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“Why I Gave Up Drinking — And How It Changed My Life”

Why I Quit Drinking — And How It Changed My Life

I stopped drinking the week after my 28th birthday…

I have always had a complex relationship with alcohol. While no one would have called me an alcoholic, my hold on drinking was slippery, and I didn’t always feel in control. In my early twenties, I tried different approaches: counting my drinks, drinking only beer, drinking water in between drinks. These experiments would always inevitably fail for one reason or another: a bad day, a great day, a regular Friday night.

Ironically, I had never really liked the taste of alcohol, but I did love its effect. After a couple of drinks, I felt smarter, funnier. Boys at parties wanted to talk to me. Everything was exciting and sparkly. Fast forward to the morning after, and all of my insecurities were predictably back and louder than ever. They were cranky from a night of being silenced, and now they were accompanied by anxiety and a migraine.

Because I was educated, employed and only drank in social situations, I didn’t think I had a real problem. Alcohol was also connected to my sense of self as a young adult, and I remained desperate to figure out how to drink the “right” way. I couldn’t let go of the daydream of drinking red wine on a trip to Italy with my (hypothetical) fiancé one day, or toasting with Champagne at my future wedding. But these fantasies were far from reality. I didn’t have a boyfriend, and I usually spent Saturday mornings in bed with a throbbing head, unable to keep down Advil or Gatorade.

Finally, after a hangover-induced panic attack the day after my 28th birthday party, I realized that my body and mind were rejecting alcohol. The party was over. I knew that, for me, there could be no grey in-between area. I couldn’t trust that one glass of wine wouldn’t lead to more; I had to break up with alcohol.

The first few weeks without it were surprisingly hard. Parties and birthday dinners were uncomfortable; I struggled to remember how to socialize or make small talk without the ease provided by a few sips of wine. My mind would go blank in those early interactions, and I often found that it was easier to leave the party early. On those first few weekends, when I felt excruciatingly present in my own skin and tempted to reach for a drink, I would play the tape forward: where would that first drink lead? What would the ‘morning after’ look like? The image of waking up the next day with a headache and hefty dose of self-loathing was enough incentive to stick to seltzer.

I also started to realize how many social interactions revolved around alcohol in New York City. I was used to grabbing drinks with friends after work, splitting bottles of wine at restaurant dinners, and sipping rosé on summer weekends with girlfriends. I didn’t know what my relationships would morph into without alcohol, or how I would even spend my free time.

“I’m actually not drinking anymore,” I finally blurted out one night at a close friend’s birthday dinner. We were seated at a table of four, and the wine list being passed around felt heavier than usual.

“Is this like a hungover and not-drinking-again-until-next weekend situation?” One friend asked.

“No,” I replied, surprised at how loud my voice sounded. “It’s just making me feel really anxious and I need to stop.”

The girls exchanged brief looks. “Well, that’s great!” one declared, like a teacher leading by example. The others nodded before passing the bread basket and switching the subject to appetizers. They may have been surprised and confused, but it was the best reaction I could have gotten. Matter-of-fact, non-judgmental and loving. Over the following months, my close friends would check in — still not drinking? How’s that going? — before moving on casually to the next hot topic of the week.

But the conversation was harder with other people. One former drinking buddy seemed genuinely offended when I broke the news, as if I were shaming him personally. I struggled with these situations, not wanting to hurt people I cared about.

Among all the alcohol-free activities to which I had to re-adjust, dating was the weirdest (until it wasn’t). Every date I had ever been on in my life had happened over drinks. As one friend put it, “It’s easier to tell someone you have an STD than to tell them you don’t drink.”

On my first sober date, I made the mistake of not bringing up my sobriety until we were already seated. (I have since learned that this is news best disclosed early on, over text, to avoid any real-time awkwardness.) On that date, I ordered a Diet Coke, and my date seemed perplexed. I panicked and blurted three different excuses at once: “I’m just taking a break from alcohol, it’s been making me sick, also I might be allergic.” He blinked. “What about just straight tequila? That never gives me a hangover.” When I politely declined, he conceded and folded the drinks menu. “Okay, no worries. Let’s just get sangria.”

At a wedding a few weeks later, a guy I had a crush on shoved a drink in my hand. “You have to taste this mezcal. It’s my favorite.” I froze for a moment, staring at the glass. “I have to pee,” I finally said, after what felt like an eternity. I paced around the bathroom for a few minutes, praying to whoever was listening for the strength to walk away from that drink, and with it the attention I had been wanting from him for so long. There was an alternate universe in which I walked back up to him, drank the mezcal, and watched sparks fly as we waxed poetic about the smoky taste. When I got back from the bathroom he was gone; the moment had passed, and he didn’t even remember.

Ultimately, the best connections happen when two people feel comfortable not only with each other, but also with themselves. It took time for me to re-learn who I really was without alcohol, but time was something I now had in abundance. When you’re drinking, hours seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re sitting down to a late dinner, the next you’re tumbling out of a cab at 2 a.m. When I stopped drinking, I started experiencing every minute of my day, and I gained space for more meaningful activities.

Going to the movies, an activity I had always found boring when I was drinking, became something I loved. I went by myself, with friends, on dates. I saw more movies and ate more popcorn in my first year of sobriety than in the last few years combined — and I deeply enjoyed it. I also rediscovered my love of travel. With the clarity and space for planning that sobriety gave me, I took solo trips to France and Morocco and visited several new cities with friends.

Ultimately, giving up alcohol was the best decision I ever made; it feels like waking up in clean sheets every day. In a few months, I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday and two years without alcohol. I had been scared that my life would end when I stopped drinking, but my alcohol-free life has given me more than I could have ever imagined.

Today, I make conscious decisions about every aspect of my life. I work for a wellness company that values yoga classes over happy hours. I read more books. And I’m in a loving relationship with a partner who respects my decision not to drink. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have occasional twinges; moments where I flash on that hypothetical Italy trip or Champagne toast and wonder how it will feel to have my glass be filled with water. But now, I have tools. I can remind myself that that sweet first glass of Champagne inevitably leads me to a much uglier place, and that quitting drinking has given me much more than martinis ever did. And for me, waking up with bright eyes, a quiet mind, and memories of the night before is worth every sip of seltzer.


Sarah Levy is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience getting sober, and works as VP of Brand Marketing at Splendid Spoon.

And if you who want to stop drinking but aren’t able to, and feel you may be suffering from addiction, you’re definitely not alone. Here are some resources:
* Alcohol Addiction Center
* Alcoholics Anonymous
* Alcohol.org

P.S. On happiness, and “my boyfriend weighs less than I do.”

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow.)

  1. Lindsay says...

    Love love love this post. I know this is a very personal decision, and to drink or not to drink comes with so many strings attached (and so many social norms and pressures make it all the more complicated). If I had read this post a year ago, I probably would have thought “no way, impossible, I can’t imagine navigating a social life without alcohol.” But the universe kept nudging me in this direction, and now I sit here with 5 months of not drinking behind me, and all I feel is immense gratitude that I finally listened to that message and opened myself up to the possibility that life could be better without alcohol. For me, moderation is so much harder and takes up way to much mental energy (when should I drink, how much is OK, etc. etc.). Now, I just feel free. I have taken a beach vacation with my husband and friends, gone out for nice dinners, and attended parties without drinking. These are all things I would have thought impossible previously. If something about this life speaks to you, I gently encourage you to give it a try. Thank you CoJ, for opening up this important conversation.

    • CEW says...

      And it only gets easier! My husband and I just passed two years in March. Completely changed our lives for the better…I didn’t think it was possible either (as I had always used it for social anxiety). Congrats! :)

      (And omg it saves so much money.)

  2. Kathryn says...

    I loved this article. In January I gave up alcohol for a month. It was so liberating and built my confidence in a way I never expected. The fact that I could do it made me realize I could make a lot of changes to habits- something at 38, I was beginning to doubt! I started making my bed every morning, waking up early to work out, and reading more- all things I’ve been trying to do for years, and all bc I taught myself I could do it by doing the hardest thing. I went back to drinking but have cut back a lot and it feels great to be in a healthier relationship with alcohol and myself. And even better- I know that if it starts to get out of control again, I have the ability to stop.

  3. Laura says...

    Congrats to the author on almost 2 years of sobriety. It been my experience (with 6 years of continuous sobriety) that it’s not easy but so worth it. Sharing on the topic is so important as it helps lift the stigma. That being said, the mention of not being an alcoholic at the beginning of the piece does the opposite for the disease. While no one can decide for another if they are an alcoholic, the way the author describes the her feelings, actions and emotions around substances are certainly in line with the medical description. And guess what- that’s an amazing. beautiful thing bc she’s figured out how to treat it and successfully live a fulfilling life. All of this to say- there should be no shame in being an alcoholic! I, for own, am so grateful in my identification as one- it was a break through in how I live my life each day, treat others, handle conflict and more. And it’s a life beyond my wildest dreams.

  4. Jesse says...

    I am so embarrassed about my drinking in my 20’s. My life is more fulfilling now, granted I do still drink, but not every weekend and no need to get drunk. Now if I could only find friends I can click with, without booze.

  5. Meghan says...

    I also gave up drinking about 3 years ago. I was having a glass of wine a night and becoming too reliant on it. It became appealing after my dad died and I wanted to erase any feelings I was feeling at the time. I was also exhausted with a toddler and needed an escape. Eventually, I saw no point in continuing since it didn’t help in any way. I suddenly just stopped all together. My husband doesn’t ever drink, so the temptation ended with me. I feel better and in control of my choice.

  6. Nga says...

    I really like this post! Thank you for sharing! I also don’t drink and stopped after my 29th birthday. I felt the same way you did, and it was hard and than it wasn’t one day. I travel more, I also see tons of movies, go to museums, cook more food, I just do so much more! Now it feel normal.

  7. Ellen says...

    For anyone looking for help, Tempest is a great new resource: https://www.jointempest.com/
    Recently launched by Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety.
    Thanks again for posting this piece!

  8. Gigi says...

    I don’t drink for religious reasons, and for some reason it’s not as socially acceptable as abstaining for health or for reasons people deem as “personal choice”/ “free will”. I get a lot of pity whereas others would consider abstaining “by choice” as commendable, admirable. People don’t understand that I also chose to abstain, although the underlying reason is different. I’m glad it’s becoming more common.

  9. Emma says...

    I love this article. Such a sleeper of a topic. I’m Australian and so it’s part of our DNA to enjoy a drink. I’ve always loved a social drink (a couple of glasses) but it wreaks havoc with my anxiety the next day. Anxiety and alcohol are best friends and so, over the past 5 years or so, have barely had a vino. It was hard at first and I felt judged but then just decided to own it and give zero effs. I had to take control of the anxiety because it was controlling me. I feel so much better for it and my anxiety has stopped. I’m also too exhausted with little ones to deal with it ;)

  10. Me n the dog says...

    I enjoyed this article. I’m thinking about not consuming alcohol anymore. It doesnt add anything positive to my life. More and more I’m realizing the negative components and then ask myself, “for what?”. Thanks for airing your experience.

    • Absolutely ! Is very hard to stop.we all all need it sometimes very good article.

  11. Jess M. says...

    I used to have those fantasies about shared champagne toasts and bottles of wine in faraway countries, but life is funny. My husband hasn’t had a drink (outside of a timid sip or two during toasts at our wedding) in almost ten years. And as someone who does still drink, I’d rather have the wonderful partner I fell in love with over a fantasy any day.
    Drinking can be scary to leave behind, but it can help you to open you up in ways that alcohol has a way of shutting down. And the people who genuinely love you will still think the sun shines out your ass even if you’ll never split a bottle of wine with them in Italy.
    Anyone who cares enough about that type of thing to have it be a deal breaker was never worth your time anyways.

  12. Bonnie says...

    I don’t drink, don’t like the taste, and in a couple of decades, have never had any friends or new acquaintances, guy or gal, question it. It’s not a big deal and anyone who thinks it is, doesn’t need to bein my circle. It’s not something that needs explanation…like the style of my hair, my clothing choices, my food selections. My choice.

  13. Chelsea says...

    Really enjoyed this piece and all of the comments. I can relate to so much of it, and it’s helpful/inspiring to hear people embracing sober life as it provides a way forward without the binary of sober/alcoholic. Whole 30 really sparked an evaluation of my relationship to alcohol and since then have been much more conscious of my own patterns. Have definitely had periods in my life where I drank in total excess: 5-6 drinks which is enough for me to black out and wake up ashamed and running to the bathroom. And, now more aware of how I use it to numb out or deal with social anxiety (not crippling) but using it to take edge off. I love when I take breaks from it entirely – I read more, I feel more alive, etc. And, when I am totally off it I don’t crave it. But can’t seem to get to a place in my mind of committing to total sobriety. It’s hard to embrace a Never again no matter what that thing is. For me, it is still be really nice to have a few glasses of wine on the weekend/with friends AND once in awhile that pleasant 2 can turn into 3-4 and then the negative spiral of not feeling well in the morning and shame. Doesn’t happen very often but when it does, ugh. Overall, drinking less is 100 percent better for me but still feeling out the grey area. As with just about everything, hearing other’s stories is so clarifying and important. Thank you!

    • Bea says...

      I’ve been sober for 13 and a half years. Although I never went to AA, I do think the “one day at a time” is key. You don’t have to commit to being sober forever. Just for today. Otherwise it’s just too overwhelming and big of a commitment to make. Best of luck!

  14. I drank in college socially, twice too much and realized that was not fun. As an adult not much at all, socially, just one or even a half glass over a couple of hours. Lately (last 10 years) I barely drink because alcohol has sugar and I don’t eat sugar. And I don’t sleep well. This leads to maybe a drink on New Year’s Eve (if we’re out). We had a big anniversary party a few months ago and had a bartender. The drinks were really good (elderflower, vodka, mint), but I had 1/2 a drink, just for the taste and enjoy my party, stayed up until 3:00am and was tired, but not hung over. People gave us bottles of wine and champagne as gifts and they will be here until the next party – we just don’t drink like that. No judgement for people who do, but I need good sleep, don’t eat sugar for health and weight management and need a clear mind to function. I will say that during emotional upheaval I am always grateful that I don’t really drink and don’t use it as a way to cope with stress because I have been through some really heavy things and it could turn bad quickly.

  15. This post and the comments remind me: Gretchen Rubin, in Better Than Before, describes the distinction between Abstainers (people who find it easier to have NONE of something than a little bit) and Moderators (people who find it easier to have just a little than none). I’m curious how many of the folks who can’t stop at one drink would consider themselves Abstainers in other respects (like, is it easier to have no dessert than a few bites of dessert?).

    https://gretchenrubin.com/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/

    • Ali says...

      That link is SO helpful! Thank you so much!

    • Sarah says...

      This is a really insightful comment! I also read this book and forgot all about the Abstainers/Moderators. Thanks for reminding me :)

    • Carly says...

      I am definitely an abstained—it’s the whole pint of ice cream or nothing—and that is true of my drinking, too. Moderation has never been possible for me, which is why I don’t drink at all!

    • This is a great point, thanks for bringing up this perspective.

  16. Marta says...

    @ Deluxxxe – I think your comment resonated with a lot of folks. Know you’re not alone!
    I found “This Naked Mind” book very helpful – in a way other things hadn’t been when I discovered it a couple years ago. For me, the website and author (as helpful as she is!) are now geared too much towards marketing, but if you just get the book from any online retailer, I think you may find hope – I did!
    Here are a couple links to check out:
    https://thisnakedmind.com/purchase-naked-mind-control-alcohol-book/
    https://thisnakedmind.com/purchase-the-alcohol-experiment-book/

    • Carly says...

      I loved Annie’s other book, The Alcohol Experimemt, too! I found her way of presenting information really helpful

  17. Sarah says...

    I would also love to hear other people’s experiences with drinking and the workplace/industry they are in. I am in sales and there are many events and trips where we host customers. Drinking is integral at these activities. I am pregnant with my third child in 5 years and in the early days of each pregnancy there have been times where I have had to hide that I am not drinking. Most recently, I had to attend a wine pairing dinner and it was torture. I was faking my way along because one of my bosses was there and it was simply too early to share anything. (As a woman in her early thirties who is married with children it seems to be automatically assumed that no alcohol = baby on board. Perhaps a topic for another day. Insert eye roll). The number of comments I got from mostly strangers or people I had just met at this function was simply insane. “Do you not like wine!!?!? Are you really not going to finish that glass!?!?” I am not a big drinker as it is (maybe one drink at a social event or out for dinner) and I don’t understand the appeal of putting back drink after drink, especially while maintaining some semblance of professionalism. This post and these comments are inspiring me to be bolder about my valid decision (outside of pregnancy) to choose not to drink. Real connections and relationships can develop without alcohol! Such a great topic. Thanks, COJ!

    • Erin says...

      I am currently pregnant with my first, and I have to say I’m so surprised how uncomfortable people get with me not drinking – even when they know why! The pressure Sarah Levy describes here must be huge considering how left-out I feel when I have a super obvious reason that no one can argue with.

  18. sarah says...

    So, how do you get through the first week of not drinking. I’m reading all this now, and I’m sure I have a problem and need to stop. But, I know when I get home after work, after taking the kids to swimming, when I walk through the door after a full week of work, I’m going to want a beer, then another, then another…..

    • Jess M. says...

      I used to have a lot of problems moderately drinking, and at one point had a therapist recommend to me to wear a thick rubber band on my wrist and snap it HARD every time I thought about having a drink for an emotional reason (sad, stressed, etc). It really helped me to start negatively associating alcohol with coping.
      I’d also highly recommend seeing a therapist to talk through the process.

    • TC says...

      You have to find support. Try an AA meeting. It might not be for you, but it works for a lot of people. It’s not just the first week. If you have a problem and you really want to stop, you’ll need a support system the rest of your life.

    • Anne says...

      Hi Sarah — I’m by no means an expert, but here are some things that worked for me. The first week is hard and your brain is still fuzzy so I cut myself a lot of slack and just did what felt helpful. For me, that was not making too many social plans (I’m an introvert, so that would have taken energy I needed to be using to NOT drink), spending a ton of time with my dog, going to the gym (easier to have a solo “activity” than sit at home thinking about not drinking) and not having booze in the house. In my experience, the first week is all about clearing your head, and you don’t need to pressure yourself to do it “right”. The right way is whatever way gets you through that week.

    • Lauren says...

      I am on week 2 of being a sober mama. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve been using the app DrinkersHelper. They match you in a messaging group with people who have similar drinking habits. Everyone has been very encouraging and it’s helping me to not feel so alone. The app DryJanuary is great for tracking the money/calories saved by not drinking. I’ve purchased “Almost Alcoholic” & a few other books recommended in the comments here. I’m also thinking about going back to an AA meeting (I don’t 100% click with everything AA teaches but being surrounded by others with the same goal is a big positive). There are women’s only meetings that I have enjoyed in the past. You can do it mama!

    • Anne says...

      You are so far Sarah already – by recognising that you have a problem. A trick (which might seem way too simple but I swear it works) is to take it one day at a time. Make a decision to not have a drink TODAY. Just don’t buy any alcohol, don’t reach for what you have (keep the beer warm), don’t open the bottle, don’t take that sip, just don’t.

      Once you have made it through the first day, then relax. You made it for one day. Get up the next day and decide to do it one more time.

      Once you’ve made it through 2 days you are well on your way. Make that decision again. 3 days is not long away, then 4, then 5. Your will is strong. You can make it.

      If it gets hard then there is great trick from “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSX3KG1hisk

    • Kat says...

      I recently did this. You just have to keep saying no. I know that’s easier said than done, but it works if you really want to stop. Think about how bad you’ll feel. Think about how you don’t want alcohol to be the reason you’re snapping at your kids. I see someone recommended aa, and that might be what you need. I didn’t use it and all i can say is remind yourself why you don’t want your daily beer, and keep saying no.

    • Lily says...

      I would add that if you do try an AA meeting, go to 6 different ones before you decide it’s not for you. And in the meetings, take what you need and leave the rest (keep an open mind). I went to a meeting in my late teens and then waited 6 years to go again. I’m now celebrating almost 9 years of recovery, and being in recovery from age 19-25 would have been fantastic as well. During the first weeks and months, I picked up the phone and called other 12 step members every time I wanted to go on a binge. They talked me down. While that kept me sober in the short term, it was ultimately the work I did in the program that made the true long-term change. Every area of my life has been affected by the 12 steps, not just my substance abuse. Different things work for different people, but 12 step programs can be a fantastic option. Best of luck!

    • janee says...

      Question: do you drink water throughout the day? Like at least a liter bottle because you sound thirsty to me. It is super stressful for the body to be dehydrated on top of normal stress and carbonated water is really quenching. Try a simple experiment like drinking a perrier or two before you open a beer and see if it helps you drink less? I’ve done that and it often negated my interest in the beer because it feels the same almost. I also take B complex. Someone I know researched it and found that people who rely on alcohol don’t naturally process B vitamins well and need supplementation. B vitamins help the nervous system among other things.

      Also obvious but so often we forget to try daily workouts like a run to burn off stress. Best of luck!

    • Ellen says...

      The early days are so tough, I feel you. I had to break the routine, so I replaced my happy hours with AA meetings. Five years later I’m still sober and have a wonderful group of sober mom friends. And I go to therapy a lot.
      Another great (new!) resource is Tempest: https://www.jointempest.com/
      I don’t agree with everything about AA and Tempest is a wonderful complement and/or alternative that’s much more modern and women-centric.
      sending you love and strength.

    • Melissa says...

      Sarah.. I can’t guarantee how long it will take to feel better, but I am a mother of two little boys and I have 2.5 years of sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous has absolutely saved my life. No one in my life knew how much I was drinking. I didn’t have any legal troubles, I just knew that my drinking was completely unmanageable. If you are ever curious, you can check out an AA meeting. You don’t have to make any sweeping declarations, just see how you like it. Your comment jumped out at me, because that is exactly how I felt.

  19. Sarah says...

    Hi, everyone! Something I’m pondering and would love the input of the CoJ community. I’m 35 and single and actively dating, and I have a healthy relationship with alcohol in that I can EASILY have one glass of wine and call it quits (cookies, on the other hand…). One of my favorite things to do – on a date or otherwise – is enjoy a drink and some oysters (or tater tots!). When I come across men on dating apps who don’t drink, I hesitate to want to connect with them since so much of my personal enjoyment involves dining out while enjoying a glass of wine, food, and great conversation. Simply put, it’s what I like to do, more than going to movies or museums. My friends drink casually, and it’s hard to imagine a partner fitting into my world who doesn’t. Am I alone in feeling this way?

    My brother is a recovering addict (opioids) and abstains from all substances, and is a wonderful man who has his life back thanks to him putting his sobriety first. I’m embarrassed that I even think this way, knowing how great of a guy he is.

    Thank you!

    • Emily says...

      Hmm. My boyfriend doesn’t drink almost at all — not due to a substance issue but because it gives him a nauseous stomach and dizziness almost immediately. I drink less now that we are together and I do sometimes wish we could share a glass of wine. However, I still order my glass of wine at dinner and have had to come around to ordering it for me when I really want it, or having water if I don’t really want the wine but rather the experience of sharing it with someone else. It’s an occasional thought but ultimately doesn’t really impact an otherwise great relationship.

    • Jess M. says...

      Hi!! I was super nervous about the same thing, and then ended up marrying someone who hasn’t drank in ten years!
      I’m in the same boat as you, I can have a glass of wine and call it a day, and periodically drink like a lush. There are men out there who have the charisma to be fun and social without drinking. And while sober partners aren’t for everyone, let me list some of the pluses!
      -you’ll always have a designated driver
      -he never pees anywhere weird
      -he can always keep inappropriate jokes to himself in public
      -more likely to be financially stable
      -better sex (I’ll let you do the research on all the benefits of that on your own)
      -will wake up and make you coffee when you have a hangover
      If he is weird and condescending about your drinking then he’s a dud and you don’t need him anyways.

    • Sara says...

      I guess my question would be – how does it really affect you if you have wine with your oysters (or tater tots ;)) and your date has a seltzer/cocktail with the food instead? You are both sipping on something, enjoying a tasty treat, and hopefully some good conversation! My husband stopped drinking about 4 years ago and for the first 2 years of his sobriety I still drank whenever I felt like it and it was not a big deal that he didn’t. We still had nice meals together and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s not like I would be drinking a glass of wine and he’s sitting there twiddling his thumbs and staring at me! He’s enjoying an NA beer and we’re having a good time together. I also stopped drinking 2 years ago for health reasons so it’s a non-issue now but we regularly spend time with friends who still drink and it doesn’t affect the great time we have together at all. We are all total foodies and love sharing a good meal together, whether there’s alcohol involved for some or not.

      And I definitely agree with Jess M.’s list of the positives of a sober partner!!

      If your date is judgmental of your drinking then I could see it being a problem but if they’re just choosing to abstain for themselves, for whatever reason, I think this is a mental block on your end that you should try to let go of. Best of luck to you!

  20. Elle says...

    I never enjoyed drinking much — I never liked the taste, and I never felt it made me smarter or funnier, just less in control and less myself. I rarely drank, and never had more than one beer or cocktail, or a couple glasses of wine with dinner, and only a few times a year. Even that was enough to give me a mild hangover. So when I developed IBS in my early 40s, I didn’t mind giving up alcohol entirely it began to make me painfully ill, sometimes for days. It basically poisons me; most people’s digestive systems detoxify it better than mine.

    I don’t recall ever feeling pressured to drink by friends — real friends don’t do that. If coworkers or acquaintances pressured me or made comments, I learned to shut them down with eye contact and a longer explanation of my medical situation. I’m a mild-mannered but opinionated person; even as a kid I was generally impermeable to peer pressure. After 17 years of never drinking, I barely notice comments or looks now. Perhaps I’ve reached an age where most people know better than to tell me what to do. I know it’s much harder for younger people who are trying to date, make friends, get along at work, and generally find their way in a drinking-oriented world. I say, keep experimenting until you find a line that works, and never let anyone pressure you into anything. Resist.

    But there’s still a problem for me: alcohol in food. So many restaurants put it in most dishes. I usually order after a discussion with the server, who is invariably cool with it. And, of course, everyone at the table listens. But I once ordered mac-and-cheese, assuming it was safe, but it was full of Guinness, which I no longer recognized. When I recovered, I wrote to the restaurant, and they revised their menu and apologized.

    In France, I find that waiters and chefs don’t consider a “splash” worth mentioning, so I eat salad, cheese, bread, pastries, sandwiches. At one business dinner, all they could give me was a big bowl of fresh peas with citrus and mint, which I loved.

    Before a dinner party, I have to tell the hosts I can’t have “any” alcohol. It does NOT all cook off on the stove or in the oven. There’s alcohol left in flambeed desserts. So it’s hard when I’ve explained my situation, and I’m complimenting the meal, and they say, “Yeah, we put a cup of red wine in the sauce at the last minute because it needed something.”

    Oh!. Time to race home before all hell breaks loose digestively. (Alas, no matter how sick I get, I never lose a single pound after I’m forced to spend a week or more on the BRAT diet.)

    Sometimes, when I tell people why I don’t drink, I get the feeling they think I’m really an alcoholic in recovery. They assume I’m lying to hide my wild, complicated, partying past. If that makes them feel better, fine. You can learn so much about people’s characters by how they react to your truth. It’s one more form of clarity you have when you don’t drink.

  21. HA says...

    I really appreciated this post. I have a friend who is in her mid twenties going through the same thing. She drinks too much just to regret her actions from the night before in the morning. Our entire friend group has drifted from her over the past year as she has decided to distance herself because she feels “watched” and “under pressure” when drinking with us when in reality we just want the best for her. Hoping time will guide her towards a better path and she learns to love herself without alcohol.

  22. Emily says...

    I turned 50 this year, and started to limit my alcohol consumption only to the weekends. I’ve noticed a big change in how my body feels so much better. My joints are less tight, and I know it’s better for my bones. I’ve also lost 5 easy pounds! Do yourselves a favor if you are in your 20’s and 30’s and cut back now. Your skin will look so much better too. I know alcohol can take a toll on people emotionally, but I came from the prospective of just wanting to feel and look better as I age. Many of my friends are taking the same approach, so the social awkwardness is not a big deal in my circles.

  23. Haley says...

    Thanks so much for sharing. I quit drinking when I was about 23. 7 years in and there are still some awkward moments when I mention I don’t drink, but overall I don’t make a big deal of it and people move on from the subject pretty quickly.

  24. K says...

    Thank you for this post. This is a struggle for me and this line spoke to me — “I couldn’t let go of the daydream of drinking red wine on a trip to Italy with my (hypothetical) fiancé one day, or toasting with Champagne at my future wedding.” So much of the future I see includes moments like this. I live close to Napa / Sonoma and have plans to move their for my forties onward. At the same time, I like the way alcohol tastes. I like having it socially and having a glass of wine with a good book. The problem is that I also can slip, quiet easily, into having two to three drinks a night. I can also easily drink every night. I’m working on coming up with concrete plans to cut back. I have cut back for times. This is a real struggle for me though and I so appreciate this post. Thank you.

    • A Martin says...

      I totally identify, K! I can easily slip easily into drinking more. In the past month, I’ve been following a “Whole 30” inspired diet so i can be more mindful of my drinking and sugar intake. It’s surprising the inner conversations I’ve had to have with myself. For example, when I eat tacos, I normally have a pint or two of beer (IPA). I started ordering salad and iced tea to substitute. When I felt ready one day, I ordered tacos and iced tea and took a sip of my husband’s beer. Felt satisfied. At night, I replaced my nightly glass of red wine for hot rooibos tea which I find equally comforting. Essentially, I’ve found really satisfying substitutes for alcohol in my daily life and have honest conversations with myself in social situations. I like this new approach and work daily to manifest it in the long term 💕

  25. Summer Lampron says...

    I recently decided to give up drinking. It is definitely a struggle for me. I’m on day 44, but I plan on sticking with it. I have two little kids, that I need to be a role model for. My father is an alcoholic, my mother and two brother’s all drink A LOT. I just got tired of it. Thankfully my husband barely drinks and it makes things so much easier for me. I got so tired of drinking wine every night after the kids go to bed. Just isn’t worth it anymore :)

  26. Sasha L says...

    I appreciate so much the many thoughtful conversations I see popping up everywhere about drinking, sobriety, addiction. It’s suddenly become an interesting topic apparently, and it’s about time.

    I highly recommend Holly Whitaker @ Hip Sobriety. She is a freaking force for good. If you want to get sober or are just curious, or already are sober and need a tribe, this is the place. https://www.hipsobriety.com/

    I’ve been sober (and clean) a couple decades, my husband too. We raised our children in a sober household. I don’t miss alcohol, I’m super grateful I quit when I did and I wish I’d quit sooner. Even if you don’t think you have a problem, it’s toxic. My state has the highest alcoholism rate in the US. Also the highest suicide rate and rated worst drivers, based on accidents and DUIs. These statistics are ABSOLUTELY related. So much pain and misery caused by alcohol.

    Here’s what I have energy to do courtesy of sobriety: 2x daily yoga, 100 pushups a day, hike/backpack every weekend, run my own successful business, live in an expensive and beautiful place on a small income (alcohol is very expensive my friends), grow a huge garden every summer, parent my adult daughters with love and courage, be a good and incredibly dependable friend, manage chronic pain, a neurological disorder, anxiety and depression, I’ve read 22 books for fun so far this year, have lots of great sex, and wake up every morning knowing exactly what happened last night and with zero regrets. Is life perfect? Fuck no. Would alcohol make it better? I don’t even want to think how far gone I’d be if I was still drinking with my health conditions, it wouldn’t be a life at all.

  27. Michaela says...

    I don’t think I’d have ever been considered an alcoholic, but I’ve decided to cut WAY back on my (admittedly already minimal) drinking over the past year or so, because I’ve found that when I go stretches without drinking any alcohol at all, my mood is much better. I never got hangovers, no matter how much I drank (even in college!) but I would feel extra emotional and sad for sometimes a week, sometimes more, after having a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday night. I do feel a little awkward about it sometimes, but for the most part, no one has actually commented. I do try to have a mocktail (I usually mix a little seltzer and some kombucha so it looks like a regular cocktail!) when at home or at parties, and sometimes get a cranberry juice and seltzer at bars, but at bars they always give me a plastic cup which makes it more obvious that it’s juice, not a vodka cranberry. I don’t know how to avoid that, but usually the people I’m with either don’t notice or don’t comment. I feel extra private about it in general because I don’t want to get into “Drinking makes me depressed” and I’m not 100% sober (I’ll have a glass of wine with ice and seltzer every once in a while) so I don’t feel comfortable saying I don’t drink… It is a very complicated issue! Like Joanna mentioned, I’m defintley into the “sober curious” movement lately. Thank you for posting about this.

    I would love some mocktail recipes though! My fave right now is cran-raspberry la croix with pink lady health ade kombucha and an orange slice :)

  28. C. says...

    Very good read. Celebrating one month of sobriety today and this assured me of the things I was worried about in future cases. Thanks for sharing

    • Anon says...

      Congratulations, C! That’s so inspiring

  29. deluxxxe says...

    I envy you. I don’t have the strength to quit. I can’t even cut down… In the end it will probably cause my death.

    • T says...

      Hey, I feel you on this. I had my last drink on August 15th of last year. I had to go cold turkey and work closely with a therapist. It’s changed nearly everything in my life and I lost a really good friend over it. But, although this happened slowly for me, my life is getting better every day. And not just better than a hungover day, exponentially better each and every day. You can do this – you have no idea the community that’s out there, waiting to embrace you.

    • Andrea says...

      Hi Deluxxxe: I feel the sadness in your comment here and wanted to offer my sympathy for your pain around your drinking. That must be a hard burden to bear.

      I know that many areas of change (food, finances, etc.) are getting away from the idea of relying solely on willpower/personal strength and speaking to how you change your environment or put external changes into place the support your desire for a different outcome to your life. Maybe seeing what different approaches are out there might be helpful.

      I do know people whose drinking has shortened their lives or harmed others. It’s a tragedy for all involved.

    • Frida says...

      I believe in you and see your value. There are so many people who love you, and they want you to feel good about yourself. Find someone to talk to about this. You can find your way out of this place. I have faith in you.

    • Terry says...

      DELUXXXE , I have a daughter in recovery that 4 years ago I was prepared for her dying. I have seen many miracles of sobriety . You can do this you just need help. Give yourself the chance at a life you deserve, i bet your worth it!

  30. Kelly says...

    I was thrilled on a recent trip to France to see tons of mocktails on menus. I had some sort of delicious apricot juice concoction, served in a fancy glass, and felt suitably celebratory. I’ve also gotten really into coffee, since coffee dates sub in nicely for cocktails with girlfriends. I had something called a “cafe viennoise” where they bring you a big cup of whipped cream, then pour hot coffee in the middle!

    • Sara says...

      I’m starting to see really lovely, thoughtful mocktails all over the place! It’s been a lot of fun for my husband and I on a recent vacation to find many of the nice restaurants we visited in San Francisco and Honolulu had great mocktails selections for us to choose from (and not super sweet ones either, which was refreshing). Cool to hear that this is happening in France too!

  31. Kelly says...

    I have to break up with alcohol. I barely drink, but I’m struggling with chronic illness, and I can’t have one more thing sapping my energy. The one thing I’ll miss is drinking with my dad. I only see him once or twice a year, and my mom doesn’t drink at all, so we’ve always bonded over craft beer together. We went to my first craft beer festival a few weeks after my 21st birthday. He has a group chat with me and my husband called “beer buds” where we text each other pictures of our drinks. I’ll miss having something in common with a dad I love, but don’t have a ton in common with.

    • Bec says...

      Try and find some craft non alcoholic beer! Good luck on your journey

  32. Stef says...

    THANK YOU for this and also, finally! I’m 35 years old and have not had a drink in 2 1/2 years. I thought my life was over when I knew I needed to quit drinking but the reality was my life with alcohol, especially my inner life, was simply no good. Honestly, nothing was more boring than my life while drinking. It was like Groundhog Day: drink, vow not to drink too much, end up doing it anyway, hate myself, repeat. I had fun too. Until I didn’t. The anxiety, shame and lost time to a glass (or bottle) of rose was not worth it. I like @thesoberglow’s response to people who ask what their life will look like if they stop drinking: “What will your life look like if you keep drinking?”

    I want everyone to know that you do NOT NEED TO HIT ROCK BOTTOM TO QUIT DRINKING. Realizing that you are relinquishing your life to a freaking glass of wine is enough. Wanting to stop is enough. You don’t need to label yourself and you don’t have to explain yourself.

    Some good resources:

    TheTemper.com
    Laura McKowen
    Home podcast
    This Naked Mind podcast by Annie Grace
    SheRecovers
    HipSobriety
    @Drylifeclub
    @Tellbetterstoriesmedia
    Good books: Drinking: A love story; Blackout; Sober Stick Figure; Girl Walks Out of A Bar; This Naked Mind.

    It’s so much better having the time, energy and space that alcohol used to take up. I didn’t even realize how consuming it was. To anyone who needs to hear this: despite our society’s glorification of alcohol (I note how many people on this very blog listed “a glass of wine” for things that made them feel alive in response to a recent blog post), you do not need to drink. It does not hold you together. It’s hard but it’s so worth it. I root for you. You are not alone. There is help and beauty and real growth on the other side.

    • Sasha L says...

      I’m rooting for you too. I love your comment Stef.

    • Misha says...

      This is a beautiful comment. Thank you ♥️

    • BB says...

      Yes, yes…all of the above. Especially the resources listed and the books. They are all on my list too.

      Also, I think women need reminding that NOT DRINKING IS BADASS….it’s not lame or boring. It’s counter culture and as un-basic as you get.

  33. Caitlin says...

    This topic has been on my mind SO much lately and it’s such a relief to read about it here and see all sides of the coin – and to also not feel alone! I didn’t start drinking until I went to college where binge drinking was the norm. I quickly learned how fun everything felt after consuming countless drinks and didn’t know how to just have one casual cocktail. “But it’s how everyone does it!” I told myself. And then I braced myself during the mornings after when my anxiety, shame, and guilt were spiking and I had to replay everything I could remember to sooth those feelings and remember I didn’t do anything “wrong.”
    Fortunately, that desire calmed down post-grad and I learned how much I loved the taste of a really good glass of wine (rather than the need to down a gin and tonic) but as I’m entering my 30’s I am realizing I just how often I think about my next drink – after a long day at work, on a sunny Saturday on my porch – in all of my social activities and times of relaxation I find a way to include alcohol. And then on top of that occasionally my one drink with a friend will turn into several and I’m teetering on not being safe to drive myself home on a Tuesday night when I have an early meeting in the morning. Again, I tell myself it’s fine and I was safe, I have no children to care for, and so I’m not putting anything or anyone in jeopardy but that shame, guilt, and anxiety really hit me hard at least a couple times a week about this. My husband drinks socially and will have the occasional beer at home but really doesn’t make plans around it and just doesn’t have much of a desire. So I don’t tell him about my expectations, which causes waves of guilt that I have them and he doesn’t. It also then feels like I have a secret, which causes the most anxiety of them all. I recently saw an interview Ellen DeGeneres did with Anne Hathaway and she talks about her quitting drinking for the next 18 years because she frankly “didn’t like the way [she] does it” and that really resonated with me – am I just at a place where I don’t like the way I do it? Is it also time for me to just stop? Definitely some really good food for thought. Thank you so much for sharing and for making this safe space to talk about complicated topics like this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji12D_aObGw

    • Sasha L says...

      Caitlyn, hugs.

      Also, I’m a couple decades sober, I’ve never once regretted it. Sometimes my sobriety makes others feel awkward, but that’s none of my business. So many things that I never ever have to worry about, it’s been nothing but freeing.

  34. Lisa says...

    Many of these comments are incredibly interesting to me. I do drink, at most two drinks in any given week, and realize that I am lucky to have never felt a problem with it or like one or two drinks would inevitably lead to more. And yes, life is stressful and I certainly use it to destress, much as others use their drug or activity of choice and again, I’m lucky.

    But what I find most interesting is the nearly universal comments that people feel judged for not drinking. I could not care less if anyone else does or does not drink when I do. My husband has several alcoholics in his family, so I’m thrilled that he is careful with alcohol. My uncle by marriage is a recovering alcoholic with the help of AA and I obviously support him. Someone else may have a complicated relationship with it for other reasons, may be trying to be healthier by cutting it out, or may be pregnant. None of those things are in any way my business.

    I do wonder, is it a generational or regional thing to be so concerned and judgmental about others choosing *not* to drink?

    • Natalie says...

      Hi Lisa,
      I loved this post and have been following the comments (as always, the comments are the best!). The way that I’ve always seen it – and I could be misguided – is that the judgement of non-drinking comes from a place of insecurity. In that, when someone isn’t drinking, it forces others around them to reflect on their own drinking habits, the pros/cons of it, and the potential of doing something embarrassing in front of a sober person. It’s sort of like when one friend is on a diet, or doesn’t eat dessert, it gives pause to your own decision to eat that and to maybe think, oh! Should I be cutting out sugar too? At least, that’s how I’ve always seen it.

    • Janet Boseovski says...

      Completely agree with this. I absolutely love wine and cocktails in moderation and also feel lucky that I’m able to enjoy them without ever “needing” them. I would never judge another person’s decision to refrain from drinking. I guess it’s unsurprising that people are judgmental about this, too, given all the other arenas where this occurs (what we eat, what we wear, whether we choose to have children, etc. ).

    • T says...

      In my getting sober experience, many of my friends judged/ I felt judged by them because drinking was what bonded us. If we were always out drinking similar amounts and I realized how detrimental it was for me, it naturally either caused them to think that they had a problem, too, or that I THOUGHT they did. The good news is, now that alcohol isn’t consuming and/or clouding my every thought, I’m able to communicate much more easily and have these conversations with my friends if they’re open to it and if I feel safe doing so.

    • Andrea says...

      I think you bring up a good point, Lisa. I think there definitely may be regional differences at play in whether or not people feel judged about not drinking. I live in a part of the country (Wisconsin) where drinking is very much a part of the culture here and people can take a weird amount of pride in binge-drinking. (We also have high rates alcoholism.) I hadn’t thought about how much of a regional thing this can be until I recently became friends with someone who moved from another state. She expressed surprise that every time she visits someone’s house, they offer her a beer. Honestly, I thought this was just normal behavior not specific to where I live. I’ve since become more reflective about my own thoughts and behaviors around alcohol use.

  35. Kayce says...

    I quit drinking 7 months ago. It dawned on me that I had an excuse to drink for every occasion. Walking the dog on the weekends with my husband ended with a beer at the Brewery. In between a double header? Let’s grab a quick drink! Long day if yard work? Grab a 6 pack…and on and on. Neighborhood BBQ? Let’s have shots! All the while, we are raising two teenage boys, who we are constantly telling to not drink….seriously?! While I’m not going to say quitting has been easy, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. My husband hasn’t quit, but drinks far less, and rarely has alcohol in the house. My biggest challenge is that I now hate being around people who are drinking a lot. Like those neighborhood BBQ’s with shots! It’s annoying to be around drunk people. My poor kids…I have so much guilt…

    • logan says...

      congratulations on seven months kayce!! i think honesty with your kids is the best you can do, you’re doing a great job xx

  36. Andrea says...

    My family has a long and complicated relationship with alcohol. Well into advanced dementia, my grandmother would get visibly upset if someone mentioned gin (her husband kept his bottles in the toilet tank…). Other family members are borderline alcoholics. And still others just really enjoy a good bottle of wine. Knowing that I have alcoholism in my family, I’m careful, but I also really enjoy a good bottle of wine. For me, this means I don’t drink when I “need a drink.” If my day was bad, or the kids are acting up, or things have been stressful, I’m unlikely to reach for a glass of wine. I drink when I want a glass of wine because that is the taste I want. I drink socially, maybe more with some friends than others, but I always know why I’m choosing to drink, and I always curb it if the reason is about changing the way I feel or am relating to the world.
    That being said, I don’t judge other people’s choices. We host a giant spaghetti dinner once a month, and there’s usually a lot of wine flowing, but a fair number of people show up and drink soda or water too. No one cares, and I’ve never heard anyone push for a reason from the non-drinkers.

  37. MD says...

    I was never much of a drinker until my last relationship. My ex liked to drink and it seemed like we could never have enough wine in the house – on a Sunday we’d kill a bottle each tinkering around the house and then split another with dinner. We’d go out a couple of times a week for the sole purpose of sitting around and drinking. I never felt really good during those years. When we split up, it was a habit to buy a bottle of wine when I was at the store and I noticed I might have a glass or two, it would sit a week and I’d pour it out. Then buy another and repeat. Eventually, I just stopped buying them. I realize that my default setting is that I’m just not much of a drinker, and can go weeks without thinking about alcohol. I do love a nice margarita or a shot of tequila when I’m out with friends, but just as often, it’s a Diet Coke. I don’t get people who would be offended if you don’t drink – who cares? My friends all know I’ll have one (maybe) and that’s it and it’s no problem. I know that if I have more than that, I’ll feel crappy, sleep poorly and have a headache. Just not interested.

  38. Colleen says...

    I stopped drinking when I met my husband 26 years ago. He gave up drinking for similar reasons and because his older brother went into residential treatment for alcoholism. Their parents were weekend drinkers and he remembers them being really mean to each other.

    I don’t miss drinking at all but do know it affects our social life. We are not included in certain groups/activities, I don’t know if it makes people feel uncomfortable or whatever other reason but it definitely is a thing. Honestly, there are times when that hurts.

    The current culture of “wine o’clock” etc mystifies me. Glorifying drinking as a coping mechanism and social membership device boggles my mind, I think it serves to help people justify their choices.

  39. Sandra says...

    This is such a great piece! There is a huge drinking culture out there, and it isn’t right for everyone. In the midst of all that is in the media (girlfriends…with wine! moms….with wine!) it is nice to hear some other voices. I had a complicated relationship with alcohol after a break-up of a 10-year relationship in my late 20s. I fell in with a rowdy group, and we were out every Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday afternoons. I realized after a while (I was in therapy) that I was self-medicating for anxiety, both about the breakup and some social anxiety too. But it still went on for several years. Weirdly, I don’t regret it. Those carefree nights (and even the crushing hangovers) were full of memories that still bring a smile, but it wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle for me long-term. And alcohol really does seem to affect my mood (depression/anxiety) overall for the worse.

    What really changed it for me was trying to have a baby (which took a few years). There was a big shift in terms of focusing more on my health. After being cold turkey during my pregnancy and breastfeeding, I didn’t have a lot of interest in it. I know there are some moms who like to drink once their kids are in bed, but I am way too tired for that and no way could I parent hungover on a regular basis. Now my child is 8 and I’m in my early 50s. Hormonal changes have made me drink even less…now if I have even two glasses of wine there is a chance I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with insomnia. Argh! I always enjoy a nice cup of tea after my son is asleep, and that is just as relaxing to me.

    I’ve been lucky that I am able to have just one two glasses of wine when the mood strikes. Or sometimes I just have something non-alcoholic. My friends who are the heaviest drinkers have noticed and commented that I don’t drink much anymore. I can tell it makes them uncomfortable when we go out. But I really don’t have judgment about anyone else’s drinking. In some ways I am envious that they can still handle alcohol like we used to. But I just can’t.

  40. A says...

    Does anyone have any suggestions or resources for someone worried about a friend’s relationship with alcohol? Alcoholism runs in her family, and she has given it up before for about a month but this past year I and a couple of our other friends have been concerned. She isn’t typically able to drink and not end up hungover the next day and this sometimes happens multiple times in a week. In addition I know she is very stressed about money and is very anxious about finding a partner and having children (we are 29 so I find this concern slightly unwarranted, but it is how she feels). In addition she is incredibly stubborn and does not easily take advice, which I do not think is the correct route anyway. I really do not know how to move forward with this and I feel like I need some language to help me and my other friends when the time comes. Any suggestions?

    • Rezia says...

      As a first step, can you hang out with her more in situations where no alcohol is involved? Invite her to go to a museum, come over for dinner, spend time in a park. Show her she can have a good time without any alcohol being involved without even mentioning alcohol first. She may realize on her own that she feels better on the mornings when she’s not hungover.
      But spending time together and showing her how much you love her as a friend is the foundation on which you can have an honest conversation with her along the lines of “I love you and I’m concerned” and have her really believe that you mean the best for her, because you’ve shown her that over time.

    • N says...

      Hi A,

      I’m sorry your friend is going through this and I’m sorry that you are also going through the stress of wondering what to do and how to help. You sound like a really good friend. I’ve had a similar experience (with my sister) and, unfortunately, I don’t really have great advice about how to approach the subject (maybe someone else does?).

      What I learned through my own experience is that it’s truly impossible to help someone dealing with addiction (or light addiction) until she is ready to help herself. It’s incredibly difficult to witness, and I truly feel for you. My sister is also very, very stubborn and we got into some knock-down, drag-out fights over the subject. But, in my personal experience, things improved when I stopped trying to actively help her with the alcohol issue and instead just let her know that I was there for her no matter what, AND she came to the conclusion on her own that she had issues with drinking.

      This might not be the best advice, but if it were me, I would approach it like this: let your friend know in a gentle and non-judgmental way that you know she’s going through something and that you’re there for her. I would 1,000% recommend having this type of conversation IN PERSON (learn from my mistakes haha). Texting/emailing feels so much easier, but it’s also so much easier for things to be misconstrued when you can’t hear someone’s tone of voice.

      You can gently bring up the topic of drinking by expressing your concern, but be prepared for her to feel judged and defensive no matter how non-judgmental you are. It could also be helpful to invite her to do things that don’t involve alcohol (or where alcohol isn’t usually present) like going to the movies, going to a farmer’s market, going on a hike, visiting a museum, riding bikes, taking a class, etc., because this shows you’re there for her and willing to talk without involving alcohol (not like the typical, come over and have a glass of wine and vent! situation that’s so common in our culture now).

      Anyway, I’m sorry if this isn’t super helpful! Seeing someone you care about start to go down a potentially bad road is incredibly difficult, and I think you’re a really good person for wanting to help your friend.

    • T says...

      The other replies are really great, but I wanted to add one thing that helped me. After months of sobriety and months of urging from my therapist, I went to an Al-Anon meeting. In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I was raised by one, and it’s rampant in my family. I’m not Christian, I was worried about being an alcoholic in a room full of people whose lives had been so deeply affected by their alcoholic family members, and I have honestly never been so nervous to walk into a group before. BUT! I can honestly say that it was a game changer. I haven’t been back, but seriously, that hour of showing me that I’m not alone, quite the opposite in fact, was so so meaningful. Maybe you could suggest the two of you go to a meeting together. Since she has alcoholism in her family and is worried about her future family, this could be really impactful for her, whether it’s one meeting to get the wheels turning or she finds a supportive community there! Also, I was not the only alcoholic there. Although I didn’t share anything other than my name when introductions were taking place, two other newcomers identified themselves as both an alcoholic and the loved one of an alcoholic. Everyone could not have been more accepting and this made me so much more at ease.

    • A says...

      Thank you all for this great advice!!!

  41. logan says...

    thanks so much for posting this, joanna. i’ve been sober for 3 years and it was a great decision for me, but i’ve experienced it as a process — some days are easier than other, and reading essays like this remind me that it’s worth it!

    two recommendations for those interested reading more from people who are doing great thinking about life without drink:

    former hairpin editor edith zimmerman’s comic “my first year sober” https://medium.com/spiralbound/my-first-year-sober-ef0e51b6ffca

    and former gawker editor aj daulerio’s the small bow – i get the newsletter each tuesday and it’s reminder that there are many many people trying to walk this road in many different ways: https://thesmallbow.com/2019/02/25/please-sign-up-for-our-newsletter-because-its-so-much-better-than-this-dumb-blog/

  42. Amanda says...

    I grew up going to AA meetings with my dad and also saw the effect of alcohol on my mom, who had mental illnesses that she sometimes self-medicated with booze.

    So I definitely did not have a great model for healthy drinking behavior. In college, I went from barely drinking at all to drinking ALL the time, because like Sarah I loved the person it made me (outgoing, fearless, witty – at least in my head). It also made me depressed when I was sober, and kept me from really coming to terms with some emotional and relational issues that I had.

    It wasn’t until I went to therapy and took care of some serious underlying problems – my approach to relationships, and negative self-narratives I’d adopted as a kid – that I felt like I could really change my relationship around alcohol.

    I didn’t cut alcohol from my life, but I don’t drink it to deal with emotions anymore. I’ll have a drink if it sounds good, but not because I’m anxious or trying to relax. I’m also much more aware of the negative effects of alcohol for me – less deep sleep, for example – and factor that in to my decision to drink or not. I’m generally much more mindful of when and why I drink.

    I do wish there were more and better alternatives to the AA model of dealing with alcohol related problems. For me, getting at the root of my emotional reasons for drinking was necessary moreso than quitting altogether (though I’ve gone through periods of not drinking as part of that process). I think growing up around the AA model actually made it harder for me to develop a healthy approach to alcohol, since it frames all problematic drinking as an inherently incurable disease that can only be solved through total abstinence, which is simply not medically accurate. Outside the US, there are much more effective models for dealing with problematic drinking being developed. In the US, AA has such a strong hold on the market that other approaches have a hard time getting support, despite the fact that AA itself has an extremely high failure rate.

    Total sobriety is a great choice for some folks and I’m glad it’s getting more attention now, but for anyone wanting to improve their approach to drinking without going totally sober, I highly recommend working with a good therapist to examine your emotional and social reasons for drinking. That was really eye-opening and helpful for me, and if you decide to go sober, it’ll help you be much more prepared to do so.

  43. Annette says...

    It is interesting how many of the “tools” she described are things that are taught in AA. I don’t think that you have to identify as an alcoholic to benefit from giving up drinking, but for anyone (like me) who needs some extra support to quit, 12 srep programs can be life changing.

  44. P. says...

    I don’t drink. My fiance doesn’t drink. My whole family doesn’t drink. But when you tell people you don’t drink they are shocked. Either they feel judged, as if your personal decisions are a condemnation of theirs, or they assume you’re a recovering alcoholic, because surely you wouldn’t CHOOSE to not drink if you could. Or they think you’re a religious fanatic. But the truth is, drinking doesn’t feel good to me. I hate the taste. I hate the feeling the next morning. I get anxious and sick. It’s fun in the middle, but the price you pay for that fun isn’t nearly worth it. It was never a part of my family growing up, and it’s been that way for generations. It just wasn’t something anyone really cared about. Life was good enough. Although I could never use this tactic, my mother has a way of shutting down the questions about why she doesn’t drink. When people ask her why she doesn’t drink, she asks them why they do?

    • S says...

      P., i’m in a similar boat! Drinking (even one or two drinks alternating with water) would invariably make me feel ill, then wake up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps and stabbing pain. For years! Years that encompassed plenty of drinking activities during my engagement, grad school, wedding, and countless friends’ bachelorette parties. My husband drinks, so I’ll usually have a taste of his beer, or a small flute of champagne. I don’t really find it awkward to not drink, as others suggest; is it awkward because I’d be insecure about my decision, or because others belittle my choice? I don’t care if others are personally offended by what goes in my body… you do you. The hardest thing I’ve found, though, is that when people find out I don’t really drink, I feel like I get labeled as “no fun”. And sometimes I really want to drink to loosen up and enjoy myself– but I also really enjoy not being in pain for hours in the middle of the night :)

    • Leah says...

      This is me! I don’t drink for a number of reasons (one being I can’t rationlize it from a health/cost standpoint) and I am hesitant to tell people. I find I’m justifying my decision and trying to delicately maneuver the conversation so as to not insult those who choose to drink. It feels so weird to me and has also led me (in the past) to have a glass of wine (which I hated) in order to not make others uncomfortable. I think the fact that obstaining from alcohol is generally unacceptable in social situations (in my experience) is a sad indication of how it is driving our culture.

    • Ali says...

      This describes me, too! I decided that alcohol could add nothing to my life and never drank. Instead, it just takes away – health, money, feeling good. I hate the taste too. This was a very hard decision in HS and college due to the culture and peer pressure. Since then somehow, I always found friends and a husband that didn’t drink much or at all (possibly similar personalities and values find each other) which helps a TON, and they know it’s just not a thing for me.

      It helps to order something non-alc to drink among others in social settings. I’ve noticed better offerings for alternatives in recent years. Oftentimes no one notices. If anyone asks or offers me something, I just say “I’m not drinking.” I’ve never had anyone in adult life question or say anything back (I guess I keep polite company).

  45. I find you get the same reaction with sugar. I gave up sugar because I’m addicted but more crucially because it was causing autoimmune flare ups. I tried eating it in moderation after my self-imposed sugar detoxes, but the addiction just doesn’t allow me to do it in halves.
    Like you, I felt it would be easier to come out with something bigger and scarier than tell people I’m giving up something nearly everyone loves (and has a complicated relationship with too, in many cases).

    Well done for doing something for yourself and sticking to it regardless of the IMMENSE peer pressure!

    • Anon says...

      I was so hoping someone would bring up sugar. I’m needing to go sugar sober & have been trying literally for over 15 years. Not because it’s trendy but because for me it is like alcohol is to others in these comments. But every time I bring it up I get similar responses or it’s assumed I’m doing something trendy.

      It’s as consuming of a coping mechanism as drinks are for others. I wish there was a sugar AA.

    • Amy says...

      I wish there was a sugar, too! It’s so hard, isn’t it? I feel like a freak whenever I eat in front of anyone, or we go out to a restaurant. I’ve maintained social drinking because it felt very extreme to cut that totally out as well – plus the idea of not having a yummy glass of cab during the winter for multiple years in a row (pregnancies!) made me sad. However, I think eliminating sugar has really amplified the impact alcohol has on my anxiety and depression. I can feel my mood tumble within an hour or two or drinking. And sleep? Forget it.

      And re: sugar. I miss ice cream so much I could cry. I’ve been eating Lily’s Chocolates but it’s not the same. It’s been almost a year and I still have the exact same cravings. They haven’t lessened at all. I think the fake chocolate isn’t helping..

  46. BB says...

    I could not NOT comment here! Hurray, Joanne, for finally touching on this topic which is very near and dear to me! I got sober 1 year ago, and it was the hardest, and most eye opening thing in my life. Nothing has changed me more…not even getting married or having two kids. I’m 40 this year, in the best shape I have been in a decade, have self confidence that has NEVER existed before. It didn’t happen overnight, and there were some tricky and not necessarily rosy situations from that last drink to where I am today. However, in sobriety, I have found a mental peace and clarity, a love for my children that I never thought was possible, a connection with god. I have forgiven people that I never thought I would forgive, and it’s like a weight is lifted. It’s a journey but it’s one that now I am HERE FOR! I am thankful every single day for the desperation that knocked me to my knees and finally made me stop for good. I wish it didn’t have to go that far before I stopped but that’s what I was for me.

    I also wanted to echo: YES, follow Laura McKowen. She is amazing. Also, look up Hip Sobriety/Holly Whittaker. They both talk about sobriety in a female focused way which feels different than AA to me.

    For me, sobriety is no longer a sad consequence. It’s a proud lifestyle choice. I quit drinking not because of sober curiosity. I quit because I was saving my own life.

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice —
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    “Mend my life!”
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voice behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do —
    determined to save
    the only life that you could save.

    (Mary Oliver, of course)

    • Lauren says...

      Thank you so much for sharing these resources. Currently signing up for everything Laura McKowen!

    • Summer Lampron says...

      Thank you for sharing this poem! I also follow everything Laura McKowen, she is awesome.

  47. Alice says...

    I didn’t drink for most of university because every time I did, I would go mad, and then I’d end up weeping and literally suicidal. Battling with severe depression and drinking a lot was just a big NO for me. Since, I’ve developed a much healthier relationship with alcohol- I love wine, but I’ll happily have an evening out without drinking at all if I feel that’s better for my mental health/ life/ if they just don’t have something I like, or can happily stop after one drink (I did just that with a friend recently- I had one G&T and a diet coke, while she had two G&Ts). It’s super interesting to read these different perspectives- keep up the great work CoJ!

  48. Amanda says...

    Alcoholism is an interesting topic for me. My dad is an alcoholic and it severed our relationship, and my brother is an alcoholic who was on his deathbed with a failing liver but rallied through recovery (thanks, Salvation Army!). BUT those aren’t even the reasons I think about it so often – I work in psychiatric research in a rehab facility developing treatments for alcoholism and anxiety, my boss is a highly prominent well-published alcoholism researcher and faculty member at a major university, and my partner + all of my friends are finishing their PhD’s in Clinical Psychology, many of them studying and treating alcoholism daily. But the kicker is we’re all functioning alcoholics per the DSM criteria, ha! While it is incredibly easy to “meet for” alcoholism, there’s a weird line where we all ask ourselves if our drinking is problematic and interfering with our lives, and at the end of the day it’s not doing enough to give it up right now and it provides enough of a fun getaway without being too problematic, yet. This doesn’t add much to the conversation but I guess I just wanted to say that even for those of us who REALLY KNOW alcoholism and it’s lifestyle and even long-term biological consequences, we’re still over here choosing to drink… fairly heavily… every weekend, ha. (That said keep an eye on your drinking and seek help if it’s interfering with your life! It’s treatable and you really recover with time.)

  49. Mikayla says...

    I got a taste of this experience when I did a dry month for the first time this year. I gotta say, it was hella awkward attending work happy hours and sticking to water, but the social awkwardness was totally worth it. I didn’t think it was going to be much of a difference for me healthwise, but I was so surprised. I had no idea all the little ways that alcohol affected my life and health when it was already processed out of my system. I was so clear-headed all the time. Planning my week came easier because I was better rested. I was hydrated and my skin cleared up. Not to mention my budget allowed for a few more extra items, like a picture frame for my family photo and a quiet lunch with an old friend.

    Going dry just for a month shifted my drinking habits. Now I hardly ever drink during my work week, and before I order one on the weekends I feel the weight of the choice I’m making. It is a luxury, not a given anymore.

  50. HeatherL says...

    I’d love to read more about social gatherings that don’t center on alcohol. At 50, I don’t drink much at all anymore. But I can’t say I’ve given up. Now, I only drink things that taste delicious and I do find it very easy to stop after one or two-where it used to a slippery slope. I think the gamechanger for me was hot yoga, which for one reason or another, helped me deal with some low-grade anxiety that I’ve carried with me my entire life. Without that feeling of constant stress, I don’t feel like I NEED a drink anymore. Also, wanting to get better at the yoga practice made it easier not to drink. Hanging out with my yoga friends, who mostly drink tea and enjoy long walks….also helped. Life changes.

  51. EliseB says...

    This article brings up an interesting overall question for me: Why do people think they need to comment on what one does or not do? Also why do we feel we must have an excuse for a personal choice. I would love to find the perfect, easy, polite phrase to use when dealing anything I do not want to eat, drink or do. Somehow “NO thank you” does not work. Does anyone have a thought about this topic? Help!

    • Michaela says...

      If I’m worried that I’ll feel awkward about it, I’ll usually say something like “I’m all set, thanks” and then either walk away for a minute (bathroom, touch up my lipstick, grab another canape haha) or change the subject (“So you mentioned you went water-skiing last weekend; how was it?!”) to something about the other person- people always love talking about themselves! I’ve never been a huge drinker (aside from one year in college) and have recently come to notice the impact that it has on my mood for days after. I’ve essentially stopped drinking but have been experimenting with mocktails, which makes it easier when I have a drink in my hand that doesn’t look like water!

  52. Mouse says...

    My family’s cooking tradition is Italian/Greek, and I grew up watching my mother cook with a small juice glass of wine at the ready, both to drink a little and cook with. Wine was always associated with food, and that was really the only alcohol around; sometimes beer. I know I am very lucky that my family seems not to have the addiction gene.
    My profession demanded that I not drink much, or it affected my performance, so for 30 years or so I drank only periodically after performances, usually only one glass of wine , sometimes two. Now that I don’t perform, I find that I really enjoy a juice glass of wine with dinner with my husband. It’s a nice ritual that makes me feel connected to my family tradition and my newer tradition with my husband. As we get older we find that it does affect sleep, so we may cut back a bit, but we are lucky to be able to control it. I don’t understand the issue of being made to feel uncomfortable by others—just do what you need to do; no one cares and if they do, don’t hang with them. We have friends who do come from a long line of alcohol problems and consequently the husband does not drink and the wife has joined him in that abstinence to support him. They are not judgmental of us in any way when they come to dinner–indeed, they usually bring a bottle of wine–and we are not judgmental of them. We just need different ways. Perhaps some of this is because we are all older, between 60-70, and life is just too short to be insecure.
    All this to say that obviously for some people alcohol is dangerous and for others moderation is fine.

  53. Lisa says...

    I haven’t drunk much in the last few years because I was trying to get pregnant, then was pregnant, then breastfeeding and repeat so I couldn’t really drink for five years. But, I did have the fun of morning sickness that felt like I was hungover for months.

    I did have an odd relationship with alcohol – my father did AA (I’m still not sure if he was actually an alcoholic) and my mother never really drank but was dead against it, so I never had an example at home of drinking in a non damaging way. It meant that when I went to university (in the UK which has a big drinking culture), I learnt that you drank to get drunk. It was years and years and years before I learned that you can just have one drink with dinner, and that’s it

    I don’t really miss it. Sometimes I have a glass of wine now with dinner, but that’s about it. But, I’m now very aware how common it is in the culture and how much some of my family members drink – like 2/3 drinks a night, every night.

  54. Awadsie says...

    Good for you! I’m a drinker. I look forward to a cocktail at the end of most days. I might follow it up with a glass of wine or a beer, but that’s it. I took the month of january off (Dryuary) to see if it would make a difference in my life. It really didn’t. I have concluded that i’m good to go!

  55. Katie says...

    I’ve never been a drinker (I’ve tried things but dislike both the taste and the feeling of even a glass in my system, just not for me!) and now at 30 I’m getting a kick out of my college friends all saying “yea, I don’t really drink anymore” when we go out to eat and they don’t order alcohol. I’m lucky that everyone was always pretty cool about me not drinking, though.

    Occasionally I’ll run across people who take the “you don’t drink? You must not be any fun!” line, but I quickly run in the opposite direction because I’m fun sober and if they need alcohol to turn into fun people they are not for me! 😂

  56. Nigerian Girl says...

    I don’t drink because I cannot stand the taste of alcohol. I tried it years ago (the little I took gave me a vicious headache to crown it all) and figured it wasn’t for me. At first I wished I were one of the cool adults drinking in bars, but eventually I decided to stay true to myself. When I’m eating out, I usually have a chapman, a beloved Nigerian mocktail. My family and friends don’t care whether or not I drink, but when I’m out with my colleagues or my clients, some of them are stunned and disbelieving about it. When I was in grad school in England, some of my classmates assumed I didn’t drink for religious reasons. Then they found out I wasn’t religious and became confused, which I found amusing as one should. No, I’m not making a political statement. No, I’m not an attention-seeking contrarian. No, I’m not judging you. I just can’t stand the taste of alcohol full stop. Each to their own.

    • Michaela says...

      What is a Chapman? I love mocktails!

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      @Michaela It’s a great-tasting mocktail made with grenadine syrup, aromatic bitters, soda and fruits. Here’s a tutorial if you like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA8fp5ZkbHo

  57. Lana says...

    My husband quit drinking almost four years ago. It’s fine amazing things for our relationship and I’m so grateful he doesn’t drink. It’s always fascinating to me how people want to know why he quit, and even after hearing why will say, “It’s a shame he can’t just have a drink every so often.” Is it? Because it’s not a shame to me, the person who had to deal with the drunk version of him or put up with the hung over version of him!

    • Lana says...

      Done not fine! Commenting from my phone while nursing always proves challenging !

  58. Claire says...

    I really love this shift in thinking on social drinking. I often say I’d like to cut down, but I always have trouble coming up with good substitutes for the “classic combos” – a glass of Chianti with a bowl of homemade pasta, margarita with chips on a sunny porch etc.

    Would you consider doing an article on good non-alcoholic drink ideas, or food pairing options?

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Yes, great idea! I’d love an article on the best mocktails. :) (Especially as I am currently 4 months preggers!).

    • Faith says...

      I second this idea!

  59. Andrea says...

    What a beautifully written essay. I started drinking heavily, sadly at 16. I had an incredibly difficult home life and found it masked the pain, temporarily of course! Fast forward to 18, I was sharing an apartment with two other gals and I was home alone one evening waiting for a date to show. The longer I sat there the more I drank and finally I thought, I’m going to be sick. It was a two story apartment and I KNEW I wouldn’t make it up the stairs so I went in the kitchen and heaved for what seemed like forever in the kitchen garbage can. When it finally stopped I slumped down on the floor totally disgusted with myself and thought is this the woman you want to become???? No it was not! And I never drank again. That awful moment truly was my wake up call that I needed. And that guy standing me up was really the best thing that ever happened to me. I couldn’t even tell you how I was able to buy all that alcohol back then at such a young age, but I knew I was becoming an alcoholic and I’m so grateful I was able to stop it when I did. Reading all the comments it just kills me that so many are pressured and given a hard time for not drinking. Stay firm good people!

    • Ker says...

      You were such a wise 18 year old. Well done!

  60. I love this. I think that not drinking is another way of being mindful and aware of the needs of your mind and body, like not eating food that you know makes you feel bad. I think more and more people are doing this and hopefully, it’s is (or at least is becoming) more “socially acceptable” not to drink alcohol and not to need a reason. My friend Katie has an awesome log about being a sober mom. You can check it out here https://toosoberforthis.com/.

  61. Jessie says...

    I stopped drinking 4 years ago at the age of 36. This is the first story I’ve heard that completely represents my story as well! Thank you so much for posting; it was so nice to read the words I’ve never been able to come up with (so eloquently) on my own.

  62. K says...

    It’s so crazy how it all comes down to Brene Brown -style courage and vulnerability. And sex. Many people like how they can blame alcohol for stumbling into the arms of their crush or saying “something stupid” but with alcohol hopefully it’s seen as endearing. When really it’s not the alcohol, it’s just them, us. For 50% of the time alcohol physiologically takes away our inhibitions, and the other 50% of the time, I think people just like the disclaimer safety net of it all.

    We’re so scared to be mentally present and rejected and rejected while mentally present! And I think we’re tired of being afraid.

  63. Cece says...

    There have definitely been times in my life when my relationship with alcohol hasn’t been a particularly healthy one – bad decisions galore.

    But looking back, I realise that for me drinking was a reflection of my mental health in other areas – although it was a vicious cycle for sure, alcohol certainly wasn’t improving my depression or anxiety or loneliness. I used it as an emotional crutch and it was not a wise or effective solution.

    These days I’m a mum and about to have my second baby, and I’m married to a man with a super healthy approach to alcohol – and everything else actually. If he wants a glass of wine, or a beer, or a cookie or a hot dog he has it, enjoys it guilt-free and then he’s done. It’s *so* enjoyable to see someone for whom consumption and emotional need aren’t connected.

    I don’t find not drinking during pregnancy difficult really, although there are definitely moments I dream of a crisp glass of white wine on a warm evening. I’m for sure looking forward to getting back to the point, further down the line, where I can have an occasional drink or be in a pub garden and not be drinking another bloody soda water. But I think the combo of knowing it’s my job to set an example for my kids, and the fact I’m genuinely happy and supported and not in need of any kind of artificial crutch anymore help steer me in the direction of being a happy, balanced, occasional drinker these days.

  64. Sharon says...

    Thank you for writing this.

  65. Tabby says...

    My dad attempted suicide last summer and that week I went from someone who had never gone a week without a drink to not being able to stomach it at all. As others have mentioned, I wouldn’t have said I had a problem, but at the same time I’ve never really tried to stop for the (secret) fear that I wouldn’t actually be able to. I’ve been near tee-total for a number of months now and do feel physically and mentally better for it, however I’m having to learn how to life in my own head 24/7. I hadn’t realised how much I had used alcohol and those hazy, drunk nights as a means to escape, well, myself. There have been a handful of times recently where I’ve felt myself spiraling downwards and my first though is ‘I want to drink a whole bottle of wine and peace out right now’. Having to sit through those times, wait it out and find other way of calming the storm have been hellish but so very educational. I feel like I’m learning about all the pieces of myself that I’ve previously used alcohol to quieten or smother, and discovering my ‘whole’ person at the age of 33 is something I feel immensely proud of.

    I can’t say I don’t miss the feeling of letting go and losing yourself in an evening of wine and laughter, I have so many wonderful memories from my 20’s that are all wrapped in drunken antics. But I have never before felt so clearheaded and in touch with my own soul.

  66. Chas says...

    I pound Heinekin Zeros (no alcohol, unlike other NAs) like water! I limit myself to 4 “real” drinks per week. It’s tough when I am hanging with drinking buddies, but those 0.0s get me by. So many advantages to this limitation. Congrats on your sobriety.

  67. Aude says...

    I thought I would bring some perspective from France, where I have moved back after 19 years abroad. I feel that there is less binge drinking here than in the anglo saxon cultures. However, people are really stumped if you go to their house for dinner or at the restaurant and turn down wine. It’s so embedded in the culture. Even at my parents’, my dad will always pour me a glass of wine without asking, even though I have been turning it down for years no. Sometimes I have a glass of wine, for a birthday, Xmas, a special dinner with my husband, and it’s lovely and special. I don’t think there is a necessity at all to abstain from alcohol if you enjoy a glass here and there. However, I am disappointed that the country hasn’t evolved and turning down wine is seen as being a weirdo. And don’t get me started on being a vetegarian. At the restaurant it’s starting to be ok in Central Paris, but at home or anywhere you are invited you’re considered to be a major pain.

  68. Il says...

    Thanks for this. I don’t drink because I don’t like it (I’m a grown up now. Why should I drink something I don’t want to?) It’s a simple choice that’s oddly value laden (she can’t be fun! Will she be comfortable if I drink??) But thanks for introducing this kind of diversity into the world.

  69. Jo says...

    So, to start off, I don’t live in the US, and I’ve grown up in a social context where there weren’t much drinking. So I understand if there are cultural nuances here that I am missing – no one should ever feel pressured to drink and ALL the kudos to the people who deal with their unhealthy relationships with alcohol.

    But I do find that articles like these tend to generate a bit one-sided comments, either from those newly sober who feel sobriety has changed their lives, or from the people who swear they have never had any interest in alcohol whatsoever. Does it have to be a discussion without a middle ground? Can it be all right to enjoy something without either having too much of it or none at all (looking at you chocolate)?

    I probably have a glass of wine after dinner more or less every day. I curl up in the corner of the sofa (if it’s rainy outside it’ll be tea instead actually) with my book, and it’s _my moment! I drink because the taste of a really spicy, sturdy Spanish red wine goes well with my book, and I drink when I am done weeding my garden and a cold beer is just the thing to cool down and enjoy being done with the hard work.

    In the current discussion climate around alcohol I have struggled a lot with this, because we’re supposed to be able to relax without drinking or eating, right? Is my preference for a good meal and a nice wine paired with it actually a drinking problem on the rise (or even worse – am I turning into a snob about fancy dinners?!)? Does the fact that my sister and I catch up over a glass of prosecco show that our relationship is actually dysfunctional because we need bubbles to lubricate the discussion?

    But I don’t binge drink, I’m rarely drunk or hung over. Apart from the fact that I am aware that alcohol is a drug that I am choosing to partake in, I don’t feel bad about drinking. I don’t think I’m setting a bad example for my daughter, by showing that you can enjoy something but not have it all the time. And I don’t think the content of anyone else’s glass is an issue. So I suppose this is my reason ‘Why I keep drinking’.

    • Roberta says...

      I agree! For me, it is about pleasure. I love opening up a bottle of wine to have a glass or two whilst stirring away in my kitchen. I love sipping a wee dram on a rainy day or a icy cold martini on a Friday. I love throwing caution to the wind and getting tiddily with my loved ones…it’s just so pleasurable!

      Certainly, no one should feel pressured either way – horses for courses, as they say – but I do think there is something strange about an “all or nothing” approach. Having a few glasses of wine over dinner does not make you an alcoholic, nor does choosing to have a drink even though you know you may not perform as well in the gym the next morning. Choosing pleasure over duty/routine can be part of the joy of the experience.

    • lkb says...

      Your comment really resonated with me. My husband and I split a bottle of wine (or sparkling wine!) every night after our kids go to bed. It used to be just every Friday night, then every weekend night, then we worked our way up to every night. It’s something I don’t feel I need–and indeed, when I got pregnant, I stopped without issue or craving–but I’ve always wondered if it was a problem developing (or already developed?).

      Like you, I don’t binge drink, nor do I drink to the point of being drunk. I never had great role models for drinking; having a few glasses of wine every night starting at 5pm is the norm in my family. That seems fine to me, but I do wonder sometimes if my sense of “fine” is skewed. How will this alcohol intake affect my health? I know I sleep better when I don’t drink as much, but the ritual of relaxing into a glass of sparkling wine with my husband at night when the house is finally quiet is so nice…

    • Amy says...

      I’m so glad you wrote this comment! It is so interesting to see others’ responses. I guess I am very lucky in that I grew with parents who drink in a healthy, moderate way — a glass of wine with dinner (for enjoyment, not because they “need” it), maybe a cocktail or two if it’s a special occasion (like visiting a fancy cocktail bar in a new city).

      I wonder about the role of religion in influencing drinking culture/guilt in America, plus the culture of Greek life in some colleges? Most of our friends aren’t religious and didn’t go to schools with Greek life, so I wonder if that’s why so many of these comments sound foreign to me. I have a handful of friends who binge-drink in a way that is clearly unhealthy, but frankly most people in our friend group talk shit about their shenanigans behind their backs. If they decided to sip on soda, we would probably all be relieved, not judgmental. (also, now I’m in my 30’s, and I pretty much always have at least one friend who is pregnant at any given time, haha)

  70. Amanda says...

    This is really neat.
    Once I recognized that my brain and body doesn’t respond well to alcohol, I was a bit sheepish at first about how to go about in society and what to drink. For the past several years though, I lead with gusto (sidenote: I’m an avid drinker of all beverages, which may be one reason alcohol is a problem). I started bringing cases of LaCroix to friends’ houses and avidly sharing and recommending them, then Trinity kombucha, then homemade shrubs. When we went out, I make a point to rave about the homemade tonic — gin just ruins it. With all the IPA drinkers around, these fizzy, complex, bitter flavors are a hit.
    So it has become more about including friends in the things I love to drink instead of feeling sheepish about the few things I choose not too.

  71. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I buy a bottle of wine on a Friday, when I go shopping. It lasts me for the weekend and I don’t drink during the week. I really enjoy my weekend wine, but have been thinking of only having it once a month.
    I operate on a “if it’s not in the house, then I won’t consume it” or “if it is in the house I will consume it”. That goes for bacon, sausages, cake and pies, I can walk down the aisle in Lidl or Tesco, look at and appreciate the goodies be strong enough not to buy them, but not strong enough to resist if they are in the home……………that goes for alcohol.
    I llve in Tain, so I pass the Glenmorangie distilery twice a day, Clynish is just up the road, Pultneytown is in the far north and Dalmore is just down the road. I love single malt, but if it was in the house I would be having a nip every day and I really don’t want to get into the habit.
    It’s all about knowing yourself, what you are comfortable with and what makes you uneasy and unsettled.

  72. Diana says...

    Ok, so I can’t be the only one that has the La Croix corporate overlords to thank for eliminating non-drinking awkwardness from almost all social situations? In my little group of friends it’s entirely acceptable to show up to a barbecue with a six pack of beer or a six pack of La Croix, and no one really pays attention to what you are drinking. It’s great. I just pity the fool that brings a pack of coconut – pamplemousse all the way.

    • MM says...

      Sparking water for the win! And I second the coconut option — we call it “runoff” and it is straight up terrible. Pamplemousse or lime or plain!

      Also like San Pelligrino and Perrier and they now come in fancy skinny cans.

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Yes, this is true for my circles, too. And agree, the coconut is awful. Love the pamplemousse, lime, and tangerine, but my very fave is peach pear. :)

    • DOWN WITH THE DISGUSTING COCONUT!

    • Karen says...

      I got sick of the local supermarkets raising and raising the price of La Croix so I researched alternatives. The best one I found is by Polar; they have an amazing amount of flavors (no coconut!) and my local supermarket usually runs BOGO specials at least once a month!
      And yes, I drink it as al alternative to alcohol.

  73. Roxana says...

    This was so beautifully written. Thank you so much. I love your wise and gracious perspective.

    It’s funny, when I first started reading I thought to myself “I’ve never struggled with alcohol. . . but I’ll read anyway.” However, as I read your words I realized that I have indeed struggled with alcohol. I’m in my 40s now, but in my 20s while pursuing a career I ended-up giving-up (in a field that stereotypically enjoys A LOT of alcohol) I drank a lot, and without control. I was drunk nearly every Friday night. Messy drunk. “Get her a cab” kind of drunk. Looking back I realize that I was so uncomfortable in my own skin and really struggling with insecurities (that, admittedly, I’m probably still struggling with on some level). The alcohol was that social buffer I thought I needed. I didn’t think plain ‘ol me was good enough.

    I think the thing that got me out of it ended-up being my first major heartbreak. I was in my late 20s and was convinced I was going to marry my boyfriend. Long story short, I didn’t, and was left heartbroken. For months I chain-smoked, but I stopped drinking (not even consciously) because I think something in me told me I needed to be awake and consious really examine my life. I really believe God woke me from my stupor and I went on to essentially “clean house.” I had a lot of toxic friendships and patterns in my life. I ended-up quitting that job soon after, too, and sort of reset things. I really wanted to get married and have a family, but there was seemingly no-one on the horizon. I struggled with lonliness but was determined to get to a place where I would be at peace with “just myself.” Slowly but surely I (kind of) got there. A couple years later I got together with my husband, whom I had known almost the entire time (the whole of my 20s), but had blown-off. Another story for another day. Anyway, I don’t really drink anymore (except for the occasional sip of my husband’s craft beer). I couldn’t for a while (pregnancy and nursing) and now I just don’t have a taste for it.

    Either way, thank you for sharing your journey. It’s inspiring. I wish you all the best!

  74. Darby says...

    I am sort of the opposite… I love the taste of alcohol and hate the feeling. Even in university, I had a year or two where I tried out “partying” but eventually decided not to drink anymore because I didn’t like the feeling of being out of control. It didn’t feel awkward to me… I still went to bars and hung out with friends but I didn’t drink alcohol and didn’t miss it (and I saved a lot of money). Now I do drink occasionally because I still like the taste but I limit myself to one or two drinks max and it works for me.

    • Amy says...

      Me too! I just get a soda or seltzer if I don’t want to drink at happy hours, and I don’t think anyone has ever noticed.

  75. ML says...

    In my mid-20s, living in NY meant an endless sequence of happy hours and social events. One day at a routine doctor’s appointment, the doc asked how many drinks I had in the past week. I counted up 12 (two for each happy hour, totally take number each night) and was startled into re-thinking. For the past decade I’ve defaulted to no on drinks. If I really want the taste of a certain drink — a glass of wine, a really unique cocktail, or my current fave grapefruit beer, I will have it. If I want the tang and spice of a bloody mary, the virgin option checks all those boxes.

    Adds up to about 1-2 drinks a week, turns out noone gives any side-eye when you order pineapple juice with salt on the rim, and more and more bars/restos are offering really cool mocktails.

    I’m sure it helps that my communities often deprioritize alcohol. My immigrant parents didn’t drink. Back in college, parties were required to have EANABS (Equally Attractive Non Alcohol Beverages :P), which the Student Union paid for — why drink bad beer when Jamba Juice was free?! I eventually became a serious amateur athlete; while plenty of that crowd love a beer, many also avoid or budget drinks during peak competitive season. Lots of parties have a La Croix cooler and a beer cooler!

  76. Elizabeth says...

    I stopped drinking almost four years ago. I never seemed to have a good reaction to alcohol — it made my cheeks and throat blotchy and hot, it made me dizzy, and I always liked the idea of drinking more than the reality of it (I think I probably lack the genes to process alcohol properly). On my last night of drinking, I had one and a half cocktails and woke up the next morning with a complex migraine that lasted two days.

    My favorite aspect of not drinking is the one you didn’t mention: the money! I cannot believe how much less I spend now on brunch or a night out. Those $12 mimosas really add up. My least favorite is the awkwardness of explaining it to new people. Some assume I’m pregnant, some assume I’m in recovery, but no one wants to ask.

    People seem to like to drink together, as they like to splurge at Sephora or eat too much cake or binge watch hours of TV together. Being the person who is making different choices makes you a bit less welcome because your choice makes others feel judged. It can be a bit unpleasant, but the chill wears off soon enough.

  77. Joanna says...

    I drink on occasion and when I do its mostly 1 glass and that’s it. I just don’t have the need. Recently I began to realize… why I am drinking? For what reason.
    I quickly realized it was only bc it was A Friday night.
    Just has slowly become much less needed.
    It does blow my mind how alcohol is paired with everything.
    (Yoga with brews?)
    Greaat article to get people thinking without pushing an agenda.

  78. “I had never really liked the taste of alcohol, but I did love its effect” – for me this was the most interesting line (in a wonderful piece, by the way); I felt a little shocked to hear this. I’m totally the opposite: I love a lot of different types of alcohol – most styles of beer, cider, wine, cocktails… I just wish I could drink them withOUT the effect!

  79. Ksm says...

    As a student of science I still remember a teacher explaining things that can be alien to our body and their processing time and digestion, And alcohol, along with caffeine, nicotine is at top of charts. No scientific magazine or fad health journals promoting benefit of red or blue wine or water can convince me other wise. Just coz our government approves it doesn’t make it right for your body.

    • Leah says...

      Bravo! Well said!

    • Sasha L says...

      There’s plenty of evidence that there’s absolutely no health benefits associated with alcohol, and plenty of evidence that it significantly (even when consumed in moderation, any alcohol consumption at all) ups cancer risk. This isn’t popular evidence, anyone who drinks and likes to will argue with it, but it’s very well established scientific fact. People who enjoy smoking cigarettes don’t often want to be confronted with the science about smoking either, and it was also suppressed for decades because of the cigarette industry (guess what industry is even larger and more powerful?).

      When someone brings up moderate alcohol consumption, that all things are fine, as long in moderation, I have three words- cigarettes, cocaine and opiates. Also fine in moderation??

  80. Kathryn says...

    I started sticking to water when I went out with friends last year because I regularly taught a fitness class at 6am the next day. Let me tell you, I quickly realized that I don’t need a sip of alcohol to seriously tear up a dance floor. That was a fun little thing I learned about myself so I just sorta stopped drinking. Alcohol often left me feeling sad most of the time anyway. Whatever floats your boat though! I have nothing against alcohol and still love a good mojito once in a blue moon.

  81. Ann says...

    I too struggle with the slippery slope of alcohol. I love the feeling and one leads to two, two to three, and then a lack of memory. I now have a 2 year old and am pregnant with our second baby, which means I haven’t been drinking very much or at all for the past 3 years. I’m worried about what will happen when this baby is born and we are post those no-alcohol-needed-sleepless-night-hangovers.

    I also see so many movies and tv shows that glorify alcohol and make it seem like the way to be/have fun. I don’t think I would have noticed it in this way before. I just watched the Netflix movie ‘Someone Great’, and it would make you believe that all 20 somethings drink to excess and do Molly to be/have fun.

    ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ had a great podcast on this that I loved. Finding friends and activities and dates that are not based on alcohol is not easy, but is worth it.
    https://www.callyourgirlfriend.com/episodes#/drunk-patriarchy

    Thanks for this, Cup of Jo.

    • Leah says...

      Thank you so much for sharing stories like this one on cup of jo! I’m 27 and don’t drink alcohol (never have!) and sometimes it feels like I’m the only one. So it’s nice to hear of others’ stories in relation to not drinking :)

  82. Kara says...

    Always fascinated by articles like this. Design Mom wrote about “navigating social situations when you don’t drink” and I recall the comments having a lot of great ideas for what to say/do to avoid the social awkwardness, for those who are interested: https://www.designmom.com/navigating-social-situations-when-you-dont-drink/

    I remember an essay I read recently where a man examines why he drinks and he made the decision to only have a drink when he really just wanted the taste of that particular drink. (Wish I could find the essay ugh!) It really shifted my thinking about why I drink….how often have I chosen to drink because of an emotion(s) I was feeling or because I wanted to feel a certain way? Even so I still drink occasionally to celebrate something or even if I want to relax, but ultimately what has made me cut back drastically compared to my college years and 20s is that I can’t sleep when I drink!! As a mom of 2 small kids, sleep is my #1 priority, so it’s a serious deal breaker haha. (When I realized this recently alllll the late nights of drinking where I had no problem staying up until 2/3/4am finally made sense:)

    I come from a long line of alcoholics so absolutely have always understood what a terrible drug it can be and how it ruins lives. Having grown up where alcohol was such an extreme thing (with one parent an alcoholic and the other parent demonizing ALL drinking and drinkers as a reaction to the alcoholism), as an adult I’ve appreciated families and situations where there is a healthy relationship with alcohol. Because my kids are genetically predisposed to alcoholism I want them to see what this healthy relationship can look like. I never want them to feel shame about it. All that to say that articles like these are an important part of that journey and shifting our society’s culture around alcohol!

    • Kara says...

      Yes that’s it!! (Was it in one of your weekend links, like so many things I read?! 😆)

    • Jane says...

      Great comment indeed. It’s so interesting that we have to justify NOT drinking. As someone who gave up drinking A few years ago (alcoholism runs heavily in my line and I wanted my children to only see the real me) it’s amazing how many people are stumped when I tell them

  83. Stephanie says...

    I don’t drink—never have—and this, combined with my people-pleasing nature means I often find myself in awkward situations when it comes to alcohol. I’ll pretend to drink, or blame pregnancy/nursing for the reason I’m not drinking (back when I could).

    As a result, many close friends assume I’m down for a night of cocktails when I’d much rather go for a walk together or spend money splitting a big piece of cake.

    As I’ve thought about this in recent years, I keep asking myself: WHY DO I DO THIS? I know part of the reason is that I’d never want someone think I’m judging their behavior by not drinking. But I imagine another big part of me keeping the non-habit to myself is that drinking gives off an air of maturity, and I hate to be found lacking.

    All of this to say: I love coming here and finding a discussion about the pressures of drinking among some of the coolest, wise women around.

    Encouraging indeed!

  84. Christine says...

    Thank you for this wonderful story! I am in my 40s and have had a highly-functioning, but increasingly dependent relationship to wine for many years. I’ve recently decided to quit altogether. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic but, like Sarah describes, I have too many years of evidence to show me I can’t trust myself to stick to one glass. I’ve been tapering off for a couple months and a week or so ago decided to give it up completely. So far, it hasn’t been terribly hard, but I’m really aware of the allure of wine as my shortcut to calm at the end of a busy day. I’m drinking more tea and reading more books. In case it’s useful to anyone, here are a few resources that I’ve been reading/listening to. These all approach the subject without the typical AA language and labels (which are super helpful to lots of people! but just don’t speak to me):

    This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace
    Sober Curious, by Ruby Warrington
    (I listened to both on audible)
    Edit Podcast

    • Jenny says...

      This Naked Mind was so great and really helped me take the step to stop drinking after a long time of wanting to stop but worrying about the social aspect. I too felt I didn’t fit the alcoholic label but worried about my increasing reliance on drinking. The website Hip Sobriety is also a great resource.

  85. Elliesee says...

    I developed a wine allergy and cut back on drinking down to very occasional, small drinks – it feels great and I do notice people who should cut back. I have teens and I am not looking forward to the experimenting with alcohol period – I don’t see a way around it as science says telling young adults not to drink has opposite effects. Having ”a bad example” in the family does work, but having the genes for alcoholism isn’t good either…

    • diana k. says...

      Honestly, I would talk to them about it. Or have a an aunt or older cousin do it. My parents always just said not to drink, so I had no idea what I was doing, and drank to the point of throwing up every time. One day I was drinking with my cousin and she told me, “when the room starts spinning, stop drinking” which seems like common sense, but I needed to hear some real obvious drinking advice at the time.

  86. Kim says...

    I didn’t drink at all last year. I had noticed that one glass always turned into more and I wasn’t actually enjoying it anymore. It didn’t make me feel good. It often made me feel terrible. I had also tried for years to figure out the correct way to drink, to no avail. I decided I was done fighting my nature.

    It was really eye opening how others felt about my sobriety. I got a lot of, “Oh my god, are you pregnant?!” Like that would be the only acceptable reason not to drink. It is so ingrained in so many that alcohol is a necessity to de-stress, celebrate, commiserate, etc. I actually noticed I started getting less invitations out for drinks. I guess some people assumed I no longer wanted to be social, which was a shame.

  87. Elizabeth says...

    What does being uneducated have to do with alcoholism? Half of the people in my PhD program were functioning (sometimes not functioning) alcoholics. Equating education with some kind of intellectual or moral virtue smacks of privilege. And ignorance! Do better.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hear you, elizabeth! i interpreted it to be like, she was able to stay in school, she was able to keep a job — so she felt like she was high-functioning and her life was moving forward and therefore must not have a “real” problem. but then she realized she did.

    • Anna says...

      I think the author was acknowledging her privilege and saying because she had a certain kind of degree, better socioeconomic status,etc., society maybe would look at someone like her and think oh there isn’t anything wrong there, and in turn, she had the privilege in thinking all was fine, even if it wasn’t. I get her intention.

    • Sm says...

      That is the one thing you could pick from the article? Says more about you than the writer.
      And it is sweet of people to explain but her intentions are very clear, all you need is not a judge mental mind.

    • Amanda says...

      Having grown up with working class alcoholics, the way the world views lower-ses folks who drink is very different than how it views higher-ses folks who drink.

      The author is acknowledging that reality, and how it influenced her self-narrative. I appreciated it, personally. We aren’t going to get anywhere by ignoring these narratives or by pretending they don’t affect us.

    • Monica says...

      I don’t think she’s saying that! She thought that if she had a REAL problem, it would have resulted in failing school, losing her job, etc, ie she didn’t have a good concept of high-functioning alcoholism.

      The stereotype that successful people don’t get alcoholism is unfair and classist, but it’s also a barrier to getting help for those successful people; there’s a sense that “it doesn’t happen to people like us” (this also happens with domestic violence, sadly).

  88. Hannah says...

    I love this!! I am 35 and gave up drinking four weeks ago. Nobody who knows me would say that I had a “problem”, but in reality although I was far from an everyday drinker booze had controlled me for 20 years. I may not have been having to drink to get up in the morning, but I made plenty of excuses to crack open a bottle of wine most days, and on “big” nights or events, well, there was no stopping me. I have been educating myself over the last few months and finally made the decision and now I feel absolutely amazing – I could cry with happiness at the possibility of life. I recommend these books to anyone who is curious: “Mrs D is Going Without” – Fantastic memoir, with the type of drinking that was very relatable to me. “The Sober Diaries” – Another great mum’s memoir. Finally “This Naked Mind” which cuts through all the crap and lies we are conditioned to believe about alcohol and gives you the tools you need to walk away without feeling like you are giving something up or are hard done by, but that you truly don’t want to put that poison in your body anymore. On my to read list is “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” which comes highly recommended. Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the world and if it was just discovered today it would never be legalised. Educate yourself everyone and enjoy the decisions that might follow ….

    • logan says...

      congratulations on four weeks hannah! xx

    • Lindsay says...

      Hannah, thank you for this comment, it resonates so deeply with me. I am 38 and gave up drinking in January. I know this is a decision that is not for everyone, but it really changed my life. I loved all of the books you mentioned, and would also recommend “A Happier Hour”, “Drinking: A Love Story”, and “Sober Curious.” I also love the Edit podcast and the @drylifeclub instagram account. I’m raising my mineral water to you! xo

  89. hali says...

    woooooah! How have I made it this far in life and not realized that the post-party lows are alcohol related? I’m not a frequent drinker by any means. I’ve always had a high alcohol tolerance but low interest in consuming liquid in general – honestly, I have enough trouble finishing a cup of coffee, and hah! water? forget about it. But a recent slew of bigger social functions (weddings, a bachelorette, birthdays…) left me feeling like this entire spring has been under a dark cloud. It’s totally the alcohol isn’t it? Ugh.

    My husband and I hardly drink at home. I just don’t think to pick up wine or beer at the grocery store, like, ever! But yeah, rosé on a hot summer night or a tasty IPA with fried pickles after an afternoon doing serious yard work? I’ll wager with the mellow sadness that could follow those experiences. (Because talk about coming alive!!)

    I will definitely be weighing the psychological effects of drinking before I find myself getting ready for a big occasion. I can easily see how it might be worth it to opt out of drinking (especially at parties!) depending on how my mental temperature is in that given week.

    Oh and one more thing! My husband is finishing his second year in medical school and he’s all but stopped drinking entirely after seriously learning about what alcohol does in the body. He’s not preachy about it, but the way he looks when he talks about it has definitely made me think. He’ll go for IPAs + Fried Pickles on a special day or a cocktail on his birthday but I can see that he’s got major reservations as far as incorporating drinks into our “lifestyle.”

    Bravo to anyone who cut alcohol out and is feeling good about it. And for the alcoholics in our little community- mad, mad props, friends. I am always astonished at how mighty individuals can be in the face of such intense and personal adversity. Bless our hearts, we are all just doing the best we can!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      tearing up at this comment, hali. you’re such a lovely writer and seem like such a lovely thinker, too.

    • hali says...

      UHHHHMMMMM hi. jsyk I’ll be returning to read your reply whenever I’m feeling doubt/anxiety/weird… what an absolute year maker to read that, ESPECIALLY coming from you!! x

  90. Hannah says...

    I have an on-again, off-again relationship with alcohol. Sometimes, I’ll find myself picking up a bottle of wine at the grocery store, and drinking it within a few days, by myself (my husband doesn’t drink). The I’ll go months without a drink, except maybe a beer with my dad or a glass of wine with friends. I always thought of this as a pretty healthy way to imbibe, because after all, a glass a day is ok for women, right? Even heart-healthy? That’s what I thought, until I was listening to the podcast “Science Vs.” (highly recommend for anyone who loves to hear the “why” behind commonly held beliefs on everything from organic food to gun control) and they had an episode about alcohol. They dug deep into a number of studies and found that drinking can be linked to slight gains in heart health, but has significant impacts on your chances of getting a whole host of different cancers. I never knew this! Is it just me, or is this not really common knowledge? The impacts are there even with that one-drink-a-day limit. This fact alone has caused me to really re-think my casual attitude towards drinking, and while I know I’m not going to give it up entirely, I’m thinking I’ll relegate it to a special occasions only thing, and give up my grocery store wine. I don’t imagine 25-year old me would have ever predicted this turn of events, but to mother of two, 37-year old me, it’s been a surprisingly easy decision to make.

    • Angela says...

      Oh, thanks for a new podcast recommendation!

  91. Lauren says...

    My husband and I don’t drink. We stopped 5 years ago. We’re so much better off without it. It’s still awkward occasionally – mostly at weddings of old friends who we used to drink with and don’t really see anymore – but that’s so far and few between – so we just smile and nod. You know what is so much better consistently without alcohol? SEX. For that reason alone we have no desire to ever drink again. Also, I love that I can stay on top of my own anxiety issues through self care versus force them to lay dormant before they come back with a vengeance.

    • M says...

      I’m an alcoholic coming up to nine years sober and at first I was terrified of doing basically anything without alcohol, including dating, sex, going to a football game, seeing live music, hanging with family, etc etc. Pleased to report that every single thing I’ve tried is just as good, or better, sober. The only exception is karaoke.

  92. Amy says...

    My family & social circle luckily make it easy for me to drink modestly. I’d say I average one drink per week throughout the year, although there are weeks with none and weeks with a few (when family is visiting from out of town, at Christmas, etc). I’ve never enjoyed being drunk though. I tried it a handful of times between 20-24 and my type-A personality just loathes the idea of people seeing me without my usual level of control, ha! I also worked in a pub for a couple years and saw so many people routinely losing their pay checks and clarity to alcohol. I don’t have more than two drinks in a day, and when my husband is out of town for months at a time each year, I almost never drink despite people regularly encouraging me to “take care of myself and have a glass of wine in the evening”. I feel like there was a huge cultural acceptance recently of moms in particular using coffee to get them until wine o’clock; it was assumed that you needed to be on one substance or another to survive parenthood. I tend to wake up and feel and perform better with neither dependency (I drink a lot of herbal tea instead). I’m welcoming this more intentional consideration towards alcohol that’s been popping up in the last year or two, and for those who think it’s zeitgeisty or trendy – so what? As far as trends go, it’s a pretty harmless one and could easily save some of your friends from the pain of alcoholism or long-term physical/emotional/mental health problems! In the words of Amy Poehler: Good for her. Not for me.

  93. t says...

    I love this. I am a big drinker but also don’t want to ever judge or assume or make anyone feel uncomfortable. I do NOT know how to make cocktails or mocktails so I am looking for ideas for non-alcoholic beverages to have on-hand for people who are at our home but don’t feel like drinking (or do but are trying not to).

    Any suggestions for sophisticated options to have readily on hand that is a good alternative to wine or water? Any preferences?

    • Tara says...

      Sparkling water! Such a great option that feels “thought of”

    • Ashley says...

      Whenever I don’t feel like having a cocktail, I always have ginger beer mixed with club soda, a splash of cranberry juice and a wedge of lime. I usually drink it over ice out of a wine glass and I NEVER feel like I’m missing out! I even ordered it at a bar we went to a few weeks ago and had a very conscious moment where I thought: wow this feels GREAT, why would i ever order anything else? For me, it’s super simple (nothing to muddle or measure), and it still feels celebratory and “special” because of the ginger beer and wine glass. I’ve even taken to drinking flavored sparkling water out of champagne flutes. Adding in a raspberry makes for a pretty touch too. Feels just like the real thing!

    • L says...

      Look into shrubs!!

    • Alexia says...

      I like mixing lowly sweetened cranberry juice, ice, and lime in a cocktail shaker. It’s so simple but tastes so good.

    • Alex says...

      Bitters and soda water is like essentially alcohol free (it’s just like a shake of bitters) maybe with some lemon or lime.

    • Jess says...

      I went on a holiday recently to Sri Lanka and didn’t drink while I was there. I lived on freshly squeezed lime juice and soda water. Back home, I make the same and add a bit of coconut sugar for a touch of sweetness. So refreshing! Who needs booze?

    • Sarah says...

      I’m hosting a party tonight, and am serving sparkling watermelon juice (from Trader Joe’s!) with mint and lime for anyone who wants a fun drink. (And really… who doesn’t want something bubbly and yummy on a summer night?) I also always have La Croix with cut limes/lemons/oranges/strawberries so that it looks pretty!

    • SFord says...

      Ice cold sparkling elderflower cordial with ice, served in a wine glass

    • Monica says...

      I don’t have specific recipes but I’ll pass on a tip from (I think) a Miss Manners column about not-drinking: make sure the soft drinks are as fancy and grown-up as the hard, in nice glasses, cold/on ice, with garnishes, whatever. The column was in response to a letter for someone who’d asked for ginger ale at a posh cocktail party and received it room-temperature in a children’s plastic cup. :(

    • Anne says...

      Not everyone likes it, but kombucha can be a fun treat too

  94. Grateful Alcoholic says...

    This is great, but as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous I think it’s so important to point out that if you have alcoholism it’s impossible to stop drinking on your own, but there is a solution and a path to freedom. AA is not the men in trench coats drinking out of paper bags scenario that you might think of. It’s a beautiful community filled with smart, capable, educated, funny, attractive, likable, successful people who simply have a disease and like the “effect produced by alcohol.” It changed my life and I’m so freaking grateful to be sober today. Happy, joyous and free.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, such a great point. i really appreciate your making this. one of my brothers in law was in AA and it saved his life in so many ways. thank you!!!!

    • Melissa Eubanks says...

      I appreciate this comment. As I was reading through the other comments, I kept hoping to find someone make the point that alcoholism is a very serious illness which in its truest form takes all control from a person. I recently lost my partner to alcoholism and it took me watching him die with tears of true defeat in his eyes to realize that our society’s conversations and beliefs about what alcoholism is and isn’t are seriously flawed.

      True alcoholism is a disease. For those of us who can recognize we are approaching a problem and can take action, our “addiction” is one born of habit. Habits, of course, can become illnesses if they persist for too long. However, many, many people suffer from certain neurological/biological deficiencies that are satiated only by alcohol. For these people, alcohol is not the added perk for the brain that boosts mood or confidence. Rather, it is the thing that the brain has been missing for it to feel complete and the the person to feel like a normal human being.

      In this regard, I think we risk grave damage to the understanding and ultimate treatment of alcoholism when those of us walking the path of habitual addiction emphasize the relative ease with which we were able to recognize our “problem” and walk away from it. Indeed, one of the reasons that so little research has gone into addiction, and particularly alcoholism, until the recent opioid crisis is our societal belief that there is some, even if minor, element of control to alcoholism. For those that truly are suffering from this horrible disease, there is no control. These people need medicinal treatments to treat their addiction, just as any other illness–and we, as a society, need to start changing the conversation as to what alcoholism is and isn’t so that more funds will be put toward researching and implementing those treatments.

      For those interested in changing the conversation and helping the effort to fund research for proper medically-based treatments for alcoholism, I encourage you to visit http://www.shatterproof.org.

    • Beth says...

      As another grateful recovering alcoholic, I say AMEN to this! AA saved my life. I was terrified when I first started going, but I was instantly welcomed. The program is not always easy, but it’s simple. Just one day at a time. I love the diversity of my home group and I love visiting new ones. I’m going to Europe tomorrow, and look forward to the AA meetings on the ship! It’s amazing what some pride will do for a girl. Six years of sobriety and counting!

    • Florrie says...

      I know that AA has helped many but also many fail in the program. I stopped drinking 7 years ago after drinking 2 bottles of wine a day at least for many years. I did it on my own. I might have done it earlier if I wasn’t always being given the preachings of AA as my only option for success. These kinds of beliefs can actually stop people from trying to quit because they are being told that it is a disease and that you are powerless. I have power over all my actions. I was an alcoholic and now I’m not. Done and dusted.

    • Julie says...

      Its definitely not impossible. I was binge drinking for 2 straight years every single day to the point of black outs every night. During this time, I also was in intense therapy for my mental health. As I began to feel closer to becoming whole, I recognized how awful alcohol really was for me. I made a decision to just stop, cold turkey. I was just soooo sick of it. Never looked back. 💪🙌

    • Em says...

      This! Fellow AAer here. I, too, held the culturally ingrained belief that AA was only for those who’d lost everything in their lives and could not manage. I waited, for so long, for the crash and burn to happen in order to confirm what I’d known all along – my relationship to alcohol and substances was a problem even if that problem did not always look catastrophic. I have read the sober-curious pieces and I appreciate hearing various thoughts on sobriety and our culture’s obsession with alcohol. That said, I really hope to dispel the notion that you have to be a daily drinker who can’t hold a job, a family, or a life in order to be called an alcoholic. This allusion kept me from a program of recovery and man, I wish younger me had heard this back then.

      AA gave to me what none of my multiple advanced degrees and picturesque life on paper ever did: a joy to be in this life and in this body and in this moment without a need to obscure the authenticity of my existence.

      Cheers.

    • Amanda says...

      I know your comment comes from your own experience but I just want to say that while AA has changed the lives of many people, its view of alcoholism is not based in research and can be harmful if shared as fact.

      For some folks, it is possible to stop drinking without programs like AA. For other folks, problematic drinking is tied to a particular set of social/personal habits rather than physical dependency, so addressing those takes care of the problem. And, yes, some folks need total abstinence with the support of a program like AA.

      I just don’t like people claiming that AA is always the answer because the reality is that it doesn’t work for many of the people who try it, and some of those people are better served by other approaches.

    • Milla says...

      I’m with you, grateful! Proud member over here too. I could not stop on my own, AA gave me the tools to do that, and it’s given me a community that I love even more than this one.

    • Lauren says...

      Yes this is a crucial fact. It is extremely dangerous and in many cases completely deadly to just stop drinking – you must do a medically supervised detox in a hospital. And then go through the proper in or outpatient recovery programs and then get into a very tight knit AA program to survive. Much like conditions like “OCD” are thrown around casually, true alcoholism is almost 100% a death sentence.

  95. Jeanne says...

    I am so happy to see a story like this on Cup of Jo. I gave up alcohol almost 3 years ago because I realized a shift had occurred somewhere along the way and I just felt so unwell and unhappy from years of overdoing it. The freedom & peace of mind I have now far outweigh the fleeting moments of feeling different or left out for being the only non-drinker among my friends. And waking up hangover-free never ever gets old.

    • Kelly says...

      Yes this comment, Jeanne. You took the words out of my mouth: I’ve been a committed reader Cup of Jo for YEARS and appreciate seeing this story (my story) told. I’m 5 years sober and so amazed by everyone’s bravery in the comments.. As a new mama (to a 3 year old), I struggle with the “mama needs a drink” jokes and other ways society tells moms to connect. Sobriety can be offputting to others because they may feel shame for their drinking. We’re all doing our best, truly one day at a time.

  96. KL says...

    Just chiming in with a different experience. I have always loved alcohol in moderation – it feels celebratory, like a marker that it’s finally time to kick back and relax a little. I’m Type A and a bit high-strung – with a never-ending to-do-list in the back of my mind and a few too many activities on my plate. 1 or 2 cocktails or a few glasses of wine, and I’m an easier, breezier, more laid-back version of myself that I happen to really enjoy. I never have more than 3 drinks – it’s expensive, and how ever will I accomplish my task list the next day?! :) I completely support others’ decisions to go sober, and agree that shaming friends or family for this choice is completely uncalled for and inappropriate. But I had to throw in a plug for the perks of light drinking – I believe it really can be good for the soul, encouraging us to stop the rat race for a moment and focus on friends, food, and the live in the moment.

    • Courtney says...

      I feel this! I absolutely appreciate the trend of people being aware of alcohol’s effects and drinking less alcohol. I also don’t feel well when I drink more than a glass or two, and have absolutely no problem not ordering an alcoholic drink where others are. At the same time, I’m seeing so much ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude that it’s making me wonder if anyone else enjoys a glass of wine with pasta or a beer on a picnic. I definitely have to be moderate about drinking, and have zero interest in getting drunk, but I do enjoy a drink with dinner.

    • G says...

      All of these great comments have made me want to give up drinking but I really love your perspective “focus on friends, food, and live in the moment” and I feel the same way!

  97. Lauren says...

    I can’t imagine devoting even one of my brain cells to worrying about being “judged” by someone who doesn’t like that you aren’t ordering an alcoholic drink. Such people aren’t worth the time of day. How are they being “slighted”? If they feel bad about their own alcohol consumption, that’s on them, not me. I would never engage in “subterfuge” – if I want an alcoholic drink, I have one, and if I don’t, I have iced tea or soda or whatever I want.

  98. I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol 3 years ago. Right before the birthday of several of my friends. To my surprise, no one tried to persuade me to drink, everyone reacted to my decision with understanding. Guests drink beer and wine, I drink green tea, no awkwardness. I realized that I just didn’t need alcohol, I didn’t know that before. From the very childhood, we see that alcohol is a sign of a holiday, but it is not. We need to stop showing our kids that alcohol is fun.

  99. KS says...

    I can’t call my relationship with alcohol complicated, but I stopped drinking about 18 months ago and it’s been different. People don’t know how to react to “I don’t drink”. I’m going on a girls trip and they are perplexed. But I can (and do!) have a ton of fun without alcohol. My husband says it’s awkward drinking alone – we used to enjoy making up martini combos and both love craft beer. He’s found he’s allergic to beer so that part is easy :)

  100. Susan says...

    Thank you for this article today. Cupofjo, how do you always seem to know about the issues I’m pondering? I’m a huge fan.

    • Danielle says...

      Me too! I wrote in to ask for an article about this topic, and I’m so so appreciative! Thanks again to the cup of jo team and as always to the super smart commenters :) it’s given me a lot to think about!

  101. Jodi-Ann Smith says...

    I don’t drink due to religious reasons and I can relate to those awkward moments. But my friends are supportive when I order iced tea or cranberry juice.

  102. Julie says...

    I’m in my 40’s and have been sober for almost a year. I can relate so much to everything the author said….for me there is no gray with drinking…..it’s all or nothing, and finally at 44, I chose nothing. And I have zero regrets! It feels so great. The social navigating has definitely been interesting, but I’m with Sara…it’s best just to put it out there confidently and the rest seems to be pretty smooth from there….rather than making up excuses for why you’re not drinking in that moment….which I always did in the beginning because I didn’t want people to think I was placing judgement on their drinking. In the end, I did this for me and me only…..so I proudly tell it that way. And I can honestly say, in my 40’s, that sobriety has been the best ‘anti-ager’ above anything else!!! My skin is clear and glowing, waistline where I want it to be, sleeping so much better and way more energy! Up until then, no cream or pill was doing all of that for me :)

    • Vic says...

      Thank you for your comment! I’m looking forward to better sleep, clearer skin and a firmer belly. I’ve been up since 3 and couldn’t go back to sleep so am just waiting to go to work. Despite that my mind feels clearer and I feel more positive about life. Day 5 of not drinking

  103. Katie says...

    As a person with 5 months of sobriety, thank you for sharing this. Sometimes it can feel awkward to not partake in mom wine culture and after work happy hours. I often think about the quote “drinking to get happy is like setting your house on fire to get warm.” I have anxiety, and would drink (like most people do) to relieve stress/get happy/be social, but found that long term it heightened my anxiety. It feels freeing to be without it.

    • logan says...

      congratulations on five months katie!! x

    • Karen says...

      OMG, Katie, I LOVE that quote!!!! AA has many catchphrases, but I’ve not heard this one before. It is so very true. Thanks for sharing it!

  104. Ellen says...

    THANK YOU for this. I’ve been sober for five years and it is so wonderful to finally see a sliver of this huge part of my identity represented here, on my favorite blog. <3

  105. J says...

    I only drink occasionally and with friends. I have no issues with drinking. I certainly drank enough in college. But as an adult, it tend to turn to sugar over alcohol (which is its own problem). This year my doctor diagnosed that I have fatty liver syndrome and I’m on the way to developing cirrhosis. When she asked how many drinks I have on average, I said “oh about 12”. “A month?” the Dr asked? “No a year”, I replied. Sigh. I’m really sad that I can’t drink the little that I do. Not being able to is so different than it being a personal choice. Sorry…only tangentially related to the topic but I wanted an outlet.

  106. Cynthia says...

    I do not judge anyone who doesn’t drink. If I offer an alcholic drink to someone at a party we’re hosting, and the person says no, then I will offer the non-alcoholic beverages we do have. I do not force alcohol on any one, and the guest doesn’t have to give me a reason for not drinking.

  107. alle says...

    As a health nut I feel so comfortable just saying “I’m not into alcohol”, in a friendly way and changing the subject. No one has ever questioned it so I guess I am fortunate. Or possibly, confidence in your decision is key to people accepting it.

  108. ks says...

    I needed this story without knowing it. I had a tumultuous relationship with alcohol and disliked myself, not ‘myself’ but myself with alcohol. I lied, I slept around, I was a bad friend. i taught myself who I was again by slowing down and managing it, but it’s funny- it took whole30 to make me realize I just don’t need it. I don’t like it, I don’t crave it, and I dislike the mush mouth feeling I get. Officially think I’m done after a wedding of wedding celebrations for friends and the terror of anxiety and sadness the next day was an experience I can live without ever again. Thank you for sharing- both the article and all the comments. Love the community here xx

  109. june says...

    I love the trick of ordering a glass of selzer with fancy bitters and a matching garnish – it’s delicious for one plus no one feels slighted and I feel ten times more present and engaged. It’s also somehow less triggering for others than ordering an obviously non-alcoholic drink because it resembles a cocktail so they don’t feel judged.

  110. Misha says...

    Joanna, if you aren’t reading Laura Mckowen you need to! She has made me think about the topic of addiction/being fully awake in my own skin/ our cultural approach to self-soothing so much for the last few years. My favorite quote of hers is:

    “The normal question is, Is this bad enough for me to have to change?
    The question we should be asking is, Is this good enough for me to stay the same?
    And the real question underneath it all is,
    Am I free?”

    That quote is changing my life.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, misha! that’s fascinating and eye-opening.

    • Louisa says...

      Thanks for this. I love it.

    • Whitney says...

      YES! I gave up drinking seven years ago and I DON’T MISS IT. It all started because I wanted to grow in different ways and alcohol no longer served me. I don’t judge those who choose to drink, but I love my sober lifestyle.

    • Maryann says...

      This is such a fundamentally beautiful quote; pertinent to all sorts of life questions. I’m just coming out of an abusive relationship, and the same exact question is pertinent. Thank you for sharing. I’ll look to read more.

    • Katie says...

      Thanks for sharing, I also love this. I also find the comparison of self comfort vs. self care helpful. Sometimes we truly need self comfort (the wine or the cookies or whatever), but a lot of time we need to actually care for ourselves the way we’d care for a child which usually involves more movement or more rest or less of a not great input (TV, alcohol, etc).

    • Megan says...

      During my early 20’s, I had asked my mother, a recovering alcoholic, how does a person know if they are really an alcoholic. She replied, “if a person has to control something, they probably have a problem.” This answer has saved my life. In fact, 24 sober years later, I now have the honor and ability to care for my mother who is facing the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Because we are strong women and have one another, the diseases of alcoholism or Alzheimer’s does not stand a chance!

    • Lauren says...

      Thank you so much for sharing this. The minute I read it, I knew it could change my life as well.

  111. Lia says...

    Is sober curious just the by product of “growing up with internet access?”. I mean, have previous generations of adults tapered off drinking when kids arrived, or works gets harder, or they lost the taste for it, or they bega getting worse hangovers, etc…but without talking about it on the echo chamber of the internet, it didn’t become a thing?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i don’t think so, actually — i think when kids arrive, people often drink more (at least in my experience, with my friends and family) because you want more of a quick path to relaxing after a busy day, once the kids are in bed. i think now people are truly asking: why are social gatherings, work events, etc. so centered around alcohol? maybe we should step back and think about this, and figure out if we really want to be drinking or just are getting swept up in the ritual of it. at least, that’s how it is for my friends and me — a bunch of my friends have stopped drinking recently. for some people, i think it can be easier to go cold turkey than to simply cut back.

      a little more here: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/sober-curious/

    • KA says...

      In the age before the internet if people did cut back on their drinking when they starting having families and more responsibilities at work, that would means that they were doing that in their 20s. Today, people delay those responsibilities for much longer and that natural sober-up line you mention (which, I should also mention is in no way universal) is moving further and further out, extending the period of ‘low-stakes’ drinking, which is causing more drinking, stronger drinking habits and more problems. I also think the internet and texting has exasperated and normalized drinking in ways that are new. Jokes and memes (and Instagram photos of “If you can read this, bring me wine” sock) have made drinking more and more open and expected in adult life. And then being able to fire off a text to apologize or joke what happened while you were drinking has made it even less embarrassing to be drunk. And, I agree with Joanna–and many studies–that say that women are drinking more, educated women and moms especially. It’s worth noting that the woman who wrote that cheeky book Sippy Cups are for Chardonnay, normalizing the playdate happy hour came out as an alcoholic a few years later. Drinking culture is different today than it was in past generations and youthful college/high school drinking expectations are following people into their grown up lives, family lives, and work lives. I think it’s lovely that people are taking the time to question whether or not this is good for them and to wonder what they may be losing because of their drinking habits. And having seen someone I love nearly drink themselves to death, I can say that being on the sober side of things feels less like “I’ve started drinking celery juice!” and more like “I stopped eating asbestos!” I’m not sure I’d call the last one a “trend.”

    • Hannah says...

      I totally disagree. The Mum drinking culture is huge and strong, work culture often revolves around networking/drinking, and alcohol is extremely addictive and you don’t just lose the taste for it without making a conscious decision to walk away from it. High functioning alcohol dependent people are everywhere you turn, in your house, at your work, among your friends, in your family. Today’s culture is so soaked with booze that finding out online about people that society doesn’t deem to have a “problem” with booze choosing to be sober is a revelation to some. I hope it gets more and more talked about and becomes a huge “thing”.

    • Natalie says...

      I have been really trying to limit my drinking during the week so this article is very timely for me. The reason I started was for weight control. I realized that at 38 my nightly glass of wine or beer was doing nothing for me for a health perspective . I drank a glass or had a pint to unwind after a tough day at work. But lately, I also have been thinking of my nightly glass of wine or beer has on my kids ‘ perception of me. What – I need to have a glass or a pint just to get me through this journey called life? There are better ways to do it. With a father who is an alcoholic I don’t want my kids thinking that I need to do that all the time just to deal with everyday issues.

  112. carolina says...

    Good for you. I stopped drinking over 10 years ago. I was and am in a male dominated field and the pressure to socialize around drinking is always there. When I was younger there was a desire to be seen as one of the boys but I wasn’t and drinking always and inevitably led to more drinking. It didn’t impact my career or relationships but it just wasn’t a positive in my life. At one point I thought about all the time I was wasting and how much self-loathing I felt in the morning. I had to stop and I did. At first I made excuses but now I simply don’t drink and everyone takes it stride. I am rarely tempted and even in those moments in which I could see myself sipping a finely crafted cocktail that desire passes so quickly. I am so much happier, more present and more productive. I also love my mornings and my incredibly long weekends.

  113. Bobbi says...

    My husband is 2.5 years sober and active in AA, and I really appreciate you sharing this story. I drink maybe a glass of wine a month–never around him–and the first few months of our new lifestyle were the most anxious months of my life. Much of what you shared resonated with me because I realized I was using alcohol to cope with an anxiety disorder.

    But when you see alcohol literally killing someone you love, it really loses its appeal. Today, we’re happier and healthier than ever.

    CoJ, if you ever need someone to write from the spouse’s perspective, I’ve got one hell of a story for you.

    • Becki says...

      Bobbi, you said it – when you see alcohol literally killing someone you love, it really loses its appeal. That’s what did it for me. My mom and my stepbrother died from their alcoholism, and other family members are in recovery. Drinking just wasn’t a fun thing to do anymore. It became more important to stay sober in solidarity with those who had stopped drinking. It bothers me to see how society glamorizes alcohol, so I (perversely, I know) openly ask about the nonalcoholic choices in a restaurant. They need to step up their game!

      And congratulations to you and your husband for making the change. It’s not easy but so worth it. Best of luck to your family-you can do it!

    • Kelly says...

      I would like to read Bobbi’s story!!

    • K says...

      I would love to hear your story Bobbi. My husband has a much more difficult relationships with substances (alcohol and marijuana) than I do, so it’s hard for me to understand the loss of control and compulsion to return to things he knows can quickly take over. I guess that’s the nature of addiction and I try to understand. Wondering how to support him, whether things are spiralling down, why he’s been able to quit or has started up again — these things are always at the back of my mind. I love him to bits and know he’s doing his best, but I have no idea how to navigate this.

      And I have to avoid taking it personally one way or the other. He recently fell back into it (after 14 months sober) while I was away travelling for work, so a part of me feels like I should avoid being away. But I have to travel for my career, and I can’t take responsibility for his decisions.

      I try not to resent his friends who seem thrilled to pull him back into their lifestyle of heavy smoking and drinking. I know it’s not up to any one else but I guess I find it easier to blame and resent them at times (even though I really do like them!).

      I’m so glad to hear about your husband’s sobriety and hope I can report the same thing some day.

    • D says...

      My husband’s drinking, which I believed to be social in nature when we met in our 20’s, has completely spiraled out of control in the decade we’ve been together. Despite rehab, sobriety didn’t stick and now his drinking pretty much rules every aspect of our lives. I’m so tired, I’m so lonely…

      Bobbi, did your husband’s sobriety come at your own urging or did he have a rock bottom story that ultimately got him to the point where he realized he had to give up alcohol? Things in our house are perpetually bad, but not bad enough for him to give up drinking.

    • Bobbi says...

      Becki, thank you for your kind words. I agree, restaurants really need to get their mocktail game together. I like the phrase “sober in solidarity.” Might become my new tagline :)

      Kelly, thank you! I have a Master’s in English and have written professionally for 10 years. I hope to write a book someday about our experience, and have been doing a lot more “me” writing lately.

      K, oh girl your comment hit me hard. No, you can’t stop traveling but I understand the pull. I am sending you all the best! You may want to look into codependency (Codependent No More is a good book, but also there is an app called Letting Go that has a daily reading) — learning more about it might help you more clearly define, and defend, those boundaries with your husband.

      D, I am so, so sorry. My husband hit a rock bottom while we were still dating. It was in the early days of our relationship. He knew he had a problem but didn’t know if he was ready to face it. I have some alcoholism in my family tree so I knew that its not something that goes away and it only gets worse with time. I gave my then-boyfriend a full ultimatums, pulled in his family (that was a WHOLE other story), and ultimately he went to rehab. He relapsed once, I walked away for a week, and then he decided to get sober once and for all. Obviously that is the Cliffnotes version, but it was not a straight line–nor, sadly, is it the norm. I would recommend Al-Anon to you. All the best–my heart goes out to you.

  114. Christine says...

    I hit my mid-thirties and started getting hungover from ONE drink. If I did decide to have more, I experienced intense sadness (not depression) but just a case of the sads the next day. I reduced my drinking to one or two a week around the holidays, which was brutal, but opened my eyes to all the times I drank alcohol just to pass time or because it was there. My mom is staunchly opposed to drinking and my brother has a history of drunk driving. At Thanksgiving, I brought sparkling grape juice and it was the first holiday toast our family has ever had that wasn’t uncomfortable. This moment would not have happened had I just brought my usual bottle of wine just because that is what I always did. It’s been a nice switch to be a more mindful drinker, and it makes those one or two a week DELICIOUS.

  115. Stephanie says...

    I’m currently 8 months pregnant (ie. 8 months sober)! The first 2-3 months where I wasn’t drinking but also didn’t want to tell friends, family, and coworkers we were expecting a baby were so frustrating. I’d come up with all these excuses like “I’m not feeling well”, or “I’m DDing tonight”, or “I have to get up early”, and each excuse was met with so much judgment and outright disdain. Or it would be met with further questioning on if I was pregnant or not. I eventually resorted to simply trying to fake it by ordering soda water with lime and pretending it was a gin and tonic. Or bringing/drinking my own non-alcoholic wine during holiday parties. I was absolutely shocked that “Na, I’m just not drinking tonight” was met with so much surprise and further questioning. Fast forward to today and I am positive that my relationship with alcohol is going to change postpartum. It shouldn’t be a surprise to my peers if I turn down a drink. I also want to be much more conscious if my friends turn down a drink and not automatically jump to the conclusion “YOU MUST BE PREGNANT”. I think society as a whole needs a reality check and needs to be much more sensitive to people’s personal decisions to drink or not drink.

    • Candace says...

      THIS. A million times this.

    • jess says...

      yes to all of this. so much questioning/disdain.

    • Hilary says...

      Currently 6 months pregnant and this is my experience, exactly. It’s so crazy! I never realized how much judgement or assumption is made when you simply don’t want to drink.

    • I couldn’t agree with this more, Stephanie! I’m also pregnant, 7 months, and I was shocked in the early weeks when my beverage choice became fodder. Buzz off. Who should care if I don’t drink alcohol? It’s no judgment on you if you *do* drink; go for it. We shouldn’t need an excuse for what’s in the glass in our hand.

      Additionally, for my friends longing to become mothers and having a hard time getting or staying pregnant, it is the most painful thing ever for them to hear “YOU MUST BE PREGNANT” when they opt for water. They’d kill to be. We could live more heart-forward.

    • Jill says...

      This! I’m 7 months pregnant and couldn’t have said it better myself. Alcohol seems to be the only “drug” we have to justify not using in our current culture, and the shock/horror/questioning that arises when turning down a brunch mimosa or post-work pint is shocking, pregnant or not!

      Cheers – drink of your choosing – to you and your new little one, and to an evolving relationship with alcohol!

    • Karen says...

      Yes! Thank you! I find that even sticking to just one drink gets this type of judgy reaction!

    • Eliza says...

      Besides questioning why someone is or is not drinking (there are a million reasons!) I’m so bugged that people still ever ask “are you pregnant?!” If you wanted them to know just now, YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD THEM (and there are a million reasons not to ask someone if they’re pregnant). Tact.

  116. Alec says...

    Not drinking also saves you SO much money! It’s crazy to think how much cash I would drop on any given Saturday night out. I stopped drinking 3-4 years ago, when I was 25, and haven’t missed it since (the exception being a single glass of sparkling wine when I got engaged last week!).

    While some friends were snarky about the decision, others were incredibly supportive and thoughtful. I love the way Sarah describes it as “like waking up in clean sheets every day.” That’s exactly right!

  117. bethany says...

    I realized a few months ago that I’ve almost always been able to stop at 3 – 4 drinks max because my body feels sick *before* I get too drunk to function. I have acid reflux, and sugary cocktails or too much wine usually make me feel icky after 5 or 6, while I’m still mostly sober. On the one hand, I’ve always hated this because it’s super unpleasant, but on the other hand, I’ve never had problems controlling my alcohol intake. I was talking with a friend recently, one who has had a harder time controlling her drinking, and we realized that this is the big difference between us – I always feel sick 6+ drinks, and she *never* feels sick until the day after, no matter how many she’s had. I’ve always been perplexed about why she would drink until she blacked out until we had that conversation. Every body is different, and that convo was a big eye-opener for me.

    • Megan says...

      If you’re looking for (imho) the best book about this topic: sarah hepola, blackout.
      https://sarahhepola.com/title/blackout/
      I do drink socially, maybe twice a month, but this book really resonated with me. Great read.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES!!!! i love love loved blackout. such an amazing book.

    • Vic says...

      I’m like your friend unfortunately. I don’t get sick until I wake up the next morning confused. I was never able to throw up and my body never told me to stop. People don’t understand the blackout but it’s never intentional. No one would want to go through that. Soo embarrassing. The stories I could tell. Even with a drinking plan in place, after 2-3 drinks that plan usually changes. It’s easier for me not to drink now. Perhaps I will revisit it sometime in the future but I doubt it.

    • Karen says...

      Bethany,
      Like your friend, I could not control my drinking – BUT, I never tried, either. One drink NEVER happened. I drank till I was drunk EVERY TIME! I never felt sick, never threw up, never had a hangover, never blacked out. But, I also never drank responsibly either. I also never knew when I was drunk – it all felt the same to me. Then, one time I realized I couldn’t feel my face. That became my
      way to judge that I was drunk, but by then, it was too late.
      I also never had any friends who discussed this with me, so I had to come to realizations on my own. It was a hard road at first, but I am now happier, healthier and truly living my life for the first time.

      Thanks to everyone for sharing in this awesome post! I have learned a lot from reading this and all the comments. Whatever one chooses to do, make it the right choice for YOU.

      Best,

      Karen

  118. I started limiting my drinking last fall, around October, and by New Year I had decided to cut it out all together. Not because of many of the reasons you listed, or because of what folks have mentioned in the comments, but because I am finally trying to manage my clinical depression. It occurred to me that, since alcohol is a depressant, why should I consume it? It’s not always what I want to be doing, but I am feeling a lot better – because of this choice, but also because of lots of others I’m making.

    • Col says...

      For the writers of “sober curious” articles: My wish is for you to consider adding links to resources recommended by medical and mental health professionals to your articles for those who may be suffering from addiction. I see this notion that one can just use will power to get sober so often now and my fear is that it can be a wrong and harmful message for some battling the disease.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is a really good point, col. thank you so much.

    • NN says...

      I love this, Lauren. Sending you all the hugs!

  119. em says...

    i didn’t drink last year. i stopped for pregnancy reasons. i’ve stopped again recently because my liver enzymes were high. it made me realize how hard it is for those who try to stop. it is too intertwined with celebrations and people (waiters, family) can be really pushy about it. some people look at you like you are spoiling the fun because you aren’t drinking. i wasn’t noticeably pregnant and a waiter asked me at least 3 times if i wanted a drink. these days i can’t do a blanket ‘no i don’t drink’ because occasionally i do. but i don’t feel like explaining why i say no each time and wish people wouldn’t make me explain

  120. Des says...

    I’m 17 weeks pregnant & haven’t announced publicly yet–we are having to wait through some nerve-wracking genetic tests and anyway, I’m not showing, so it really isn’t anyone’s business!–but I stopped drinking as soon as I found out 4 months ago. I just said that I wanted to stop, which is true, and honestly, the way that some of my friends have reacted is completely insane. My best friend and her beau are heavy drinkers and love to go to restaurants and imbibe most of the evening and something is said about it every. single. time. I don’t order anything. It is INSANE how much pressure other people put on non-drinkers. I’m guessing it is taken as an affront to the person that is drinking but honestly, what does it matter??? I’ve actually enjoyed going out much more since I’ve stopped drinking–minus everyone’s terrible manners–and it doesn’t bother me at all to sip on water while everyone else enjoys their drinks. But it has annoyed me to no end that I am constantly having to justify stepping outside the “norm” and that said norm is drinking yourself into a stupor. It’s so bizarre.

    • NN says...

      A baby! Thinking of you as you wait for the genetic tests – that can be nervewracking (that word isn’t even right…more like heart-wringing!). We went thru it, too. Thinking of you. Aaaand yes – I felt the same when I stopped drinking. I do think some people are threatened when you make a life change that resonates with their insecurities. <3

    • Des says...

      Thank you, NN. A baby! I realized right after the amnio–I’m one of the lucky ones that needed to have an amnio after an inconclusive CVS–that I’ve essentially been holding my breath since finding out. I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) just being able to enjoy this new and really different from what I was expecting (and special!) time in my life. Thank you for the good thoughts, I really appreciate that!! <3

  121. AJ says...

    A kindred spirit! I quit drinking 2.5 years ago, back when I was 29. I have never regretted it and seriously believe it’s why my mental health is better, my weight is down, and my finances are in good order. I don’t think I was/am an alcoholic, but I think I was on the road to it. Something I wish our society discussed more is that the world isn’t divided into healthy drinkers and alcoholics; it’s a spectrum and we all fall somewhere. If you notice where you’re at isn’t healthy, adjust. For me, I had to taper back, going from one night off a week, to two, to three, and so on and so forth very slowly.

  122. NN says...

    Thank you for this! I stopped drinking when I was in my 30s. My story was a bit more sordid than this, I fucked up quite a bit along the way, but I had the same breakthrough moment. I literally felt like my body–the actual cells in the beautiful, breaking body that sustained me thru all my hijinx–was begging me to stop. “Why are you killing us,” a voice asked me. I stopped that day and have been sober for 9 years.

    Thank you for your story. You are a light.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s an incredible story, NN. thank you so much for sharing and congratulations on those nine years.

  123. KA says...

    My husband’s drinking became a real problem a few years into our marriage and getting sober was without a doubt one of the most challenging and important turning points in both of our lives. It was shit to go through, but I am so thankful for the ways it has changed us both. My WASPy G&T-drinking mom still takes it the hardest and gets sooo awkward and wounded when I skip a cocktail around her, which has been kind of eye opening (but that’s another story…)
    It was tricky to weed all the alcohol out of our home and habits (I still drink some, but much less) and I just wanted to chime in to say that I found it super helpful to stock my freeze with fancy ice pops and ice cream bars (for the summer) and nice teas (for the winter). I was so used to offering everyone a drink when they stopped by my house and I hated the idea of losing that kind of easy socializing. But, guess what, people love Klondike bars (and mostly just took the beer because I offered it). That romantic vision of sipping wine at sunset has been completely replaced for me with eating popsicles on the porch with people I love. Good luck to all who are rethinking their relationship with alcohol–and thanks, CoJo, for this post.

    • Joy says...

      What an awesome idea re: popsicles and nice tea.

    • Emily D. says...

      Yes, for my husband and I it’s often about replacing the rituals of drinking. I like having a drink when I get home from work… so we replaced cocktails with non-alcoholic beer or a cranberry and sparkling water or other sparkling concoction (I make a lot of shrubs now, too). It still feels like a treat, I still sit down a moment and enjoy my drink, but imbibe a lot less alcohol!

  124. agnes says...

    I have two great friends who love dancing and partying and both of them never drink; they just don’t like it, never have. They really opened the way for me: if they can have a good time with sparkling water, why not me? I only have a couple drinks if I’n invited and there is a very special meal (I live in France). Else, I don’t drink anymore and it is so freeing. I have also notice that I now tend to get closer to people who don’t drink.
    Thank you so much Sarah, for this article.

    • agnes says...

      sorry for all the typos.

  125. Hayley says...

    I love that people are starting to think about the role of alcohol in their lives and in our culture as a whole. As a new mother, I decided it was important to teach my children that alcohol doesn’t need to be a part of every celebration or necessary to have fun. I’m doing this through example. My daughter is 5 years old now and my done 1 and I do not drink at outings. I’m always saying “I’ll drive, I haven’t had a drink” etc. I will have 2 glasses of wine a week either with dinner or with friends. It’s important to me because both my husband and I come from families that include alcohol in the majority of get togethers (some responsibly and some not). My goal is to not make alcohol and those who drink it evil but to show that it is possible to have a blast without it and to kick butt the next day!

  126. Kate says...

    I’ve been trying to cut back on alcohol, too, for a lot of the same reasons this article talks about. If anyone else is in the same boat, I’ve really been enjoying the Take a Break with Rachel Hart podcast. She talks about tools for figuring out why you feel the urge to drink and how to address the root problems. Sounds corny (it IS corny), but it’s really helping me take control of my drinking.

  127. Jenny says...

    I stopped drinking about 7 months ago, at first because of medication. I quickly realized that it would be a larger issue than I anticipated. Socially, people think I’m making some sort of grand statement. I’m not an alcoholic, so I don’t think I can claim the word sober. I’ve definitely had friendships fade. People just stop inviting you to things, because they think you have an issue with drinking. Dating is particularly tough – The apps force you to declare whether you’re a drinker or not, which determines your fate from there. Dating without the cushion of “grabbing a drink” is also more challenging. It’s even an issue with work. I work in tech, and alcohol is a constant. I’m either pegged as a teetotaler or pregnant, and it honestly affects my relationship with my coworkers and clients. All of this I truly feel says more about society/culture and everyone else than it does about me – and I’ve become 1000% more sympathetic towards those that are sober or abstain for religious reasons.

  128. Lisa says...

    I’m reading more and more stories like this. Not sure if it’s just a thing among millennials or if this happens with every generation in their late 20s/early 30s. I have tons of friends who forego drinking, and the general consensus is that the pressure to drink is greater than other substances (Gluten-free vegan? Great! No booze? Oh…).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! it is a movement about sober curiosity — but also i think the thing about the pressure to drink is very real. it’s so odd, when you think about it. i read a quote recently that said something like “alcohol is the only drug you have to explain and defend why you don’t use it”

    • Alice says...

      Funny, I’ve been wondering the same thing – but with people in their 40’s. I know many people, including my husband, hovering right around 40 reprioritizing and going sober. I guess everyone in life has to reign in the youthful indulgences at some point and if reducing isn’t working or feeling right, removing is the courageous and responsible alternative. Congrats Sarah, you’re awesome and brave.

    • NN says...

      YES! You are absolutely right Joanna! I am from a culture that abstains from drinking being Indian. I was raised to treat alcohol and smoking as really bad habits which bad people did. I never grew up around alcohol…not a single person in my family every drank. Needless to say, when I came to the US, this was one of the hardest eye openers for me. I lost so many friends and opportunities to socialize over happy hours in graduate school and getting drinks after work was never an option. It was hard to adjust to parties where only alcohol was served and no food (we do food parties). The pressure to drink is so real, I have tried it myself many times and couldn’t warm up to it…the taste and the after effects. I’m glad people are talking about how alcohol is also a drug and its prevalent use!

    • Ellen says...

      Exactly! No one shames you for quitting smoking or becoming vegetarian (except maybe for those weird people who are overly obsessed with bacon). But if you give up booze, everyone a) tries to convince you to “just have one” b) looks at you like you’re an alien and c) stops inviting you around. It’s INSANE!

  129. Emily says...

    I don’t drink and never have. Occasionally I may try a sip of something but I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I made a decision when I was in high school that I wasn’t going to drink. I have alcoholism in my extended family and got so sick of seeing people in my family be stupid because they drank too much. People ask me at family functions and other places why I don’t drink, and I tell them I don’t really like it and I just don’t want to. If they give me a hard time, they’re being lame, and I don’t care. I guess it can be a little awkward at times, but I can deal with it (my hidden inner rebel). Plus, even though I wonder if I’d turn into a super fun person with a few drinks, I also know I could get mean (like my relatives)and I don’t want to lose control of myself. I like being in my right mind even if I’m boring. Ha. Plus a hangover sounds horrible. Migraines are bad enough. Also, kids will often take what they see you do and take it a step further. I want to be an example to my kids who are getting older. So lots of reasons not to drink and no good reason that I can find to drink.

  130. Grace says...

    I found as I’ve gotten older there had been less social pressure to drink, even at events with lots of alcohol. As we age we see the problems and have more tolerance for people who make the healthy-for-them choices. Also, I live in California…

  131. Erin says...

    I have a strict 2 drink limit and I only partake on the weekends. I get older I’m just more sensitive to the effects of alcohol (bad hangovers, sinus issues, poor quality sleep) and I consider this a gift. I used to be one of those new moms that relied on wine to survive the madness of parenthood, work stress, family drama etc. but my sensitivity forced me to restrict my drinking and I’ve never felt healthier or happier.

    • Jess says...

      Same! Although I will sometimes have more than two drinks on the weekends. But just restricting it on weekdays has been such a positive shift. Not reaching for a glass of wine, as you say due to the stresses of motherhood, work, etc, makes you prioritize and you feel mentally and physically better for it.

  132. Sophie says...

    Great and courageous post! Addiction is hard to stop and to be able to stop or at least limit is not only knowing the reasons that led to this addiction but also « fighting » any occasion to keep that decision (life hurts , people encouragement to join.. they are many ) time to time… Alcoohol is known as anti-depression, affordable and not always visible , shared or acknowledged by peers.
    I guess you have learnt on your history and gained self confidence…
    It is important to share and i would like to learn more about it.
    Anyway, congratulations for your self courage and also to share , keep on , that’ s a real battle
    Thanks

  133. Justine says...

    Love this post. I’ve been debating giving up alcohol permanently because it just makes me feel bad. I frequently suffer a massive sinus pain allergic reaction to alcohol, regardless of amount or type, so I want to completely give it up. Unfortunately I have a partner who isn’t super supportive of this concept, so it’s going to cause some issues. Oh well. The older I get the more more I value my health and well being over social norms.

  134. I really relate to this! I stopped drinking almost 8 years ago for similar reasons. I drank to ease social situations, but often had a hard time stopping with just one drink. I hated the way I felt both physically and emotionally the next day (sometimes days). Most important, even though I didn’t drink very often, I didn’t like who I was when I did. Getting sober forced me to get comfortable in my own skin, and I’m exponentially happier as a result.

  135. A says...

    Thanks for this! While I haven’t stopped drinking completely, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Not stopping completely, because for me, the act of drinking (one or two) drinks is still a very valuable ritual. I l love the feeling of sinking into my body I get when I have a glass of wine to myself, or the feeling of making a delicious cocktail for my friends (feelings I totally get other people have from non-alcohol related activities!). However, something I’m trying to do more often is examine those moments when I’ve had more than one or two drinks and ask myself why. Especially on nights out, there is always a pivotal moment when part of me thinks “I really don’t need/want another drink” and yet I still get one. I am getting better at saying no, in part because of articles like this. I think it’s great that the culture around drinking has allowed for a lot more discussion of the spectrum of what’s fun and healthy for everyone. I think there are elements of alcoholic beverages that are great. But I think that’s all the more reason to embrace moderation — to preserve the valuable artisanal/cultural/culinary aspects and not taint them with the anxiety and shame that follows uncontrolled drinking.

  136. Jackie says...

    After 15 years of being in NYC and drinking almost every day – whoa, it’s crazy to read that – I was pregnant at 35 and stopped drinking. I realized that I was spending a ton of time with a girl who was truly awful. But I hadn’t realized because we were always drinking and she seemed funny through drunk eyes. I tried to talk with her about it all, but she thought I was the crazy one, so I let the friendship go. Fast forward four years and another baby, and work and home are so demanding that I do feel like I need a few sips of wine at home after work to take off the edge of life. But this is a helpful post that reminds me I should maybe consider going sober again – what am I not noticing that, if sober, I would see so clearly?

  137. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I am very pleased to see this on Cup of Jo.

    I don’t drink for multiple reasons, and for me it’s always been a positive choice, but it is sometimes awkward to explain to people. I usually go for a very short “I don’t drink anymore,” and if they press me, I say it’s for medical reasons (which is true, just not the whole story, but they don’t need to know more than that!). I know I choose what I disclose that’s personal, and like a lot of other things, I like to keep most personal things private.

    Generally, I think that alcoholism isn’t discussed enough here in the US. It’s a form of substance abuse, and can be so harmful on so many levels. It would be great if there were more awareness around that, and that requires people talking about it and kids being taught about it.

    • Julie says...

      I am glad to see it here on Cup of Jo too. Drinking and motherhood is a slippery slope.

  138. Laura F says...

    I quit drinking when my kids hit the middle school years. I hoped to show them through actions (not sermons) that it’s possible to face down deaths in the family, illness, serious financial woes, anxiety, horrid family drama, social tension, the holidays, etc etc etc, without alcohol.

    Their father has (genetic) alcoholic tendencies which are usually in check, and way beyond implying judgment regarding his consumption, I hoped to present a ‘spectrum of human options’ to which they might refer during adolescence and evermore. As in: here’s one way to do things, and here’s another.

    Both are in their mid-20s, and seem to be occasional social drinkers with healthy respect for both the power and palliative effects of such–they admit to overindulging in college, like most students. They’ve both told me that observing an adult in their lives abstain showed them that it’s possible and within grasp.

    It’s just occurred to me that my mother seldom drank, while my father often overdid. Interesting echo, eh?

    • Hayley says...

      This is exactly what I am doing now!!! I hope my children catch on.

  139. ‘Elective sobriety’ seems to be super zeitgeisty right now! As Amy Poehler said, “Good for her! Not for me.” Moderate drinking all the way.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s interesting because for me, i have a harder time cutting back than just not drinking at all. if i have one glass of wine, i really really want two glasses; but if i have no glasses of wine, i’m okay!

    • Sara says...

      I agree with you Lexie, I see these elective sobriety articles everywhere and I am so over them.

    • Callie says...

      I think general the “extremities” are super zeitgeisty right now- veganism, no sugar, dairy-free, gluten-free, elective sobriety… it seems like we all need/want restrictions or parameters (maybe to help us feel in control?). I agree that for me, thus far, moderation works best (including and not limited to alcohol consumption!).

      With that said, in reading the article in its entirety, the detailed descriptions of the author’s interations/feelings towards alcohol read like someone who is struggling with alcoholism, but saw the signs before hitting a more extreme rock bottom. Sounds like life-saving sobriety to me, which is really commendable.

    • Marie says...

      Fully agree! I don’t drink much (2-3 drinks a week), and my partner is entirely sober. If sobriety is right for you, I absolutely think you should embrace it. However, there can be as many damaging ideas at play in choosing not to drink as in choosing to drink. My mom has never drunk alcohol, something she proudly trumpets to the world. She is also incredibly controlling and anti-social. She uses her not drinking as a mechanism (one of many) to push people away and shun people who embrace a more joyous or carefree lifestyle. I will not be giving up my 2-3 drinks a week. They help me open up and connect with friends and the world. I also worry about friends, many of whom have already disciplined their diets and their exercise habits and their morning routines, feeling like they should also discipline their drinking.

    • E says...

      I would argue that all sobriety is elective — we all made a choice at some point, just for some of us it was more serious than for others. And you know what’s truly zeitgeisty right now? Rose and aperol spritzes and mommy juice and boozy brunches and bla bla bla basic booze. It feels nice for us sober sisters to see ourselves reflected on lifestyle blogs as well.

    • Maia says...

      To Joanna’s comment below, you should read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies.”

    • Lena says...

      Cheers to the attitude of “Good for her, not for me”.

      It should be perfectly normal to respect and appreciate someone’s choice not to drink even if you have chosen differently.

      We shouldn’t label the choice not to drink as something that only raging alcoholics should do to save themselves from imminent destruction. And also we shouldn’t flippantly label sobriety as some mindless passing trend.

      Not drinking is a perfectly healthy option that people should be able to chose without intrusive judgements.

  140. MD says...

    This article has put me in a difficult place. I quit drinking for 365 days last June, for the same reasons as you, plus I have an early rising LO, she doesn’t care, if its a weekend, late night or m hungover. Last one year has given me the sanity to wake up with her and not be groggy. Now I have to choose either to continue my sobriety or succumb to social norm. Maybe someone can flip a beer cap & help me decide. 😏

  141. Caroline says...

    I’m 31 and pregnant with my second kid, but I’ve had a strong feeling that after the baby’s born, I’m going to remain abstinent. After my son turned 1, I started going out and enjoying drinks again. Even though it was really infrequent, I would drink to excess every time and smoke cigarettes. I couldn’t be there for my kid the next days. Lots of mornings I would be asking my husband to take our son to daycare because I couldn’t scrape myself out of bed. So even though I love the fun I have with my friends when drinking, ultimately, being a good mom for my kids – and generally just starting every day feeling good – are a way bigger priority. It can be pretty easy not to drink. At a fancy restaurant I get san pellegrino with lemon served in a wine glass. It feels just as elegant as wine, but without the quick buzz and regret. I’m hopeful about this next stage.

  142. Taylor says...

    I’m kind of in the opposite boat! I love the taste of alcohol, cocktails, wine but hate, hate, getting drunk. The anxiety the next day often lasts all day and makes me depressed. But! So many of my hobbies and the things I love involve alcohol (I collect tiki mugs, I like playing bartender and trying new drinks, my favorite place in the city is a bar where I’m a local!)–so, I’m in a kind of place now where I just never have more than two drinks (never get drunk) and go for the mocktail when I can. (I’m in DC and there’s been a big focus lately on interesting mocktails and I’m super happy about it).

    It’s a good place for ME (and my fiance, who realized after dry January, oh, I don’t love drinking and I’m saving so much money??) but I don’t want to pull the rug out from under my friends, for whom our baseline social get together is drinks. So, now I’m trying to host more dinner parties at home, offer up strawberry picking group outings instead of bar hopping, korean bbq nights instead of checking out the new cocktail bar and it’s been working out well!

    • Alison says...

      This! I like just suggesting other activities. I think everyone falls to a default of “let’s get drinks!” but I changed this default with a good friend of mine to “let’s go on a walk”. It saves us both money, keeps us healthy (“ier” at least), is lovely to spend more time outside, and just affirms our relationship more. We talk about the same stuff we would have over a cocktail, and ultimately we’re not missing anything! Suggesting a walk has become my new go-to favorite thing.

    • Emily says...

      Taylor, I’m right there with you and I’m so glad to see someone else who drinks like me, because most people think I’m crazy for liking the taste but not the effect! I can’t remember the last time I felt any real effects…it’s been years. I like your mocktail idea and will have to try this when I am out! Thanks for sharing <3

  143. kathy says...

    oops … hit “post” too fast. meant to also say thanks for sharing! your post will surely help other people.

    kathy

  144. Bec says...

    ‘all of my insecurities were predictably back and louder than ever. They were cranky from a night of being silenced‘

    THIS! Great writing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!! totally resonated with me, too.

  145. kathy says...

    while I love the thoughtfulness found in posts and comments at ‘cup of jo’, this is my favorite post here, probably ever and forever! I love your writing style/voice and appreciate your honesty and openness with a very tough and personal issue, but what makes me most happy from this post is that you have your life back! (full disclosure: i am glad and grateful to God that i made the same decision for similar reasons 30 years ago, when i was 31).

    for what it’s worth, many congratulations, sarah, from someone who you’ve never met (and who will be watching for your book)!

    kathy

  146. Hannah says...

    Thank you for this. I quit drinking when I was 23. I’m 35 now and haven’t had alcohol since. I agree that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I tried many things you did at first – only drank around girlfriends, only drank at home, etc – but I never felt like ME. Didn’t make good decisions and always ended up regretting something. I live in NYC too so I know how difficult it can be at times, but still 100% worth it.

    Cheers to feeling more like ourselves and every sip of seltzer!

  147. liz says...

    Thanks for sharing this.

    As someone who has also decided to stop drinking, I find it seriously alarming how many people become uncomfortable in social situations when you tell them you’re not drinking with them (even if you have a cup of something else in your hand). It’s really unfortunate and makes sticking to your guns that much harder.

    • Eli says...

      I don’t drink more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol a month, but it’s a bummer to me how much other people find my abstinence inhibiting. I can see why people wouldn’t want to get smashed with me, but I wish I could find a way to give people permission to get that glass of red with that steak if they would enjoy it!

    • Lena says...

      I don’t drink and have often wondered about the thoughts/motives of those who express discomfort with my sobriety. Most often, it comes off as if 1) they assume I will be a total bore without a few drinks in me, 2) they don’t want me to see them get drunk when I will be clear eyed and sober to witness how they may act as they lose their inhibitions. Worse yet, if it’s a man, he often acts as though sobriety is an early warning sign of sexual rejection. As if sober women don’t have sex. WTF!

    • Michaela says...

      Honestly, I don’t say “I don’t drink,” I just say “No thanks, I’m all set,” or “I’m in the mood for (something else) actually!” and haven’t gotten any pushback! I’m not sure if that’s just the group I’m with or what, but I think I probably read into it more than other people- I feel most awkward around my parents when they offer me a glass of wine!

  148. Brittany Thurman says...

    I love this essay! I feel like I’ve read it somewhere already though… am I crazy?