How to quit alcohol with meditation in 30 days – free training
In this free training you will learn what steps you need to take to cut down or quit drinking in 30 days using meditation.
The program is broken down into four weeks with detailed guidance of what to do at each stage. If you’d like to be guided through the process step by step, sign up for the We Meditate To Quit Alcohol 30 Day Challenge that comes with daily emails and guided meditations to develop your understanding of meditation and help you each step of the way.
This guide has been put together by Rory Kinsella, a meditation teacher who was able to go from being a heavy drinker to quitting completely through meditation. His experience was so positive he wanted to share it with others and created the We Meditate course which has so far helped hundreds of drinkers. Before we get into how to do this, let’s have a quick look at how meditation can make quitting alcohol so much easier.
Alternatively you can jump to the step-by-step guide and guided meditation with the links below.
3 ways meditation makes quitting alcohol easier
Meditation helps you make better decisions
Whether you consider yourself a stressed person or not, 21st Century life is full of over stimulation. When we’re overstimulated, our bodies go into the stress response, which is our default survival mode. When our bodies think we’re fighting to survive, they shut down all our non-essential systems. These include the immune system, digestive system, reproductive system and the higher thinking and decision making parts of the brain in the neo-cortex. We don’t need to be able to make wise, long-term decisions if we’re in a life or death situation so this part of the brain is switched off so that resources can go to your limbs to help you fight or flee. But in modern life we’re rarely in life or death situations – it’s more that we’re overworked, arguing with a friend or family member or struggling to make ends meet. What happens when we’re stressed? We turn to things like alcohol for comfort and to numb ourselves, which leads to more bad decisions.
> Meditation is the best known antidote to stress
Instead of letting your stress levels build up until you have a holiday, or get sick, you can meditate to reverse your body’s stress chemistry. Adrenaline and cortisol are flushed out of the system and replaced with feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This leaves you feeling more happy and content and well as switching off your brain’s fear centre and bringing your decision making capacity back online.> Meditation makes you less needy Think of a time when you slept badly or had a bad hangover. What were your decisions like that day? Chances are you made more unhealthy eating choices than usual, drank more coffee and were generally lazier.
> Meditation helps you control your impulses
Lots of people have great intentions when it comes to changing habits like quitting drinking, but come unstuck by lacking impulse control. It’s natural to think that impulse control is something you’re born with, but it’s actually a product of how rested you are. When your stress levels are minimised through meditation and you stock up on the rest that it provides, you will find you have a lot more control over your impulses than you did before.
One of the main reasons many people give for drinking is that it’s their main way of relaxing. And with how pervasive drinking is in modern society, it’s understandable. Many of us associate drinking with relaxing but just because they often go together, it doesn’t mean that drinking causes relaxation. If we put our feet up at the end of a hard day at work and have a glass of wine or a beer, is it the alcohol that’s relaxing us or is putting our feet up relaxing in itself?
When you have a meditation technique – which is easier than many people think to learn – you have a way of relaxing yourself in a few minutes no matter where you are. You can meditate anywhere you can sit and close your eyes. And rather than costing you money each time like alcohol would or giving you unwanted after effects, it is completely natural and helps your body relax itself. During and after meditation, your body will be producing the chemistry of relaxation so you don’t have to seek it elsewhere. We have the ultimate pharmacy available in our bodies – all we have to do is sit and bring ourself towards silence for it to offer its medicine.
One of the things long terms drinkers report is that their lives seem to be stagnating – every week goes the same way. Drink, recover, drink, recover, drink, recover. With this ongoing cycle, there’s no possibility for growth. All energy is sucked into repair and recovery.
Studies suggest that meditation gives deeper rest than sleep, so the more you meditate, the more rested you become. The more rested you are, the more energy you have to grow and evolve. Our brains also get wired into certain habits. When we repeatedly perform certain behaviours, synapses fire together and wire together making those behaviours more likely to happen again. This can work against us with our bad habits but is on the side of our good habits too. Meditation opens up new synaptic links and creates new neural pathways which make growth and change possible.
From booze hound to meditation teacher – Rory's story
Rory Kinsella is a meditation teacher and former journalist, who work has been featured in widely in the global media as well as the world's top meditation apps. Here he tells the story of his journey from being a heavy drinker for over 20 years to a non-drinking meditation teacher, via an early-midlife crisis.
Rory at Oktoberfest in the mid-2000s
I'm from England originally and we start drinking early there. From my mid-teens to my mid 30s I never went more than a few days without being drunk. The first time I got really wasted, I remember I swigging wine from the bottle and necking neat gin. I got my first real buzz and felt what it was like not to constantly worry about what people thought of me. There was a glimpse into a carefree world – dancing, spinning around, not caring. Then I vomited everywhere – all over the place in front of everyone. It took me weeks to live it down. I was 12. My friend’s mum had to clear it up and still hasn’t forgiven me, thirty years later. After that, I took every opportunity to explore altered states of consciousness.
Drinking was the easiest way to do it – booze is everywhere. I’d get into trouble at school but I think they found it more amusing than anything. I remember being hauled up in front of the headmaster with my parents for drinking on a school trip to France when I was 14. He was trying to make out how bad alcohol was but he had this shining bright red nose from a life of drinking. My mum and dad were more embarrassed about having to look like they were taking him seriously than they were disappointed about the drinking. And I was getting top marks for most subjects, so no one really minded. Boys will be boys.
Then my mum died in an accident a few years later when I was 18 and I took that pretty hard. I drank every day for the next three years. Alcohol’s a great tool for escaping and suppressing our emotions, but not so great for coming to terms with grief. But I was 18 and it was perfectly acceptable to drink all the time. In my gap year I worked in a bar for six months and then spent three months partying in Ibiza. Then it was university. Drink wasn’t just available, it was encouraged! Pints in our halls of residence bar were £1. There was an all-you-can drink night for £6. You could get steaming drunk, smoke a pack of cigarettes, have a kebab and a get taxi home all for a tenner. Through all this I was still high performing – two A’s and a B in my A Levels, two academic prizes at school and a 2.1 at university and then a masters degree.
Then I had a panic attack. I was in a department store with my girlfriend and suddenly everything seemed overwhelming, threatening even. I was struggling to breathe, sweating. There we were surrounded by mundane things like toasters and pyjamas and somehow I was threatened by it all. We had to get a taxi home so I could lie down. But it seemed to go away. So I kept going, kept self medicating. I’d sometimes hold off till late at night but then worry I wouldn't be able to sleep and quickly neck a couple of beers to take the edge of.
Life in the music industry
After uni I was there with my masters degree in Shakespeare Studies wondering what to do with it, when I landed an audition to play bass in a band who were signed to one of my favourite record labels growing up (Acid Jazz). I got the gig! So here I was at 22 a semi professional musician. I was in the band for a few years and also DJing and promoting club nights. All areas where heavy drinking was very much encouraged.
Rory at Burning Man in 2013
As the band faded, I used my writing skills to become a music journalist and moved to London. If there’s an alcohol loving industry it’s journalism. I was now in my late 20s working for Channel 4 Music, interviewing musicians like James Brown and Duran Duran, going to every music festival around, backstage passes, non-stop partying. I’m surrounded by people who self-medicate with alcohol. Everyone was getting wasted all the time – it was perfectly normal. And the more debauched I got, the more respect I’d get. Stayed up for three days in a row at Glastonbury? Nice one! Come back from a weekend away with yellow fingers from all the smoking and a green complexion – oh you rogue! At work, we even had a hat you had to wear if you came in late and hungover – the hangover hat of shame. It was more a badge of honour than a punishment. But there was a price to pay for it. And the price was monstrous, debilitating hangovers – they would make me feel like I had a mental illness or disability. When the drink wears off, the thinking mind is back – and it's the most negative version of you. While drinking I was able to move below my normal thought patterns, numb myself and live more by my animal instincts. Drink, eat, look for sex. But when the drink wore off, my thinking mind would be back and it was the most negative version of myself. It compensated for me not thinking when I was drinking by overthinking. Thinking about the shit I got up to but also all this crazy stuff like how to swallow, where my tongue should sit in my mouth, what my teeth were supposed to feel like. I’d climb these towers of anxiety and if I didn’t keep thinking about my breathing it might stop or my heart my stop. They say you need 10,000 hours doing something to achieve mastery. I was definitely a master of drinking before my 30th birthday. Then when after the financial crisis, I moved to Australia and got a job as a lifestyle journalist. Part of this was writing about food and drink now instead of gigs I would get invited to drink vodka in New Zealand for a week or flown to Las Vegas to review bars and restaurants.
But the hangovers got worse and worse and the drink wasn’t working anymore. I'd be drunk but still have a head full of worries. The thought of waking up one day as a 50-year-old party monster was also quite scary.So on my 35th birthday I quit DJing and packed in the serious partying. With it went a big part of my identity and for a while I tried different ways to fill the void – to stop the overthinking and to find new meaning from somewhere.I ran marathons, wrote a novel, did an NLP course. Then a great mentor at work suggested meditation.
My experiments with meditation
At first, I had no idea where to start.There are so many styles it felt overwhelming but I gritted my teeth and decided to try as many as I could.I took a class sitting up straight concentrating on my breath pretending I wasn't uncomfortable.I went to a yoga studio and pictured a ball of light at my third eye.I tried a compassion meditation where I filled my heart with love for my cat and then sent it to myself, my friends and then my enemies.I lay down and tried to feel the tingling of sensation in my toes and various parts of my body.I stared at a flickering candle for an hour at home.I tried watch my thoughts go by like clouds across the sky.I tried all of these and felt like I got benefit from most of them. But I didn't love any of them and I didn't make a lasting habit out of them. So I kept searching.
My experience of meditating with a mantra
When I learned to meditate with a mantra in 2014, it felt good right away.A mantra is a word or sound with no meaning you repeat silently in your head.You think it gently and it quietens your mind. Straight away this seemed a lot easier than the mindfulness techniques I'd been using.Rather than sitting up straight and pretending my back wasn't hurting, here I leaned back like I was reading or watching TV.It had been a struggle to focus on my breath with mindfulness. I found it such a leap to go from thinking a thought to following air going into my nose and lungs.
Because the mantra is like a word, it already spoke the same language as my thoughts. It was more like a straight swap.I loved how open my teacher was about it – it wasn’t that one type of meditation was better than the other, just that they had been designed for use by different types of people. I realised that many of the techniques I’d been practising were from a Buddhist tradition and designed for monks. Mindfulness is a monk’s technique – the guy who founded Headspace was a monk for ten years.One of the reasons I found mantra meditation easier is because it was designed for people like me – not people looking for austerity on the strict spiritual path of a monk, people who didn’t want to be celibate or abandon worldly comforts and ambitions. If I got uncomfortable I could move, if I wanted to cough I could cough and it was OK to have a busy mind.
The mantra works by leading the mind inwards to a place of stillness. It’s designed to be charming to the mind and the mind naturally follows charm. If you walked into a house party and there was one type of music in one room and your favourite type of music in another, you’d naturally move towards the music you preferred.The way you learn is over four sessions so there's plenty of opportunity to practise, ask questions and get feedback.I learned that you don't focus on the mantra but rather bring a gentle awareness to it. At first I forced it, but learned that the more effortless I was, the more enjoyable it was and the deeper I relaxed.I learned that when I followed the mantra I'd forget to think my usual repetitive thoughts and sometimes I'd forget to think the mantra too.
Afterwards I'd feel rejuvenated – like I'd had a power nap but without the sleep hangover.In mindfulness I'd get annoyed when I caught myself thinking, but with this technique, I learned that thoughts are welcome because that's how the mind unwinds stresses.This was a key insight for me, because it meant that I no longer felt like I was failing at meditation whenever I was thinking – which was a lot!
This is probably the number one mistake people make when learning to meditate.No one likes to fail at anything and if you consider thoughts in meditation a failure, you'll fall at the first hurdle and join the thousands who try meditation without proper instruction and quit because they think their minds are too busy.There's no such thing as a mind too busy to meditate. It just indicates there are lots of stresses to unwind.I quickly had much deeper experiences than I had with mindfulness and the effects were much more tangible. It was like my head was a clenched fist that I could feel loosening its grip as I relaxed.I learned how to approach the experience and how if I dropped my expectations and went with whatever was happening, it was much more enjoyable and effective.
Alcohol and partying became less important over the following months until I finally realised that the costs of drinking had long been outweighing any benefits.But the power of habit and social convention kept me drinking for a while longer until I finally decided it was time to quit.I realised I’d been avoiding social occasions because I didn’t want to drink as I’ve never been good at having only a couple and leaving early.It was a real relief afterwards not to have to do that any more.
I could be as sociable as I wanted without worrying about how it would make me feel the next day or the day after that or the day after that.And I was free to embrace my inner introvert.I had all this time back to develop myself and focus on teaching meditation, which by then I realised I wanted to spend more of my time doing.To grow, you need space. While I was still drinking I didn’t have that space. I would spend most weekends, either Saturday or Sunday or both with a dreadful hangover.And with a hangover I wasn’t able to do anything creative or constructive.
Hangovers are about surviving, not thriving. Growth – or evolution as we might call it – is about allowing new creative things to come into existence in our lives. But to leave space, we must be prepared to let go of those things that are no longer serving us - to remove things that have become irrelevant.
Drinking had become an irrelevant behaviour for me so it was ripe to be swept away. That doesn’t mean that it had never been relevant for me, just that it no longer was. To change, you have to let some things go to leave room for new things to come in.
The #1 mistake people make when trying meditation
Before I learned to meditate and even for a while after, I kept falling for these rookie errors.
It’s not that I’m a slow learner, it’s that they’re so contrary to conventional wisdom.
What's the #1 mistake, which I fell for like many people before me?
MISTAKE #1: FIGHTING AGAINST 🤜🧠 THOUGHTS
At the beginning, I expected to be able to clear my mind on command, but quickly found I couldn’t. I’d close my eyes and be flooded by thoughts. Rather than resisting the deluge, I eventually realised it was better to accept it. All I had to do was think my mantra whenever there was a break in the thoughts.I learned that thoughts in meditation are actually a good thing, they’re how the mind flushes out stress.
MISTAKE #2: TRYING TOO 😠 HARD
My second mistake was trying too hard – and I persisted with this one for an embarrassingly long time. I had it in my head that meditation was about focus and concentration so I dialled this up in my attempts to go deeper.That’s what we’re taught in school – try harder and you’ll get greater rewards. But in the game of relaxation, there are no points for effort.What I didn’t fully appreciate is that there’s a natural downward current in meditation – you’re drawn to deeper states when you stop trying. If you’re flailing about trying to make something happen, you’ll stay up on the surface wondering how everyone is having such serene and dreamlike experiences.
MISTAKE #3: THINKING YOU’RE IN 📋 CONTROL
Whether we admit it or not, many of us are control freaks – at least within the confines of our own heads.We easily confuse the control we seem to have over our bodies and behaviour with control over our inner landscape.But our minds have minds of their own!When I say the word cat 🐱, try not to think of a cat. When I was labouring under the delusion I was in control of my meditation experience, l quickly got frustrated at how badly I was maintaining that control.When I instead saw myself as a curious passenger along for the ride with nowhere particular to be, I didn’t mind where meditation took me. The less ruffled I got by each twist and turn, the more enjoyable it was and the deeper I relaxed.
Quit alcohol with meditation: Step-by-step guide
The key to this approach is to create a daily meditation habit of 15 minutes. This will remove enough stress and strengthen your impulse control enough to make giving up drinkinga lot easier.
When to meditate
The best times of day to meditate are first thing in the morning or in the early evening before dinner. You can meditate at any time, but if you've just eaten you will be digesting which will make it harder to settle your mind during the meditation. If you can create a daily routine it will make it easier to get it done as you won't have to make space for it everyday.
Meditating first thing in the morning is the most successful approach because, unless you have young children, you should be in control of this part of your day. Get up, have a shower and brush your teeth or do something else to wake yourself up (not coffee!) and then start.
If possible, do it before getting on your phone and checking social media or emails. Meditation is one of those things that is important but never urgent. If you start looking at emails, other things that could easily wait another 15 minutes loom large and make it too easy to de-prioritise meditation.
Where to meditate
The beauty of meditation is that you can do it anywhere. At home, on the bus, in the back of a taxi, on a flight, at the beach. You don't need silence – you'll be finding that on the inside. But you do need somewhere where you can sit comfortably with your back supported but head and neck free. You'll have your eyes closed, so make sure it's somewhere you're not going to feel uncomfortable doing that. At home is the easiest place to get started – ideally in a comfy chair or propped up in bed. It's best not to lie down as you don't want to encourage sleep, although it's fine if you do sleep. Feel free to fidget or move if you get uncomfortable.
How to meditate
In this technique you will use a meditation word or mantra repeated silently in the mind. Mantras are designed to occupy your thoughts and gently guide your mind towards stillness. We will be using the mantra "aham", which is pronounced more like "ahum", as you will hear in the guided recording you will receive.
You think it in an easy and laidback way, not trying too hard or taking it too seriously. Don’t worry when you find yourself lost in thought, just start thinking the mantra again when you remember to. The mantra is designed to be forgotten so don’t worry when you do forget it, that means it’s working. Just start thinking it again gently.
Week 1: Diving in
Week 1 is about creating a daily meditation routine and beginning to remove stress from the system. Using the guided meditation in the email you will be sent, you will learn to use a mantra as an anchor for your awareness during meditation. This will give you a home point to return to when you find yourself thinking.
Day 1: The basics
Try the technique for the first time. The best attitude to take is one of open curiosity but not to hold any expectations about what the experience will bring. You will likely find lots of thoughts coming up, but that's OK. Meditation can lead to fewer thoughts but that is the result of meditation, not the process. The process is to think the mantra "aham" silently in your mind and gently return to it every time you notice you have become lost in a thought.
Thinking in meditation is good! It means your mind is unravelling stresses.
Day 2: Surfing the waves of thoughts
If you’re not following along with the guided meditation series, set a timer for 15 minutes. Make sure the end bell or alarm is quiet and gentle. When you find yourself thinking, adopt the attitude of a surfer falling off their board – nothing bad has happened, it’s just the end of a wave.
Day 3: The anchor
It helps to think of the mantra as an anchor for awareness during meditation. Inside your mind you don’t control many things but you do occasionally have control of your awareness and where you direct it. In these moments of clarity where you find yourself in control, it helps to direct your awareness back to the anchor of the mantra.
Day 4: Diving deep
By day 4, many people are having deeper experiences in meditation, more relaxed, dreamlike thinking. If this happens, welcome it and don’t try to keep yourself on the surface.
Day 5: The subtle art of not trying
Today, see if you can think the mantra with less effort than on previous days. This will help you have deeper experiences and greater stress relief.
Day 6: You get what you need
Reaching deep states of relaxation during meditation is like falling asleep – if you’re trying to get there you won’t be able to. There’s no bad meditation – whether it’s full of thoughts or deeply relaxing, it’s all beneficial.
Day 7: Bringing it together
Enjoy the effortless meditations you will now be experiencing with the skills you will have developed so far
Week 2: Rise
By Week 2, you will have offloaded some of the stress that is causing you to drink and will be able to step your practice up to the next level. The second phase of the approach is about priming yourself with qualities that will help you build a stronger, more resilient version of yourself for your ongoing alcohol-free journey.
How to practice
During the last three minutes of each meditation, instead of thinking the mantra “aham”, bring to mind the following intentions as words in your mind. Each intention will build on the last, so by the end of Week 2 you will be practising seven intentions at the end of each meditation.
Day 1: Strength
Day 2: Happiness
Day 3: Fulfilment
Day 4: Resilience
Day 5: Calm
Day 6: Gratitude
Day 7: Compassion
Week 3: Accelerate
By this point you will have off-loaded a lot of the stress that was causing you to drink. You will be familiar with the meditation technique from the previous weeks. From now on, it’s about refining the technique to get the most out of it.
Continue the practice from Week 2, briefly bringing to mind each of the seven intentions in the final two minutes of the meditation. To set up each session and ensure you have the right attitude, think about the following concepts before you start each day.
Week 4: Expand
By Week 4, you will be starting to notice more space in your head and you will be able to glimpse the wider project of meditation – expansion.
When you've cleared away the top level of stress and cluttered thoughts you'll find there's a lot more mental space and you'll find you have clearer perception.
With this increased conscious capacity you'll find you're able to take in more information. And everyone knows that those with the best information make the best decisions.Your ultimate happiness will depend on the thousands of decisions you make in your life. By having clearer perception and more information you will put yourself in the best position to make those decisions each time.
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