21 Ways Being Sober for 21 Days Has Improved My Life

This article was originally published on Medium in January 2018, during my first “Dry January” and the longest stint of sobriety I had experienced at the time.

“When you quit drinking you stop waiting.” — Caroline Knapp

On December 8th, with a tequila hangover, I decided to put the bottle down for 30 days of sobriety.

Which meant I was sober over Christmas. Which means I was sober over New Years Eve.

With 21 days of sobriety under my belt, this is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol since I drank my first wine cooler at 17 years old. That sentence alone is enough to shock me into clearing out my liquor cabinet.

I’m not claiming addiction, but my relationship with alcohol was not getting me any closer to the person I wanted to be.

Hangovers made me lazy and complacent. I would put off work until the headache went away, and I would use my weekends as an emotional crutch to the frustration and stress I felt during the workweek.

I used alcohol to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. I used it as a crutch when I got stuck creatively. It was the thing I went to when the words or ideas stopped flowing, or when the real work of being an entrepreneur began.

When I kicked off my 30 days, I wrote an article about unfollowing any alcohol-centric Instagram accounts (you can read the article here). I can say this has definitely helped me in being successful at staying sober this time around.

Being sober has been life changing, here’s 21 reasons why.

1. I’m getting quality sleep

Numerous studies have found that while alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep quicker, it interferes with REM cycle sleep (the deepest level of sleep, when dreaming occurs), and can make you more restless during the second half of the night. So quality sleep, and the amount of deep sleep is reduced.

I’m a 5am-wakeup-call kind of gal, and pre-sobriety, this was definitely a hard time to wake up to every day. Without alcohol, my sleep is more restful; I sleep the whole night through, and wake up naturally at 5am ready to tackle my morning.

2. I’m more aware of my body

Midway through my 21 days of sobriety, I overindulged in some artisanal chocolate that had loads of sugar in it. The next morning I woke up with hangover symptoms, including a mild headache and that one glass of wine too many nausea.

But I hadn’t drank any booze, so I was perplexed (and pissed). After talking to a friend, who is a sobriety coach, she informed me that alcohol and sugar are identical. So I was experiencing a sugar hangover. Correction: a chocolate hangover.

It’s a cruel world, I guess 😂

3. I’m hydrated, and it shows

I’m not starting my days horribly dehydrated thanks to boozing the night before. So it’s easier to get and stay hydrated, and it does great things for my skin, my liver and my digestion.

My skin feels plumper, I don’t get muscle cramps in my calves in the middle of the night, and I have more energy.

4. Speaking of energy. . .

So long mid-day exhaustion, mental fog, weak workouts, and lethargic runs. Since I’m getting better sleep, my body is hydrated and I’m eating well, I don’t get groggy halfway through the workday. I’m also less likely to make up an excuse to quit my workday or workout early (like lack of energy, a headache, etc).

5. My diet has improved

When I was drinking, I would spend a lot of my days tired and feeling like crap. When I felt like that, all I wanted to do was feel better and food was the ultimate comfort. I would allow myself a pass to indulge in fattening, sugary foods.

Now that I feel well every day, sans-hangovers, it’s easier to stick to a healthier diet, and healthy foods sound appetizing. I’ve had slipups (sugar addiction is real), but most of my days I make healthier choices.

6. I’m saving money

In my drinking days (21 days ago. . .), I would budget a good portion of my paychecks to alcohol and “entertainment” (which is a fancy word for getting dressed up and going places to drink expensive cocktails).

I would often end up spending more than my budgeted amount because alcohol reduces the threshold for good decision making, so I’d throw down my debit card for another round even if I knew I’d spent my budget.

7. I’ve realized people and moments are more important than the booze you pair it with

This is a funny one. Alcohol is joyous, right? Well. . .in my case, no. Yes, there are joyous occasions in which we celebrate with alcohol, but if you take the booze away, it’s still a celebration.

I’ve had a hard time feeling nostalgic for moments I’ve celebrated or cemented with alcohol. Like popping that bottle of champagne on a snowmobile after saying ‘I-do’ to my husband the day we got married.

But I’ve realized in being sober that I’m more grateful for the moment and the people I’m celebrating with than the alcohol I’m using to celebrate with. Being sober in joyous moments has made me more present, more attentive, gentler and more patient.

8. I have more time (and energy) to do things that bring me joy (not just a buzz)

When you don’t spend your nights at happy hour, or your weekend mornings catching a buzz at brunch, you have a lot more free time to cultivate new hobbies, or habits that bring you actual fulfillment and joy.

Instead of chasing a buzz, I’m spending my time on personal growth, cultivating a healthy marriage, experiencing life, trying new things, and diving deeper into my creativity.

9. My shame around alcohol has disappeared

When I’d wake up with a hangover, my shame would pound just as hard as my head. I would lay in bed thinking “real entrepreneurs don’t wake up with hangovers all the time, they would never waste time like this.”

It’s no secret that the most successful entrepreneurs capitalize on being peak performers. You can’t access peak states when you feel like shit or when your brain is foggy. I knew alcohol was keeping me from performing at my best, and so I developed a pretty intense shame around drinking. But, now that I’m not drinking, this shame has also disappeared.

10. Sobriety has convinced me I can do hard things

I’ve tried to ‘get sober,’ drink less, drink once a week, only have one drink per night, etc., for the last couple of years. I chased my tail for a long time and would slip easily off the wagon at the first whiff of a party or glass of Malbec.

My constant failure made me believe that I was in fact a failure. It’s what Benjamin Hardy calls self-signaling. Through my behavior of constantly failing at a seemingly simple task (not drinking alcohol), I was convincing myself that I was in fact a failure incapable of sticking to anything I set my mind to.

Now that I’ve stuck to it, I’m rewriting my subconscious and convincing myself that I am in fact capable of doing hard things, of finishing what I start, of being successful. This effect is spilling over into other areas of my life as well, like in my writing career.

11. I’m learning to be me again

Alcohol does this funny thing where it lowers your inhibitions and makes us more confident in being or acting a certain way. When I stopped drinking, and went to my first party, I realized how awkward I felt, how boring and introverted I was sober.

But in shedding this crutch, I’ve realized a lot of my life I’ve been living from a guarded and inauthentic place. I wasn’t letting the world see who I am, and I was stifling my personality because it felt too scary to be my vulnerable, messy, human self.

Now that I’ve removed the alcohol crutch, I’m discovering who I am behind the wine and tequila. It’s difficult and incredible. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s the most sure I’ve ever felt.

12. I’m learning a lot of fun stuff

Without hangovers, I’m waking up on the same, productive, energetic and excited level every day. Which means I’ve been able to commit to new things every day, without dealing with missed days because of headaches and sleeping in.

Now, every morning, I meditate, journal, practice gratitude, workout, and I see the sunrise (my most favorite part of the day).

13. I’m learning to speak my truth

I used alcohol as a way to numb myself when I felt overwhelmed by life, people, and not living and speaking my truth. I would brush things off that bothered me, with an “I’m fine, just get my a glass of wine.” I wouldn’t deal with things because I was accustomed to burying things in the deep-dark, and covering it up with a tequila soda.

Now that my alcohol crutch is gone, I have to face the things that bother me head on.

Now it’s too painful to NOT speak up, to NOT tell people how I’m feeling and why. I’m allowing myself to feel the full weight of discomfort without alcohol, and it’s a powerful tool. I’m learning how to take up space, to speak my truth, and be ok with making people feel uncomfortable with my truth.

14. When I speak my truth, my relationships improve

Communication is the cornerstone of all successful relationships, but if I’m constantly stuffing my emotions down and numbing them with booze, my relationships don’t get the benefit of growth.

Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make healthy relationships; they’re built with the bricks we’re willing to tear down for each other.

Alcohol serves as a brick we use to guard our true and authentic selves from the world. Relationships don’t get the benefit of authenticity when we’re guarding ourselves with booze.

15. I remember things now

Like the details, the small things that make up this beautiful life. Details like the constant hum of crickets, birds and geckos in the jungle. The small things, like the metronome tempo of the ocean breaking against the beach.

All sorts of beautiful things that alcohol blends together into nothingness, those are the things I remember and live for, and I’m grateful to experience them every day.

16. I feel healthier

Alcohol is a toxin, as soon as you drink it, your body has to do the difficult work of cleansing your body of it. Which means while your body is busy flushing the toxins out, its not healing.

Just knowing I haven’t put alcohol into my body makes me feel healthier, like I’m doing my beautiful body a huge favor.

17. Sobriety has put me ahead of the curve

While many people are working through their hangovers, or indulging at happy hour, I’m growing, I’m writing, I’m hustling towards my dream. I’m building something and sobriety has only made me more effective and powerful in fulfilling my dreams.

18. My healthy lifestyle isn’t being immediately thrown in the trash by boozing

I don’t eat gluten, I’m toying with veganism, I’m learning all about Ayurveda, I’m yoga-ing, meditating, drinking plenty of lemon water, limiting my caffeine and sugar intake, running, coconut oiling-EVERYTHING, and yet, before my sobriety, I would then go drink a bottle of wine or stay out late drinking.

We spend hours getting fit, we deny ourselves food, we spend ridiculous amounts of money of health food/drinks and beauty products, gym memberships and personal trainers. And yet we follow up all this commitment with booze. Which basically makes all of that good stuff null and void.

Now I’m beginning to see the results of a healthy lifestyle sans booze, and let me tell you. . .it’s way more productive not eating carbs when you’re not dumping a bunch of empty calories into your body.

19. Sobriety has made me realize how distracted I was

When I was drinking, I didn’t care. If things bothered me, there was always a bottle of wine to make me feel better.

When I didn’t care, it was easier for people to take advantage of me because they knew I wouldn’t stand up for myself. It also meant that even if our political climate was upsetting me, I would shrug it off. Since I’ve been sober, I’ve realized that this numbing and distracting with alcohol is the perfect thing for people who would rather you stay quiet and remain small.

20. Sobriety has proved to me that my identity isn’t fixed

While I was drinking, and failing at NOT drinking, I felt like being a heavy drinker was just who I was. I felt like I couldn’t change that part of my life because I had failed so many times in doing so.

Being sober has shown me that our identities are fluid and malleable. Just because I was once someone who identified as a drinker, doesn’t mean I have to be forever.

21. I wake up feeling great

The older I get, the worse my hangovers are. One glass of wine would give me a hangover, the shame-scaries, and make me sleepy by noon.

Now I wake up at 5am with energy, purpose and a clear head.

It’s the best way to start the day.

Take Action!

Make massive change in your life by figuring out how you want it to FEEL every day. I created a 10 minute audio exercise to plug you into your authentic self, so you can start living the life you want today 👇

Click here to get the Feel > Do > Be exercise now!

Why NOT Being Addicted Can Make it Hard to Get Sober

“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.” — Charles Bukowski

There are so many stories out there.

Stories of friends and coworkers and acquaintances that were at the bottom of life, at the bottom of the bottle. People who can’t keep it together without handles of booze to keep their hands steady, to tuck them in, blacked out at night.

You know the stories. They are the ones who ‘have a problem.’ They are the ones that ‘need help.’

Compared to me, they have a drinking problem, they need sobriety or they will likely end up killing themselves.

These stories are hard. I feel deeply for my friends and acquaintances that struggle with sobriety in this way. It always makes me feel like a fraud, claiming I need sobriety when alcohol doesn’t have me in its grip like it has them.

Sure, there were times in college and after where I had my moments. Those moments when I wondered why I had to drink to get drunk, when my friends could have one drink and call it a night.

But I could hold down a career. I could go a few nights without drinking. I didn’t need alcohol to get through my day. Maybe to ‘take the edge off,’ but I didn’t need it like they do.

These stories always felt like the line. The one that, if I crossed it, then I would know.

Then I would know I had a problem and would need to stop. But until then, happy hour and my favorite Sunday brunch Bloody Mary Bar was fair game.

Embarrassing myself and falling down flights of stairs and bruising my ribs was fine so long as my story wasn’t as bad as there’s.

I think that’s how a lot of people measure their relationship with alcohol. The awful rock bottom stories are what we use as the measuring stick.

Unfortunately, the problem can still be real if it’s not obviously killing you.

The problem can still be real if you feel shame around it.

The problem can still be real if you’d rather your life didn’t include alcohol.

The problem can still be real if you’ve ever questioned your consumption.

The problem can still be real if you know your life could be better without the booze.

When we measure our stories and our relationship with alcohol against the scariest and worst in the bunch, we’re playing a losing game.

There’s a lot of trouble and illness and heart break between where you’re at and the horror stories.

That’s the trouble. There’s a whole lot of bad that can happen between questioning your nightly consumption and being so addicted to alcohol you have to drink handles a day to get through.

I’m here to say that just because you’re not at the bottom of what we’re told ‘alcoholism’ is, doesn’t mean you can’t have a problem with your consumption.

You just have to question it, to be curious about your consumption. You are not a fraud just because you’d rather not drink alcohol, or are choosing it as a lifestyle choice instead of the better option between death or jail.

Even if your hangovers are mild and you’re holding down a career and all your friends drink, and its socially acceptable to drink every night.

This is a case for sobriety as a lifestyle choice.

I built a lot of shame around my alcohol consumption. Our brains are powerful things.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” — Napoleon Hill

I proved to myself repeatedly that when I drank, I was a failure. I wrote about it in this article. This belief, shaped every aspect of my life. I failed at most things I tried while I was drinking.

If my mind conceives that I am a failure because I got drunk again, and I think this repeatedly, then failure I will become.

That was my bottom. I convinced myself I was failing if I couldn’t maintain sobriety.

But besides the ingrained shame-shit-storm I have with alcohol, I can also make the case for sobriety because it gives me clarity every day.

Every day I don’t wake up with a hangover or with the shame of having a hangover (again), I have clarity.

  • Clarity in what next steps I need to take to pursue my dream life.

  • Clarity in who I want to be, instead of reacting to the shame I feel.

  • Clarity in who in my life is bringing me closer to my highest self, and who is holding me back.

  • Clarity in what habits and routines in my life are bringing me closer to my highest self, and what’s holding me back.

When I woke up with a hangover every day, I had to react to that hangover. I had to baby myself because I felt like shit.

I had to react to the emotion of shame because I got drunk again. That reaction to shame often times was further numbing, I would justify drinking again, or overeating, or binging and purging because it made the shame (and the hangover) feel better.

Alcohol was setting me up to live in this spiral of reacting to circumstance, instead of allowing me to create the life I wanted with a clear head every day.

Conclusion

Everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different.

I have plenty of friends that can imbibe and still carry on with their life as they see fit — healthy, happy and stable.

I have other friends who are sober now because their addiction was killing them.

I am somewhere in between. I am the average. I am the mediocre. In this case, I’m ok with that.

But sometimes being in the middle of the “addiction spectrum” is the most difficult, because we feel like we don’t have a problem and so we don’t have to change anything.

So we keep on going, kind of living, kind of not, somewhere in the gray area of alcohol abuse.

There is no direct answer for us, we don’t have other people telling us we should stop.

We don’t feel like we belong to groups like AA because our stories aren’t the worst in the bunch.

In fact, we often have friends that encourage our consumption and laugh at us when we say we’re trying to get sober. Friends that hand us the bottle with a smile.

This is where I found myself.

If you find yourself here too, I’m telling you its possible, that you don’t have to wait for the day that you’re killing yourself with booze to stop. More than likely, that day will never come.

What they don’t tell you is there can still be a lot of suffering, wasting time and health consequences that happen even when you’re not addicted.

This is my argument for sobriety as a lifestyle choice. Because it can make our lives better, because it gives us clarity every day, because feeling good and feeling like a success is better than feeling hung over and like a failure every day.

Take Action!

Make massive change in your life by figuring out how you want it to FEEL every day. I created a 10 minute audio exercise to plug you into your authentic self, so you can start living the life you want today 👇

Click here to get the Feel > Do > Be exercise now!

The Dangerous Gray Area of “Casual Drinker” + 9 Ways I Stopped Binge Drinking

For the overdrinkers who are ready to stop

I opened my eyes to a gray fall morning.

It took about 30 seconds for me to register the night before, the cause of my pounding headache, the nausea bubbling up in my throat, the strange knife edge pain in my solar plexus.

But when I did it was like everything in the room implicated me in my shame.

The mid-morning light glowing around the edges of the blackout curtains. The fact that I was alone in bed, my husband having woken up long before me, without a hangover, no doubt.

Scenes from the night before slammed into my chest.

The two double vodka drinks, the 6 or 7 White Claws following. The hallucinogens I had decided to take after the White Claws.

The flight of stairs I fell down and the laughter of those who heard the crash.

How I sobbed for hours afterwards, my trip — the second of my life — suddenly turning south.

My sweet husband, sober and certainly shocked by my behavior, taking care of me while I sobbed, holding me tight while my sorrow rolled through me in waves.

I rolled over in bed that morning, a shock of pain coursing up my right rib cage, into my neck, which felt loose but stiff at the same time. Whiplash from my fall.

I hung there in bed, suspended between the misery of getting up, and shame-guilt-hopelessness feeling that was as deep and dark as an oil slick.

This moment always scared me the most. It was always this suspension in time — the one between sleep and getting on with my life with a hangover — during which I wished I could just fall asleep and never wake up.

It was the pinprick of panic and dread that I felt growing in my mind every time I got drunk. Like I would never stop. Why couldn’t I just have one drink socially like all those other “grown-ups”?

I painfully pushed the covers aside, and slowly shifted out of bed, equally trying not to think about the night before, and running a train of harrasing thoughts through my head about what an asshole I was.

And so it went.

According to an article in NPR, a federally sponsored study found that ‘high risk’ drinking in women (four or more drinks a day on a weekly basis) rose by 58 percent between 2002 and 2013, and 65 percent in other adults. Among women, alcohol abuse and dependence rose 83.7 percent.

Alcohol culture has blossomed, with craft cocktail bars popping up everywhere, craft beer culture on the rise, and younger generations falling head over heels for wine. Drinking is not only becoming a nightly affair, it’s also a mark of sophistication, youth, and success.

As a culture, we are drinkers.

It makes it all so normal, drinking a bottle of wine of a Wednesday, having 3 or 4 craft cocktails at happy hour on Thursday, going out for a late night on Friday, the house party on Saturday, followed by bloody mary and mimosa brunch on Sunday.

The gray area of high-functioning drinkers is widening as alcohol culture becomes normalized and celebrated.

I found myself trapped in this gray area. I had a social life, in which all my friends drank heavily, functioned in their daily lives, and went back to the bottle the following night without blinking.

I wondered if anyone else felt as hopeless and shameful about alcohol in the morning light as I did?

I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. I wasn’t taking nips off the bottle in the morning to stave off the shakes. I didn’t crave alcohol in a sense that my life would end if I didn’t have a drink.

My life wasn’t crumbling. I had a good job, made my rent and was even paying off my debt and saving a little on the side. I wasn’t exactly making a lot of forward progression on all those dreams I had, but I wasn’t in a sinking ship either.

I was just drinking to “wind down,” to enjoy my life, to soak in the summer surrounded by good friends, to let loose and not take life so seriously. I just wanted to relax and enjoy like the rest of them. Like those women on Instagram who seem to have it all together.

Drinking their fancy drinks on some well-maintained garden veranda, basking in a glowy sunset surrounded by their beautiful friends, no doubt talking about how amazing their lives are. “This must be the place, am I right?” “Cheers guys, you all are seriously the best.”

My transition from nightly drinker, to occasional drinker, and soon to be non-drinker, took a few years.

I wasn’t as into my personal development as I am now. I was stuck in an environment and lifestyle that celebrated nightly wine. But I learned a lot on the journey, and I’d like to share it with you.

Because it’s wildly important.

Alcohol is killing us. Alcohol culture, specifically marketing targeted at women is on the rise, and is leading to increased ‘high risk’ drinking, which this study suggests is becoming a public health crisis given the high risk of disease and psychiatric problems associated with alcohol.

Regardless of the data, if you have shame around your drinking habits, if you feel like your life could be better without alcohol, if you feel guilty, or worried about your alcohol consumption, it’s time to evaluate it and do something about it.

Sobriety is a personal journey. One that is punctuated by failure, by slip-ups and confusion. I caught myself arguing for years, “if that girl can drink, be that successful, and be living a life that I want to, then I can drink too.”

I have still taken it too far on my journey to sobriety, getting blackout drunk and then vomiting all morning. I think that transparency is important here, because this journey isn’t a straight line.

We never know what’s on the other side of the photos, and the curated Instagram feeds.

Unless we ask, we might not ever know that our friends are laying in bed in the morning getting sucked into hopelessness and fear alongside their pounding head.

So this is for those of you caught in the confusing grey area of alcohol culture, for those of you who want out but don’t know how to navigate life on the other side of alcohol, here are some ways I got out.

This is for those of you who are falling deeper into shame, and don’t know what to do.

To be clear: if you think you’re addicted to alcohol, please seek professional help. This article is geared toward those who are struggling with over-drinking, but not necessarily addiction.

Everyone’s journey is different. Here’s how I did it:

1. Start Small

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones” — Confucius

It’s easy to wake up from a hangover and say never again. It’s easy to react to your habit in a judgemental, shamed way. Especially if you’ve been feeling shameful or guilty about your habit for a long time.

But I suggest you start small. Alcoholics Anonymous talks about not thinking about having to stay sober forever, but instead thinking about being sober for the next minute. The next hour. The next day.

If you want to start getting your consumption in check, start by not drinking for 1 night out of the week. Or not drinking during the work week. Make it doable. Make it feel small, and do it because you want to, not because you’re shaming yourself into it.

Work your way up from there after a few weeks. Take incremental, doable and bit-sized steps towards sobriety. And then, do a sober month, and check out this article I wrote called 21 Ways Being Sober for 21 Days has Improved My Life.

2. Find your ‘why’

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” — Nietzsche

Nothing makes me happier than waking up without a hangover in the early morning, and going for a run, reading, journaling, taking time for me. When I was drinking, I would always hit snooze, and then rush off to work in a frazzle, without giving myself any personal time.

When I stopped drinking during the work week, I was able to start adding in all these priorities I wanted to have, but couldn’t because of the hangovers.

I started working out. I started to learn photography, and would fall into a kind of meditative state going on walks in the mornings with my dog, camera and coffee, taking photos for an hour before work.

I started to journal, and to paint in the mornings before my 9am job.

Getting to do me, to do those hobbies I wanted to have but never ‘had the time for,’ and being able to dive into my passions every morning before work completely transformed my life.

Now I’m running a coaching business, I’m getting to take photos, I’m writing, I’m prioritizing all those things that used to come after alcohol.

Find your why. What’s one thing you could do more of if it wasn’t for the happy hours and hangovers? Start doing it on those days you don’t drink.

This lets you take something away that used to be your focus — alcohol — and add in something wonderfully rewarding and enjoyable. This makes it feel less like ‘punishment’ and more like getting your life back.

3. Tell People What You’re Doing

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality” — Yoko Ono

It’s one thing to want to stop drinking in private, it’s another thing entirely to tell the people in your life that you’re actively cutting back.

This makes a massive difference in your success.

When you privately want to stop drinking, you’re still living within the same relationships and environments that are leading you to drinking in the first place.

It’s easy to justify drinking when no one is holding you accountable, when you haven’t changed the dynamics of stating you’re no longer drinking.

This was a hurdle for me, because if I told people about wanting to be sober, I actually had to do it.

If you don’t tell people, you’re basically planning to fail.

So tell someone, tell your friends you’re cutting back, you’re only drinking 1 night a week, or whatever goal you have set. Make sure it’s a concrete goal (ie. I’m not drinking during the work week) instead of vague (ie. I’m cutting back on my drinking). That way it’s discernable and measurable for you and everyone else around you.

4. Stay away from people that don’t respect #3

“You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn

When you decide to get sober, you will find out who your real friends are. Period.

Which can be scary, because a lot of our identity is wrapped up in our friend circle. When we lose friends we wonder who we are.

This is a hard, yet incredibly powerful place to be, because you get to decide who you want to be (sober or drunk? A special occasion drinker or an every night drinker?).

They say you are the 5 people you are closest to, and if your 5 closest friends are all heavy drinkers, you likely will be too. When you decide to stop drinking as much, or all together, that’s going to threaten the heavy drinkers in your life.

Why?

Because suddenly they’re going to compare their habits to yours. They going to assume you’re judging them or that you think they have a problem. They’re going to get uncomfortable when they’re having a cocktail and you order a soda water. Because it forces them to see themselves and their habits.

People occasionally see this as confrontational.

And, if it makes them really uncomfortable, one or two things might happen:

  1. They’ll stop inviting you places, and your friendship will dissolve

  2. They’ll be aggressive about your decision in some way, either giving you shit, guilting you into drinking, violating your decision by offering you drinks even though you’ve told them you’re not drinking, or getting confrontational and angry about your choice

  3. Note that neither of these things has anything to do with you, and everything to do with how they’re feeling about themselves.

Pay attention to the people who make you feel good, happy, excited and motivated about your decision, and those people that make you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, drained, angry, or triggered. Stay away from the people that make you feel the latter.

And know that there is a wide world of folks out there who aren’t drinkers and that like to do the same things you do. Maybe these are your people, and maybe the people you thought were your people, aren’t anymore. That’s ok.

5. Stop judging yourself for the things you’ve done wrong, and the mistakes you make

“You cannot go on a path of self-criticism and expect to find joy at the end” — Brooke Castillo

Brooke Castillo often talks about how life feels like crap half the time, and amazing the other half, regardless of who you are, what you’ve accomplished, or how much money you make.

It’s just the deal we get for being human.

So if you’re going to feel uncomfortable half the time, why would you stack more discomfort on top of that by judging/shaming/guilting yourself about the choices you’ve made?

Have you considered that maybe this habit of shaming yourself is what is making you want to drink in the first place?

This has taken me a long time to unravel, and it’s still something I struggle with (and probably will struggle with for my whole life).

Every time I would slip up and binge on booze, or drink multiple days in a row, even after I decided to really stop drinking, I would immediately react with a proclamation that I was going to stop drinking for 45 days, or two months, or never again or or or. . .

I was usually hungover when I would make these proclamations, and I was definitely doing it from a place of shame and judgement.

How successful do you think I was in staying sober when I was trying to do so from a place of shame? If you guessed NOT successful, you’re right.

When I decided that I was worthy, loveable, and enough even if I screwed up, and no matter how badly I screwed up, it got easier to stay sober. Because I wasn’t adding extra shame into my life, that made me want to buffer my emotions with booze in the first place.

6. Start working through the discomfort you’re going to feel half the time

“If you hold back on the emotions — if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them — you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid” — Mitch Albom

The reason people buffer with alcohol, drugs, sex, food, whatever, is because it feels better to get the dopamine hit from those things than it does to feel whatever shitty feeling we’re running from.

Unfortunately, they didn’t teach us growing up that we are going to feel bad, and that instead of “bucking up” we should actually let ourselves feel like shit, and then work those feelings out of our bodies in healthy ways.

Instead we’re taught inadvertently to buffer our feelings by adults, by our peers, by advertising.

We’re told we should “feel/think positive” all the time, and so when we don’t we assume something is wrong with us, and then we seek out false pleasure in the bottle.

Because we’re supposed to feel good all the time, right?

Wrong.

We’re humans who feel feelings. We’re conscious of feeling those feelings. It’s a blessing. Because we get to feel empathy, love, joy, but in turn we must also feel anger, sadness and anxiety.

It’s just how being human works and unless you’re a sociopath (who doesn’t feel anything), you’re going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Period.

So I’m going to share with you some ways to let yourself feel uncomfortable. Use these tools when you’re feeling an emotion that makes you want to drink:

  1. Journal: Get it all out on the page in a stream of consciousness. Rage against people in your life through your pen. Cry about the shit you’re going through. Tell the Universe (or God, or whatever), how fucking unfair it is that you have to deal with whatever it is you’re dealing with. Show up in all your anger/rage/pain/shame/guilt on the page. And don’t you dare censor yourself because you “shouldn’t think/feel/act like that” as a “good man/woman/God-fearing person/teacher/mother/father/grandma/life coach/etc.” All that is, is more shame you’re heaving onto your back (refer back to #5). You don’t have to carry that anymore.

  2. Meditate: As in, sit and observe your thoughts. What are you thinking that’s causing this emotion in you? What circumstance is leading you to want to drink? What’s triggering you to want to drink? Watch your mind, learn from yourself, BE CURIOUS, not judgmental.

  3. Walk/Run/Swim/Bike/Hike: Do something that’s halfway mindless, and again: watch your mind, your thoughts, your emotional reactions.

  4. Go for a drive and turn the music way up, play that song that makes you feel whatever it is you want to feel right now.

Lean into the discomfort, feel it, and let it out of your body instead of pushing it down with alcohol. It only gets worse the more you let that stuff build up.

7. Unfollow people that drink on social media

“No matter how much internal resolve you have, you will fail to change your life if you don’t change your environment” — Benjamin P. Hardy

Arguably one of the most important things I did for myself when I finally achieved 30 days of sobriety.

You see, it was really easy for me to justify drinking when the people I admired on Instagram drank. If I wanted their life, and they drank alcohol, then to me it was a permission slip to keep drinking.

I had to stop following and getting magazines from one of my favorite magazines, Imbibe, because they celebrate the exact culture and behavior that I was trying to avoid. The magazine made it ok for me to keep drinking.

Instead, follow people who are sober, who talk about sobriety and celebrate it. Here are a few of my faves:

  1. Hip Sobriety (the very first person I ever followed who openly celebrated sobriety. I had no idea that was a thing)

  2. Laura McKowen

  3. The Sober Glow (also follow Mia if you’re a lady like me who is growing out your gray hair)

  4. Sober Up Buttercup

  5. The Sober Hipster

  6. Sober Outside (for all your adventurous folk or are like ‘how the hell do I stay sober on vacation?!’)

  7. Krissy Mae Cagney (and Reps4Recovery) (for all you cross-fitter, gym types, or those who really love fitness and the outdoors or entrepreneurialism, Krissy is a serial entrepreneur who founded an amazing crossfit gym that gives a free membership to those in recovery)

Out of respect for my audience, you will NEVER again see a post from me on my Instagram that celebrates drinking. Just a little PSA, because I know how triggering that can be.

Check out this article I wrote about creating a supportive Instagram environment called Can’t Stick to Your Resolutions? Blame Your Instagram Feed.

8. Ask for help, tell people your story, stop suffering in silence

If you’re struggling, reach out. To me, to your friends, to your parents, to your partner, to your church, to a stranger on the internet, to online support networks like the Suicide Hotline 1–800–273–8255 or the emotional support hotline for situations that aren’t life threatening, but you need help navigating, click here for a list.

Connect with people on social media who are talking about the things you are having problems with. People email and message me directly all the time wanting to share their struggles with me, and I always respond.

By staying quiet, but not just saying plainly “I don’t think I want to drink anymore,” you are letting the issue fester and grow.

You’ve really got to ‘name it to tame it,’ and honestly, most people are kind and good and will lend a supporting and loving, non-judgmental shoulder to lean on. If they don’t, they aren’t your people.

Find your people. Talk to to them. Even if you think you’re not good enough to fit in with the people you want to be around, reach out to them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good and kind people are.

9. Take your life, and your dreams, seriously

“When you quit drinking, you stop waiting” — Caroline Knapp

Alcohol lets us put off our dreams. It lets us save the work for another day, for later, for when we’re “more successful, have more money, or a better job.”

I finally got fed up with waiting, the pain of knowing how short my life is and not doing anything about it, got to be too much. So I stopped waiting and decided to stop drinking and find out who I was under all that buffering.

I can’t overstate how powerful this has been for me.

I went from spinning my wheels, wanting to start a business, wanting to write, wanting to take photos, wanting to travel to. . .quitting my job, moving to Costa Rica for 3 months, coming back home and writing, taking photos, getting paid for both of those things, discovering my passion for helping people, coaching people, and actively creating the life I want, instead of living the life I had been given.

Letting go of alcohol allowed me to live my life fully.

These things change my relationship with alcohol, and my relationship with my life. I did not go to AA or recovery, but I strongly encourage people to do so if it feels right. There is nothing shameful or small about needing that support to stop.

The time I fell down the stairs, I ended up severely bruising my rib and was unable to do the things I loved for 3 months. It was a serious turning point for me.

Your life doesn’t need to hit rock bottom for you to decide alcohol is no longer for you. You don’t need to slam into a set of stairs, or get put into rehab, or jail, or break the law in order to question your relationship with alcohol.

Start small, start today, stop judging yourself. You’re worthy, you’re enough.

Take Action!

Make massive change in your life by figuring out how you want it to FEEL every day. I created a 10 minute audio exercise to plug you into your authentic self, so you can start living the life you want today 👇

Click here to get the Feel > Do > Be exercise now!