In month five of not drinking alcohol, I knew I was a different person. My hairstylist confirmed this when I walked into the salon for my appointment. I’ve been seeing her for years, yet she suddenly didn’t recognize me.
The last time I saw her for a hair appointment was month one. Back then giving up alcohol was yet another “booze break experiment” I had committed to.
But, that day in month five, my hairstylist gave me the funniest look. An awkward silence lingered in the air in the tiny salon reception area. Normally, it’s a cheerful “Hey, lady…how have you been?”
She was about to ask me if I needed a walk-in appointment when I said “hello” and broke the spell.
“Britt! Shit, I didn’t recognize you for some reason.”
I knew what the reason was. I was a different person now…inside and out.
And we talked about that transformation during my hair appointment.
My hairstylist has been sober for many years. She is one of the few people I can openly talk to about life without alcohol—without feeling like a caged animal at the zoo. She didn’t gawk at me, want to study me, pet me, point at me, or run from me. There were no societal barriers between us.
With everyone else, I get mixed results. This is to be expected. Because alcohol is so deeply ingrained in human society. And it has been for thousands of years.
In ancient Egypt, beer was buried in royal tombs and offered to the deities. They believed the great god Osiris taught them how to make beer—the Greeks and the Aztecs have similar beliefs and stories.
Over the past few years, I held several “booze break” experiments. I still remember the first time I went one month without alcohol and I had to go to a work function—which, of course, involved alcohol.
Me and my husband smuggled in kombuchas. We poured kombuchas into those red plastic beer cups everyone else had to blend in. We kept covering our cups with our hands anytime someone tried to pour beer from the pitcher, saying “no thanks.”
The jig was up. We were encircled by a small group of my curious coworkers who took turns gawking and asking questions about this mysterious life without alcohol.
The next “booze break” experiment was a serious one…four months. This was our personal record until now. During this break, we did the unthinkable. We went to Italy…sober.
People were horrified, literally horrified. They said we were going to ruin our trip by not drinking. They said we would be bored, that we would miss out on everything Italy had to offer.
Guess what? Sober Italy was one of the best (and obviously, the most memorable) international trips we’ve ever taken.
And that really sums everything up right there. Without alcohol, life is beautiful. And, it doesn’t matter what other people think or what they are dealing with. What truly matters is what kind of life you want to live.
If you stop drinking, it makes other alcohol drinkers around you question themselves—even though it seems like they are questioning you. Inevitably, you lose people along the way.
Some people will stick around no matter what. There is a deep enough connection and you can still hang out without the weirdness. Others will fall off for a variety of personal reasons—and that’s totally cool.
There’s a chain reaction that happens when you quit drinking. Relationships with others and yourself change rapidly. You lose weight, you save money, you have more clarity, and you think before you act. You take a hard look at everything in your life to see what else you can lose and gain.
For me, that meant throwing myself into my new business, Clove Travel and Wellness, which is all about staying healthy while traveling—a topic I am majorly passionate about. (More to come on this publication and podcast launch soon.)
Another big step for me was giving up the rest of the vices outside of alcohol. In Oregon, cannabis has been legal for a while. It’s very easy to slip into that whole lifestyle as well, being that you can just buy weed and edibles at a store.
By mid-September, I was completely sober.
A good friend of mine from my Milwaukee days reached out to me on Instagram after I shared a picture of me and my husband on our 6-month alcohol-free celebration day back in December. She and I got our yoga teaching certifications together, actually. She said:
Any tips on the addition of activities sans booze? It’s hard to come up with an idea once my brain suggests a yummy local beer!
It’s very difficult to answer that question in a quick social media reply, but I said:
I replaced drinking with healthier activities…more working out, meditation, and I started Qigong. I’m launching a new business too. So, I’d say to use that time focusing on being awesome. Whatever that means for you.
Although this advice is short and sweet (and sorta vague), I think it works if any of you out there are like me. Some might call us high-functioning alcoholics. For us, when we drink…life is alright, but life is far from beautiful.
Everything looks good on the outside. We might be successful professionals or entrepreneurs. We might be health-conscious in all other aspects of our lives—we workout, eat right, practice self-care…but we drink alcohol regularly.
I’m not talking about being moderate and drinking the very small amount that defines moderate drinking. I’m talking about more than two beers or one glass of wine per week.
I’m talking about being a participant and champion of the alcohol lifestyle—weekend brunches, happy hours, relaxing with a drink at home, “indulging” on vacation, and transforming into a craft beer snob or a wine connoisseur. I’m talking about using alcohol as a crutch, during the highs and the lows of life.
When you take alcohol away, you challenge yourself to be you. You must limp forward without crutches. And, I don’t care if you’re Wonder Woman or Superman—you will limp forward. Progress will be slow, awkward, and difficult.
But when you experience the highs and lows without alcohol, damn it’s hard. But, it’s also so incredibly rewarding and beautiful.
You are no longer numb…you feel everything.
You feel every inch of a hug. You feel the sting of tears when you’re sorting out personal messes. You feel the repercussions from the years you drank—the credit card debt, the weight you gained, the swollen liver, the things you said, the choices you made, the things you did and didn’t do, the time you spent drinking instead of growing as a person.
You feel lighter and stronger when you wake up in the morning. You feel like yourself, but the best version of yourself. And, you feel ready for anything.
Based on the insane popularity of this blog post, I decided to create a solo episode on my podcast, Love Your Enthusiasm, that walks people through How to Take a Break From Alcohol.
In this episode, I share:
- The definition of a high-functioning alcoholic and how alcohol as a lifestyle impacts most of us.
- The startling increase in alcohol consumption in 2020 and why there is no better time like the present to reclaim our health and our lives.
- Some of the known and lesser-known negative effects of alcohol consumption.
- Questions to ask yourself if you feel like it’s time to take a break from alcohol.
- My own experience with drugs and alcohol, including hitting rock bottom and nearly destroying my life by the time I was 20 years old.
- Tips, resources, and actionable steps that have helped me take alcohol breaks.
- How to travel without booze and have a damn good time.
- The many benefits of taking an alcohol break and the importance of tuning in to what you gain.
You can find Love Your Enthusiasm on your favorite listening apps (Apple, Google, Stitcher, etc.), or head over to the website.
38 thoughts on “6 Months Without Alcohol and Life is Beautiful”
I am glad this works so well for you. I don’t drink much. Or often. I don’t keep track of it. I had some nog at the holidays and nothing since. My genetics clearly demonstrate I have to be careful about alcohol consumption and I suppose, addiction in general.
My social scene is small, might I add?
The only way I can relate is I decaffed ten years ago. I had to do it for my mental health. Only then did I realize my dependency. I was poisoning myself. I was so wired, I was making myself sick. I didn’t know that, would have never thought that, wouldn’t have listened to anyone saying it, but when I decaffed, I understood. After a few weeks, I tried to have a soda and it flipped all my anxiety switches intensely. About seven years in, I reached a level where one cup of regular coffee or a soda is okay, well before 3pm. No way I would be okay with more than two, and certainly no espresso. I am a different person, now too. Of course, there are other parts and pieces making me into a healthier person, but caffeine is still a thing I deal with as sometimes the barista errs, and it only takes minutes to feel that’s not 30mg in my venti, that’s 300 and I am beside myself with anxiety like I stepped back in time. Turns out, I am naturally ON.
And as with anything else, everyone reacts differently. Some people cannot grasp decaf coffee and razz me about it, because norm. If they had to live in my body, with my brain, they’d get it.
I trust you know what you need, good for you ❤
Hey, Joey! Good to hear from you.
Caffeine is another tricky one…it affects everyone differently. I’ve always been more sensitive to caffeine than the average bear—and I have gone back and forth with quitting coffee. These past few years, a cup in the morning is fine for me then I usually switch to tea. Occasionally, I’ll have an extra cup somewhere in there but I drink a ton of water to counteract the buzz and dehydration effects.
The Pacific Northwest seasonal gloom makes it very inviting to chug coffee during the day and alcohol in the evening. SAD is a real thing, so I’m choosing much healthier ways to manage that.
Sounds like you found what works for you too. We’re similar…I am naturally always ON. 🙂
Thank you for this. I’m approaching my 7-year anniversary – I had my last drink on February 13 2013. Like you, in the first year I travelled to Mexico spending a week in Puerto Vallarta without alcohol. I was a nervous wreck heading down partly from fear of failure and partly from fear of getting to know who I really am. I consider that trip to be the defining moment of my journey – if I could make it through Mexico sober I can make it anywhere sober. Not only did I make it through but it turns out I thrive on it. The clarity, the energy, the excitement – that trip was the best trip of my life. In the last 7 years life has changed so much, I lost 60 lbs, I started a completely new career, and I feel better then I did 20 years younger. I could go on for hours about all the little things that change and people’s odd reactions but enough about me. I wish you nothing but the best on your new path. Take care, Marty
Congrats, Marty! Italy was one of our best trips, and a big part of that was not being focused on “drinking and relaxing.” Sounds like you had a similar revelation in Mexico. Funny how all of these positive changes happen after we decide to give up alcohol. There’s definitely a connection.
I’m 5 months in a few days
Congrats, Mike…very awesome achievement!
22 months and counting here…… great post
Awesome, Chris! Congrats.
This is wonderful Britt! Wow, italy sober. It’s the one thing I have siad i really don’t know if I could do sober LOL!
But, if you can I can, someday 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.
Italy wasn’t hard for us to do sober, because we used to be into beer (not wine). We are being careful about an Ireland or Scotland trip, as that will be more challenging. We should be ready for that in another year though!
Makes sense. I was also into beer, wine, gin, scotch…maybe India! i dont know a spirit they are known for 🤣
India is a good option. When we were in Bali, the beer was terrible there. I think most places in that part of the world are good when you’re abstaining from alcohol.
Bali would be great! Thanks for the suggestion Britt 😊