Your stop-drinking success stories?
December 2, 2016 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm tired of feeling lousy the day after I drink and am thinking of stopping drinking any alcohol in any form, period. If you've done that, how difficult was it, what does it feel like?
posted by mono blanco to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, if you are questioning how difficult it will be to stop drinking, you may be in for a difficult road. I hope this is not true for you.

I have struggled with this my entire adult life. I stop for a few months/years at a time but I always go back to it. Other people I know have had no problems stopping, but I don't think they made the conscious decision to abstain... it just doesn't feel good, so they don't do it.

One thing that helped was that I never acquired a taste for liquor. It always tasted like poison to me. So why would I drink something so terrible?
posted by pintapicasso at 8:46 PM on December 2, 2016

I stopped recently for 30 days, drank a bit on Thanksgiving, going to go back to sobriety. I found it helped to let myself drink anything else that wasn't booze-- milkshake, full sugar soda, etc.
posted by The otter lady at 8:58 PM on December 2, 2016

Drinking doesn't make you feel bad the next day. Drinking too much and with too little water and not enough food is what makes you feel bad. Can you modify how you drink a bit?
posted by w0mbat at 8:59 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Alcohol is a sugar addiction, it saps nutrients and masks the deficiency side effects, + there is an emotional/self-work component.

I quit drinking accidentally while I was on a health kick that included exercise, diet, and positive input. Basically, daily long walks + listening to lots of self-improvement and philosophy podcasts and audio books + some meditation + decent whole foods. Drinking became unappealing, it was gradual but definitive and easy.

Actually. I'll skip the rest. That's basically the formula - just start doing other things, and gradually other things take over from drinking as a lifestyle. I found AA put too much focus and guilt into my life and I wish I had not done that after I stopped drinking, but it was the hip thing to do at the time. YMMV.

Anyway. That's the formula. It's lifestyle, it's self-work, and it's biology. You gotta address all three, eventually. Just adding and cultivating new habits will shift you away from drinking, because feeling icky is not worth interrupting your new habits.

Rehab is totally valid if this does not work for you. See a doctor if you are a heavy drinker because that can be medically dangerous. If you are a semi-frequent habitual drinker with no serious health concerns and simply want to shift into a new reality, try this method.
posted by jbenben at 9:10 PM on December 2, 2016 [11 favorites]

L-glutamine is actually really helpful. If part of the reason you drink is insomnia, take this powdered as a supplement before bed. Lifestyle drinking (like if you work in restaurants) definitely effects sleep hygiene and this will get you back on the right road. Also partially helps you avoid hangovers if you do drink, but like I said, you tend to drink less when you feel better. At least, I do.

Please see a doctor if you can't stop. This advice is not meant as medical advice. Best to you.
posted by jbenben at 9:16 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

You sleep better. Much better, and deeper.

I usually don't drink - but when I do my sleep is disrupted oh so very much. When I stop again my sleep is restful, peaceful, blissful. So I don't drink for long stretches of time.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:30 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't had a drink in over a year. It's fine. It made me feel crummy and I hated feeling crummy, so I stopped. There wasn't any ceremony to it. At the time I didn't realize my last drink (in my case, an airport margarita) was my last.

I sleep great. If I go to a bar, I get bartenders to make up nonalcoholic concoctions for me, so I still get the sense of occasion.
posted by mochapickle at 9:41 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I stopped for weight-loss reasons for a while in grad school, and it was fun to indulge in all the fancy tea I could get my mitts on. For me, the key is/was substitution with other beverages at night. So get some good-as-hell soda, tea, hot chocolate, etc., and remember that the best seltzer water is still cheaper than a medium-quality bottle of wine. You'll still save money.

If you go to a party, bring some Izze or a nice root beer in order to do the not-showing-up-empty-handed thing. Also non-alcoholic beer isn't that bad. And it's cheaper than alcoholic beer!
posted by witchen at 9:50 PM on December 2, 2016

What jbenben said. Replace drinking with something better, rinse and repeat till you feel so good that drinking feels like a wrong turn. Make well being addictive.
posted by diode at 9:58 PM on December 2, 2016

I also switched to tea at night! Sometimes I would drink because I was sad that a social occasion didn't go well enough; other times I'd drink because I thought it would make me more creative. I decided that tea and a good night's sleep would prevent future lameness, and resigned myself to consuming the internet; bursts of creativity come in at about the same rate as I did when I was trying to force it with wine.

Now I don't drink because my intestines don't handle it well, and I find that I don't miss it; I just have to drink something else at parties. The one thing that annoys me is that as an Asian woman, suddenly I'm more of a walking stereotype (I swear I'm abstaining due my intestines, not because I'm a lightweight, get pink-faced, or don't like the taste!), but this is so minor.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:05 PM on December 2, 2016

I did this a number of years ago. I had been a relatively heavy social drinker during my late teens and twenties into my thirties and had at times been worried about the amount being consumed. The UK does have this pub culture where socialising revolves around meeting in the pub, going to gigs in pubs, eating in pubs etc. So every social event was linked to drinking.

Come early thirties and the onset of diabetes, like you I came to dread the feelings, both physical and mental, that the day after brought. I never touched a drop when driving and never had so one of the ways I dealt with stopping drinking was to drive to every evening out or gig or whatever. That way I wasn't in the mindset to drink and avoided the questions that some more hedonistic friends might otherwise pose about why I wasn't indulging.

In reality, it was pretty easy in the end - it wasn't quite a matter of waking up one morning and thinking "I'm done", but it wasn't far off. I told people I wasn't drinking and that was that. I definitely feel better for it, it gives a different cast to evenings out that's really interesting in its own way, I'm more in control of things and I get to leave when I want because I have access to safe transport as needed. I might now have a drink maybe half a dozen times a year, just one glass of something like wine or cider, and often won't finish it anyway.

For me personally, it got easy quickly and I still think it was one of the best decisions I ever made and one I'm actually quite proud of.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 1:17 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I haven't completely stopped drinking but rarely drink now and never to excess. Key for me was finding morning things that I looked forward to enough to not want to miss. Most of my social life revolves around brunches now, and for a while I got into snorkeling, which is better in the morning.
There's an online organisation called Hello Sunday Morning which I only heard about afterwards but think you might really like?
posted by Chrysalis at 2:04 AM on December 3, 2016

Oh, and it wasn't difficult once it stopped seeming worth it. I just don't want to anymore.
How does it feel? Like I get a lot more done, and also that I make a lot more *conscious* choices (ie being drunk can be a good excuse to sleep with randoms without admitting to yourself that you actually really wanted to find a stranger to have sex with). Doing things sober helps you own your choices and get to knowyourself. It feels good!
posted by Chrysalis at 2:09 AM on December 3, 2016

I currently drink but have stopped at various times. I don't find it greatly difficult apart from the social side of things, I really miss the people that I tend to drink with when I stop, but basically I just stop and that's that.

It feels good to stop, I tend to lose a bit of weight and sleep quite well. It doesn't feel good enough to me to stay off alcohol though, I find it more important to moderate my drinking than to stop it.

FWIW I probably drink quite a bit by US standards.
posted by deadwax at 2:36 AM on December 3, 2016

Have kids, that's what did it for me, and I don't know if I will ever forgive them for it.

More seriously, cut back on going out for a while and avoid situations where alcohol is an important part of the occasion. The first month will probably not be too bad, but somewhere around month 2 or 3 you will forget what you gave up alcohol for and try to convince yourself that there is no reason to stay on the wagon. This is the danger zone. Once you get to about four months dry you should be mostly in the clear. Oh, and yeah, your sugar consumption might go through the roof. Mine did.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:08 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I found myself drinking online - with friends on my Minecraft server. It was kind of a party/drinking culture. I was drinking 2-4 shots of vodka maybe 1-3 times weekly. I didn't get hangovers. I'm sure it did effect me mentally and physically though.

Then I made some new friends who didn't drink (also in Minecraft). I enjoyed not being around drunk people and not being encouraged to drink all the time. I decided to stop drinking until US Thanksgiving as an experiment.

I forgot to drink on Thanksgiving. I didn't buy any alcohol and I didn't miss it so I decided that for now I will only drink on holidays. This will be only if I really want to and I will have a specific amount and type of alcohol I will drink.

I am much happier and healthier now. I've taken up long distance walking and going to the gym. I've gone from size 22 to size 16/18 and continuing downward. My academic projects are coming along well and I start college again in the spring semester.

Whenever I am tempted to just casually buy alcohol I ask myself if I want to be fatter and stupider and the answer is always no.
posted by Melsky at 5:48 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I decided to quit, i kept lots of small candies--M and Ms--in pocket to provide sugar I was getting from drinking...after a while I no longer needed that support. Would drink seltzer mixed with orange juice at bars with friends, or plain seltzer (club soda) at restaurants...Now I can buy wine or booze for my wife and not even think about drinking, and I have no desire for any sort of drink...this is some 15 years later, and I am nearly 90 years old.
posted by Postroad at 6:01 AM on December 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

How difficult was it? I was a very heavy drinker, it took me realizing that it wasn't for fun anymore, and indeed wasn't fun anymore, and that I was an alcoholic. I went to AA. It worked for me. Nine years sober this Dec. 12. The acute withdrawal wasn't fun. hot sweats/cold flashes, insomnia etc. Shake rattle and roll in AA parlance. I knew for certain I didn't want to ever have to go through that again, and that the alcohol was going to kill me. I had tried the "30 days sober" thing a number of times, and was always back to where I was in a week or two after picking back up.
I kept dark chocolate and cranberry juice on hand, the sugar withdrawal is a real thing. I read the AA book when I couldn't sleep.
The thing I didn't see coming was what is called post-acute withdrawal. My mind was foggy for maybe a year.
Luckily I had/have an understanding employer who supported me. How is it now? I won custody of my daughter (then 3) when my wife divorced me. I'm very happy to watch/help her grow up. My employer thinks highly of me. I get raises. I feel OK in the morning when I wake up. Financially not spending $300/mo on booze plus all the eating out etc has been a big gain, I can spend that money on worthwhile things and not be broke all the time.

People here tend to denigrate AA, all I can say is it worked for me. Hearing other people tell the same story I had, and seeing them happy and sober got me over the hump. Hearing from people who went back out and came back convinced me I did not want to do that. I went to AA pretty solid for about 5-6 years, which is about half the time I spent getting myself in that shape.
posted by rudd135 at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

Gave it up when I found out I was pregnant, and at first, there were cravings but within a few weeks they were gone. However, I had a very clear risk vs. reward motive. Sharing because it wasn't as much of a drag as I thought it would be to not drink. Part of that is that I am a sugar fiend, not so much trying to get coping help or social confidence from alcohol.

My favorite non-alcoholic refreshing beverage is sparkling water with a slice of lime and a few drops of bitters. It's nice to have something that's not super sweet but still has flavor.
posted by Pearl928 at 7:43 AM on December 3, 2016

How difficult was it?
I'd say the difficulty is related to:
How often do you feel the *need* to drink - eg because of job stress
How much of your lifestyle incorporates drinking - eg sad = drink, happy = drink, your/ friends/ relatives birthday = drink, Thanksgiving/ Christmas/ New Year = drink etc
How much of your drinking is habitual - eg a glass of wine before bed every night

That is, the problem of stopping drinking any alcohol in any form, period, isn't just a single problem of flipping the drinking switch to "off", but incorporates several additional problems, mostly related to what you are going to do instead: if your job is stressful, how are you now going to wind down?; if your social life involves drinking, are you comfortable going out and being sober with a bunch of drunk folks, and if not, how else are you going to spend your social time?; if you drink out of habit, what are you going to replace that habit with?

What does it feel like?
The pro's are mainly that you sleep better and you get part of your life back - i.e. you don't waste half your weekend in bed with a hangover.
But that's about it. At a certain level, drinking to such a degree that you feel lousy the next day - like smoking - isn't something that's recommended from a health perspective, so you don't really *get* anything for not doing something that wasn't good for your health in the first place.

The con's can include:
You now have to manage your friends who drink because if you're part of a social group that drinks then your abstinence can be perceived negatively, often in terms of a threat, to the group status quo - a bit like turning up to a round of golf without any clubs. "But WHY aren't you drinking?" etc etc.
Also from the social angle, I've found that people will often just assume you're an alcoholic/ have a problem with alcohol if you tell them you don't drink.
There's a possibility you've gotten so used to alcohol being instant fun in a bottle that you're now not so sure how to have fun without it.
There's a possibility you've been using both drinking - and hangovers - as an excuse to avoid aspects your life that are difficult and complex and which there may not even be an answer to and you don't have that excuse any more and now here you are with a bunch of problems - including existential ones, if you're that way inclined - that are difficult and complex and which there may not even be an answer to.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 9:00 AM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Great answers, keep them coming. Too soon to really say which answer is “best” but jbenben’s approach resonates with me. That’s how I stopped smoking some 20 years ago, by focusing on the benefits. Another Mefite me-mailed me recommending this Atlantic article on naltrexone, which is intriguing so I pass it along. I’m also thinking of attending SMART meetings. Anyone have experience with them?

I don’t enjoy drinking on successive days. It takes a few days for the desire to creep back and in the interim I have zero interest, even repulsion. Maybe I can build on that.
posted by mono blanco at 9:55 AM on December 3, 2016

Best answer: I don't have personal quitting experience to share, but I'm currently training as a SMART meeting facilitator. I'd be glad to talk about that so by all means memail me if you're curious.
posted by tangerine at 11:53 AM on December 3, 2016

As silly as it sounds, and maybe smug as well, telling myself that "I'm not drinking right now" when the thought or urge arises has worked ( it also help me quit smoking cigarettes 16 years ago). Unless you're a DT's fully addicted drunk, then facing the fact that this behavior is a choice and you can choose to indulge it or not really works. f've found it very helpful for a lot of behavior throughout my life when faced with the choice to say "I'm not doing that right now." Sometimes you might need to say that every five minutes, or once a day, or once a week. As time passes the need to definitively state the choice seems to fade as does the unwanted behavior. It's really (almost) as simple as that. There are any number of people who've resolved to stop drinking only to find themselves drunk again, and likely ashamed and miserable. That's maybe the time to seek help from AA or a even an outpatient rehab center. Remembering however that you have a choice and that drinking is a choice is powerful medicine. It also helps with managing the rest of your life to see that however limited they might be at times, we all have choices.

As for how you'll feel? I'm returning to sobriety after a ten years drinking hiatus. I'm someone who had 15 years away from drinking before starting again. For me drinking is not the problem, but a mask for, and symptom of, a greater set of problems. I definitely returned to drinking through a set of choices. Since stopping drinking (again!!) i can say that my general emotional state is a fairly level emotional plateau. I feel contentment a surprising amount of the time. I still have ups and downs, i still get angry, i still get sad, but i also have an undifferentiated sense of not necessarily happiness per se, like i'm not ecstatic most of the time, but i feel much, much, much more stable, and healthy, and right. Also, my ability to read deeply is coming back as well as my patience. All in all i feel great. I lost weight right away. I look maybe 5 years younger. I worry less about things i have no control over and think less about things from the past.

None of this is easy really. I've had some white knuckle moments. But the election, a stressful promotion at work, family health issues and money woes all overlapping at once haven't led me to drink. There are actually dozens of times when i've said aloud that i must have really stopped drinking because if i were still drinking this would definitely be one of those times i would do it.

Fill your time though with other more productive things. Also, you might need to reorganize your social life if drinking plays a large part in how you hang out. There's a honeymoon period with sobriety where you feel really great and healthy and invincible, but eventually that wears off and the real tests start to pop up. That's when my original advice remains effective. The notion of choice and the fact that all, and i do mean all, behavior is a choice.

There's no real wrong way here. Take what works and don't worry about the rest.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 3:28 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I quit this year for health reasons. I am almost 60, and have been a social drinker all my life. I didn't drink huge quantities, but I had alcohol pretty much every night. One or two glasses of wine, more if I was out at a party or something. It was much harder to quit than I ever thought it would be, surprisingly so, and I missed it. A lot. Just like not keeping junk food in the house, I just stopped buying it and drank ice water or herbal tea instead. And it took about four weeks to stop wanting a glass of wine.
posted by raisingsand at 4:06 PM on December 3, 2016

Best answer: I found SMART Recovery to be extremely helpful.
posted by ethical_caligula at 9:08 AM on December 4, 2016

Two things. Start exercising in the morning and go to bed super early, like 9 PM.
posted by xammerboy at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2016

Oh yeah, stock up on La Croix seltzer or better get a seltzer maker.
posted by xammerboy at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2016

I stopped having a near-daily glass of wine or bottle of beer a couple of months ago. It really helps to have some other go-to beverage that you can have both at home and when you're out. I've changed over to club soda with lemon (or lime if lemon isn't available); it's nice to have something cocktail-ish in hand when others are having booze.
posted by themissy at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2016

If you're like me, cirrhosis will stop you more surely than any resolution or doctor's proscription, leaving not the slightest urge to resume. But don't be like me.
posted by ck49 at 5:38 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: SMART's been working for me. Stopped drinking the day after my post.

Haven't committed to never drinking (wine) again but for now I'm enjoying deeper sleep and more energetic days.
posted by mono blanco at 9:29 PM on January 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

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