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The purpose of this post is to pay tribute to and celebrate my alcohol free journey and to provide encouragement and resources for anyone who would like to explore their relationship with alcohol. The goal is not to get people to feel bad about their drinking habits or to pressure people to stop drinking. It’s not telling you what to think, but inviting you into a process that can create different thinking regarding alcohol. It’s so much more than just counting down the days not drinking or being fixated on the calendar. Instead, it’s gaining knowledge and insight and evaluating our emotions, thoughts, and actions that ties into alcohol.
A big thing in store is the opportunity to not just examine our relationship with alcohol, but our relationship with ourself and how it’s tied to alcohol.
My journey sheds light on critically examining alcohol, its role in my life, and my experiences taking a break from it. Much of this is coming straight from my journal. I’ll be sharing why I pursued this journey and its catalyst, what the journey looked like for me, what I like about alcohol, what I don’t like about it, and experiences not drinking. Included are some helpful resources to be successful, alcohol free alternatives, tips, and going forward from here.
Whether you drink a little, on occasion, regularly, or “a lot”, there’s a place for you. You may have wanted to step away, or have done so before, don’t know where to begin, feel anxious about it, or don’t think you could do it with all the pressure to drink and positive buzz that surrounds alcohol. Maybe you feel alcohol is a non-issue and it does great things for your life. Perhaps you’re unaware of helpful resources or alcohol free alternatives. Despite conflicting thoughts, deep down you want this, are curious, and open-minded to see what happens from it. I understand and can relate. Don’t feel bad about those thoughts and feelings, as they serve a role in this journey.
Regardless where you fall, the challenge I had for myself and now for you is what’s the harm in stepping away to see what happens? We make time for different self-care investments, health and workout challenges, and new habits or breaks from other things, so how about alcohol? I’ve talked to lots of people through the years who have also wanted to take a break, cut back, or stop but felt like they couldn’t or were alone. So I hope that my journey shows you that you can do this and are not alone. Let your story and journey be the proof you need for yourself and go from there.
Everyone’s journey and relationship with alcohol is different. I realize this is a hot topic. This post is my personal account. Others may have different viewpoints, reasons, or experiences. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject; however, I do intend to be transparent and straightforward with what I’ve learned and experienced. I encourage you to examine and research for yourself. This is still a very active process. I haven’t arrived at some perfect destination with alcohol, but that wasn’t the point and this sort of thing takes time.
You don’t realize just how much alcohol is getting in the way until you step away.
Why This Journey and the Catalyst
I’ve wanted to take a break from alcohol. Although I’ve gone alcohol free during health challenges like Whole 30 and spiritual fasts, I have not pursed an alcohol free journey with the sole focus on my relationship with alcohol. I needed to examine its role in my life and this loop I had found myself in. Sure, I’ve had moments of drinking more than I wanted to, but overall I wasn’t a heavy drinker or drinking bottles every night. Regardless, I knew any amount still has its effect on me. Even though my life was wonderful, I felt alcohol was not letting me experience life to its fullest. Alcohol also became a bit too routine for my liking, recognizing how it became more present in my life over time. Honestly, I was a big defender of it and would reference those positive alcohol snippets that circulate like red wine and heart health. Looking back, I thought my decent tolerance for alcohol was something to be proud of. I wanted to open myself up to this area like I’ve done with other topics like natural living, whole foods, cleaner products, etc.
Although I had the desire to step away or cut back, nothing really incentivized me enough to break away. Even the occassional headache after trying something new or from drinking more than normally, didn’t do it. Being bombarded with what appears as everyone drinking (which no, not everyone does) didn’t help. There seems to always be a reason to drink and it’s good for you, sophisticated, and cool, right?! The alcohol industry sure is a successful one, just like the cigarette one was at one point, and articles and advertisements have a way of making us feel better about drinking. Or, that we don’t drink like ‘that’ person. Bars are designed attractively and those bottles are lit up so nicely. And there it is in movies and TV. Alcohol is how you relax, deal with stress, navigate social situations, celebrate and have fun…you just need it.
All of this has its way on our thinking, both on the subconscious and conscious levels. This influence compounds the effects of the the history between us and alcohol that gets created over time. One thing or another can derail us from ever breaking away from it. I needed to go on this journey to pull myself out of all of that and cut through the noise and dig deeper. I’m sure you can relate.
As with anything, sometimes the negative things we experience can become our “normal” rather than becoming a warning blinking light.
This all began the beginning of January of this year when I had a neck injury. Alcohol had nothing to do with that injury, but it was the catalyst to get my attention and push me into this journey. My personality and wiring is very reflective and introspective. I’m always viewing surrounding variables to situations from multiple angles to get to the root and find solutions. So no surprise, my neck injury made me assess my health. Although thankfully I am in great health and pretty fit, the blaring negative item in my life was alcohol.
On a spiritual level, God knew this would be what would get my attention. God wasn’t communicating to me that alcohol was right or wrong, but that this area had become a stronghold and distraction in my life. God was pressing on my spirit telling me I have all these wonderful things I want to show you on the other side, but you are going to have to walk this journey. But you won’t be alone. I love you and will help you and the resources will come to help you be successful. All of that, in fact, came. I keep learning to trust God when He gets my attention. He’s getting my attention for a reason and has my best in mind.
What This Journey Looked Like for Me
When I began, I didn’t say I was never going to drink again, but my benchmark was to initially step away for 30 days and go from there. As I’ve learned, it takes 10 days for alcohol to leave your system anyway. Time was crucial to let the information and experience teach and reveal things. I wrote down my whys for doing this, what I initially liked about alcohol, what I don’t like, what I was experiencing not drinking, notes from what I’ve researched and and learned. I got real specific. It’s a personal and powerful release to get thoughts written down or recorded. My brain won’t remember every detail, so now I have something to turn back to. The journey was hard, but it also got easier.
After about 45 days of no alcohol, I came across Sober Sis on social media. Jenn Kautsch’s purpose and what she shared all resonated with me. I followed her and joined in on an additional 30-day March reset with others within her community as well as joined her private Facebook group. Her love and encouragement and growing tribe cultivated a community aspect around this journey for me. People all over the world, from different walks of life and different relationships with alcohol were all coming together sharing the same goal of stepping away and reevaluating alcohol. I recommend checking her out her resources.
I also came across This Naked Mind book which sealed the deal and made sense of everything I had been experiencing through both drinking and not drinking. Want to help your own journey be successful? Grab her book! I now listen to Annie Grace’s podcast periodically which has provided a lot support, great information, and continued momentum. Another Godsend.
Since one of the things I enjoyed about alcohol was the various flavor profiles, I searched for alternatives to provide those flavors but without the alcohol. The replacements are great and so is still enjoying them in fun wine and beer glasses. Who doesn’t like a fun beverage holder whether it be for coffee, tea, shakes, or hot chocolate? I actively made a point to shift my mindset and work to create new experiences and memories without alcohol – at restaurants, with friends and family, at home, during stressful days, during holidays and celebrations, and vacations — creating those new pathways without turning to alcohol. As you will learn, our conscious brain may want to stop, but the subconscious part of our brain has strong pathways related to alcohol. We can retrain and rewire those pathways, but it helps to understand why we struggle with alcohol through this “cognitive dissonance”. I chose to explore other existing hobbies and interests in my life like tea by having fun with loose tea and the process of using a teapot.
I had some intentional test experiences with some alcoholic drinks after having been alcohol free. I wanted to see how it would go, comparing it to all that I have learned and experienced. There was no sense of judgement or failure, but curiosity. It didn’t go well. It shows just how much your taste buds get trained to tolerating alcohol. It felt as though I just started drinking for the first time, had bad headaches and nausea, disruptive sleep, fog and drag next day, disrupted routines and habits, evening crashes, irritability and sensitive emotions. Not very impressive. Pretty cool to see how far my body had come and had healed. If alcohol is so great, why isn’t it enhancing our lives and producing good effects for us?
There will always be stress and celebration for which to involve alcohol and never a perfect time to take a break.
Other than what I’ve already eluded to, this journey was for me. I felt like alcohol was holding me back. It wasn’t doing my life any favors. It was taking more from my life in so many ways than what it was giving. It was getting in the way of future goals, daily habits, and living and feeling my best. Thinking and planning for my future such as possible children one day, it didn’t support goals and hopes I had for those areas. Trying to heal and work through tough areas of my life can be hard and although I was making process, alcohol was getting in the way.
I had closed myself off to and rationalized the risks of alcohol. Silly enough, I somewhat thought I was above it and all my healthy efforts would cancel out the alcohol. My life was great, but alcohol was an interference. I disliked the negative ripple effect that even the smallest amount of alcohol would bring on. It was becoming a turn off and I was burned out. I disliked working at a deficit when drinking, having to work that much harder to keep myself afloat spiritually, emotionally, mentally, socially, and physically.
I wanted to take the things I like about alcohol and remove what I didn’t like. Life stressors are hard enough as it is and alcohol just made things harder. It didn’t reduce negative feelings. May have numbed them or provided an escape temporarily, but didn’t provide resolve and made things worse. I hated alcohol waking me up at night and causing restlessness. I had an upcoming business venture I was about to launch with my sister with which I wanted to run on all cylinders. I felt it was rubbing away at my sharpness and my edge. I love trying to improve and take care of myself, so was eager to see how my body would feel being able to take in all those things and do what it was designed to do unhindered by processing alcohol.
In pursuit of taking the ‘edge off’, it was taking my edge off.
What I Like About Drinking
- The different flavor profiles of various drinks
- The aspect of pairing drinks with cooking, memories, activities
- The buzz it provides as nothing out there quite does that
- The connector it seemed to be in social situations
What I Don’t Like About Drinking
- Working at a deficit, having to work that much harder in various areas of life
- Neck feeling hot and getting red
- Body having to work hard to process alcohol to get back to the desired state of homeostasis
- Decreased and disruptive sleep
- Heart rate elevation when relaxed
- Crashing hard feeling so tired
- Weight gain
- Interference within decision making, goals, and routine and habits
- Its relation to cancers and many health issues of the body
- Frequency and amount had increased through the years
- Cognitive dissonance
- Not operating at max capacity
- Made stress, anxiety, mental things worse
- Its addictive control traits
- Aging aspects
- Spills into next day
- Speech, energy, focus and mental sharpness, memories, emotions all effected
- Not fully present
- Distort, numbed, and distracted me from the fullness God had for me
Experiences Not Drinking
- Neck not getting awkwardly red and hot
- Way less snoring
- Much better sleep – falling asleep and not waking at 2-3am
- Normal heart rate
- Loving alcohol free alternatives – flavor, and less calories, carbs, sugar
- Increased energy and clarity
- Consistently better mood with less spiking from alcohol
- Clear body feelings
- No negative alcohol ripple effect
- Increased mindfulness and present for life
- Satisfaction of ownership and control in taking care of my body
- Even better sex and romance. Great as it is, but everything went through the roof
- Flatter stomach and weight loss
- Stronger workouts
- No morning fog and heaviness
- No hangovers to any degree
- Having fun without it
- Better skin
- Proud of stepping away from social pressures and messages surrounding this issue
- Alcohol has become less attractive
- Even though not a night owl, evenings are more beautiful and drawn out without crashing
- Enjoy calming, relaxing, healthy measures and habits without interference of alcohol
- Body has a chance to heal, restore, and regulate
- Heightened senses and sharper feelings, not feeling dull
- Enhanced motivation and focus
- Increased confidence
- Satisfied with one glass or drink of alcohol free alternative without more
Cutting out alcohol may feel like we’re mourning a companion who’s always been around, but has it been a very good friend?
Revisiting that list of what I like about alcohol, I’ve found great flavorful replacement drinks. I can still pair plenty of drinks and alcohol free alternatives to cooking and activities. That initial buzz or high lasts only a short time. You come back down and feel worse wanting more alcohol to bring you back up again. So the tendency is to drink more not because we have poor willpower, but because we are dealing with an addictive substance that wants more itself. There’s the crashes, the spike, and oscillating effect on emotions and body processes dealing with this substance. That doesn’t seem to define true relaxation to me. There’s calming things like tea, supplements, other drinks, and habits to help with stress and anxiety. From the social connector angle, I can have anything in my hand and connect and be in more control and my true self without alcohol being more of the one in control.
Alcohol Free Alternatives
As you’ve read, one of of my goals was to keep what I like and remove what I don’t like about alcohol, so keeping those flavor profiles led me to search for other options. There are lots of alcohol-free alternatives popping up. They definitely help and many of them taste great. Alcohol free bars are surfacing. More awareness and attention is coming to this subject. You still get the healthy hops, botanicals and herbs and flavor, but without the alcohol. This can be a palate adjustment at first, but so was alcohol when we first tried it, but grew accustomed to it. Some of these can be found at your local Total Wine and grocery stores and others online. Here are some favorite finds so far:
Favorite AF beer options so far: Heineken 0.0, Upside Dawn by Athletic Brewing, and Gruvi. Favorite AF wine: Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon, Ariel Chardoney, Gruvi, Nosseco, St. Regis Brut. Favorite AF liquor: Seedlip, Moon Brew, Lyres.
H2O Hops water found at World Market tastes refreshing and so do sparkling waters like Topo-Chico. You can always rely on good ol’ Kombucha for lots of health benefits. There are plenty of fun mocktails out there, too.
This Naked Mind Book
Not only was taking this journey one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, This Naked Mind book is one of the best books and information I’ve read on the subject. It’s a handy partner as you step away from drinking. It all just makes sense. It connects all the dots. It addresses things from social, physical, psychological, and emotional perspectives. It’s packed with lots of science and laced with the author’s real and honest account with alcohol herself. You feel encouraged, supported, and challenged going through it as it helps you examine alcohol critically. Invest in yourself by adding this book to your collection. It helps you understand powerful aspects like cognitive dissonance, the pathways that surround alcohol that get formed, alcohol’s harm factor, and the us versus them perspective. I highly recommend reading this during your alcohol-free journey.
Find what works for you, but here are some of my suggestions. You want benchmarks and goals, but not extremes or absolutes. I would not advise using terminology like “always” or “never”. It can be stressful enough stepping away from alcohol, but saying things like you will never drink again could add unnecessary pressure starting this journey. Let the information and your experience show you what it needs to show you. If you end up going longer or not returning to alcohol because you could but are choosing not to is very different than guilting and stressing yourself out about it. I don’t advise being too casual about it either, without any parameters in place.
Enjoying other drinks or trying alcohol free alternatives is helpful. Eliminating easy alcohol access may be necessary, such as within your home. I encourage you to track what you learn and experience such as journaling or audio recording or sharing with someone close in your life. Reading This Naked Mind helps with momentum. Podcasts and online groups add support.
If you make a mistake along the way, don’t feel like you sabotaged your whole experience or that your strides are now worthless. Feeling this way could propel you to go back full force into normal drinking habits. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. Instead, pause and reflect on how and why it happened, how you felt, what you learned from it, and get back on track. Still enjoy fun glasses with your drinks, whether it is an alcohol free alternative or something like Kombucha. Seek out new hobbies and memories and experiences or revisit old ones. Ask for alcohol free alternatives in social situations.
Pay close attention to as much as you can along the way. Decide ahead of time how you will handle something, prepare by having an alternative drink option, and plan. Waiting to decide in the spur of the moment might make things more difficult. As this is a very personal decision, respect and support others whether they are drinking or not. You get to decide what role you want alcohol to have in your life going forward. You know what to expect from this experience with however much drinking you may decide to include in your life.
Will I drink again? Well, what started off as 30 days has become 5 months. I’m very curious to see what’s in store the more time goes along. As of now, I don’t really miss it. I think I’ll try to go the rest of the year without it. It’s really become a non-issue. I’m enjoying the alcohol free side of things. I may share in a toast or drink some in the future, or never go back. I don’t have an answer for that as of now, as it’s still an active journey.
It wasn’t about reaching a destination, but creating awareness, taking a break, letting my body heal, experiencing life without it, thinking and evaluating critically, and shifting to new levels in life – which was all accomplished.
One thing is for sure, my relationship with alcohol has permanently changed. I have much greater understanding of alcohol. I know what to expect and what will happen if I do drink in the future. I’m not sure if I want to moderate alcohol as that is a topic in and of itself as you will learn from that Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind book. It’s become less of a challenge now and more of a new lifestyle.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. My hope is that this post helps provide some encouragement, motivation, and empowerment. Have you gone on an alcohol free journey or plan to? I’d love to hear from you or feel free to share in the comments! If you think this post could help or encourage someone, please share it!