Thinking of quitting alcohol in 2020?
I previously wrote about my experience of giving up alcohol in December 2018, and what I have learned in the 12 months that have followed.
In this article I share some of my top tips if you are also considering going sober.
1. Do it with a partner, friend or ‘buddy‘
For her own reasons, my girlfriend also wanted to give up alcohol around the same time as I did. If your partner is thinking the same as you, or even if you have some good friends on the same wavelength, this is great news for you all.
Not only does it help to inspire and encourage each other, and hold each other accountable. It also really helps having somebody that you spend a lot of time with being interested in pursuing non-drinking activities.
2. Discover the world outside pubs
When you’re used to spending most weekends at the local, it can seem daunting at first to know what to do with yourself.
But open your mind – and your Internet browser – and you will quickly discover that alcohol is far from the be-all and end-all. In fact, there are more people meeting up in community groups, pursuing common interests, playing sports, practicing art, supporting each other, and generally enjoying life than you would have ever discovered whilst propping up the bar.
Use apps like Facebook Local, Meetup, or local community forums – or even the bulletin board at your local supermarket or post office – to discover people like you having fun and connecting with each other in all kinds of ways. Having a great time without ever setting foot in a pub.
3. Discover alcohol free alternatives
Giving up alcohol has never been easier.
In the 1990s Britain I grew up in, it used to be that the ‘designated driver’ (the only acceptable reason for somebody to not be boozing) would spend a the evening sipping Coca-Cola or Lemonade. Forego the booze at your peril, because it came with the increased risk of diabetes. But those days are thankfully long-gone.
After quitting alcohol your mind will definitely at some point attempt to trick you into thinking you ’need a drink’. You don’t need one. However, having something that looks and tastes like what your mind thinks it needs will be of great use in these moments.
If you’re a beer lover then you no longer need to fear the insipid taste of Kaliber as your only choice. No, the quality and diversity of alcohol free beer is increasing at an impressive rate. With absolutely zero exceptions, every bar, pub and most restaurants I have been to this year have had alcohol-free beer options. From tiny bars in ‘Brits-abroad’ holiday resorts, to gig venues, to small, family-run Portuguese restaurants.
From alcohol-free versions of well-known labels, to craft beer options, it is genuinely true to say that I have somehow drunk more beer in 2019 than I have in any year since my University days. They just all happen to be non-alcoholic. Here are some of my favourites:
I wasn’t a fan of the regular Grolsch, but somehow the 0% version does a fantastic job of satisfying the craving for a refreshing and crisp lager.
If you enjoy the 6.6% Leffe Blond beer then you’ll love this alcohol free version, which carries all of the taste, without the light head.
Ghost Ship (Adnams)
I didn’t think I would find a replacement for a good, old-fashioned pint of ale. But Adnams have done it with Ghost Ship.
The following well known labels all produce zero or below 1% versions that I’ve tried and enjoyed this past year: Heineken, Peroni, San Miguel, Estrella, Becks, Brew Dog (Nanny State).
Add to this the growing availability of alcohol free wine and spirits:
Our local off license stocks a good selection of alcohol-free wines that pass the taste test.
Meanwhile Seedlip’s range of alcohol free gins are becoming broadly available in bars across the UK. I’ve even enjoyed it onboard flights.
Sceptical of the idea of alcohol-free spirits? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
4. Replace old habits with new
As I discuss in The Power Up Your Life Workbook, it’s much easier to switch an undesirable habit for a more positive one than it is to quit an ingrained behaviour all together. To do this effectively, it helps to understand that habits consist of three stages: Cue, routine and reward.
For example, your ‘cue’ might be the end of the working week, your ‘routine’ might be heading to the pub with colleagues, and your ‘reward’ might be a cold pint or a bittersweet Negroni. If this is your in-built routine, it’s going to be very difficult to just suddenly stop.
In most instances, the cue is difficult to change. You will continue to finish the working week every Friday. You will likely continue to feel emotional peaks and troughs. You will still be invited to parties, weddings, stag dos etc. But what you can change are the routines and rewards associated with those cues.
For example, you could switch your routine of heading to the pub after work on a Friday with something more healthy, like joining a 5-a-side team, going to a yoga class, or making a regular date to play tennis with a colleague.
Or you can change the reward. For example switching out your usual pint or Negroni for a non-alcoholic version like those listed above.
5. What to do at parties
At some point you’ll find yourself in a situation where drinking is expected. Or where your associations with drinking are strong. For instance, parties, weddings, stag dos…
As the goal is to give up drinking, not give up on living, fight the urge to decline all invitations. Instead attend with a steely determination to prove to yourself and others that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time.
It will be strange at first. And if you’re partying with Brits you might need to be prepared to initially justify why you’re not drinking. This behaviour I’ve noticed is peculiarly unique to British people. None of my European friends or those from other countries tend to bat an eyelid, or show a particular interest in what I am or am not drinking – yet Brits seem especially attuned to the contents of other people’s glasses. And more concerned that people who choose to not drink might be party poopers.
The key thing to note here is that you don’t have to justify your choices to anybody. People might enquire “Why aren’t you drinking?” This doesn’t mean you need to give them any other answer than, “I don’t want to.” Or “I’m taking a break.” Of course, if you have a detailed reason and you want to share it, then by all means do. Just know that you don’t have to.
But once that initial part is over. Once you’ve declined one or two offers of a beer or a wine, it gets much easier. The conversation will move on, the party will continue, and you’ll feel pretty pleased with yourself for notching up this little victory.
Other benefits of not drinking at parties include:
- Your conversation won’t become increasingly non-sensical as the evening progresses
- You’ll leave when you want to leave and not be drawn into staying until the bitter end
- You won’t make promises or commitments to people you’ll later have to excuse yourself out of
- You’ll remember everything clearly the next day – not missing all of the little details that can genuinely make a party memorable
This is, of course, another scenario when having your own non-alcoholic alternatives will be beneficial. You’ll probably feel more at ease, and you might fool a few people too.
Quitting alcohol can feel daunting at first. But stick with it. Know that the benefits by far outweigh any of the perceived challenges.
I hope you have found these tips to be useful, and I wish you the best of luck if you are considering making this brilliantly rewarding lifestyle change.