30 ideas on how to give up alcohol, from people who have given up alcohol!
Here at Hello Sunday Morning we know what a huge question ‘should I give up alcohol’? can be to even put out to the universe. It’s not easy to give up something that’s incorporated into your daily dinner, salubrious socialising, or relaxation routine. We know how hard it is for our community and our Daybreak members to give up alcohol, but we also know the huge benefits that come from a life with less or no booze; weight loss, mental clarity, no hangovers, peace of mind and much more time to focus on your goals, just to mention a few. And guess what?! Our Daybreak community is so supportive, encouraging and resourceful they are constantly offering suggestions on getting over the first few hurdles in giving up alcohol and in staying sober.
Whether you’re a bookworm, audiophile, couch potato or app aficionado, below is a comprehensive list of resources on getting sober for everyone seeking help in giving up alcohol.
Books about giving up alcohol recommended by our community
- Alcohol Explained by William Porter
This book explains how alcohol affects human beings on a chemical, physiological and psychological level, from those first drinks right up to chronic alcoholism. The book provides a logical, easy to follow explanation of the phenomenon and detailed instructions on how to beat it.
- The Naked Mind by Annie Grace
Annie Grace presents the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use based on the latest science, and reveals the cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us. Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, this book will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture, and how the stigma of alcoholism and recovery keeps people from getting the help they need.
- Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola
Sarah often blacked out after a night drinking, waking up with a blank space where four hours should have been. Mornings became detective work on her own life. What did I say last night? How did I meet that guy? She apologised for things she couldn’t remember doing, as though she were cleaning up after an evil twin. Her tale will resonate with anyone who has been forced to reinvent or struggled in the face of necessary change. It’s about giving up the thing you cherish most – but getting yourself back in return.
- The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley
Like many women, Clare Pooley found the juggle of a stressful career and family life a struggle, so she left her successful role as a managing partner in one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies to look after her family. She knew the change wouldn’t be easy, but she never expected to find herself an overweight, depressed, middle-aged mother of three who was drinking more than a bottle of wine a day and spending her evenings Googling ‘am I an alcoholic?’
- Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
Caroline Knapp was a successful woman with her own apartment, a steady boyfriend and a career in newspaper journalism. Beneath her polished veneer was a person so broken and insecure she drank herself into a stupor every night. This is her account of her twenty-year love affair with alcohol.
Craig Beck was a successful and functioning professional man in spite of a ‘two bottles of wine a night’ drinking habit. For 20 years, he struggled with problem drinking, all the time refusing to label himself an alcoholic because he did not think he met the stereotypical image that the word portrayed. All these ‘willpower’ based attempts to stop drinking, failed. Slowly he discovered the truth about alcohol dependence and, one by one, all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart.
- A Girl Walks Out of A Bar by Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith was a bright young lawyer at a prestigious law firm in NYC when alcoholism and drug dependence took over her life. What was once a way she escaped her insecurity and negativity as a teenager became a means of coping with the anxiety and stress of an impossible workload. The book is a candid portrait of alcoholism through the lens of gritty New York realism. Beneath the façade of success lies the reality of dependence.
- Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
The New York Times Bestseller tells the story of Augusten Burroughs. You’ve seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve. At the request (well, it wasn’t really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. are immediately dashed by grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers.
- Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a specific lie Hollis once believed that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a woman who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mind-sets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward.
- Why Can’t I Drink Like Everyone Else? A Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding Why You Drink and Knowing How to Take a Break by Rachel Hart
If you’ve ever struggled with drinking too much and want to learn how to take a break without feeling like you’re missing out on life, look no further. Rachel wrote Why Can’t I Drink Like Everyone Else? to share with people the tools she uses with her private clients and to show people that you can answer this question without labels or shame.
- Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett
In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.
- The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Russ Harris
A guide to ACT – the revolutionary mindfulness-based program for reducing stress, overcoming fear, and finding fulfilment. Popular ideas about happiness are misleading, inaccurate, and directly contribute to the current epidemic of stress, anxiety & depression. In this empowering book, Dr Harris provides the means to escape the happiness trap.
- Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington
Drawing on research, expert interviews, and personal narrative, Sober Curious is a radical takedown of the myths that keep so many of us drinking. Inspiring, timely, and blame-free, Sober Curious is both conversation starter and handbook – essential information that empowers listeners to transform their relationship with alcohol so they can lead their most fulfilling lives. It’s available as a book and audiobook.
Further to his book above, Craig is a self-proclaimed ‘stop drinking expert’ and ‘quit drinking coach’ and offers Youtube videos, a bootcamp and personal coaching for those looking to give up alcohol.
Kevin Griffin is a Buddhist author, teacher, and leader in the mindful recovery movement. Kevin teaches internationally in Buddhist centres, treatment centres, professional conferences, and academic settings. He specialises in helping people in recovery to connect with meditation and a progressive understanding of the 12 Steps. He offers retreats, videos, books and other resources to help people give up alcohol.
Podcasts recommended by Daybreakers and the Hello Sunday Morning community
- Home with Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker (soundcloud)
This podcast takes up the big questions of life through the lens of addiction recovery. Each week, it explores a new discussion about hearts, relationships, life, love and the universe at large.
“The Temper explores life through the lens of sobriety, addiction, and recovery—with an unapologetically intersectional feminist approach.We acknowledge that whatever we struggle with has fundamentally changed the way we exist in the world. That’s often alcohol, but is just as likely to be food, smoking, social media, overspending—all the things we do to numb ourselves.”
- The Bubble Hour hosted by Jean M
The Bubble Hour seeks to inform, educate and help people identify with the stories they hear, the conversations and interviews with people who are just like they are, and let people know they aren’t alone. Nobody can take the first tentative steps towards sobriety without first getting past denial, but even once they are past denial the stigma surrounding alcoholism is so strong that people are reluctant to seek help. The Bubble Hour would like to change that stigma.
Tara Brach’s teachings blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices, mindful attention to our inner life, and a full, compassionate engagement with our world. The result is a distinctive voice in Western Buddhism, one that offers a wise and caring approach to freeing ourselves and society from suffering.
- On being with Krista Tippett
A Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast. What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other? Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives. Our Daybreakers particularly like this episode with John O’Donohue.
Documentaries, TV series and Movies to help you give up alcohol
- Risky Drinking, a documentary by HBO, available on Youtube
Produced by HBO Documentary Films (2015) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (USA), Risky Drinking is a no-holds-barred look at the drinking epidemic, through the intimate stories of four people whose drinking dramatically affects their relationships.
- Drugged: High on Alcohol – a documentary
In the ‘High on Alcohol’ special edition of ‘Drugged’, viewers were presented with a story that was both a tragedy and a cautionary tale. Ryan, a 28-year-old, drank three pints of vodka a day. Ryan turned to alcohol when his father, who was dependent on alcohol, passed away four years ago.
- Drinking to Oblivion – Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux heads to Europe’s largest liver transplant centre where he sees the physical side effects of alcoholism and learns about the challenges doctors, patients and patients’ families face, in trying to treat it.
Apps to help you give up alcohol, stay sober, or for other support
Recovery Elevator sobriety counter app and the private community offer a safe, informative place, for those who wish to quit drinking. Many find solace and comfort in our cohesive community. They also offer a podcast and sober travel group trips!
Launched at Parliament House, Canberra, the Penda App aims to break the cycle of domestic and family violence (DFV) by combining much-needed financial, personal safety and legal information with nationwide referrals. If you are experiencing DVF please contact 1800RESPECT (Australia) for support.
Daisy is an app developed by 1800RESPECT to connect people experiencing violence or abuse to services in their local area. Daisy can be downloaded for free from iTunes or Google Play. Once the app is on your phone, you can use it to search for support services in your local area without them showing up in your browser history.
Calm is an app for meditation and mindfulness. It has over 100 guided meditations to help you manage anxiety, lower stress and sleep better. For beginners through to intermediate and advanced users.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a complete list of ‘alcohol-free’ resources without mentioning our own app! Daybreak is an online program that helps you change your relationship with alcohol through a supportive community, habit-change experiments, and one-on-one chat with health coaches. We’re really proud of Daybreak and love the feedback we get from our members about how life changing and supportive our app and community are.
Music to be sober to
- Alcohol Free (AF) playlists
Find a playlist on your favourite music streaming service, or create your own list of alcohol-free and inspiring songs to keep you motivated, like this one from Hollis Bertsch on Spotify.
- Self-love playlists
If you need to dance around the house in your underwear, sing in the shower, or lip synch to karaoke in the car, find a playlist like this one from Deannelove77 on Spotify to love yourself a little more.
If this list is missing something or you want to add your vote for one of the above, please leave a comment below!
How to hack your pleasure pathways
Can you remember the feeling of coming back from a holiday? Feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and inspired. All of your neural pathways were reset, or at least rearranged. For those few weeks, you were out of your comfort zone, having new experiences, new sensations and new adventures which will change how you live your life and how you view your world.
We know that these experiences are part of what makes life worth living, and that new experiences are a wonderful antidote to boredom, frustration and stagnation that can sometimes set in. Our brains need these new sensory experiences every once in a while, and we need to be exposed to things that challenge us and immerse us.
A new concept has arisen with the rise of mindfulness-based interventions, which has been termed ‘sensory adventures’ – our growing awareness of the power of sensory experiences to impact how we feel. You might be able to remember the last time you felt completely immersed in a sensory experience, whether that be through smell, feeling, taste or sound. That incredible feeling of being absorbed or completely focused on a sensation or experience is something that we can rarely achieve, but when we do, it is profound.
A friend recently described a hand massage she received years ago; the sensation of the scrub being rubbed into her skin, and paying attention to the touch and slippery feeling of the water as it washed her hand and then the perfume of the lotion as it was rubbed into her skin. The years have passed, but the pleasure and enjoyment of that experience remain, as it was such a treat for her senses.
We often crave sensory-rich experiences like massages, spas and gourmet meals, but at least part of the enjoyment we get from these experiences is the fact that we are paying attention to the experience, and appreciating the effects on our bodies and taste buds. Mindful eating has been shown to be effective at improving health and wellbeing, and this also extends to other mindfulness activities which encourage us to focus on the enjoyment and sensation of the present moment.
How does this help us?
Well, the good news is that these sensory adventures are right in front of us, and we can go on a small journey simply by attending to the experience in front of our noses. The idea is to pay as much attention to these experiences as you might at a wine tasting, paying attention to the flavour notes, the colour, the residue of wine on the side of the glass, the different smells and tastes that come out of a single drop. Perhaps if we paid this kind of attention to every sip, we might have a very different relationship with alcohol.
So these are the reasons to have a sensory adventure, but what kinds of sensory adventures are out there? Just like you might put a lot of time and effort into planning and booking a real-life adventure, it can be a lot of fun to plan your next sensory adventure.
Here are some ideas to get started:
Sound Adventure: Curate a playlist that evokes a certain mood in you, whether that is melancholy, romantic, excited, relaxed, whatever you feel like at the time. Then choose a place in your city that really matches the playlist, and walk through this area while listening to the playlist. While you’re doing this, see if you can attend to the internal and external sensations that come up for you. Allow yourself to get swept away with the sensory experience and notice how that feels.
Smell Adventure: Go to your spice cabinet at home and take out all of the spices. Sit down, and one by one, open up each jar and take a moment to smell each spice. See if you can notice all of the scents that come up as you smell, and what they do to your sensory organs. What involuntary responses do you have? What memories come up for you with certain smells? What foods come to mind when you smell certain things?
Whichever spices you would like to taste, try some on your tongue and notice how different the taste and smell are. Here is a recommended combination of spices that you can try cooking with, to give you a full sensory experience:
Fajita seasoning: Chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and cumin powder
Herbs de provence: Thyme leaf, marjoram leaf, rosemary, lavender flowers, ground fennel, dried orange zest
Pumpkin spice: cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves
Taste adventure: Go to the supermarket and buy three items that you really enjoy the taste of. These can be things that go together, or are good by themselves. Do not buy large amounts of these, just enough for the exercise. They should be three things that complement each other, and that are quite high-value or tasty foods.
Some examples might be:
Crackers, sharp cheese, olives – make a plate with these and mindfully eat, paying attention to the sounds, sensations in your mouth, taste and sensation of the different textures.
Butter, brown sugar, banana – melt butter and brown sugar together, pour over banana. As the butter and brown sugar combines, notice the smell and aromas that arise, and as you eat the dish with the banana, notice the different textures and the different temperatures in the meal.
Peanut butter, honey, crackers – assemble these foods and notice the different smells, tastes, textures and sensations of the ingredients as you chew them.
Sight Adventure: Consider what kinds of things might stimulate you visually. What kinds of art or design has really interested you in the past? Once you have figured this out, set aside a morning or afternoon to absorb yourself with this. It might involve visiting a local gallery or museum to come face-to-face with the artworks, or searching on the internet for pictures that inspire or interest you. Take these few hours to give your eyes a treat, whether it is through colour, design or shape. Consider how immersing yourself in these images, colours or designs impacts you. You might want to curate a playlist to listen to at the same time, that fits with the images you are viewing and enjoy the feeling of becoming absorbed in this world. You might take this opportunity to change your living space or move things around, to make the aesthetic more pleasing, or go through your wardrobe to find inspiration in colour and design.
As you can see, sensory adventures are everywhere we look. In your typical day, you probably have a number of sensory-rich experiences, like patting your dog, drinking your morning coffee or having a shower. All of these are opportunities to have a fully immersive experience, diving into your senses and attending to the feelings and sensations that arise.
The key here is what we pay attention to, and the value comes from appreciating and making time for the sensations to arise, rather than thinking about something else, or rushing to the next thing. The science behind things like sensory adventures indicates that it is our perception of these experiences that matter, rather than how ‘good’ or ‘fun’ something is.
So there it is, next time the real world is getting to be a bit much, and that longing for a holiday arises, see if you can take some time out for a sensory adventure and enjoy being immersed and amazed by what these experiences have to offer.