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September 23, 2019

How I Stopped Drinking for 6 Months (and smoking)

Alcohol and going out to bars and pubs are a favorite way of passing time for most people in their 20s and early 30s.  I did it and I’m sure you did as well. But growing up I would periodically get anxiety that while I didn’t have a problem with booze, I wasn’t operating at my best capacity.  I knew I could get all the things I thought drinking would give me some other way.  

So I tried to stop and here’s what I learned. 

How did I stop drinking? I simply stayed busy with nightly gym classes and other hobbies during the evenings and once the clock passed 10 PM, I was out of the danger zone. It’s not really quitting the drinking that’s hard.  It’s the WANTING to quit drinking that you really have to question.  

In fact, most people don’t want to quit drinking, what they want to do is turn their life around.  And that’s where saying no to alcohol becomes step one. 

Of course, your experience may vary but aside from saying “you just have to do it”, for me the tactical advice of simply avoiding the prime time was how I got moving.  Then once I found myself at company events or stand up comedy shows with free booze in my face, I found other hacks to avoid the sauce that made it super easy. And trust me, stand up comedians drink a lot and this is not an easy profession to stay sober in. 

They’re a lot of factors that will make you realize that quitting drinking (or even smoking) isn’t that hard. 

It’s just like a diet.  

A little bit of discipline in those first 14 days makes the rest of it easy peezy. 

Knowing Why You Want to Quit Alcohol

I remembered hearing this podcast that featured James Swanwick that did it for me with really one quote, which was basically that he could make $200,000 in a whatever job for the rest of his life knowing he was operating at 75% capacity with pointless company outings, or he could make some big changes and at least know he was at 100%. 

I kept drinking for a few more months but that kind of just kept ringing in the back of my head. 

A couple of months later my wedding bills racked up, I noticed my bank balances going under levels I was comfortable with and also just knew I was capable of so much more. 

Real advice from the cities biggest bar owner.

So after one particular bender I stopped, thinking it would be for a month.  Given the podcast I heard earlier, it wasn’t even cold-turkey.

Just like brand awareness in digital marketing, I was actually quitting warm-turkey, as I was thinking about this for a while and my mental state was already prepped to the idea.

For me in particular, it was also the realization that thousands of drinking nights weren’t even that memorable.  It’s tough to say no to a beer when you’ve had a long day, but nobody who says no ever thinks the next day “Oh man I wish I had that beer last night.”   

In fact, most of us just say “Oh I’m so glad I didn’t have that beer last night because I don’t miss it at all and I feel great today.” 

I realized I wanted to quit because more than being the life of the party or having fun at comedy shows I was performing on, I really just wanted to be better at everything I was doing.  And duh, I wanted to make more money. 

So find your reason, whether it’s:

  • to be a better father,
  • lose weight,
  • make more money,
  • have better health
  • find a girlfriend or a boyfriend
  • or whatever it is.  

Then go drink some more. 

Quitting Alcohol Gradually

I used to be a heavy binge drinker.  I didn’t even have a problem. For all of 2018, I gave myself a rule that I would only drink on the weekends.  

But the second Friday 8 PM rolled around, guess what?  I went hard. Literally until Sunday at 11 PM. 

What’s the point of not drinking during the week if you’re just going to make up for all of it in 2.5 days? 

As mentioned above and as counter-intuitive as it sounds, once I knew I wanted to eventually stop the alcohol I kept drinking for a few months.  I started enjoying it less and less and that helped me not miss it at all after a few weeks once I did stop. 

You still will at least twice a month for a while though.  

How to Avoid Alcohol

Once you skip that first Friday or Saturday drinking with the same friends talking about the same garbage, you realize even after just one day it wasn’t so bad the next morning. 

The irony of course for me in my thirties now is that I still wake up feeling hungover or with a scratchy throat (I quit smoking on the same day also) but I guess that’s just age. 

A lot of people think if they quit drinking the managers and executives at the company meeting or dinner are going to look down at them. 

the Birdy Num Num Creative India podcast.

Or they think they’re friends will somehow be disappointed in them. 

Not really man. 

Your friends are just annoyed they don’t have a buddy to drink with, because it makes them feel bad rather than both of you being on a sinking ship. 

So how do you AVOID that part?

You don’t avoid the bars and pubs.  You also don’t make the same plans over and over. 

Start going to the gym or coffee shop or movies or mall or fun restaurants instead of straight to your local dive bar to avoid being around it.  But when your buddy calls you to see what the scene is for the evening, go ahead and continue to meet them. 

Just grab that diet coke.  Or say you’re sick. Or say you want to stay out even later once they’re ready to wind up. 

You’ll get a couple of “dude you’re so bored now” or “you’ve changed” but just like with a diet, those same people who want you to bite into the ice cream will be the same who commend you when you discovered you had abs after all. 

I used to quit alcohol for one month every year from 2012 to 2018 and I can tell you I never lost any friends those months or any time after. 

Related Questions

1. Should I quit alcohol with a friend? Yes, having a buddy system helps but it also goes off the rails easier when one of you starts drinking again.  You are ultimately the only one who is going to live with this decision for a long time so I say find your formula that works for you (e.g. announce it to the world or don’t, avoid outings or embrace them, etc..)

2. Is your life better after drinking? The ironic thing about stopping alcohol is that you won’t necessarily be more productive.  Plenty of teenagers and grown men in their 30s play video games all day eating Cheetos and don’t drink a single beer.  But they’re just as lazy and useless sometimes. But chances are the time and money you save not drinking will be just a fraction of the potential you unlock to spend time and money doing other things you’ll probably enjoy a lot more for your specific interests.  Whether it’s to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, getting promoted, having more time for your family or who knows what else. 

3. How do you quit Smoking? I personally found that if I quit drinking, I would naturally smoke less.  That eventually led me to going out less, and since I was out less and drunk less, cigarettes went from 10 a day to five a day to 2 a day until a day went by and I realized I hadn’t even had one.  Again, stay busy with things you enjoy aside from getting drunk and having the same conversations and all this stuff seems very trivial. 

Conclusion

If you recently quit or are thinking about, how do you plan to quit?

Alcohol is funny because the joke is you drink when you’re happy and you drink when you’re sad. But if that’s the case, what difference does it really make?

Read Next: Nice Guys Finish Last but What’s the Hurry (my most popular post)

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Nobody ever looks back on their pointless outings with colleagues and is glad they had those 5 beers instead of 4. Nobody ever actually meets girls or guys or their soulmates thanks to the beer they had while out with 9 guys.

Find out what you really want out of life and then find a way to to get it without alcohol, and then drink however you want.

Not the other way around.

2 Comments on “How I Stopped Drinking for 6 Months (and smoking)

Abhijit Mohanty
September 23, 2019 at 3:47 pm

What helped me quit smoking and drinking was changing my identity. I changed my dialogue from ” I don’t smoke anymore” to “I am a non-smoker”. Also changing environment and identifying triggers such as “Hey let’s go for a smoke after lunch” / “FriYaY bro let’s go drinking” helped a lot. Learnt these from Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s been 4 months and the transition has been easy.

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Sanjay Manaktala
September 24, 2019 at 1:27 am

thats amazing. I also learned that for the first time in my many years on this planet I could say no to going out on Friday night and for me it helped that my wife was anyways studying for her medical exams. makes sense, I’m not ready to say “I’m a non drinker” but I’m seven months in so lets see 🙂

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Let me know if this helped you or any comments?