I Quit Drinking Alcohol and Here’s How it Changed Me Forever

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More on James’ transformation here: My Transformation: 30 Days of No Alcohol.

Four years ago, I began a simple 30-day challenge. My goal? Don’t touch a single drink. Here’s what I learned about myself by going sober.

Seemed easy enough. Now, four years later, I still haven’t touched alcohol. My mates often ask me about my four year lifestyle choice of sobriety (especially since I’m Australian), so I figure I’ll share my story. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Now, I was never a big drinker. I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week—most weekends I’d go a little harder and get a good “buzz.” On a handful of occasions over many years, I would say I got “drunk.” It was all good fun. There was no drinking to excess. I never had a drinking problem.

But I awoke with a shocking hangover one morning four years ago at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas after a particularly fun night. I walked into an International House of Pancakes for a hangover breakfast. The IHOP menus have photos of the food you can choose—big, bright, bold colors. The sight of those scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes on the menu made me ill. I decided then and there to see if I could go 30 days alcohol-free. It was simply a personal bet with myself to test my self-discipline. I didn’t plan to go more than 30 days. But I eventually would. The first two weeks were hard. I went out with friends and ordered water or Diet Coke and they’d give me a hard time. “You’re not Australian!” they’d say to me. But I got through those two weeks and I was off to the races.

How Stopping Drinking Alcohol Changed My Body & Mind

I felt better, slept better and had much more mental clarity.

After 30 days, I’d lost an incredible 13 pounds (or almost six kilograms) of fat around my stomach—just from not drinking. I had more money in the bank, my skin looked considerably better and I actually enjoyed getting out of bed early morning to exercise.

The author a few years before he quit drinking, weighing 218 pounds (98 kilograms) and the author today, alcohol free, at 180 pounds (82 kilograms). 

So I said to myself, “Bugger it. I feel great. I’ll just keep going and see how far I can go.” Little did I know just how far I would go.

After 60 days, I craved a cold beer. Or a red wine. Or a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic with a dash of lime. When it was hot outside, I started dreaming, “I would smash an ice cold beer right now!” But I breathed deeply, downed a water and the feeling passed.

After three months, I felt terrific.

How My Dating Life Got Better When I Quit Drinking Alcohol

When I told women I wasn’t drinking, far from them thinking I was an alcoholic in recovery, they actually told me they were impressed with my self-discipline. “Beautiful,” I thought. “I can stop drinking and still be fun, entertaining and attractive to women.” Guys were always suspicious of my story, though. They always thought I was a recovering alcoholic who “obviously” had a problem. I just smiled. Between three and six months I was in the zone. I felt energetic and healthy and I actually started to thrive on telling people I had temporarily stopped drinking. But many people—particularly guys—still challenged me. I just laughed, pointed to my head and gave them my stock response, “I’m too strong in my mind!” Some people even tried to secretly slip vodka into my soda. I had to make a point of always sniffing before drinking if they’d ordered for me. The period between six and 12 months was fairly easy, to be honest—and this is where I noticed the most dramatic changes.

I found that my relationships were considerably better—romantic and platonic.

For example, I was constantly thinking about how I could help my friends rather than how they could help me. I was more inclined to help people generally and was more considerate. I was calmer and noticed I made better decisions.

My Work Life and Balance Improved When I Stopped Drinking

My work productivity soared. More opportunities—like an ESPN audition to host SportsCenter—came my way. When it did, I was clear-headed, energetic and seized the opportunity. I ended up getting that gig and hosted SportsCenter for two years. March 12, 2014, is four years to the day since I gave myself that initial 30-day challenge. I’m 20lbs (9kg) lighter today than I was when I started on March 12, 2010. Drinking definitely kept fat around my waist. Quitting drinking eliminated it. I’m not for one moment suggesting you should quit drinking entirely like I did. Obviously, I am an extreme case. But my story clearly shows some of the positive benefits you can get if you do quit. Even just reducing your alcohol consumption by a few drinks a week, I believe only positive things can happen.

hangover

~

Relephant: 

7 Ways My Life Improved After I Quit Drinking

Bonus: One more reason to detox.

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This art of Focusing can help with the emotional attachment we have to love, food, drink—anything.

In-depth:

Acupuncture can ease a difficult transition:

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James Swanwick

James Swanwick is a Los Angeles-based Australian-American investor and former ESPN SportsCenter anchor. He is the host of The James Swanwick Show and creator of the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge. Connect with him onInstagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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anonymous Oct 28, 2015 7:26pm

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Appreciate it : ) To clarify: I help social drinkers reduce or quit alcohol. Before I quit drinking, my activities revolved around social drinking. I felt peer pressure to have a drink to fit in and "be one of the boys". It felt like life was passing me by because of weekend hangovers. I'm not an expert on addictions but recently recorded a video, How To Break Your Addiction, with someone more knowledgeable than me on the subject. It will give you perspective and practical take-aways: https://youtu.be/ddXmAOMjyJo

anonymous Oct 23, 2015 6:18pm

It's a great story and there are a lot of benefits to not drinking. I don't like the references that make it seem like, "God forbid someone think I'm a recovering alcoholic." I'm a recovering alcoholic myself. Two years sober and I never really believed my life could be this good. We could use a little more C.C Sabathia approach to having a problem and dealing with it vs this idea that alcoholics or addicts are somehow lepers or contagious or just screw ups. I don't feel the need to broadcast my choices but I certainly don't apologize for them either and I'm always honest about where I am at and where I've been. The honesty is just as inspirational as the sobriety to me.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2015 7:32pm

    Thank you, Tom. I commend you on your journey : )

anonymous Oct 23, 2015 10:09am

The period between six and 12 months was fairly easy, to be honest—and this is where I noticed the most dramatic changes." – I need to know what about the next year or even two? I may be reading to much into your words, but I feel that a sense of you saying the first year was easier than the next one?

    anonymous Oct 28, 2015 7:31pm

    Thank you, Miranda. At one year, I was back at the South by Southwest Festival and ordered a Budweiser to celebrate. I put it to my lips: it smelt amazing. But then I put it down. For me, the pros of not drinking far outweighed the immediate pleasures of drinking. Since then, it's been easy. I'm motivated by feeling. I feel great so there's no reason for me to change : )

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 10:54pm

I agree with Bill, you don't have a clue what an alcoholic goes through, the shakes, the sweats, the hurt, the guilt. etc. If you would taken the time to do the research on the subject and maybe attending a few AA meetings you wouldn't considered yourself an alcoholic. I drank 44 years, I mean drinking not a few drinks once in a while but getting drunk almost every night. Now, I haven't had a drink for five years being in AA and having stopped on my own previously for more than 3 years but was unable to do it on my own. So instead of getting publicity about a subject you don't have a clue about DO SOME RESEARCH.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2015 7:35pm

    Thanks for sharing, Rejean. Five years sober after 44 years is incredible — hats off to you : )

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 9:56pm

Hmm, why call bullsh*t on Mr. Swanwick’s story? it’s just that, his story. Each person has a different story with different circumstances. Alcoholics can stop on a whim. Or, sometimes they can’t. I have done both. And, I am here to tell you, it does not have to be a lifetime of battle. I think it great Mr. Swanwick has shared his story with us. Take from what you can, I say.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2015 7:33pm

    Thanks, Pamela. Appreciate your kind words.

anonymous Oct 15, 2015 6:34pm

Very nice information and so good and useful for people that have problems with drinking. Good job, 4 years are not so a small period! 🙂

    anonymous Oct 28, 2015 7:34pm

    Thanks, Plamen. It's now nearly six years : )

anonymous Aug 2, 2015 7:33am

Hi I really like your story for i am a drug addict Trying to recover, I really need help, I have no money no work n no 1 to help or to assist me. I’m in dying need of help n want to recover. I live in South Africa johannesburg n although there is places but no 1 wants to help, they rather judge me. Please in some way if u or any1 can help me, I will be very grateful n would also love to help other addicts. My choice of drug is heroin

anonymous Jul 30, 2015 2:30pm

I call bulls*it. He’s either not an alcoholic, or is, and softened his story considerably. This story illustrates a casual drinker who decided to stop casually drinking. Alcoholics can’t just, on a whim, quit and decide, boy this great, I think I’ll do this forever. Pfft, in your dreams if you think it’s this easy, and if it is, you’re just not an alcoholic. When you go through countless nights of cold sweats, contemplating suicide because you can’t live with yourself sober, attempt sobriety hundreds, yes hundreds of times with complete failure, then I’ll begin to sympathize. It’s a lifetime battle, not a fun little anecdote about “quitting one day” and feeling great the next week. This isn’t the reality of alcoholism.

    anonymous Aug 1, 2015 7:28pm

    Totally agree. If you're a true addict, you're physically and emotionally 'hooked' on a horrific substance that has caused and inflicted complete pain to all who know you. You're definitely not an alcoholic, just someone who quit an every now and then habit. Wake up at 2am and hit the bottle, cause your body can't quit shaking, and because you'll go into uncontrollable seizures from withdrawal, and then we'll talk. Stopped drinking? You never really even started.

anonymous Jul 27, 2015 6:19pm

This seems to me like one of these ‘I’m glad you were able to do this for yourself, but what is your message?’ articles. All this emphasis on him having lost weight, having improved his relationships, becoming more productive and energetic, etc. That’s all good, but tries to emphasize that this is what everyone needs to do in order to achieve the same, implying that those who drink even socially have weight, relationship, and productivity constraints, which is not true at all. Being in my late 20s, I could’ve spent the last 10 years of my life (the prime years) without a sip of alcohol and my life wouldn’t have been any less productive or enjoyable. The most important thing in life is to have ambitions and goals and stick to them, and just live your life to the fullest. If you can do that, then no alcohol or recreational drugs can become a fundamental part of your life, and its perfectly fine to have at it socially.

anonymous Jul 27, 2015 11:43am

I applaud your journey. It was an ‘a’ha’ moment with a teacher at the Integral Yoga Institute in NYC that lead me to give up smoking and alcohol. I was trying to advance my physical practice, and couldn;t breathe enough. The solution was simple: it hurts when I do that, so don’t do that.
The only thing is, for many, cutting back to nothing does not work. I needed the support of a 12-step fellowship and others who were going through the same thing to support me. When you drink, even socially like I did, you find that it affects every aspect of life. I had to make major decisions and choices about life. I would also add that while you may have been able to ‘breathe’ and ward off the crave for a cold beer – most people cannot. It’s the basic roots of addiction. While I respect EJ for publishing your story, I think it would be responsible to present the documented, broader picture. Telling an addict to ‘breathe’ through their alcoholism is like telling a manic depressive to ‘just sing a happy tune’ in my book.
Also: there’s plenty of mounting evidence where the natural/healing/Eastern world can help addicts/alcoholics. Many suffer terribly when they attempt to quit – from sugar withdrawal and the like. This is why many go on carb binges and gain considerable weight. While I recommend everyone deal with a proper health care professional, I found that the advances with B vitamins, such as L-theanine and L-Tryptophan, as well as the counter-sugar properties of Panthotenic acid, are a great help, and help the person avoid becoming a food addict or a coffee-holic, trying to ward off cravings.
All that said, with spirituality at the heart – ‘recovery’ is key. Many people mount up a lot of bad mental energy during their drinking careers, and all the plethora of life/work/relationship situations that come with it, and while I’m no 100% fan of any one approach – you cannot count out the help that is available out there for the asking.
Peace

anonymous Jul 27, 2015 8:16am

This is well-written about the effects on the body & mind, outlook & energy level, of even moderate drinking. Thankful I can share this with my kids, it's basically saying what I have been telling them, but maybe they will hear it better from someone like this. There are more & more references to more increased drinking in music & media today, like its ok daily. It messes up moods & definitely relationships, & people don't realize that. Many good marriages & families are destroyed, & do people question the moderate drinking? Thank you for sharing!

    anonymous Jul 27, 2015 4:56pm

    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, the major alcohol companies keep peddling this idea that alcohol gives you pleasure. But it's not pleasure. It's merely relief from withdrawal.

anonymous Jun 29, 2015 6:45pm

Thank you for your inspiring story. I too have done the same and have no desire to go back. Sometimes small decisions make big impacts on your life! ☺️

anonymous May 29, 2015 6:22am

Thanks greatly for one more worthwhile article I've been an enormous enthusiast to the previous few months and i really enjoy reading your posts

anonymous May 3, 2015 3:44am

Thanks for writing your article and sharing your journey with the online world. I can relate to many aspects of your story, though I am Canadian, female, and I think I did have a drinking problem. I began my weekend binges with friends at 12 years of age and was actually burned out by 20. I woke up with a nasty hangover and a world of humiliation and regret after a bucket load too many at a wedding the night before and knew that I needed to get some help or I would be in trouble. Only the trouble I was thinking wasn't that I was going to drink myself to death, but more along the lines that I would kill myself long before I had the chance to drink that much or long enough! I just couldn't emotionally or spiritually deal with the things I did when I got drunk and the pain of facing all of that the next day felt like more than I could bare, so my mind would immediately by pass 'hair of the dog' and go to 'how can I die?'. This scared me, because I had attempted suicide once before while I was very drunk at the age of 18 and came very close to dying, they did manage to save me in the intensive care unit.
So your words resonate, in that at the age of 20 I woke up hungover and humiliated and made the decision to get some help so that I could quit drinking and stay alive. Only, I needed to think of it as a one-day-at-a-time thing. It was too overwhelming to thinking of longer periods of time because I didn't know how to deal with feelings at all, and not drinking meant I had to deal with feelings…all of them. Positive and negative! I preferred neutral or rather, numb! I also quit smoking at the same time so had to learn to feel everything all at once and it was hard! I thought I was just quitting substances and habits, I had no idea then that I was using them to numb my feelings! At 20 it was about going out and having fun, or so I thought. It's only in hindsight that I could see that my using was all connected to getting numb and regulating how much I would feel and when.
It hasn't been easy but I have learned so much and have grown up emotionally. In June 2015 I will have been sober 26 years, I have never returned to drinking, drugs or cigarettes and I am so very grateful. It's true that my body is healthier from those changes alone. I look much younger than women that smoke and drink and have very few wrinkles. I am more happy though about the emotional and spiritual development that I have worked so very hard on over the years that has allowed me to not only stay sober but to also mentor others in their recovery, but to be a productive member of society too. I have raised to sons in a sober home and taught them about healthy living and communication and as men they know how to get help if they need it one day.
I am inspired to see so many other people sharing on here about their recovery stories!

    anonymous Jul 27, 2015 4:57pm

    Thank you for your message. I'm so happy you're inspired.

anonymous May 2, 2015 5:04pm

Thank you for this. After a year end meditation retreat, I stopped for 10 months until my son's wedding. Even then, the drinking was very light. It's been six wonderful years since the wedding and I wouldn't trade them for anything. The odd thing is that I have been asked if I have a drinking problem when I abstain at parties. It's quite true that I can't safely drink alcohol, but I don't feel that it is a problem as I truly enjoy being sober. My inclination is to reply by asking if they have a problem because they need to drink to enjoy themselves. But, it's not my place to judge. For me, sobriety is salvation.

anonymous May 2, 2015 10:38am

Am in the midst of a 90 day challenge with myself right now for many reasons, but feeling great in mind and body. Glad you shared your story 🙂 it's not that all of us abuse alcohol but it helps us to hide behind our drunkenness instead of just being comfortable with who we are. Congrats on your four years 🙂

anonymous Apr 14, 2015 6:06pm

This was such a good read. Good to know that there are many former Non-Alcoholic alcohol lovers who have quit drinking and are actually enjoying the ‘new normal’. Enjoying a few drinks with friends has been a normal, almost everyday occurrence. 16 years after graduating, on Dec 25, 2014, I gave it up and life has never been better! I was only supposed to take a ‘break’ and even if the wife still has some Bombays and Tonic every weekend, life is too good to go back to that old buzzed feeling.

anonymous Apr 14, 2015 8:23am

I quit drinking two weeks ago and lost 6 lbs. already, feel so much happier. I cannot believe I got into that habit and how easy it is to fall into. It is the most socially acceptable drug. The hardest part is the social aspect but now I am making more friends that also are sober and still fun.

I realized I was destroying my brain, that the habit was becoming and addiction. Being a child of an alcoholic and hating it since I was 6, I could not believe I was "embracing the enemy" and letting it destroy me.

I cannot believe how quickly I feel better.

anonymous Apr 13, 2015 1:49am

Smart topic insight! It has been composed very useful advices and I appreciate your work.

anonymous Apr 12, 2015 9:33am

Nice story! Good for you, really. However, I don’t believe in cutting out anything completely out of your life. After all we need to enjoy life while we have it as well. Maybe I think this way since I am living in France with an Italian partner,those nations just need to enjoy life and don’t feel the need to control everything.

anonymous Apr 11, 2015 8:39pm

I should try this approach with potato chips and other bagged snacks, as I don’t drink enough to consider it a bad habit or something that affects me that much. I wonder if my weight would drop if I just gave up the chips.

anonymous Apr 11, 2015 1:16pm

I read this at the perfect time. Thank you so much for sharing.

anonymous Apr 11, 2015 7:01am

Hands down, the best article and comments from 1st person singular accounts that I’ve ever read. Life is all about application, and about experience. While each contributor shared alcohol in common, each impressed me as being singularly personal and genuine. I got something out of each one of them, which I’ve never experience before on a subject. As a teenager, it was a right of passage to drink alcohol with the gang, and I participated along with everyone else. As a Marine, that behavior only intensified and became habitual, bonding brothers and all that. In college and graduate school, regular drinking was more difficult to keep a clear head, and by then cannabis and other agents were readily available. My research career didn’t soar as planned, my marriage and family took precedence over being a lab rat, and I moved to industry for better pay and opportunities which intensified alcohol consumption exponentially, and became the salve to all my perceived problems, disappointments, and 2nd place finishes. Whenever something went ‘bad’ alcohol always seemed to be in the mix. I could always stop and took ‘holidays’ from such abuse, 6 months, a year, yet always somehow picked it up again, usually at the urging of friends, business associates and in social gatherings. Serious hangovers became painful and debilitating and finally I came to the realization that such behavior was controlling me and not the other way ’round. Along the way I had setbacks and brushes with disaster which nearly cost me my marriage and my life. One could say my behavior was often ‘off the reservation’, but I didn’t care. I never missed work because of drinking, even if I came in with a hangover and still in the bag. I realized my example had been adopted by my sons, with similar if not more dire consequences. My father had been an alcoholic, died at 36. While I’m well past that age now, it took making a conscious effort to survive. I cut back but never really quit entirely. I imbibe occasionally in moderation. I rarely get the urge for a drink, and even lately, while having round 2, I dislike the taste, and have been pouring it down the drain and moving to water. I am one of those who takes 100% responsibility for my own health, and listen closely to my body and make efforts to react positively to the symptoms, (ie: when I’m tired, I rest; when I’m stressed, I meditate; when I’m stiff and irritable, I exercise, etc). I recognize that thoughts are things and equate them with the scientific concept of potential energy. I have come to accept that “belief” is the essential element/critical success factor to application and action; and equate that with kinetic energy. Belief driven thought is the key to one’s behavior, pro or con, good or bad, success or failure, on and on. I suspect before long I will come to believe I no longer need or want to imbibe and will simply quit altogether. Everything seems to function better (organs, metabolism, health, etc) with plenty of tumblers of water each day. So it goes. To conclude, I am grateful to James for having shared his experience and to all those who made comments here, as it somehow triggered me to express the above, which I typically do not do. I feel better for the effort and wish all much Love and Light.

anonymous Apr 10, 2015 12:58pm

I appreciate your approach to this. You created an invitation, thanks for that.

anonymous Apr 10, 2015 12:22pm

I woke up with a nasty hangover three months ago today and decided the same exact thing – I challenged myself to go three whole months without drinking. Today, as I celebrate that three month success, the positive changes in my life that have occurred as a result of not drinking have me wondering if I will ever start back up again! When I set out on this challenge, I assumed that I would be celebrating my 3-months of not drinking by having some wine or cocktails, but I have no desire to start back up again! I'm honestly totally shocked (I loved drinking and didn't have the healthiest relationship w/ alcohol) that I feel this way, but SO grateful that I did this for myself! One of the best decisions I've ever made!!

anonymous Jan 5, 2015 5:39pm

Very inspiring journey… Makes me wonder if I would feel a major transformation in just 30 days alcohol free. I've been contemplating it, but have not committed.

anonymous Jan 1, 2015 10:04pm

Well done James and thanks for sharing your story. I made the same decision 14 months ago and haven't looked back. Improved lifestyle, better health, new friends and retreats and real conversations. The best thing I did for my psychic database:)

anonymous Jan 1, 2015 9:11pm

Alcohol free parties allow people to express the reality within themselves.

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 8:23pm

I also quit drinking. It's been a steady, slow process over the past 6 months but now I am completely alcohol free and have zero desire to go back to it. I tried a sip of champagne at Christmas time and it made me ill. I had 99 problems and 98 of them were related to alcohol. Not that I'm problem free now, I just am able to deal with things far more effectively and with a clear mind. I appreciate good wine and gin, but I enjoy my food more without it.

I've seen so many deaths as a result of alcohol, I think it does far more damage than heroin.

Kudos to you for giving up and I wish you continued happiness in your new, sober and clarity filled life.

Daniella

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 9:30am

I stopped drinking at the age of 61 and 8 years later I have absolutley no desire to start again. It was like a switch had been flicked on- CLICK! just like that from one moment to the next. I was done. So how, you may ask did this happen for me?
The answer surfaced in the realization that I was not only a victim of the marketing finesse of the alcohol industry , but that I was also a victim of peer pressure and societal expectations. I realized this almost in a flash of light after an experience I had with a woman (now my wife) whom I had met at an art auction and whome I was interested in getting to know better. I  arranged to have a dinner date with her and the night went well enough that she invited my to come to her house the following week, and have dinner with her.
Acting out of habit, I stopped at a Bottle-O on the way to her house to buy Champagne to celebrate our newfound friendship. When I arrived at her beautiful home, she greeted me at the door but before asking me to come inside,  she looked at the bottle in my hand, and said, "You know what? We don't need alcohol to have great sex together."

I was taken aback at her comment, but managed to sputter something like, "Oh.well, then, where's the trash bin?" She smiled and led me into her kitchen and pointed to the recycling bin. I  stepped up to the kitchen sink, popped the cork off the bottle and poured the bubbly down the drain. Once the last bit of foam dripped out of the bottle, I rinsed it with water and dropped it into the recycling bin and looked her square in the eye and said, "I finally understand why I have been a drinker all my life, and I am no longer one." She took me into her arms, and kissed me and I have not had another drink since that night 8 years ago, nor will I ever have one. I instantly realized that I had been hiding under a cloak all my life and not enjoying my full potential, and that drinking would no longer be a handrail I would have to lean on to enjoy my life to the fullest.

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 4:51am

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, James. It is lovely to read that you feel such small but powerful changes as you choose to remove alcohol from your diet. It shows to me that as you accepted yourself and your choice, friends and family accepted that too. i am no longer a drinker – and found I went through the very same process of people not accepting it, me craving a drink every now and then – but actually, as I looked beyond the 'need' to have alcohol – I appreciated the difference I felt in my body, and the way I was with others. I'll take that over a hangover any day 😉

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 4:48am

James its a great story that I can so totally relate to, from drinking on a regular basis with "Friends" to stopping drinking and now many years on it was also the start of a series of great choices. I was reflecting on it recently and am amazed I actually managed to get any work done when I was drinking – often being tired and hung over. The quality of work and my overall enjoyment of life has increased multifold since stopping drinking – I think because I stopped as I felt it was what would be the best support for my body instead of being told not to drink – the endless offers of "just one drink" didn't get the better of me. I can't imagine life today being one where I would be drinking. And it's also then enabled me to look at others areas of my life and make adjustments to those as well.

anonymous Dec 24, 2014 6:26pm

I think you look better, sweeter, and happier in the pic on the left. You look hard and cynical, maybe arrogant now. Just judging by the photos.

anonymous Dec 24, 2014 5:58am

Great article! I was 29 and decided to stop drinking and see what happened. Sure it was hard at first but everything got better and easier in time.
That was 25 years ago. Just thought I'd share…being an old timer 🙂

anonymous Dec 23, 2014 11:37am

I too stopped drinking over 2 years ago for me it was something I did after work while cooking dinner, and then another glass with dinner and in the end it was a habit. I do get some funny looks when I say I don't drink but I do feel so much better. No fuzzy head in the morning my memory is so much better and to be honest it certainly is something I don't need in my life. It did cost me a few friends as they think you have to drink to have a good time. Now I sleep so much better and don't feel so sluggish. Best move I have ever made. Will never go back to it again.

anonymous Dec 23, 2014 5:21am

Your article caught my eye as I also am coming up 4 years of sobriety! Feb 2nd is a very auspicious day for me as that is the day I decided enough was enough.

Unlike yourself, I was a heavy binge drinker, and that would be over a 30year period. I didn’t drink regularly, but when I did, I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop until the grog ran out, and then I would go and hunt for more, the old saying, 1 is too many and 100 not enough.

In hindsight and reflection, I can now see how I used alcohol to “escape” my enormous worries at the time and became quite a habitual addiction, to escape the worries and also giving me “false” dutch courage to speak up or out against anyone and everyone who I had an issue with at the time, a rollercoaster out of control, about to drastically derail!

The decision I made that day, I am now convinced, that it saved my life. It was not that anything drastic happened on my last binge, except for my hangover which lasted a week, and that was the start of me deciding, I couldn’t do this to myself anymore and that I would give it a ‘break’ for a while. Well, yes, it is almost four years, and the positive changes that have happened in my life are due to being sober, and the determination to carry on living alcohol free, are sometimes challenged indeed, especially by others who cant understand how one can go without the ‘social’ drink etc, sometimes I announce, “im allergic” to alcohol and that seems to pacify the insistent people who say, oh cant you just have 1?? It seems, that some people get uncomfortable around me when they know I don’t drink, I guess because it brings up their issues with their drinking habits which is not for me to judge, I understand what its like to “need” the unwind or the social drink scene, and that it is up to the individual to decide for themselves when the time is right for them, if ever!

For me, living sober, is a blessing….because I did, and always will, have a problem with alcohol abuse. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t reflect on how I used to be, and how my life is now. (A lot less chaotic, but still challenging) The gremlin still sits on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “go on, you know you want to get wasted”…but im determined to carry on and try and deal with my mounting responsibilities and pressures within my sober life and not ever, ever again subject myself to the drunken self destruction I used to create….I just do it sober!!

anonymous Dec 22, 2014 11:32pm

You're aabsolutely right about the effects. Thank u for writing this, in sure it will inspire more of us to be healthier and conscious. Have a merry holiday.

anonymous Nov 3, 2014 8:18am

Dear James, thank you for this story. It is really funny to read about it 'cause I also started to stop drinking around 3 months ago after a very funny evening/night. I can just underline your "I felt better, slept better and had much more mental clarity". This is sooo true. One really sees it "normal" to drink alcohol but it is simply not, we are just used to it. Honestly I don't miss it.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 3:11am

I hear year 5 is the hardest

    anonymous Aug 21, 2015 11:54am

    I'm at 6.5 years and 4.5 was rough. This summer has been rough but both were not "oh god I'd like a drink" but what that drink would bring. A letting go, a euphoric "Ahhhmmn", but to actually ever imbibe with alcohol, no, never. It's toxic poisonous crap once it leaves your cells you know it's best to stay away. The smell makes me queasy the idea of a hangover is repulsive to say the least. My great wish would be for those that truly struggle have a glimpse of being free of it feels like. There's nothing like it. It's like being a kid again.

anonymous Aug 1, 2014 1:08pm

Very inspirational. Thank you for sharing your story. I just wish there wasn't such a stigma around an alcoholic who has given up drinking, as opposed to someone who was a regular drinker making these changes. I understand you want people to know your story of why you gave up and not mistake you for god forbid 'an alcoholic', however this attitude perpetuates the shame that lots of people with real problems, who also give up drinking, have. They feel the need to do it an anonymous way, and not admit there was a problem. Alcohol is incredibly addictive and alcoholism is often a hereditary disease. Removing the stigmas around these issues and talking openly and honest will enable society to help young people before it hits major problems. PS. I am an Australian woman who got sober three years ago following alcoholic issues and had very similar reactions from friends that you had.

anonymous Jul 30, 2014 11:07pm

Awesome stuff mate! I am curious I tried this and lasted about 3 months. One thing I found was that when my closest mates got together, in always involved getting smashed (we are Aussie after all). When I was off the alcohol I actually avoided them, which was awful because I love my friends. Did you you ever do this?

anonymous Jul 30, 2014 8:02pm

Good for you! My father was an alcoholic. I watched him struggle with his addiction for several decades. His drinking ruined our family life. The good news: I did not follow in his footsteps. Your story is very inspiring.

anonymous Jul 30, 2014 7:44pm

I was somewhere between social drinking and alcoholism when I quit drinking over 2 years ago. I definitely feel better, and don't really miss it anymore. My biggest problem is not that I want a drink when I'm sad or stressed, but that when I'm having a great day (like today for example), a beer or a nice glass of wine would be nice. However, I know that it is very easy for me to slide quickly into heavier alcohol consumption. Yoga helps a lot-also the guy I just started dating is not really much of a drinker. 🙂

anonymous Jul 30, 2014 7:09pm

you are inspiring – thank you for sharing 🙂

anonymous Jul 30, 2014 12:35pm

I might try this – sounds great!

anonymous Jun 23, 2014 6:44pm

Thanks for the encouragement James , I am coming up on 7 months sober and man this summer is tough I am missing my Bombay Saphire gin & tonics with lime… but my life has dramatically improved for the better… now working on losing that extra 20 pounds 😉 thanks for your great blog !!! xox

anonymous Jun 19, 2014 10:15am

Thank you! Inspiring article. I was recently thinking I wanted to challenge myself to 30 days without alcohol, because quite honestly I don't think I've ever gone that long without having a drink. Then I made the excuse that my birthday is coming up and of course I'll want to have a drink, so now is not a good time. Figures, right!? But this post inspired me to give it a go, especially considering the improvement in relationships you suggest. I'm quiet and introverted and feel like I don't open up socially until I have a few drinks, but I think with time I will shine so much more just being myself.

    anonymous Jun 20, 2014 12:31pm

    It's not easy but it's worth it. If only to be able to be proud that you set out to be healthier and stubborn. One day at a time works. Just don't drink today. Say and do that everyday and the months will go by before you know it. You will feel like a kid again.

      anonymous Jul 30, 2014 12:47pm

      I am a recovering alcoholic. Quitting drinking was life or death for me. I chose life. I'm at about 103 days. Yes, I count every day, but it truly is "one day at a time".

anonymous Jun 19, 2014 5:27am

I quit drinking nearly four years ago too, and I feel wonderful! Yes it was a struggle at the time, but once I got used to my 'new normal' it was the best decision I ever made, every aspect of my life is better, I don't miss it and I won't be going back. I still meet friends at the pub but I stick to soda water. My social skills have improved enormously, mainly because now I am 'present' not on my way to inebriation. Best decision ever, I'm even an early morning person and I love it!

anonymous Jun 18, 2014 1:25pm

I also turned away from alcohol (probably for good) a little over 2 years ago. I was one of those middle aged women who had slowly slipped from light social drinking into a heavier, more dependent relationship with the stuff. I do go to AA meetings a few times a month, but still feel a little insincere calling myself an alcoholic, not because I am better than anyone else, but because alcohol was more a symptom than the cause of my crisis. Yet, I must say my life did improve without alcohol. It might be because it also coincided with better eating, yoga practice and finding more helpful spiritual practices, but whatever it is, it is great.

anonymous Jun 18, 2014 12:07am

Good for you. Kinda sounds like you have unknowingly been doing AA, without actually doing the program. Not quite sure what being Australian has to do with excessive drinking………..Irish, German, Native American……we can all be heavy hitters! Kudos, mate!

    anonymous Jul 30, 2014 9:58pm

    How on earth did you conclude that he was "unknowingly doing AA"? MOST people quit or moderate without AA and didn't you here him mentioned that he did not have a drinking problem? Love how AA takes credit for all sobriety, but assumes no liability for those that don't make it. The authors point was that it was pretty simple and because he liked the physical, mental and socio effects of not drinking, he stuck with it. No God, no sponsors, no steps, no meetings.
    AA is a heavy duty religious program with major cult tugs. It is helpful for some, but not many. After years in the AA program, I left which has been the 2nd best decision I ever made apart from quitting drinking. I'm much better off and quite sober- thank you!

      anonymous Apr 14, 2015 8:18am

      You know nothing about AA. It is not a cult or heavy duty religious, it is like group cognitive therapy where people take responsibility for their lives and find their own sense of a higher power. AA saved my father, open your mind.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 4:20pm

Love this article and love the difference in the photos. I've quit over the years – once for a year, then for 8 months. I believe I'm about ready to say goodbye for good. I see the benefits physically – better sleep, feel great in the am, more energy, more intimate sexual connection with my hubby, more patience, many more. I don't drink a lot but like a glass of wine every month but even that can be too much on my system these days. Way to go, love your life! XO

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 12:26pm

Nice article – and daaaammmnnnn, an Australian quitting drinking! (lol.) Very interesting about your reaction from men – that somehow, it's manly to drink. That's crazy. I've been considering lately how the substances I (and my loved ones) imbibe affect us not only when we're tipsy/drunk (or stoned, etc.) but the next day., and in general. Just because a body isn't intoxicated doesn't mean that it isn't still affected by recent and/or chronic use. I wonder how I'd be different if I eliminated certain habits, even those I feel pretty moderate with, like drinking. The social scene makes a choice like this difficult; kudos.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 10:44am

I've had similar results from not drinking for years ; another side effect is that you age slower … less wrinkles, less stress on the body … hard drinkers show it in their face.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 10:26am

Why on earth, after experiencing and weighing out the numerous, significant benefits would you end your essay by saying, "I’m not for one moment suggesting you should quit drinking entirely like I did. Obviously, I am an extreme case." How are you an extreme case? Why even share your story and outcomes with others? It's a perfectly reasonable and sensible suggestion.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 9:25am

I stopped drinking a little more than 2 years ago. It's one of the best things in my life.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 8:03am

Kudos. One of the few simple pleasures in life I love is a good beer. Having only one (in the right company) has always been the challenge. Have thought and struggled with this idea for a long time.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 7:57am

I have been considering cutting back on my drinks this summer. This is very inspirational. I just can't understand how you could be in Austin and make a life choice like IHOP! Sigh……;)

    anonymous Jun 19, 2014 7:22pm

    Right? LOL Magnolia Cafe rules!

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 5:50am

I would describe my own drinking as a bit more problematic and my solution somewhat less drastic. Yet I can relate full heartedly to the results as described in this article. What I did was take a close look at my own patterns to identify my own individual problems with drinking. My problem areas were frequency and drinking alone at home. My plan, to stop drinking at home completely and drink out and about in social situations only after I'd gone at least 5 days without drinking at all. Binge drinking was never a problem so this has worked. I've been at it for a year. On average I drink twice a month now. Anything from one glass of wine to three or maybe two cocktails when I do. Every aspect of my life has improved and I've lost a lot of weight! What's most notable is that instead of seeking out opportunities to drink I find myself going out of my way to avoid them. I keep some alcohol at home for guests but am really not tempted. My decision worked. This is entirely possible.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 2:53am

Good Onya brother. I feel ( at 25) like I’ve gotta take control of my health. That rapid, reckless attitude of youth should start to fall by the waist side because yes! It’s money, it’s feeling shit, it’s wasting time feeling sorry for ones self on a Sunday, that makes me a little be angry at myself. I coulda walked, written, read or cooked. That whole ” he’s a pussy of he doesn’t drink” attitude comes with being a bloke in Aussie society but I can’t be arsed dealing with ” stereotypes” anymore. What I have to work on is retaining confidence without the excess liquid. Drunkeness never got me a nice girl, whilst out ;p

Good article

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 2:36am

I started the "dry January" this year and then like you I just carried on. 6 months and 2 weeks later I too have lost weight and feel much better with life in general. I occasionally miss it but I've found a range of "good" soft drinks that more than make up for it.

anonymous Jun 17, 2014 2:05am

I thought it a good read and yes many times the biggest changes come much later. I don't understand the cruel crack about people being overweight though. It just seemed unnecessary.

anonymous Jun 15, 2014 10:14pm

Wow, interesting that the biggest transformation happened after a few months sober. I might have to start this 30-day challenge myself.