I Quit Drinking 4 Years Ago: My Transformation. ~ James Swanwick

Via James Swanwick
on Jun 15, 2014
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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.

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.

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. 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 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.



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.


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About 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.


78 Responses to “I Quit Drinking 4 Years Ago: My Transformation. ~ James Swanwick”

  1. Carlos says:

    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.

  2. Sarah says:

    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 🙂

  3. John says:

    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.

  4. wrensong says:

    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!

  5. 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

  6. Jessica says:

    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! ☺️

  7. Inquiring Mind says:

    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!

  8. Marc B says:

    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.

  9. James says:

    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.

  10. James says:

    Beautifully said, Jessica!

  11. James says:

    Thank you so much!

  12. James says:

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

  13. Alex says:

    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.

  14. bill says:

    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.

  15. GetReal says:

    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.

  16. imraan bobat says:

    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

  17. Mil says:

    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.

  18. Plamen says:

    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! 🙂

  19. Pamela says:

    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.

  20. Rejean says:

    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.

  21. Miranda says:

    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?

  22. Tom J. says:

    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.

  23. James says:

    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

  24. James says:

    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 : )

  25. James says:

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

  26. James says:

    Thanks, Pamela. Appreciate your kind words.

  27. James says:

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

  28. James says:

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