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Thinking of Going Alcohol Free? 8 Mistakes to Avoid

I recently celebrated 8 years of sobriety – getting sober at 63 was probably the best decision I ever made. It took lots of attempts and plenty of mistakes, but it finally stuck.

My Mistakes on the Road to Sobriety

If you want to try an alcohol-free lifestyle then make sure to avoid my 8 mistakes!

Mistake #1 – Waiting for Rock Bottom

I knew I had a problem, but I was in denial for years, convincing myself that I wasn’t that bad. I couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic because I was holding down a responsible job and raising a family. An alcoholic was that homeless man in the park who had lost everything – that wasn’t me!

Mistake #2 – Moderation

I spent a decade stuck in the Moderation Trap. Once I’d learned that the low-risk limits of alcohol are just one and a half bottles of wine a week, I decided that I would drink within those limits. It was only when I tried (and failed) to do that that I realised just how dependent I had become.

Mistake #3 – Fearing Failure

I almost never got started on this life changing journey because I believed I would fail. I just couldn’t imagine quitting alcohol, never having a drink again. I knew that I had tried (and failed) to moderate my drinking again and again. Surely it would be even harder to quit completely?

Mistake #4 – Worrying About Other People

Peer pressure is powerful. I was trapped in my drinking because I couldn’t bear to peel away from the herd and be different. As an introvert and a people pleaser I didn’t want to be the centre of attention as I was bombarded with questions about why I wasn’t drinking.

Mistake #5 – Being Influenced by Marketing

As a teenager I believed that alcohol was cool. Wine became the essential parenting aid as I joined the mommy juice culture. Mid-life challenges needed wine as did juggling a career with family life. Retirement gave me time to relax and drink even more wine!

Mistake #6 – Waiting for Happiness to Strike

I had relied on alcohol to make me feel good for such a long time that I missed those chemical highs when I stopped. During my first few months of sobriety, I didn’t change anything in my life. I just didn’t drink. I expected to feel happy because I was sober. But I didn’t, I felt flat and rather depressed.

Mistake #7 – Being Depressed About Quitting

I had to quit for health reasons and was horrified at the prospect of an alcohol-free life. I imagined that an alcohol-free life would be a grey and boring existence. Alcohol had become so entrenched in my life that I had no idea how I would socialise, relax or have fun without it.

Mistake #8 – Trying to Do It Alone

I thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t be happy with just “one glass” of wine like some of my friends. I tried (and failed) to quit over and over. I was ashamed of my drinking problem and wanted to fix it myself. I didn’t want to reach out for help or join a community.

Learning from My Mistakes – 8 Tips!

TIP #1: Do It Now!

Alcohol dependence is like an elevator, and it’s only going down. The longer you leave it the worse it will get, so if you’re worried about your drinking – take measures NOW!

Tip #2: Forget Moderation!

If you could moderate, you would have done it by now. People who can moderate just do it naturally. They might have a glass of champagne at a wedding, but alcohol is not really on their radar.

TIP #3: Progress Not Perfection

Making progress should be your strategy. Some people have many Day Ones, but the important thing is to keep trying. Do it in stages. A week, two weeks, 30 days, 100 days, 6 months and then a year.

Get an Annual Tracker from janet@tribesober.com.

TIP #4: Have Your Reasons Ready

Just smile and say, “I’m taking a break from the booze because I’ve not been sleeping well,” and remember it’s not your responsibility to make other people feel comfortable about their drinking!

TIP #5: Change Your Thinking… About Drinking

Reflect and question the limiting beliefs you hold about alcohol. Do you really need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to console yourself for a difficult day? Explore new ways to manage these situations.

TIP #6: Reconfigure Your Life!

When you quit drinking, you can’t just leave everything the same. You’ll need to change your routines and get new interests. New hobbies and a new community will keep your happy brain chemicals triggered.

TIP #7: Get Excited!

Get excited about this life changing opportunity! You are going to look better, feel better, sleep better and be full of energy. Ditching the booze is the best thing we can do for our health and happiness as we get older.

TIP # 8: Find Your People

The joy of connecting with others on this journey is that we realise we are NOT alone. 20% of social drinkers will become dependent over the years. There is such power and relief in sharing our stories with others in a community like Tribe Sober.

Sober Curious? Join Our Free Sobriety Bootcamp

From 5-9th June Tribe Sober will be running a Bootcamp on the Sobriety Bootcamp Facebook Group. Daily tasks, trainings, articles and connection.

Let’s Have a Conversation

Have you ever tried to cut down or quit drinking? Did you make any of my 8 mistakes? Have you ever been in denial about your drinking? What kind of hobbies and interests do you have now that you are retired? Do you drink more than a bottle and a half of wine a week? Are you aware of the health risks of alcohol for older people? Which was the most helpful of the 8 tips?

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Unfortunately, no amount of alcohol has been deemed safe for one’s health. I think many of your points are spot on. It’s important people know they do not have to pay for sobriety. There are groups that one can join like AA and smart recovery that are free. Some people can quit on their own and some people need the group setting. You have to find what’s right for you.

Lisa N.

About a year ago I quit alcohol for a month. I did not notice any difference in my sleeping (always sleep well), my moods, abilities. But I was hoping to lose weight. I missed a glass of wine with dinner. For me, it just belongs to a good meal (I love to cook and eat in a healthy way). So I’m still drinking wine with my evening meal. I know that sometimes I drink more than I should, but I can’t identify with the other comments here.

janet gourand

Hi Lisa thanks for your message – a month off the booze is a great way to test your dependence and if you didn’t miss it then that’s great – however it’s not long enough to experience any of the (many) benefits of sobriety and that’s probably why you can’t identify with the other comments. It actually takes one month of recovery for every year that we drank – I drank for 40 years and my recovery took over 3 years although the benefits started coming in after a few months. Finally regarding the weight loss – because alcohol is toxic your body will focus on metabolising it first – you will only start burning the calories in your food when the alcohol is out of your system.


So glad to see this topic with such candor. I stopped for 3 years and loved it. Soooo much more energy! I found I was an inspiration for many of my friends. I married a man who sees wine (he thinks) as part of his social ritual. So, I am now dealing with getting myself back to an alcohol free life. I have done it, so know it is in reach. The biggest mindset shift is to WANT to be alcohol free. I appreciate you supporting those choosing to be AF.

janet gourand

Hi Ardith We meet many people like yourself who say “I was sober for a time and loved it – help me get back there” but nobody who says “I wish I’d never stopped drinking” ;-) Please join our workshop and we’ll help you make that mindset so that you feel excited about ditching the booze. Yes the energy surge is huge, I am 71 and work 7 days a week running Tribe Sober!


For many, drinking is a habit and habits can be broken. You don’t need a drink to have a good time socially. You don’t need a drink to relax. Drinking has so many health consequences. Your body sees alcohol as a toxin and reacts accordingly. I don’t drink alcohol anymore and have pushed my grown children to stop. Recently my 41 year old son stopped drinking and admitted to me, after just 1 week, that he felt better and was sleeping better. That was big coming from him. Just give it a week or so and you will notice a difference and, just maybe, that will be the push you need to just stop. Do an internet search on health effects of alcohol and maybe that will be the push you need.

janet gourand

we are on the same page Kim! thank you for your great comments, I agree with everything you say

The Author

Janet Gourand is a writer, a podcaster and a recovery coach. She quit drinking in 2015 at the age of 63. She founded Tribe Sober which enables people to change their relationship with alcohol. Tribe Sober is an international community which offers a membership program.

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