Sober for Five Months, I Drank. Here’s What Happened.

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Alcohol has always been part of my life…

…the allure of my parents drinking Manhattans with glistening cherries.

…the priest drinking “the blood of Christ.”

…high school keg parties every weekend at the home of whomever’s parents were out of town.

…college binge drinking (most weekends, someone from the dorms was hauled off to the ER for a stomach pump).

…Happy Hours after work (that began on Fridays, then extended to Thursdays, and eventually leaked over to Wednesdays).

…vacations (England: pubs!, Hawaii: umbrella drinks!, Napa: wine tasting!).

…champagne for any celebration, beer for any beach adventure.

…pouring a glass of wine, or grabbing a beer from the fridge, as the first ahhhhhhh after a long day.

One of my boyfriends took a cooler of beer with him wherever we went. He could open a bottle on the steering wheel.

My first husband home brewed beer.

My wife (marriage number two) and I loved pubs. We drank wine and beer at home most nights. We decided multiple times to “take a break.” We’d pour the wine and beer down the drain—or give it to someone—and in just a few days it would sneak back into our house like a child into her parents’ bed.

Five years ago, I started dating Dave, who rarely drinks. I had never spent as much time around another person who didn’t care for booze. It made him sleepy. He’d sometimes drink a Guinness or nurse a glass of red wine at dinner with friends. But generally, it wasn’t his thing. He didn’t care what, how, or if I drank.

When I underwent brain surgery two years ago, I didn’t drink for two months. I thought of it as temporary. I longed for my cold glass of chardonnay and frothy IPA and was happy when I got them back.

But then something happened when we were living in Mexico.

I suddenly became less tolerant of the next-day malaise that accompanied even just a drink or two. And the headaches. I’d always thought booze gave me a lift, but when I began to really look at it, I realized the lift lasted about half an hour—and then the only way to keep it going was to have another. Otherwise, like Dave, I’d get sleepy.

I wanted to do yoga, and write, and do my writing coaching work, and take long walks, and explore Baja feeling my best. I was curious if living without booze would improve my life. I mean, just truly erasing drinking as a possibility.

What would it feel like?

Who would I be without it?

Could I really change my habitual, socialized drinking habits?

It seemed like an adventure to try.

It’s been five months since I decided to embark on the Year of Living Drinklessly. It’s been fascinating to sit in that space between wanting a drink and not having one. Perching in that margin between, “Ah, a beer sounds good” and taking a sip of sparkling water.

I’ve become more and more aware of all the associations I have with booze:

That it makes me happy.

That it’s a celebratory thing.

That only boring people don’t drink.

That it’s the lifeblood of fun.

That it helps me relax.

That it helps me cope.

Also, it’s sophisticated! Look at those Europeans and their elegant sidewalk cafes! (A friend once said to me that the French don’t trust anyone who doesn’t drink.)

Now I can see that:

Nothing external makes me happy (it’s an inside job).

The rollercoaster of using booze to bring me up, always involves a coming down.

Celebrating is fun because of the new job/baby/marriage/experience/ people/music/dancing—not the booze.

The French generally drink only at meals—and, of course, there are French people who don’t drink. Drinking or abstaining has nothing to with moral character.

Partying does not have to equate to “drinking.” (I still can’t believe it took me 52 years to come to this one.)

It’s not booze that makes people fun, it’s their spirit, their sense of humor, their willingness to dance on the table! And no, you don’t need to be drunk for that.

That initial morphine quality of a sip of wine can be lovely, but so is knowing how to calm and soothe myself without a substance (through meditation, breathing, thinking a better thought, laughing, petting a dog, taking a walk). And there is no agitation-backlash, headache, or malaise involved.

If I have these tools to calm and soothe myself, who needs a drug to cope? And sometimes, it seems, that what I needed to cope with was the cycle of social drinking.

Four months into my drink-free adventure, I decided to consciously, mindfully partake in some drinking. I was curious what it would feel like to drink again—and to see if my time off had changed anything.

Over the course of two weeks, I went wine tasting, drank champagne to celebrate the release of my book, and sucked down some draft IPA. Each one of these was a social occasion, with friends. Everyone else (even Dave) imbibed.

I never had what you could characterize as a hangover, but each time, I felt less “sparkly” for a few days. It was like I was wearing a long dress, and someone was stepping on the train.

That’s when I realized:

I prefer not drinking.

I feel better. I’m happier. I’m calmer. I love waking up feeling good.

Who’da thunk.

Now I’m not counting the days or months. I’m just living booze-free.

“Free” being the key word, because I do feel free.

I don’t spend time thinking about if/when/where/how I will or won’t have a drink. I don’t wonder if a hangover is coming tomorrow. It gets easier and easier in social situations to just say, “No thanks.”

I don’t care what anyone else does. We all have our reasons to drink or not drink. I spent 52 years one way. Now I’m living another.

Today, in this eternal now (which is all we really have), I’m happily a non-drinker. That may change. If it does or it doesn’t, it’s okay—because I am the one in charge of my life.




If you’re going to drink, make sure you know what’s inside:

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Author: Kate Evans

Editor: Renee Jahnke

Image: Jennifer Moore

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Kate Evans is the author of Call It Wonder: An Odyssey of Love, Sex, Spirit, and Travel, a memoir about chucking it all to live on the road, having a brain tumor, talking to dead people, and loving both men and women. She is also the author of two novels, a collection of poems, and a book about teaching. She holds a PhD, an MFA, and an honorary degree from life. As an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach, she loves helping people unleash and shape their stories. She lives half the year in Baja California Sur, Mexico and the other half she’s a gypsy. She’s grateful to be learning that, as Foucault said,“We are freer than we think.” You can connect with her on her website, her blog, on Facebook and via Twitter.

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anonymous Apr 8, 2016 2:42pm

Thanks for this. I was just considering stopping my drink-free year until I read this. It’s exactly what I needed. Thanks again!

anonymous Apr 8, 2016 11:18am


A familiar story, and so well written.

anonymous Apr 7, 2016 8:46pm

I had a very similar experience. One day I just decided no more. I had decided this many times, mind you. This time was different. I had small children and realized I wanted to lead them by example and not in the same manner my parents taught me. That was just over six years ago and it was unquestionably one of the best decisions I ever made. I have yet to wake up and regret how sober I got the night before. One interesting side note– my one remaining vice is Starbucks coffee which I drink daily. I find great humor in the commentary I receive surrounding my coffee consumption. How ironic that everyone feels the need to give me shit because of the money I spend on Starbucks when none of these same people ever seemed to take any issue with the amount of vodka I would regularly consume.

anonymous Apr 7, 2016 8:02pm

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

anonymous Feb 13, 2016 6:44am

I found this article about five months ago during my own journey not to drink and your words have stuck with me since. I'm at almost a year, now, and felt like reviewing it again, but mostly wanted to share it with a friend, who's now on the same path. My decision to quit was for all the same reasons. Stop the malaise, anxiety, self-loathing, and depression. And my motivation was to become a better father, a better version of me, and a better salesman. I've had a relationship with alcohol my whole life. After divorce, it became an even bigger problem, a gateway, due to very dark weeks and weekends alone. And I have two small children that I have split custody of and they need me to be my best for them so they can become their best. I want them to feel confident and secure in their lives and decisions. I got lucky – I took a job that surrounded me with the most positive, supportive people I've ever known (all drinkers, btw). And one of them pointed me to a therapist. And perfect timing because I was upping my poor decision making trying to sink the ship. I needed help. Then, I met a wonderful woman. And then I hit a wall. How do I have a relationship with both? Thankfully, I chose the more important things in my life and put booze aside. My life is richer, more real, and definitely more free. If you're at a crossroads, yourself, give yourself a chance. You may not think so now, but you deserve it and will thank yourself later.

anonymous Nov 7, 2015 3:58pm

thank you for the honesty. this subject is personal and i'm curious to explore it, also. i really love your voice and just purchased CALL IT WONDER!

anonymous Oct 8, 2015 8:39pm

I come from a family with alcohol dependency problems. Both my parents are ACOA and my sister has been an alcoholic for many years. When I was a teenager I went through the rebellious stage and I did a good deal of partying and drinking. Then one morning I woke up after a beach party with bed spins and a black eye (my sister and I had a fight and she punched me) and I thought “this really isn’t fun”. I still drank on again off again for a few years, but I haven’t had a drink in nearly 3 years, and h

anonymous Jul 28, 2015 7:34am

I just got off 3 nights at work (I am an oncology nurse at a big inner city hospital)……one of my patients had a history of alcohol and (legal ) drug dependence. to make a long story short he fell the other night, banged up his head pretty bad, and now is suffering almost like a TBI (traumatic brain injury)….confused, alternately agitated and somnolent. He is messed up pretty bad, and we think, also withdrawing from his alcohol and drug dependence. then, on the way home form work, I saw a body lying by the side of the road !!!!!! I stopped my car, dialed 911 and approached-I was pretty sure the lady was dead, but she reared up when I touched her shoulder ……as the ambulance approached (I guess other motorists had dialed 911), she got up, started staggering away, meanwhile pulling a cigarette out of her fanny pack. I'm sure she was drunk or high, or a combination of both-she refused to go to the hospital. So I am not a big fan of substances anymore, though as a former drinker, I understand the power, the pull, the allure, the attachment.

and this would have been the kind of morning I would have opened a bottle of wine up and poured a glass…..this is what many of us in the helping professions do, to help us deal with all this…..but fortunately I don't drink anymore.

peace and healing to all.

    anonymous Jul 28, 2015 9:54am

    Thank you for making a difference in the world, Karen.

anonymous Jul 25, 2015 4:20pm

Awesome, Laura. Thank you for this.. Those of us who want to be mindful about the place of booze in our lives benefit from hearing many stories.

anonymous Jul 24, 2015 1:24pm

Great reinforcement and insight. Thank you!

anonymous Jul 24, 2015 8:13am

This is wonderful and beautiful! I admire you for sharing your story with us. I had a blunt realization about a year ago (and the ripe young age of 25) that because of social, societal, and cultural influences I had given up a LOT of power to alcohol. I, too, decided to live free of alcohol (I do allow an occasional libation if I desire) and things have been incredible since. I must say there are challenges in being surrounded by people who still do drink heavily and often, but I appreciate the awareness I have and I appreciate articles like this that remind me I am in my own exact right place. So thank you!!! Love, love.

    anonymous Jul 24, 2015 8:34pm

    I admire you for coming to this at such a young age, Jane. Thanks for sharing. xo Kate

anonymous Jul 23, 2015 9:49pm

Great read, thank you.

I gave up the booze 33 years ago – it was running my life and ruining me!

I have never regretted that decision – my life is rich and fun without it.

Just to think how much money I have saved is amazing !

I am comfortable with others that choose to drink until they get to the “stupid or obnoxious” stage – then I just leave.

Thanks again for sharing and letting others know they can have fun and be free without booze !!!


    anonymous Jul 24, 2015 8:33pm

    Great to hear from someone who's enjoyed the booze-free life for so long. Thank you, Lanette.

anonymous Jul 23, 2015 3:02pm

I’m in my fourth year of not drinking, and most of the time it just doesn’t come up only radar screen anymore-if I did drink, I would probably have about the same experience-it’s okay, but life is better without it.

    anonymous Jul 23, 2015 8:47pm

    "Life is better without it." Totally where I'm coming from, too, Karen. I'm not missing out on anything–and I'm gaining so much. Thank you.

anonymous Jul 23, 2015 11:03am

This is great. I can completely understand exactly where you are coming from with this post. II went through a similar transitional period but was only for a two month hiatus. Generally speaking, I found it exactly how you spelled it out, freeing. I have realized at the prime age of 26 that alcohol is not the reason for all the things you listed above (fun, entertainment, socializing, etc) but as you said, it's your inner self. I have now after my two month period come to realization that alcohol isn't pertinent in my life anymore (which is crazy to say the least considering my past – which is another story within itself) however; I have not completely given up on it but have limited my drinking to a cap that I am ok with (did off with liquors and the cap is a low limit on beer) that anymore I dont even hit or have to think about. Its a great feeling being in control and knowing that alcohol isnt what "makes life fun" and such. Good luck on your journey!

    anonymous Jul 23, 2015 3:48pm

    Thanks so much for sharing, Robert. I applaud you for being so mindful about this in your twenties. Blessings, Kate

anonymous Jul 22, 2015 10:42pm

Old subject but a very nice,no nonsense article.Thanks ! In my case ( serious)… 61 years instead of 52, and 8 months instead of 5. Nice one Kate……!

    anonymous Jul 23, 2015 7:02am

    Best to you on your journey.

anonymous Jul 22, 2015 6:32pm

Similar story too. Quitting changed my life so much for the better.

    anonymous Jul 23, 2015 7:01am

    There are many of us out there who just aren’t into drinking anymore without necessarily idenifying as alcoholics. Happy to have discovered this. Best to you.

anonymous Jul 22, 2015 3:29pm

Thank you. Excellent post! Mine is a very similar story. One of my biggest challenges has been forgiving myself for the wasted years.

    anonymous Jul 23, 2015 6:59am

    I guess they call it being “wasted” for a reason. In my case, I guess I had a lot of fun at times but I’m just in a different place right now. There’s not way to have known what you didn’t know. Each experience led you to now. So try not to be too hard on yourself. Blessings, Kate

anonymous Jul 22, 2015 2:48pm

Great read…