I Quit Drinking in April and I Swear It’s Transformed My Life

I reached a breaking point this past March. After a full month of events, dinners out, a huge event that descends upon Austin every year, plus a trip to London and Paris for work (and my birthday)—not to mention extended birthday celebrations once I returned—I realized that I had drank almost every single night during the month of March. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally feeling it. It was time for a break. If I’m being completely honest, it’s been time for a break for a while. 

Hitting a Breaking Point With Alcohol

What was once something I engaged with a few times during the week (if that) and rarely more than 2-3 glasses of wine or cocktails, slowly became more of a routine. Tough day at work? We should probably grab Mexican food and margs. Haven’t seen a friend in a while? Time to catch up at Happy Hour. Mondays, amiright? Let’s go to our favorite spot down the street for burgers and martinis. Celebrating a big win or overcoming a setback? Drinks to the rescue. 

The healthy habits I once swore by were thrown to the wayside. By the last week of March, everything felt like it was suffering. But above all, I simply didn’t feel good—and I didn’t want to feel like this for one more day. 

Woman reading on bed.

What I Learned From Quitting Drinking (For Now, At Least)

On the plane back from Paris, I looked at my calendar and made a plan. April 1st landed on a Monday, which felt like a great day for a fresh start. The irony of this day is not lost on me—OG readers might remember when I made a similar life change exactly 10 years ago on April 1, 2014. 

The goal was simple: I was going to take one month off of drinking entirely. And to clarify, I wasn’t “California Sober” during this time either. Nothing against that option, I just wanted to be substance-free while I reconnected with myself and my health. 

I knew I’d feel good giving up alcohol. Anytime I don’t drink, I sleep the best, I wake up feeling refreshed and clear, and 9 times out of 10, I’ll prioritize a workout before I get my day started. But readers, I didn’t expect to feel this good. In fact, so good that when April 30th rolled around, I vowed to take May off, too.

Now that we’re at the end of May, I’m going to keep going. For how long, I’m not sure. I’m taking it month-by-month. If you’re considering taking a break from alcohol, for any period of time, I hope the following reflections help and support you in some capacity.

Women talking at party.

The First “Event” is the Hardest

My friends hosted a birthday celebration for me on April 2nd, exactly one day after I decided to take the month off. It would’ve been easy for me to say, “screw it, I’ll start on the 3rd,” and I almost did. But as the Queen of negotiating with myself, I stuck to the plan. As my friends were pouring rosé, one handed me a glass and I said “Well, I just stopped drinking yesterday for the month, but maybe I’ll start tomorrow.” She responded: “Tell me more.”

I shared how I wanted to feel good, needed clarity on some things in life, and was craving my healthy routines once again. She immediately took the glass out of my hand and grabbed me a sparkling water. The rest of the night, it was no big deal. I had a great support system, no one talked about drinking, and I had a great evening.

There have been a series of firsts since I’ve taken a break: concerts, comedy shows, birthday parties, food festivals, dinners at my favorite spots, and happy hours. While it’s different to not order a drink, once I have a sparkling water in hand, I’m fine. I’m learning I don’t need the drink to enjoy the evening. 

Minimalist nightstand.

I’m Not Boring

I had a huge misconception about how I thought I’d be perceived. Listen, I’m a gal who loves to spark conversation, keep the evening going, and has zero problem commanding a room. I’m curious, I love to have fun, and make people laugh. Turns out, I love doing that dead sober, too.

Of course I knew this—I am the same Kelly during the workday as I am in the evening. But truth be told, I can’t remember a social event where I didn’t have a drink in hand. As a result, I thought I had to have the drink to be the fun and funny girl. 

In high school I was crowned “Most Talkative” and “Class Clown” and guess what? I was sober. I host a monthly speaker series where I interview creatives—and I’m always sober. Some things never change. I’ll always love to spark a conversation, and I’ll always love to make people laugh. Drinking or not. This is just my reminder to you that whatever story you’re telling yourself is likely untrue. 

Women hugging at party.

A Lot of People are Sober and/or Sober Curious

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared that I quit drinking for the month of April and now May, and people say “I’m inspired, I’ve wanted to do this too.” Or, “I honestly need to, it’s no longer serving me.”

I hear some variation of these words every single time I talk about it. This not only makes me feel less alone, but also a bit validated in my decision to take a break. Maybe it’s the age of my friend group, but we’re all high-performing, motivated, and busy people with projects, boards, or even kids. Drinking tends to take away from the things that need our time most.

As we’ve gotten older, it’s harder to recover from a night out. It’s also fascinating to me that younger generations do not drink like my adult peers do. They find it “lame” and a waste of time. Maybe the kids are alright after all?

Also, y’all remember when Anne Hathaway broke the internet for announcing she’s five years sober? Again: more people than you think. 

Sanne Vloet reading on bed.

I’m Saving So Much Money

Let’s do the math. Say I went out four times per week for either a gathering or dinner and had three drinks every evening. Most drinks at restaurants are anywhere between $12-$20 pending the spot, so I’ll go with $15. Add a tip and that’s about $215 per week. Not including food or bites.

Now, I certainly didn’t go out four times every single week, but on busier months or months of back-to-back travel and hosting, easily. 

When I got really clear on the money I was spending, it became a no-brainer to take a break and re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol. Not only was I throwing money away, but you can probably guess how many workouts I woke up for after those nights out. (Not many.)

Woman walking in Joshua tree home.

It’s Been Easier Than I Thought

Note: I know that taking a break and/or quitting alcohol is extremely hard for some. This is not to take away from that or anyone’s experience. 

Camille and I went on a walk a few weeks back, and she asked me how I’ve been able to stick with my commitment to not drinking. My most honest answer: I just choose not to drink right now.

It’s been a very easy decision for me to make. There hasn’t been anything that’s been tempting enough to feel better than the best sleep of my life and waking up feeling refreshed. I’m not wasting days feeling off. My energy is high. I’m not pushing hard through work. I commit to my workouts. I’m not making poor food choices, and I’m not easily-annoyed. Right now, there’s not an Aperol spritz or margarita that could make me feel different. And to be clear, “one drink” was never the problem—it was the times I chose to have more. 

There hasn’t been anything that’s been tempting enough to feel better than the best sleep of my life and waking up feeling refreshed.

No One Cares

I say this kindly, but no one is focused on you not drinking. How many nights do you look back on and say, “It was fun, but (insert name) didn’t drink.” My guess is none.

No one is thinking about your choices. If anything, they’re likely examining their own and probably tempering their decisions that evening. If I could share one piece of advice, it’s this: You do you. Do not worry what anyone else thinks.

If your friends don’t find you fun because you’re not drinking, you need a new friend group. The people you surround yourself with should be hyping you up and taking care of you. 

Skincare products.

My Skin is Glowing

I have some redness and rosacea—yay hormones and aging. And guess what exacerbates both? You got it, drinking. I have done nothing but remove alcohol and drink more water and I get complimented on my skin every single time I run into a friend. The redness has calmed down, I rarely get a rosacea flare unless I’m nearing my cycle, and everything appears brighter. (Even the whites of my eyes!) It’s unreal what 60 days of zero alcohol can do. 

I Have an Abundance of Clarity

My mind has never felt more sharp, creative, and clear. I’ve had a few heavy months in April and May going through a big life change. During that time, it was important to be alcohol-free so I could be as clear as possible, sit with my feelings in the most authentic way, and show up for myself without any distractions.

There were so many days that I didn’t feel like I could make a solid decision because I didn’t sleep well or my energy was off. Now, I have never felt more authentically attuned to my thoughts and feelings. I’ve been able to address them, respond to them (and others) in a true capacity. Plus, feeling like I’ve got my creative edge back feels so refreshing. I’ve missed it. 

Mary Ralph reading on couch.

I’ve Reconnected With My Authentic, Creative Self

I finally feel “back.” I’ve been walking or running on the trails almost every single morning since April 1st. It’s my spot for movement. The trail is where I go to catch up with friends, listen to a podcast, work out a problem, or spark some creativity. I’ve had a few friends even comment on my Instagram stories when I post a pic of the trail, “Yay, you’re back to you!” or “I love seeing you get back to yourself.” 

Earlier this year, a dear friend of mine sat me down and said they could tell something was different in me. I wasn’t doing the things that I once loved, and I was losing some of that “Kelly sparkle.” (Their words.) And they were right. For a large portion of 2023, I felt disconnected from a lot of things that brought me joy, kept me healthy, and made me shine and soar. But after having that conversation, I promised myself I’d make changes to get back to myself.

I don’t have the words to describe how good it feels to reconnect with myself. It’s a deeply personal thing—and an experience that’s different for everyone. But I know that taking a break from alcohol has contributed immensely.

Drinking Was My Default

Name any social event and I’d typically head straight to the bar, even before beginning my evening. It was a mindless, default activity. When I went to a food and wine festival this past weekend, I thought it would be harder than it was. I’ve been attending this event for years and typically host or go out for pre-fest cocktails, then continue the evening in the same form until the wee hours when most of us would head to the after party.

But this year, I rolled up to the event, grabbed some sparkling water, and enjoyed my evening. It was as simple as that. Half of my group of friends weren’t drinking either and I didn’t even notice. Why? Because no one makes as big of a deal about drinking as I thought.

That evening was perfect. I got home at a decent time, fell asleep in an instant, and was up bright and early for a workout. The festival was as great as it had been in the past, if not better because I was intentional about my entire evening. 

Just because you’ve always done something, doesn’t mean you need to continue it. What once served you may not anymore.

I thought the evening would be hard, but it was the exact opposite. My therapist always tells me this when I’m thinking about the worst possible case scenario, “If you’re willing to think about the worst case, you have to be willing to think about the best case, too.” 

Camille Styles arranging flowers.

The Takeaway

I don’t know if I will go back to alcohol and what it will look like if I do. Right now, I am simply loving the way I feel, and I can’t find a good enough excuse to introduce it back into my life. It feels wild to me to type this. So much of my personality has focused on Sommelier courses and learning the world of wine. There are still many restaurants and bartenders in Austin that bring out one of my favorite drinks knowing it was my go-to. 

But just because something once was the default, doesn’t mean it has to be anymore. So for right now, as I type this, I’m enjoying my time without adding alcohol to the equation. Who knows, perhaps you will too.

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