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.
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.
Here are a couple of resources that helped me along the way. Both of these women are shedding light on the modern “alcohol lifestyle,” how to recognize this marketing impact and how to choose a booze-free life.
Sober Curious is a book by Ruby Warrington, likely available at your local library as it was for me. Hip Sobriety is a blog by Holly Whitaker. She has evolved this into a different publication, The Tempest. But her older posts on Hip Sobriety are lovely no-bullshit reads about ditching alcohol. I also highly recommend this Yogaland podcast with Holly.