My month off alcohol turned into three years

By writer and meditation teacher Rory Kinsella

When I quit drinking in 2017, it was like a spell had been broken. But the spell wasn’t alcohol. My addiction was to people having a good opinion of me. 

I’d always been a people pleaser. I had an emotional need to please others, often at the expense of my own needs. It was easy to talk me into having just one more drink.

People drink for many reasons – and many never have any problems with it. But I’ve always been a real over-thinker and alcohol helped me calm my overactive mind. It eased my social anxieties better than anything else I’d found. 

It was hard for me to imagine relaxing around people without it, especially people who were drinking.

Looking back, it was these social reasons that kept me drinking long after I realised it was no longer good for me.

I’d been a big socialiser for 20 years and there was a lot of expectation from friends and also from myself that things would stay the same. 

One of my last big drinking sessions was my 40th birthday. Even though I didn’t really want to get drunk, I couldn’t turn down people’s offers of birthday drinks. Before long I’d had five shots of tequila, no food and was dancing on a table like a lunatic.

Early midlife crisis

What finally helped me break the spell was meditation. But it didn’t happen straight away.

I discovered meditation during what I call my early midlife crisis. In my 20s, I lived it up in London working in the music industry but by 35 I realised I didn’t want to wake up as a 50-year-old party monster.

"I knew meditation worked for lots of people but always thought my mind was too busy"

The first change I made was trying to get fit.

I quit smoking and started running. Even though at the beginning I could barely run for five minutes, I kept at it and managed a marathon a year later.

Then I had a mentor at work who suggested meditation. I knew meditation did wonders for lots of people but always thought my mind was too busy. 

I tried a few different meditation styles until I discovered mantra meditation. You think a word silently in your head and it helps you calm down. It clicked right away and I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

Once I’d started meditating, it was like I had less of a need to drink. I felt more naturally fulfilled and less needy. I no longer had to lean as much on my former crutch of alcohol.

But despite these improvements, I kept drinking, mostly on the weekends, often heavily, for another three years. 

Elizabeth C.Verified Buyer 5.0 star rating

Simply works! I'm two weeks in and my mind feels much more clear, I feel relaxed in myself and around alcohol. It’s amazing that 15 minutes a day can be so life changing. Thank you.

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Working for me! This is BY FAR the best meditation class I’ve ever taken! 

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I was sceptical that this would help me quit drinking having tried many times before. The meditation eased my cravings dramatically. I'm now 8 days in and have made it through my first weekend without drinking. Feeling great!

The turning point

What finally inspired me to stop was a New Year’s meditation retreat in Mexico in late 2017. 

After Christmas with my family in the US, I did what any soul-searching and single 40-year-old would: I booked into an exotic wellness retreat.

When I got there I found myself sharing a room with three guys who seemed to be in the same boat – all 40, all single, all seeking something more meaningful from life. We clearly all got the midlife-crisis memo.

On the retreat, we really dialled up our meditation, doing it for hours every day and cutting out things like coffee, the internet and, of course, alcohol.

The way meditation works is that it’s a powerful antidote to stress. Stress is the real baddie – it does everything from impairing your immune system to disrupting your sleep to making you feel like you want to numb yourself with alcohol. 

Daily meditation had put in the foundational work, but my habit was so ingrained it took the extra boost of the retreat to push me over the edge. 

As I wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald last year, “If you picture stress for a minute as being like your unruly hair after three months of lockdown, then daily meditation is like trimming it back with nail scissors each day to keep things manageable. An intense meditation retreat is more like taking out the clippers and shaving that fuzz ball of stress right off.”

After I got back from Mexico, it would have been easy to slip back into my old ways. But my new-found clarity helped me make one key decision.

On the day I got back, I was invited to drinks at the local pub for someone’s leaving party.

I didn’t want to drink and spoil the feeling of calm I’d generated on the retreat. And then a simple revelation hit: I could go to the party and not drink. 

This might seem obvious to a lot of people, but it had really never occurred to me to do it at an event where most people would be drinking and there wasn’t anything stopping me drinking too.

So I went and had a couple of fancy mineral waters and said no to the few efforts to get me to drink. After a couple of hours, I’d had enough and happily turned down an invite to the afterparty, something I wouldn’t have been able to do after a couple of drinks in the past.

Instead, I arranged a successful sober date for later that evening with my now-girlfriend of three years (pictured above enjoying a mocktail at a wedding). 

The leaving do and the successful date were enough to inspire me into committing to taking the rest of the month off alcohol. 

Start small

One thing that really helped me was not to think too far into the future so things wouldn’t seem unachievable. Each milestone – first a week, then a month, then 100 days, six months and finally a year – was manageable. I never said I’d quit forever and I still don’t, although after three years it’s unlikely I will drink alcohol again.

It’s no coincidence that 12-step programs talk about taking things one day at a time. 

What’s been the biggest benefit of not drinking?

There’s no question: never having a hangover. In a generally healthy life, 95 of the 100 times I’ve felt the worst physically and mentally have been when hungover. It’s scary to think how much of that suffering has been self-inflicted.

Hangover free, I had between 50 and 100 extra days a year when I wasn’t wallowing in a hangover – so much more time to get on with living. 

People’s attempts to quit often don’t last long because either they or their friends convince them that without alcohol they are boring. It’s true that sober people offer less crazy entertainment and drama, but as I got older, I started asking myself a question.

Would I rather live for other people’s amusement on a Saturday night or feel happy and content in myself all week? 

After little more than a month not drinking, I had a clear answer – one that is just as clear three years later. 

What worked for me could work for you

I’d been teaching meditation for a couple of years by this point and when I started writing about my quitting journey, I got a flood of new students wanting to learn. 

Meditation proved so popular as a way to quit drinking that I decided to create a way for people to quit drinking online so I could help people all over the world. 

I had all this extra free time with no hangovers so found it easy to put the course together.

Two years later, many hundreds of people have successfully learned to meditate though the course. They’ve found that with less stress in their bodies, it’s easier than ever to control their drinking.

Don’t get me wrong, you need the will to quit – but when you have it, meditation makes everything else easier.

Rory Kinsella is the creator of the We Meditate To Quit Alcohol technique to help people cut down or quit drinking with meditation.

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The information on this website does not constitute medical advice and it should not be relied upon as such. Consult your doctor before modifying your regular medical regime.