6 Lessons Learned After 600 Days Without Alcohol
Updated: Apr 15
Six hundred days ago, I quit drinking alcohol in an attempt to save myself from myself.
Truth be told, I never thought I would see a number as large as 600 on my I am Sober app! It still seems surreal and I’m grateful for every single day without alcohol. And so, in the spirit of service, I’d like to share some of the key lessons I’ve learned since quitting drinking. I hope these lessons can help you in a time when you’re self-doubting whether you can quit drinking, whether you want to continue abstaining, and when it’s going to get better (because it is, I promise).
1. You actually can do this.
Self-doubt and self-sabotaging behaviors may be preventing you from seeing success in your goal to quit drinking. If you are entering this life changing stage feeling like there’s no way you can stay sober, you’re setting yourself up to fail. I’m not saying you need to be 100% confident because that’s not realistic (I didn’t think I could make it a day!), but give yourself a chance.
Prove yourself wrong. Regain your confidence. Use the prideful feeling of meeting your specific goals (e.g., don’t drink today, don’t drink on weekends) to fuel you through cravings.
2. The first 90 days are the worst.
Crying spells, anxiety attacks, alienation, loneliness, fear, and unquenchable dehydration were all challenges I faced in my first 90 days. I often felt lost, aimless, or agitated without the glass of wine in my hand. I felt frustrated when others drank in front of me. I thought I must be making a mistake - isn’t being sober supposed to be amazing?
Well, yes and no! Being sober IS amazing, but to get to the amazing part, you have to feel the other stuff you may have been drinking to avoid feeling or learn to cope with life on life’s terms. In other words, let go of control. Let go of the desire to change your mood by drinking and find new ways of actually showing up and supporting yourself.
This takes time! Be patient. Me? I started painting and learned how critical and harsh I am of myself when starting new. Well, 600 days into the alcohol-free life, I am proud to say I am still painting and it’s pretty cool seeing the progress made!
I also started reading again (a much beloved pastime that fell by the wayside in favor of another glass of wine and scrolling or watching TV). Every time I finish a book I wonder if it would have ever been read had I not stopped drinking when I did.
Where it started:
My latest painting:
3. Soberversaries are a big deal - celebrate them!
So! I did the sober thing on my own and didn’t actually understand the importance of soberversaries til I saw Mickey on Netflix’s Love receive her 30 day chip for sobriety, and how significant that was, that it hit me: your soberversary is like a new birthday - a rebirthday. Even if you’re the only one who knows your date or remembers, make sure to do something. If you know someone who’s been sober for some time or is trying, celebrate them and their efforts! Staying sober from alcohol in a society obsessed with it is no easy feat. This kind of self work, inner growth, and accomplishment deserves praise.
At 9 months, I had a local artist create a metal engraving of my sober date on a vintage spoon.
On my one year, I baked a homemade chocolate cake and made icing. I put a candle in it and blew a wish.
After the year mark, I hit a "what am I doing?" streak. It took a lot of personal strength and value-assessing to make it to 13 months, so I bought a keychain that reads: Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, all the fears you have overcome.
Please don’t wait as long as I did to start realizing what a big deal your sober date is. If you feel silly about it, just remind yourself of how many other dates in our lives we hold close to our hearts and ask yourself how this could possibly be different.
Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, all the fears you have overcome.
4. Writing down reasons why you don’t want to drink is powerful.
Keep this list close! You can have a paper copy in your pocket, bag, or desk, or keep a digital note on your phone. I have my notes in my sober app because that’s where I am headed when I’m struggling, anyway. You can put down anything you want (no reason is a bad reason), but I also recommend having two or three “big whys” to help guide you through some of those no-so-blissfully boring Friday and Saturday nights.
Some reasons may include:
Saving money (I HAVE AVOIDED SPENDING 6000 DOLLARS)
Saving time (I HAVE SAVED OVER 2 MONTHS OF MY LIFE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO DRINKING- and this isn’t including time wasted to hangovers!)
Never experiencing another hangover
Better complexion, hair, nails, eye whites, you name it!
You’re going through a breakup, divorce, or legal battle and need to be present
You want to set a good example for your children
You recognize alcohol isn’t helping you experience your best life
You want to sleep without anxiety
5. One is too many and a thousand is never enough.
Of every inspirational or motivational quote I’ve pulled from places during these past 600 days, this is the one that has stuck.
“One is too many and a thousand is never enough” is the best way to remind myself why having “just one” isn’t worth it, ever.
This has come up countless times, especially in the earlier days when people were wondering how long this "sober from alcohol" thing was gonna stick. A lot of people tried to talk to me about moderation, explaining they never thought I had a problem, and that I could have a glass of wine if I wanted to. They wouldn’t judge me.
But I have learned that staying sober is so much easier than getting sober! I have learned I do not want a glass of wine, I want two and three and the rush and the lack of inhibitions and I want to make mistakes. I want to be free to make mistakes. This was a huge revelation in my journey and actually only quite recently happened.
I have learned that if I let sober me make mistakes, she’s a lot more forgiving than when I escape her to have an excuse for poor behavior or checking out of life.
6. Give yourself grace.
The first thing I realized when I stopped drinking, other than how much it was dictating my days, was that I am super self-critical and alcohol allowed me to escape that for very brief moments, so long as I paid the hangover/anxiety hangxiety tax the next day. This is not sustainable. It may feel doable for the rest of your life if you’re considered high-functioning, but anyone in that state is also in survival mode. You are not living your fullest life. You are missing out.
While you are coming to terms with this, you need to give yourself grace. Be compassionate, gentle, and kind because you may be a bit puddly right now. You may get puddly again, too. It’s all part of the healing. The more empathetic you can be (pretend you are talking about a friend or family member if you have to), the more you will get from this experience.
Giving up alcohol has meant regaining a sense of sanity and a stronger sense of self, purpose, and passion. I do not regret ever turning down a drink, saying no to a sip, or telling someone, nah, I’m good.
Because now I am.