Do you reach for a glass of wine in the evenings as your reward for getting through the day, only to wonder if there might be a better way to unwind? I’ve been doing this for years, and it bothers me because I know that often, I’m not even enjoying it. I decided to take a break from drinking after weeks of indulgence over the Christmas period. I didn’t give it a label (Dry January always feels like added pressure I don’t need nor want), and my aim isn’t complete abstinence but a recalibration of my relationship with alcohol. It’s going surprisingly well, and I’ve discovered some great non-alcoholic alternatives that I want to share with you.
To give you a bit of context, I’ve been through a very tough few years, and it was during this time that alcohol became my daily reward for dealing with all the challenges life throws my way. We’re talking about a couple of glasses of wine, not bottles of vodka; it sounds quite civilized, doesn’t it? But then I was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety, and I started to question whether the alcohol was contributing to my permanently anxious state and insomnia. I’m certain it wasn’t helping, but it’s hard to stop when drinking is so normalized and a part of your daily routine.
The Benefits of a Break from Alcohol
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you about the perks of not drinking alcohol: better sleep, less bloating, clearer skin, saving money, and more space in your recycling bin at the end of the week (this could be my favorite perk!). However, the biggest transformation since taking a step back from alcohol has been ditching the guilt. When I drink alcohol all the time—and for me, that’s a couple of glasses most nights, more if I’m socialising—I wake up in the middle of the night feeling guilty because I think I’m drinking too much, or I feel guilty about the liquid calories, and I find it really eats away at my self-esteem. Getting on top of it has had a really positive impact on my daily life.
My Journey: Challenges and Small Wins
The urge to pour a glass of wine as I finish work and think about dinner can be overwhelming. It’s my usual way of signaling to myself that work is done, and this is my time. I’ve learned that if I pause and don’t respond to the urge on autopilot (which is the hard part), that moment will pass, and I can enjoy my evening without alcohol. For me, replacing wine with a glass of tonic water or any other non-alcoholic alternative works really well. It tricks my brain into feeling rewarded, so I still get a treat without the booze. Presentation is key here; I recommend making the effort to serve your non-alcoholic drink in a fancy glass and add a garnish because it turns the whole thing into an event. It’s a simple change, but it makes a world of difference. This is also very helpful in social situations when the pressure to drink can be huge.
Non-Alcoholic Alternatives I Love
My journey into the world of non-alcoholic drinks has been eye-opening. Let’s start with beer. I’m no expert, and I’m sure I’ll ruffle a few feathers here, but I genuinely struggle to tell the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, so for me, they work really well. I like Becks Blue and Moretti 0.0 – perfect for occasions when you’re opting for alcohol-free socialising, and they hit the spot alongside some of my favourite meals. It doesn’t even feel like I’m depriving myself!
My journey into the world of non-alcoholic drinks has been eye-opening. Let’s start with beer. I’m no expert, and I’m sure I’ll ruffle a few feathers here, but I genuinely struggle to tell the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, so for me, they work really well. I like Becks Blue and Moretti 0.0—perfect for occasions when you’re opting for alcohol-free socializing, and they hit the spot alongside some of my favorite meals. It doesn’t even feel like I’m depriving myself!
Now, onto my big discovery: sparkling wine. Non-alcoholic red and white wines are still pretty dismal in my opinion, but sparkling alternatives? They’re a game-changer. Nozeco and Fizzero may not be the real deal, but they do a fantastic job of mimicking the experience. The bubbles create a celebratory feeling and served in my best champagne flute, I hardly feel like I’m missing out. Yes, they are sweeter, and the taste is slightly different, but honestly very decent. I also tried Freixenet 0.0 and it was really good. If you have a bigger budget and want something special, then Pale Fox is for you. Look for the word ‘de-alcoholised’ on the label for the best taste.
For those who enjoy an aperitif, Martini Floreale is brilliant. Served over ice with a wedge of orange and tonic water, it’s a refreshing alternative to Campari. A sophisticated and grown-up drink in its own right.
Other non-alcoholic alternatives to try: I can’t say I’ve personally tried any of these but they come recommended by Helen McGinn so they must be good:
Natureo De-Alcoholised Red Wine
Clean-Co R Non-Alcoholic Spirit
Expert Tips from Sobriety Coach Anna Sudbury, Staying Social and Sober
I asked my Insta pal Anna Sudbury for her expert tips for staying sober. Anna is an accredited sobriety coach who works to help women redefine their relationship with alcohol and live a happy and rewarding life without the booze.
- Be prepared. Stock your fridge with alcohol-free alternatives. Kombucha, tonics, flavoured waters like DASH – there is so much more out there than Diet Coke and orange juice. Make sure you have a broad selection so you feel like there is a CHOICE. Just like a bar doesn’t stock one kind of drink, nor should your fridge. Like Antonia says, use your best glasses, add a garnish, and make it feel special.
- Set yourself up for success. Cutting down on alcohol plays havoc with your brain chemistry. You’ll feel out of sorts and might have headaches in the early days. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, seeing daylight, moving your body in a way that makes you happy, and eating well. This is not a time for dieting or quitting smoking – concentrate on one thing at a time, and fuel your body in a way that shows it some love.
- Watch out for the benefits. Write them down! You’ll notice you’re sleeping better, your complexion will be clearer, and the brain fog will lift. Inside your body, magic is happening too – but you can’t see it! Your blood pressure and bad cholesterol will drop. Your adrenaline and cortisol will start to balance out, your gut health will improve and you may see a knock-on effect in your digestion. Every single one of your organs will feel the benefit. If you notice changes on the outside, just imagine the good you are doing to the parts of the body you can’t see.
- Count the money, honey. How much would you normally have spent on booze? Keep a note on what you are saving, and put it towards something you consider a treat. A pedicure, a spending spree in Waterstones, coffee and cake, a bunch of flowers, a luxury face cream. I like to go mad on Vinted. You do you.
- Stay curious! What new moments of joy are starting to sneak into your life? My fave was morning coffee without a hangover. I really tasted the coffee, I enjoyed the ritual of making it, and I felt like it was a treat rather than something I would need to survive the day.
The Next Chapter
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that my intention isn’t to give up completely but to learn to drink mindfully because I’ve noticed I like myself more and feel significantly better when alcohol isn’t a part of my daily life. Although I’ve made some positive changes, and things are progressing well, I know that this isn’t the end of the story. I anticipate there will be times when I’ll fall back into old habits, but I’ve discovered some fantastic alternatives. I intend to keep reaching for my newfound non-alcoholic sparkling wines before I dive straight into the Rioja! I’ll continue to share updates on my progress, and if my experience resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to share your non-alcoholic drink recommendations with me