Are you thinking about giving up alcohol? After many months of excess maybe you've decided enough is enough. If so, you're not the only one.
I gave up drinking in November 2019 - not because I was physically dependant on alcohol, or the booze was outwardly ruining my life - but, because I was bored of being hungover, wasting my weekends, worrying about what I'd said, done, posted or text after one too many.
Giving up isn't just for people who've hit rock bottom and need AA, it's for anyone who's decided drinking alcohol is taking away more from their life than it's giving. And, I’m not the only one. There are a growing number of ‘sober curious’ people out there who've been swayed by the benefits of not drinking alcohol and decided they want to live a healthier lifestyle, without the beer belly, dehydrated skin, short temper and ‘hang-xiety’.
According to Alcohol Change (opens in new tab), the people behind Dry January, since 2005 the proportion of people reporting drinking and the amount being drunk have fallen. This trend is especially pronounced among younger drinkers.
Millie Gooch, founder of Sober Girl Society explains: "It’s a perfect storm of a lot of things but I think there are two main reasons. "Firstly, we're more conscious of what we’re putting in our bodies. It started with gluten and meat, and now we’ve moved to alcohol. The second is that we’re becoming more open and aware of mental health and we’re starting to question the impact alcohol could be having on things like stress and anxiety." She also agrees that people aren't turning their backs on alcohol just because it's ruined their lives, but because people don't want to feel its effects any longer.
"That’s becoming a real turning point", she told Goodto. "We’re recognising that there’s a whole host of grey area drinkers who don’t have the traditional ‘problem’ that we all think of when it comes to drinking but their drinking is becoming a problem because it’s negatively impacting their life, whether that’s the effects of alcohol on their skin, their physical health, mental health, productivity, sleep, friendships etc."
If you’re serious about giving up alcohol, but you’re worried how you’ll manage to stick to it, then you might find some of these ideas useful.
Giving up alcohol: Tried-and-tested tips
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1. I read 'quit lit'
There are loads of great books out there offering advice on how to stop drinking. They range from very personal accounts of addiction to motivational guides and psychology-based books, aimed at changing your mindset, so you view drinking differently.
First up, I read Catherine Grey's The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober (opens in new tab). This best-selling book has been everywhere in the last couple of years.
- The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober - View on Amazon (RRP £6.97) (opens in new tab)
I loved Catherine’s honest and heartbreaking account of how booze affected her relationships, health and career as a magazine journalist. As well as recounting her rock bottom moments and inspirational recovery, she also shares some brilliant practical advice for enjoying a sober life. Unbeknown to me at the time, reading this was the first step I’d taken to giving up alcohol.
If you've already bought The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, you might want to also check out The Unexpected Guide to Being Sober Journal (opens in new tab).
Next up, was The Sober Diaries (opens in new tab). Mum of three Clare Pooley wrote this book following the success of her hugely popular blog, Mummy was a Secret Drinker, which she started after deciding to stop drinking the ten bottles of wine she was consuming each week.
- The Sober Diaries - View at Amazon (RRP £9.99) (opens in new tab)
She gets through it without any anxiety-laden hangovers, and in this very funny and relatable book, she also shares how sobriety helped her lose loads of weight, gain huge amounts of confidence and become a better mother. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?
Other great books on giving up alcohol
How to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This method seeks to undo all of the brainwashing you've been exposed to about alcohol. Promises to help you quit - without the need for willpower! It really works.
- View How to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This Naked Mind by Annie Grace - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Annie Grace is the queen of sobriety - so many people credit this book with helping them finally quit. It's packed with psychological insights into why we drink, and why we don't need it - as well as explainers on the physical effects.
- View This Naked Mind by Annie Grace at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Alcohol Explained by William Porter - View at Amazon
(opens in new tab)RRP: £9.99
This self-published no-nonsense book has become a sensation and answers all the questions you have about how alcohol affects your body and mind. Follow the Facebook group for weekly live Q&As with the author.
- View Alcohol Explained by William Porter at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Written by journalist, mental health campaigner, and mum Bryony Gordon, this is a raw account of her addiction to alcohol and cocaine, which for many people often go hand-in-hand.
- View Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Mrs D is Going Without by Lotta Dann - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
An inspirational memoir from one mum, who found wine o'clock was getting out of hand. Sounds familiar? You may easy relate... The book was inspired by the author's blog. If you liked the Sober Diaries, you'll love this.
- View Mrs D is Going Without by Lotta Dann at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Written by the founder of Hip Sobriety, this is a funny and clever look at society's obsession with drink, and how to rebel against it.
- View Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Kick the Drink... Easily! by Jason Vale - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
A hard-talking approach to quitting, that you can read in one sitting. Jason Vale's belief 'there's no such thing as an alcoholic (as society understands it)' will change the way you look at drinking to excess.
- View Kick the Drink... Easily! by Jason Vale at Amazon (opens in new tab)
The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
An ilustrated guide full of practical advice on giving up alcohol, written by the founders of One Year, No Beer.
- View The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns at Amazon (opens in new tab)
We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen - View at Amazon (opens in new tab)
A beautifully written and heartbreaking memoir that's filled with useful advice - once you read the shocking introduction you'll be hooked.
- View We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Sunshine Warm Sober by Catherine Gray - View at Amazon (opens in new tab) RRP: £22
As Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, heads towards ten years of being sober, she explores her alcohol-free journey in her trademark funny, disruptive and warm way.
- View Sunshine Warm Sober by Catherine Gray (opens in new tab)
2. I tried Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Drinking Alcohol
If you wish you could change your mindset so alcohol doesn’t have a hold over you anymore, I urge you follow Allen Carr’s Easyway to Control Alcohol.
This method, which has been credited by dozens of celebrities for helping them quit various addictions, seeks to undo all of the brainwashing you've been exposed to about drink, and encourages you to see yourself as free from alcohol rather than it being something you’re painfully trying to withdrawal from.
It also makes you question what benefits, if any, you’re getting from alcohol – so you no longer feel like you're missing out on anything, because you decided on giving up alcohol.
As well as reading the book (opens in new tab), I also attended Allen Carr’s Easyway to Give Up Alcohol workshop in London (there are several around the UK). This full-day session is led by someone who’s also given up following the method. This reinforced everything I’d read but also offered the opportunity to ask questions and hear about other people’s experiences in the group.
There’s also a hypnotherapy section at the end – and absolutely no role-play or group exercises, don’t worry! This was a game-changer for me, and also had the added benefit of helping you set a very clear date in your diary for quitting - as you won't ever want a drink again after leaving the session. And if you do, you can attend again for free. Allen Carr is also the author of the bestseller, The Easyway to Stop Smoking (opens in new tab).
3. I downloaded the 'I am Sober' app
There are quite a few apps around that can help you track the number of days you’ve given up something, but I’d say the top-rated I Am Sober app is the best. when it comes to giving up alcohol. Here are a few of the things I like about it:
- It sends you daily motivation quotes each morning
- It not only tracks how many days you’ve done sober, but also tells you how much money you’ve saved, which is shocking!
- It sets regular and achievable milestones
- There’s a very lively and supportive community section
- You can track several things at once, ideal if you’re planning to give up more than one vice
4. I signed up for an online course on giving up alcohol
I signed up to Club Soda’s course. They have two - one which helps you drink mindfully, and the one I did, which helps you stop drinking. You can sign up anytime and throughout the month, you’ll receive daily motivational emails, including exercises, quizzes, videos and downloadable e-books. This all helps by teaching you how to deal with social situations, understanding what triggers your drinking and also encourages you to reflect on your progress. The courses costs £50 each.
There are also a few other online courses you can join if you're giving up alcohol, though bear in mind some of them go ‘live’ with a set start date.
- The Alcohol Experiment: The Naked Mind author Annie Grace has produced a 30 Day Experiment online course. I haven’t tried it, but it’s had great reviews. You can also download the FREE app, which includes lots of really useful resources - including daily video lessons. You can start at any time and when you sign up, you're automatically added to a chat room as well, so you can talk to other people who've just started the course. Daily lessons include, for example - Why We Think We Like to Drink, Why Will Power Doesn't Work For Long, and How Alcohol Affects Your Senses.
- Alcohol Explained: William Porter, author of Alcohol Explained, also offers an online course for £42. This contains everything in the Alcohol Explained book, and Alcohol Explained 2 - in an interactive/audiobook format. He also offers a lot of other useful information for free on his website - including regular blog features and podcasts. You can also buy the Alcohol Explained Workbook (opens in new tab), written as an accompaniment to the AE books, so you can apply those learnings to your own experiences by working through some step-by-step tasks.
- UK Smart Recovery support groups: UK Smart Recovery offers regular weekly support groups, which you can attend online. They also provide meetings for family and friends.
- Alcoholics Anonymous: And, did you know that you can attend UK AA meetings online? You can also join hundreds of other AA meetings around the world online as well.
Millie agrees that keeping yourself accountable and having a goal can really help you stick to your plan.
"Having something to push you to the finish line is always helpful," she advises. "Sign up for a challenge, like Dry January at Alcohol Change, or Stoptober too - you’re twice as likely to stick with it if you do!
"It's also worth remembering that the average person saves around £200 not drinking for a month so if you’re planning on Dry January, start by choosing something (whether that’s a bag or a holiday or a really expensive meal) and promising yourself that you will buy it if you succeed."
5. I signed up to sobriety podcasts
Podcasts are just brilliant for lots of things, whether that's the best podcasts for mental health or in my case for sobriety. There are dozens of high-quality productions to choose from, featuring inspirational sobriety stories, motivational explainers, and Q&As - these are some of my favourites:
- How I quit alcohol: My favourite podcast is presented by musician and sober coach Danni Carr. In each series, she chats to ex-binge drinkers, alcoholics in recovery, drug and alcohol counsellors. It's always so positive, and entertaining - and full of kind and empathetic advice.
- Alcohol Free Life: Hosted by BBC presenter Janey Lee Grace, this motivational podcast offers loads of advice for giving up alcohol - but also discusses broader issues around self-care. So, along with tips on reducing alcohol cravings and whether or not moderation works, you'll also find talks on dealing with anxiety, sober fitness, and improving self-esteem.
- The Recovery: DJ Fat Tony chats to a host of celebrities who've recovered from various traumas, including addictions to drugs and alcohol. Guests include Davina MacCall, Russell Brand, Lily Allen and Kelly Osbourne. Be warned, he shouts a lot - but preserve as the guests really open up and have a lot of interesting (and sometimes shocking) things to share.
- Alcohol Explained: William Porter doesn't seem to have a podcast platform, as such - but he does do weekly Facebook Live Q&A sessions and interviews. These are then shared on his YouTube channel and on his website, where he also shares links to podcasts he has featured on. This makes it a bit harder to scroll through, but it's definitely worth the effort. Mr Porter has such a huge and dedicated following online thanks to his incredibly knowledgeable and no-nonsense approach. Hundreds of people credit him for changing their relationship with alcohol - he was inspired by Allen Carr and is like the male Annie Grace in the sober world.
6. I drank non-alcoholic drinks
In the world of non-drinkers, non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits are VERY controversial. Many argue they should be totally avoided as they are dangerous triggers, and only remind people of what they’re missing, thereby dragging them onto that slippery slope.
But for many others, myself included, they’re a life-saver. I’ve spent several nights in pubs drinking non-alcoholic beers and no one has even noticed I’m off the booze, which is handy if you want to avoid any awkward questions, or can’t be bothered to defend your decision not to feel horrendous the next day.
It definitely feels like there's some kind of psychologically soothing effect of cracking open that booze-free beer or popping that ‘Nosecco’ cork. I learnt recently that it takes alcohol seven minutes to hit the brain, so perhaps it’s not too dissimilar to that fake initial ‘relief’ you get when drinking the real thing.
If you want to buy a non-alcoholic drink, these are the ones that are most commonly recommended by people in the know - along with a few of my favourites. Note, that most some are 0.5%, but this is so low it's technically considered to be AF (alcohol-free):
- BrewDog Nanny State (opens in new tab) (0.5%) - widely considered to the best non-alcoholic beer
- Brooklyn Special Effects (opens in new tab) (0.4%) – an award-winning craft lager, which tastes like the real thing
- Becks Blue (opens in new tab) (0.05%) – found in most pubs these days, reasonably priced and tastes pretty good
- Nozecco (opens in new tab) (0.5%) - a lot of people like this, but it does taste rather sweet
- Freixenet non-alcoholic sparkling wine (0.0%) - top-rated but also sweet, and people love the rose version too
- Crodino (opens in new tab) (0.0%)– I discovered this while on holiday in Italy, this non-alcoholic aperitif is a perfect alternative to a boozy Aperol Spritz!
7. I made the most of my hangover-free mornings
One of the best things about giving up alcohol - alongside the better sleep, weight loss, clearer skin and having more money - is gaining back the time I would've spent hungover on the sofa.
According to Drinkaware, giving up alcohol will make you healthier - something I wanted to capitalise on with my new found free time. It can reduce your risk of developing seven types of cancer, as well as reducing the risk of liver or heart disease. Giving up alcohol lower your blood pressure.
Now I've reclaimed my weekends, I decided to make the most of my newfound time and energy by running. I know it's not for everyone, but I'd definitely suggest trying to find something you love that you had neither the time or the energy for after drinking. You could start out with 15 minute workouts or it could be something non-exercise related such as baking or simply arranging more early morning outings with the kids.
I actually started running a couple of years ago, but stopped when my hangovers started lasting several days. Back then, I couldn’t run for more than two minutes without wanting a break, but, I very gradually worked my way up to 5k with the Couch to 5k podcast. This is a brilliant and FREE podcast of guided runs that very gradually build up, until before you know it you can run for 30 minutes without stopping.
I moved on from 5K and downloaded a running app by Verv (opens in new tab) recently (pictured below). Along with the 5K it also includes other gradual workouts to help you reach 10K, a half marathon or a full marathon.
The plus side of this one, is you can choose between plenty of different soundtracks (I love the 80s feel good mixes) – and it also tracks your distance, speed, GPS route and calories burned.
8. I watched films and documentaries
I also loved watching films and documentaries about people who have stopped drinking alcohol or giving up other painful addictions. Here are a few of my favourites:
Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion
Louis Theroux meets patients admitted to the liver transplant centre at King's College Hospital, London. It's not an easy watch. Many of the people interviewed are in the midst of very painful alcohol addiction but are still determined to carry on. Filmed in 2016.
Watch Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion on Amazon Prime (opens in new tab)
Drinkers Like Me - with Adrian Chiles
I'm sure so many social drinkers will empathise with Adrian Chiles in this very honest and entertaining documentary. He looks at how his habitual drinking has crept up dramatically over the years, to the point where he can't imagine enjoying life without it. He also realises the serious toll it's taken on his health.
Watch Drinkers Like Me - with Adrian Chiles on YouTube (opens in new tab)
Based on the bestselling memoirs of David and Nic Sheff. This film follows the story of a father and son and they struggle to deal with the younger's addiction. Every time you think he can't sink any lower, it gets worse. Totally heartbreaking.
Watch Beautiful Boy on Amazon Prime (opens in new tab)
Rachel Getting Married
Anne Hathaway is amazing in this film! It's one of those painfully raw, realistic films - that almost feels like a documentary. Although she's living in a rehab centre, she's allowed to go home for her sister's wedding - where she causes total chaos.
Watch Rachel Getting Married on Amazon Prime (opens in new tab)
When Love Is Not Enough - The Lois Wilson Story
An interesting film based on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. This tells the story of the co-founder Bill W and his relationship with his wife Louis Wilson, who went on to set up family support groups.
Watch When Love Is Not Enough on Amazon Prime (opens in new tab)
My Name Was Bette
This film is grim. It starts by telling you how Bette's dead body was discovered, several weeks after dying of alcoholism, surrounded by rubbish in a home that was falling apart. Then it lists all of the ways her poor body had gradually broken down due to her addiction.
Watch My Name is Bette on Amazon Prime (opens in new tab)
Million Little Pieces
Based on the semi-fictional book by James Frey, this film follows a writer who spends two months detoxing from his addictions. Lots of dramatic scenes, and some interesting characters.
Watch Million Little Pieces on Amazon Prime (opens in new tab)
More of a rom-com than a serious look at alcohol addiction, this is a more light-hearted transformation film. After destroying her sister's wedding, Sandra Bullock's character is forced to confront her issue with alcohol, then enters rehab and comes out 28 days later.
Watch 28 days on Netflix (opens in new tab)
9. I joined Facebook groups and followed Instagrammers
There are so many Facebook groups, full of people determined to stop drinking, including the Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and Club Soda. I also follow Alcohol Explained, and Soberful (which has a great podcast as well) I found these really inspiring and very supportive. I loved reading about how people have reached big milestones, transformed their lives and dealt with very tricky situations – and there are plenty of responders offering advice when it's needed too. Instagram is also a great place for motivation. A few of my favourite accounts include:
A post shared by SOBER GIRL SOCIETY™ (@sobergirlsociety) (opens in new tab)
A photo posted by on
- Sober Girl Society: Founded by Millie Gooch - the Sober Girl Society has a whopping 179,000 followers that proudly calls itself "The community for sober + sober curious women". In addition to helpful information and guidance posts on staying sober is the bi-weekly virtual meetup that people can attend too.
- Sober Celebrities: Sometimes a little motivation from the stars can help point you in the write direction. Because all the money and status in the world still carries addiction and dependence problems. Enter @SoberCelebrities, created "to destigmatize addiction and inspire those who still suffer."
- Alcohol Explained: Follow William Porter of @AlcoholExplained for everyday guidance and updates on his latest books, blog posts, workshops and live Q&A sessions - all designed to aid individuals on their path towards sobriety.
If you think you have a serious physical addiction to alcohol, seek medical advice.
- Effects of alcohol on skin and how to repair the damage
- 18 of the best low calorie alcohol drinks
- 16 amazing health benefits of ditching the booze
Video of the week:
Anna Bailey is the editor of GoodTo. She joined the team in June 2018 but has been a lifestyle writer and online editor for more than 14 years. Anna graduated from Bournemouth University in 2004 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism and went on to gain her NCTJ and NCE journalism qualifications. She began her career in local journalism, working as a reporter for the Basingstoke Gazette in Hampshire. As Lifestyle Editor for ITV.com she managed the websites for the broadcaster’s best-loved shows including This Morning, Loose Women, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Coleen's Real Women, and Britain's Best Dish. Before joining Goodto.com she was also a Features Editor at MSN UK and Digital Lifestyle Editor for the broadcaster UKTV. She’s also contributed to The Mirror, The Sun, LoveFood, LoveExploring, and TBSeen.
- Millie GoochContributor
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