So you’ve decided to cut back on drinking. Congratulations! Whether you’ve heard the scary correlation between alcohol and breast cancer (compared to women who don’t drink, just three standard drinks per week can increase your risk of breast cancer by 15%) or you just want to ditch the hangovers and feel your best, this is a massive win for your health

But let’s not gloss over the tricky reality of living alcohol free. While I’m a huge believer that life only improves once you reduce or cut out alcohol entirely, in the short term it can feel like grieving the loss of a good friend. 

Suddenly, big swathes of time open up, sans the comforting companion that a glass or two of vino might have provided, and even if you weren’t a problem drinker before, this new reality can be confronting. 

Who am I without a drink in my hand? Will people still like me? Do I remember how to be social without drinking? 

Three joyful women strolling through a field of blooming tulips
Fear not: fun thrives without alcohol. The best memories happen naturally, not because of drinks. Bonus: you’ll actually remember them, no more relying on those blurry iPhone pics!

Trust me, I get it. 

Because for years, dieting was my favourite pastime. Or at least, thinking about calories or weight loss took up so much headspace that I didn’t have time to have a hobby. And likewise, I was drinking alcohol every weekend so I was either drunk or hungover and recovering. There was no time to pursue passions, interests or have fun.

And so I thought the only way to have fun was drinking alcohol because that’s all I’d ever allowed into my life. 

The solution? Find enjoyable, soul-nourishing things to do instead of drinking alcohol that will fill your cup (erm, but not that cup.)

1. Figure out what lights you up!

So this is important. Know this. Dieting is not a hobby. Drinking alcohol is not a hobby. I often ask people what their hobby is and they often say something like “watching TV” or “going out with friends”. Those aren’t hobbies. The most interesting people I know have hobbies. 

I think one of the reasons we drink is so we can come across as more interesting and fun to people, to make up for the fact that we aren’t actually doing anything interesting or fun in our lives. Because if we were honest, all we’re really doing is working, or parenting or exercising. 

If this sounds like you, don’t panic. Now is actually the perfect time to find what it is that makes you, YOU.

You could try: 

  • Salsa lessons (and salsa clubs which prove you can have a flirty and fun time without the pop of bubbly) 
  • Hiking in the wilderness (groups like Wild Women On Top are perfect for finding like-minded outdoorswomen!)
  • Camping with marshmallows and deep conversations under the stars
  • Slow dancing with your partner as you cook dinner
  • Host dinner parties, where you make pasta from scratch, make the table beautiful while listening to Italian music
  • If you’re spiritual, you might find connecting to your higher power gives you more meaning than wine ever could. That might include going to yoga, meditating or going to church, or synagogue, or mosque

When you’re not drinking, you’ll have more money, time and energy to do the things you pin on your Pinterest board, and as a huge added bonus, each and every one provides a big distraction from drinking itself!

Multiple people dancing in a dimly lit room
What lights up your spark? Perhaps a little Salsa sizzle or hip-hop shimmy – sans lycra, of course? Now is the perfect time to find what it is that makes you, YOU.

2. Have a hot bath

It’s 7:30pm and perhaps you’ve put the kids to bed, with every cell screaming out for a slice of time to yourself to unfurl the coiled tensions of the day. And while every self-care hot take on the internet will list ‘having a bath’ as some kind of magic cure-all, I take a more pragmatic approach.

Will a bath cure you of the burnout brought on by the mental load, or magically restore the sleep debt you’ve been walking around with?

Absolutely not.

But neither will drinking every night, and by having a mindful, luxurious moment (light a few candles, add some magnesium and hide the rubber duckies out of view), you can create a temporary state of relaxation that will hopefully send you off into a deeper, more restorative sleep than you otherwise would have. For an extra boost, try leaving your phone in the other room and taking a book with you instead. 

3. Have a cold shower

Ok, hear me out. The increase in popularity of ice-baths, cold-plunging and cold immersion has been exponential over the last couple of years, but the research behind it is compelling.

Just two minutes spent in cold water (around 15 degrees celsius or cooler) has been shown to boost your natural dopamine levels by around 250% – for as long as four hours afterwards.

Stanford psychiatrist Dr Anna Lembke has even suggested this can help people with addiction issues deal with withdrawals and alcohol cravings, and there are many studies linking regular cold water immersion with improvements in anxiety and depression.

While it might not be a super-relaxing distraction from drinking, the rush of feel-good neurotransmitters you’ll experience afterwards will be worth it. Trust me!

4. Shift your schedule forward  

So many people I’ve spoken to who have embarked on the alcohol-free lifestyle have reported feeling at a loss for ways to socialise without drinking.

My tip?

Stop thinking of evenings as the only time available for social events.

Instead of a night out with the girlies for your birthday, a brekky picnic, sunrise hike or organised group activity (yoga? Cheese-making? A ceramics class?) is the perfect daylight activity.

Better yet, the topic of alcohol probably won’t even come up. 

Two women on playground swings facing each other smiling
Ditch the evening script and rise and shine with your squad!

5.  Find an addictive series, then microdose it

So much of the allure of that nightly glass or two of wine is steeped in habit and ritual. We’re all busy and burnt-out and time-poor, so we put a band-aid over the issue with a drop or two of Cab Sauv and it gets us through to the next day.

Soon, we’re drinking every night.

Instead, give yourself something else to look forward to.

Choose an excellent (ideally multi-seasoned) TV series and make a date with yourself or your partner to watch an episode each night. Put your phone away (I know, I sound like a broken record) and really allow yourself to be absorbed in it.

Now, here’s the kicker: only let yourself watch one episode per night. The anticipation and subsequent reward will fire off similar regions in your brain’s pleasure centre, without the hangover. 

Feeling unsure about telling people you’re taking a booze break? Got some FOMO or worries about how an alcohol-free lifestyle might impact your relationships?

The legendary Maz Compton and I have you covered with an audio guide that teaches you how to unwind, socialise and be fun – without a drink in your hand. You’ll go from FOMO to JOMO (joy of missing out) in no time!

Click here to listen to the first free episode!

What type of eater are you?

like an old school cosmo quiz