2 arrived and my bloating, bowel movements, headaches were getting worse. My doctor thought I had anxiety and prescribed me meds. Instead of taking them, I decided to quit alcohol and see how I felt. It’s been 60 days (today actually!) without alcohol, and guess what… I feel great!!

I could cry happy tears on how amazing I feel. All my symptoms are gone. I don’t feel weird not drinking when out with friends b/c I know the aftermath of how my body feels is not worth it. I can go hard till 11pm at a concert (just saw Elton John) and wake up the next morning feeling great, be a more present mom, and be active. I couldn’t be happier. I might go back to drinking one day, but not feeling it just yet. Wishing you good vibes on your journey.”