Permission to Stop Drinking

A couple of years back, I wrote a post entitled, “Am I an alcoholic?” I don’t think I am, so I kept drinking. Since then, I’ve googled the hell out of things like:

  • Reasons to quit drinking even if you’re not a real alcoholic
  • Benefits of quitting drinking for non-alcoholics
  • I quit drinking but I’m not an alcoholic

I was looking for permission to stop. I had it in my head that unless I was a “real’ alcoholic, there was no reason to give up the booze. But apparently I wanted to stop drinking as I kept searching for examples of people who did not consider themselves “real” alcoholics, but stopped anyway. Regardless of whether they actually met the qualifications, I have found people have a tendency to accept the label once they give up the booze.

And then I happened upon a blog, Tired of Thinking About Drinking, that didn’t seem to be so label-centric. Here was someone who drank like me, but still decided to quit. Belle describes herself as having a high bottom. Perhaps I too have a high bottom. Or maybe it doesn’t matter what kind of bottom I have. (Physically, or drink-wise.) Why can’t I just stop drinking because I’m bored of it? Why do I have to trash my life and kill myself, like my brothers did? Why do I have to be an abusive drunk, like my father was? Can’t I quit because I’m fed up? Because I hate what alcohol did to my brothers, regardless of whether it does the same to me?

Permission Slip

I decided to stop struggling with the “real”-alcoholic-or-not question, and find out for myself whether I feel better not drinking. I gave myself permission to stop drinking and signed up for Belle’s 100-Day Sober Challenge, labels be damned. Sort of.

I still have issues with the stigma of not drinking. What if people think I’m a “real” alcoholic?

So I have employed various pretexts. For January, I said I was doing Dry January. When January was over, I said I was giving up alcohol for Lent. (Never mind I gave up Catholicism years ago.) When I posted on Facebook that I was giving up alcohol for Lent, “Who’s with me?,” there was a bit of an uproar. Who knew giving up the Jesus juice for 46 days would be so controversial? I also had a few takers. Friends who, like me, are tired of drinking but need a pretext to stop. (If you’d like a permission slip, email me and I’ll send you one.)

I’m getting close to being over what other people think about my choice to live more healthfully. Seriously, how stupid is it that we have to make excuses to be mindful, at mid-life, of our health? As one of my newly-sober sisters said:

When people ask me why I’m not drinking, I tell them I’m an alcoholic. It’s hilarious. And it shuts them right up.

Here I am, Day 50. I might be an alcoholic. I might not. Either way, not drinking is feeling pretty damn good.


  • I love this post. The social context of giving up drinking is fraught, as are all the labels attached to ‘problem drinking’ and their connotations. It is encouraging to read some honest thoughts on these subjects. They are rarely talked about. Perhaps naively, I think that being open and honest about these issues could help to lift the stigma and make it easier for others to look more closely at their own drinking behaviour and be open to what is healthy/right for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m so tired of the brain washing that is connected with alcohol. The stigma has got to go. The fact that people have to hide stopping drinking, or make up excuses, is ridiculous. The pressure to drink is ridiculous. Alcohol is a drug. Biologic reactions differ from person to person. There shouldn’t be a stigma for stopping, no matter how your body reacts to it. No matter if you’re a “real” alcoholic, or not.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Wow! That is total BS!!! Not you, other people needing an “excuse” or explanation.

    I know it’s true, people are like that. At the very least, if you’re female and turn down alcohol they assume you’re pregnant. And I guess that makes sense in the right context, but my point is, that you should be able to make heath decisions and personal decisions without a bunch of crap from people. No matter what it is or why. It should be simple. No big deal. Ugh!

    I’m with you! Behind you all the way in making your choices!


  • Congratulations on reaching 50 Days! And exactly where I was back in September…I didn’t reach a low bottom, I didn’t want to go to AA and raise my hand to call myself an alcoholic. I think you put this perfectly: I gave myself permission to stop drinking.

    Bravo Ella!


  • I hate labels. I hate the word alcoholic, even though I probably am one. I love the way my life has unfolded being alcohol free for 449 days. I say nothing, other than, I would like a club soda with lemon.
    Belle is amazing, it is where I started too. Congrats on 50 days. As I was told so many times, it gets easier, and easier, it really does.

    Liked by 1 person

  • In my experience, I have found that people just don’t care that much about whether or not I drink. Lol. I was so worried when I first got around my “normal” friends about what they would think about me not drinking. Turns out, they weren’t too concerned at all. Most people are too wrapped up in their own stuff. I had lists of things I would say when they asked why I wasn’t drinking. No one asked. I just said I don’t drink anymore. There were no follow up questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m finding people are incredulous to hear I am not drinking at all. The “whys” are less interesting to them than the issue of complete abstention. “Not even one?” “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” These comments generally come from friends who are immoderate.

      I’m beginning to stop having the conversations in my head about how to respond. Progress.


  • Excellent….I believe either way its great. I gave up drinking in about 1990 and when someone offers me a drink and I say I don’t it does put a funny look on their face.


  • I “mostly” stopped drinking in 2008, and officially forever stopped in early 2013 when I realized I was still binging once a month and every time I binged, the demon was back on my shoulder, yelling into my ear to keep it up, to continue to drink, just a couple tonight, then a couple the next night, and so on, indefinitely. I grew tired of battling through that “initial” week of sobriety after a good binge — it sucked each and every time, so exhausting.

    So at 35, I said: that’s it. It’s still tough sometimes because, as you mentioned, how do you reward yourself after doing something difficult? I had to twist my brain around and change the internal dialogue: I started saying to myself: I’m rewarding you by NOT drinking. Drinking is punishment, remember?
    Since then I’ve discovered I like lemonade for two reasons: It tastes great, and it’s fun to throw in peoples’ faces when they say things like “Since when does a grown man drink THAT in a bar?” Sooo sticky.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Half-way drinking, or attempting to, is exhausting. I have found you’re exactly right: it’s all about getting your mind right. Reminding yourself that you’re the smart one, the healthy one, not drinking. And look, I want to retire with lots of brain cells still intact. I want to live to a ripe old age with my physical and mental health, so I can enjoy the fruits of my labor. Not to mention, not drinking means more cash for the retirement pot.

      So what, you’re 37 now? I’d say, “I’m a grown man. Anything I drink in a bar is a grownup drink.” And then I’d toss it in their faces.

      You’re a rebel on two counts: financially and sobriety. Isn’t it fun?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, drinking is expensive. During my own constantly-lit heyday my liver was soaking up at least $250/mo of booze – more if you count the drinks out at bars. I did a back-of-the-napkin calculation at one point and determined that I’ve spent upwards of 20K on liquor over the course of my life — absolutely incredible. That’s a car, or a couple of amazing vacations. Instead, I poisoned myself and routinely felt like there were needles stuck into my eyeballs all day. On the plus side, I learned about 100 different ways to describe various hangovers.

        BTW, I don’t think anyone has, at any point in my life, called me a rebel. I love firsts. And yep, I’m 37 for another 40 odd days.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Point taken. I am hopeful that eventually, labels will no longer affect me. I feel better not drinking, so I stopped. If that means people will call me an alcoholic, there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m certainly not going to take up drinking again to disprove them. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. No one asks me much about not drinking. I just say is was hurting my health -both physically and mentally and I gave it up. And don’t miss it once bit.

        I just can’t fathom anyone criticizing that. But if they do, they must have some serious issues of their own!

        Liked by 1 person

  • Excellent post. It sounds like we’ve had similar experiences with drinking, and stopping drinking. I can definitely relate to the ‘permission’ aspect. When I get the question “Why are you not drinking”, I’ve wondered if I should just say (admit??) “I’m an alcoholic” to shut them up. But I’ve not had the balls to do that yet….

    Great post, keep on going with the sobriety. It’s worth it!


    • Thanks, Andy! Day 58 and coasting along the sober highway. I’m beginning to view not drinking as an act of rebellion. Regardless of the reasons for stopping, it feels more powerful that way. I’m still unconvinced about using the label. If there was a way to do it with conviction and authority, rather than shame and embarrassment, that would be the ultimate. The bottom line is, we’re deciding to do what’s best for ourselves, rather than what the herd is doing. That, my friend, takes some balls.


      • I think the shame associated with the word ‘alcoholic’ probably keeps many people drinking when they know they need to stop. If ever a word needed a PR team!
        One think that I have noticed is that the people who give me the most hassle for quitting are the people who probably have problem themselves, so I try to sympathise, and not to get too angry. I’ve been there and I know that it is not a fun place to hang out…

        Liked by 2 people

  • What? | curvylou
  • Thank you for this. It would be nice to have non-drinking handled/observed and congratulated like non-smoking. Non-smokers get praised when they quit and have OTC medications (gum and patches) to help them quit. No one asks them dumb questions like; “why aren’t you smoking?” or “it’s my birthday/anniversary/celebration/sadness/etc, you can have just a couple tonight, right?”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we’re so conditioned that we’re missing out in not drinking, it’s difficult for people to understand that it’s actually pretty terrific. Yesterday a Facebook friend posted a giant bottle of water saying it was his “hangover prevention.” I told him that I have a foolproof method of hangover prevention: not drinking! Having given it up six months ago. He said he’d pray for me, and was astonished I could live a dreary life without wine. I was actually hesitant to post that I’d given up booze on a public (non-anonymous) forum, worried that people would think I stopped because I was nearing skid row. But I did it anyway. Chipping away at the stigma, one post at a time.

      Liked by 1 person

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