My Transformation: 30 Days of No Alcohol.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 9.3
Hearts 1.0
Comments 1.5
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
21 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

james article photo2


Most of us love a glass of wine over dinner or a cold beer on a hot summer day.

In moderation, it can make us feel good. It’s part of our culture. We enjoy sharing a few drinks with friends.

But what happens physically and mentally when you quit alcohol for 30 days? I tried this simple experiment in 2010.

Seemed easy enough. I wanted to test my self-discipline. Little did I know then that 30 days would turn into six months, which became one year. After five years, it’s now part of my lifestyle. Life is simply better without alcohol.

People often ask me about my story.

I was a journalist for 20 years, and alcohol was part of the culture. I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week and go a little harder most weekends. It all seemed like good fun.

But on March 12, 2010, I awoke with a shocking hangover after a particularly fun night at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

I walked into an International House of Pancakes for a “hangover breakfast.” The menus had photos of the food on offer—big, bright, bold colors. The sight of those scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes made me feel ill. I said to myself: “James, what are you doing? You’re a 34-year-old man who’s getting fatter and more tired.”

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. With emotions running high, I made a decision on the spot to go 30 days alcohol-free.

The first two weeks were hard. When socializing, my heavy-drinking friends would give me a hard time. “You’re not Australian!” they’d say. To make life easier, I changed my social environment. Although I didn’t fire my friends, I began to spend more time with those who drank moderately or not at all. We are often a result of the people we spend time the most time with, so I engineered this to support my new habit.

I also changed my home environment, removing alcohol out of sight. The visual cues were gone.

After two weeks, I felt better, slept better and had more mental clarity.

After 30 days, I’d lost an incredible 13 pounds (almost six kilograms) of fat around my stomach and looked better naked—just from no alcohol.

I had more money in the bank, and my skin looked considerably better. I had the mental space to integrate other positive habits into my life, such as daily exercise and reading. I now enjoyed getting out of bed early for the gym and reading whenever I had a spare moment. I began to lead a more interesting life because I had the energy to experience interesting things.

Before a night out, I always had a planned commitment with someone for the following morning. It could be yoga, hiking, running, or coffee—anything that was healthier, made me start early and kept me accountable to someone else.

“Bugger it, I feel great,” I said to myself. “Keep going and see how far it takes you.” Little did I know just how far I could 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’d start dreaming: “I could smash an ice cold beer right now!” I breathed deeply, held my breath for 10 seconds, and exhaled slowly. I reminded myself that I was choosing not to drink. Other times I would just jump up and down—anything to the change my emotional state of feeling like I needed a drink. It was empowering.

When entering a bar or restaurant, I’d walk confidently to the bar and repeat in my head: “I’ll take an iced water with a piece of lime, please.” And that’s what I ordered. Whenever a waiter asked, “Can I get you started with some drinks?”, I’d reply, “Yes, I’d like an iced water with a piece of lime, please.” Rinse and repeat all night. I felt amazing, hydrated, clear-headed, and my final bill was a lot less!

After three months, I felt terrific. People didn’t even notice that I wasn’t drinking. Far from thinking I was an alcoholic in recovery, women 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.”

However, guys were always suspicious of my alcohol-free lifestyle, hypothesizing that I was a recovering alcoholic who “obviously” had a problem. This was all part of the test. I smiled, pointed to my head, and gave my stock response: “I’m too strong in my mind!”

If people offered a drink I’d say, “No, thanks. I’m not drinking at the moment.” Or, “No, thank you. I’ve got to get up early in the morning.” Or “No, thanks, I’m the designated driver.” Or, “No, thanks. I’m driving.” Or, “No thanks, I’m taking a break from alcohol right now.” When people saw my confidence and conviction, they usually left me alone. If they didn’t, I was okay with it being their issue.

Some people even tried to slip vodka into my drink so I had to make a point of always sniffing the drink they’d ordered me.

By six months, I was in the zone. I felt energetic and healthy, and I started to thrive on telling people that I had temporarily stopped drinking.

The period between six and 12 months was fairly easy—and this is where I noticed the most dramatic changes.

My relationships became considerably better—romantic and platonic.

I was more considerate and started thinking about how I could help my friends—rather than how they could help me.

My work productivity soared. More opportunities—like an ESPN audition to host SportsCenter—came my way. When it did, I was focused, energetic and seized the opportunity. I got that gig and hosted SportsCenter for two years.

If you want to quit drinking like I did, go for it. If you simply want to reduce alcohol, go for it. But my story clearly shows some of the positive benefits of quitting alcohol, even for 30 days—only positive things can happen to your health, wealth, love and happiness.


More from James on his journey: 

I Quit Drinking 4 Years Ago: My Transformation.

Bonus: 3 Buddhist Tips for Living Life.  


Author: James Swanwick

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 9.3
Hearts 1.0
Comments 1.5
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
21 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Read The Best Articles of December
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

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 on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

anonymous Mar 3, 2016 6:45pm

Day 22 today 🙂

anonymous Feb 16, 2016 3:45am

Brilliant, well done. Am tempted to do this myself, maybe you have inspired me. Good for you though. You must feel so happy.

anonymous Jan 21, 2016 7:19am

Excellent article! I'm on day 16 of 30 and feel great! It's articles like these that really help me stay on track.

anonymous Dec 26, 2015 7:58pm

Thank you for the inspiration James, I am going to be joining in the 30 days as well. Mine is just simply that wine has become my crutch. I’ve stayed fit, with a ton more effort (thanks to liquid calories!) however I spend my nights with my friend Chardonnay. Not a very supportive friend to say the least! I have two littles, and one has an intense neurological condition. My husband is PD and gone most always. It gets hard to deal with the emotional toll alone, and I personally feel I’ve been drinking too much in response. I want the change, and your story helped seal the motivation for me. Thank you so much for that!!

anonymous Dec 11, 2015 3:24am

I really appreciate this story. I don't know if I have a problem with alcohol, but I think the price-physically and financially are too high for what it is. It really is glorified in society but when I think of what the money can do for others(my children or someone else), I realize the insanity of it all. I have committed to not drinking for 6 months in the new year. Wish me luck and thanks again for sharing this.

    anonymous Dec 17, 2015 4:27pm

    My pleasure, Colleen. Glad it resonated with you. Yes, drinking is glorified. A lot of it stems from advertising. Think of goofy guys surrounded by beautiful women in beer ads, or healthy looking women enjoying a romantic glass of wine over dinner. Amazing commitment for the New Year. You've got this! Loads of people in the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge are in the same boat and are ready to support you 🙂

anonymous Nov 24, 2015 1:36pm

Hey James, Thanks for sharing your experience it is really amazing to see the process and how your story can inpire other people. We will launch a social network based on 30Days challenge that have the same goal as yours, to inspire people, if you are interested to know more just send me a message twitter: thiagov_amorim


anonymous Oct 14, 2015 5:43am

Thank you for being so open and honest, Becky. I applaud you. In "Meditations", Marcus Aurelius said that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our response. Look foreward to interacting with you on the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge.

anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:42am

Sorry to hear about your story, Cindy. You are not alone. There are people out there to support you.

I've heard a lot of cases of people in 40s and 50s who begin drinking because of "Empty Nest Syndrome" — e.g. the kids leave home, bereavement, and or marriage problems. Feeling redundant can lead to the habit of drinking.

    anonymous Oct 4, 2015 8:15am

    Thank you James. You’ve just helped me understand what I’ve been feeling. Redundant. I was a personal trainer and bootcamp instructor one semester away from a degree in Health and Exercise Science. In one year, there was a divorce, remarriage, an injury, three surgeries, lost job, failed school, and a 40 pound weight gain that alcohol has been the biggest contributor to and roadblock in losing. The drinking to numb the psychological pain has changed me physiologically. My once toned abdominals are now covered with layers of fat. I’ve gone from having an athletic body to an apple shape. No amount of dieting changes it.

    I want my life back. I want me back. So, today I’m starting the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge.

    Wish me luck,


anonymous Sep 9, 2015 1:20pm

Hi, I started drinking more than I should’ve several years ago when I lost a great job at 50 after 22 yrs there. (Long story). Then it turned into a habit of burying my sorrow and feelings of self worthlessness. I gained 20 lbs then hated myself more. I need to stop. Your story has inspired me. Thank you!

anonymous Aug 31, 2015 12:35pm

I've never been much of a drinker – I've always compared it to dessert when people ask why. How many of anything do you normally eat or drink?

(My father always made my sister and I try his scotch at dinner and choose a liquor to have with our meal. We didn't live with him so we weren't doing this every night – but it normalized alcohol for us because it wasn't off limits.)

I was never harassed for not drinking – I got an inquisition, but no one ever tried to sneak anything on me nor did they assume a was in AA. Nowadays I can add to my reasons that it's hard to have a good workout the day after having even one glass of wine – people seem to agree when I say that – and they drop it.

I've been surprised to hear from others who are "sober" about how they've been harassed for not drinking. And for them it makes it hard to go out. I think it's a shame that there's such a culture that puts pressure on to drink and then that those who don't drink feel stigmatized. I was never phased by the inquisition, but others aren't used to it and it makes them self-conscious.

And another good reason not to drink a lot? James' before and after photos, perhaps? Alcohol clearly does not make people look more attractive ; ).

    anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:38am

    Thank you, NSNY. It was great to hear your perspective. Many of my 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge members have had the exact same experiences you described — intense peer pressure to drink alcohol.

    We tend to be influenced by the people we're around the most. So in order to cut alcohol from my life, I reduced the time spent with people who drank a lot.

anonymous Aug 30, 2015 7:23am

Thank you for sharing your story. Reading positive stories like this have a lot of power and can inadvertendly shift the way we think.
Alcohol is a tricky thing. I have come to realize it is sort of a magnifying glass for me. It amplifies feelings, good and bad. It is not the cause of anything. It’s a symptom. I have been diving deep to understand those feelings. Whatever the reason was (and you never stated that you were an “ass” by the way) it is a very bold choice and it takes mental strength to stay on that path.

    anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:34am

    That's a great analogy, Patricia and thank you for your kind words. Great courage in digging deep to understand your feelings.

anonymous Aug 30, 2015 7:19am

Good stuff, James. I’ve been basically alcohol-free for a few years now, although I will have the rare glass of wine with a dinner of special occasion. Life is so much more enjoyable without alcohol. I can’t believe people would purposely try to slip you an alcoholic drink. Those are the types I avoid, whether alcohol is being served or not.

    anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:32am

    Thank you, Kelly. I'm glad that you've found a lifestyle that works for you.

    You wouldn't believe how many members of my 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge comment that their friends are "angry" with them for giving up drinking.

anonymous Aug 29, 2015 11:31pm

Your inability to be able to enjoy alcohol without being an ass is not something to celebrate. Good for you for stopping. Shame on you for making up the reasons.

    anonymous Aug 30, 2015 7:06am

    Way to be an ass without having consumed any alcohol Steven…

    anonymous Aug 30, 2015 9:48am

    Making up reasons? Being an ass? Which article did you read?

    anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:29am

    Sorry that you feel that way, Steven. I wish you well on your journey : )

anonymous Aug 27, 2015 9:32pm

It's crazy. I've been alcohol free for about a month and I'm experiencing the exact same things. 15 lbs so far, more money in the bank, 6 hrs of sleep and still full energy.

    anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:23am

    Great to hear, mikry. Sounds like only good things are happening for you. Keep going : )

anonymous Aug 27, 2015 9:22am

Great job, 10 years and counting for me.

    anonymous Sep 13, 2015 1:22am

    Awesome, @ThatSonyGuy — you must feel terrific!

anonymous Aug 27, 2015 8:14am

Awesome, Renee!

anonymous Aug 26, 2015 10:49pm

Cool! The advice on how to deal with social situations is invaluable. This weekend I'll be saying "I'd like an iced water with a piece of lime, please."

anonymous Aug 26, 2015 8:38pm

Awesome story, James. Thank you for sharing. You look really happy – it's definitely inspired me to live an alcohol-free life.

    anonymous Aug 27, 2015 8:15am

    Thank you, Steve. And you're welcome. Yes, only good things can come from reducing or quitting alcohol.

Sarah Bordeleau Jan 13, 2018 5:54pm

This is amazing how you improved your life! I did too and its been 6 months now, and i don't miss alcohol at all ! I feel better than ever :)

Perry's Reef Oct 15, 2017 3:17pm

This is great motivation without judgement, great job, well written!

Stephanie Wedryk Jun 4, 2017 3:57pm

12 years 3 months 21 days. Although my moment of revelation was harsher than James', I too felt sick and tired of being sick and tired. My life is better without alcohol. I am full of energy most days and sleep well most nights. I never worry about designated drivers, extra calories, hangovers, heartburn, the expense, or anything else. I am free.

Dwight Forcey May 18, 2016 9:58pm

this is great to read! i stopped drinking on mothers day about a week and a half ago and it has been amazing so far! I even went out with some of my best friends for a friends graduation celebration last week and had a blast without being the drunkest guy there (didn't drink at all). Also, I just played an open mic last night, here in Denver, which was the first time i have ever played music for people not drinking! It went very well. I'm so much happier as of late and this is very inspiring to just keep it going. Thanks!