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Women who quit: 9 inspiring reads for anyone who wants to cut back on booze this year

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Anna Brech
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Giving up alcohol

Want to cut back on your drinking in the New Year? Draw inspiration with our pick of raw, funny and moving quit lit memoirs to get you started on a life less boozy.

Improved sleepBetter mental health. Fewer mood swings. Younger-looking skin

The health benefits of cutting down on alcohol are well-documented – and yet, we’re boozing more than ever right now. The stress of the past few years is driving home our dependence on all things wine and spirits, with studies finding a direct link between binge drinking and lockdown

So how to make the leap of faith off this toxic merry-go-round? 

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Whether you’re planning on quitting completely or simply want to rein things in, good role models are really helpful. 

We want stories from women like us, who have been there with a similar struggle and have lived to tell the tale. More importantly, we need living proof that boozing less is not only good to do – it can be fun, too, with a raft of feel-good benefits.

From gritty memoirs to practical guides, here are nine great books to get you started on your journey to a less drunk you. We’ll cheers (with cranberry juice) to that. 

Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker

Holly Whitaker’s story of drinking is everyday rather than shocking; it’s about “my not-enoughness and my black-sheepness and my total inability to not feel like an empty piece of inconsequential shit who couldn’t do life”. With frank humour and a spiritual touch, she teases out the relationship between alcohol and self-esteem through a feminist lens. 

Nothing is remarkable about the way Holly boozes, but that is exactly that everyday quality that makes it so problematic. As a 20- and 30-something, the more she wants to “make it”, the more she knocks back, the worse things get. The result is a hugely relatable narrative, which shows just how easily it is for women, wine and notions of success to become intertangled as one.

Read it here

Quitter by Erica C. Barnett

As a Seattle-based political reporter on one of the city’s busiest beats, drinking is part and parcel of who Erica C. Barnett is. She’s surrounded by colleagues who drink, she dates people who drink – and soon enough, her life is awash with booze and spiralling out of control. 

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This memoir is all about staring down the shame that goes hand-in-hand in alcoholism, as Erica details her many failed attempts to stop drinking for good. Lost jobs and relationships are all part of the rollercoaster, but the author also offers up a detailed critique of recovery – and how it’s rarely the linear road we expect it to be.

Read it here

We Are The Luckiest by Laura McKowen

Like Erica, Laura McKowen’s story of getting sober is not a straight-forward tale of rock bottom and Happy Ever After. Instead, like many people, she patches together periods of sobriety – a “taste of life without the stranglehold of drinking” – in-between nightly blackouts and crushing anxiety. 

As a single mum and director at a global marketing agency, the pressures Laura faces in life are very familiar; as is the way she operates two separate “worlds” between her outside existence and interior, secret life. Yet it’s really the magic of her recovery that stands out in this lyrical read; all the energy and beauty – even with the challenges – that can arise from a booze-free life.

Read it here

Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington 

Once upon a time, going without Friday night drinks was unthinkable for journalist Ruby Warrington. But she couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that drinking was “slowly and stealthily” eating away at the quality of her life. “Gut-churning” anxiety was her almost constant companion, as was a general emptiness or lack of feeling. 

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Ruby’s quest for answers led her to create the term Sober Curious, the title of her book and also a global movement of people who are curious or mindful about society’s compulsion to drink. Chipping away the stigma that clouds our understanding of addiction, Ruby poses the idea that anyone who drinks is likely a little reliant on alcohol; but that joy, inspiration and connection lie in resetting that relationship.

Read it here

Glass Half Full by Lucy Rocca

Like many of us, Soberistas founder Lucy Rocca didn’t consider herself an alcoholic. Instead, she was a heavy drinker; someone who was the life and soul of the party, but who had her life in check. One night in 2011, however, she ends up being taken to hospital after collapsing outside her home in Sheffield – and it’s that moment that pushes her to give up booze for good. 

It’s only after quitting (and after getting over the shock of never being able to drink again) that Lucy is able to see its life-changing advantages. Glass Half Full is a tribute to these positive changes told in diary-style format; from fresh energy and improved mood to a huge surge in creativity.

Read it here

Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget by Sarah Hepola

Writer Sarah Hepola once made something of an art form out of drinking; her life was filled with crazy tales of waking up next to strangers and doing a live comedy gig in front of thousands while three sheets to the wind. There’s only one problem: she can never remember what happened in these episodes, because she’s always blackout drunk.

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Irreverent, funny and often alarming, Sarah’s reflections of her times spent in blackout will ring true for many women who’ve lived life on the edge in their 20s and 30s. Her journey to drying out is the most eye-opening part of the tale, though, as she courageously comes face-to-face with the demons of her past. 

Read it here

The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

Lifestyle journalist Catherine Gray see alcoholism as a sliding scale – you don’t have to wait until you’re at rock bottom (as she did) to step off and try something different. Though the book deals briefly with Catherine’s descent into dependence, it largely focuses on the benefits she’s found since going without.

Dealing with issues such as how to party sober and coping techniques for your first month of no drinking, The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober is packed with feel-good tips.

Read it here

Drunk Mom by   Jowita Bydlowska

Alcoholism often intersects with other major life events or issues – and Jowita Bydlowska’s vividly-told story is a case in point. When Jowita becomes a mum for the first time, the emotional rollercoaster of new parenthood collides with an age-old addiction she thought she’d put to rest. 

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Drunk Mom is a frank, eye-opening tale that beautifully brings to life the shame and denial that many dependent drinkers (especially women) feel at the eye of the storm. 

Read it here

Girl Walks Out Of A Bar by Lisa Smith

By parts hilarious and moving, Lisa Smith’s memoir marks her slide into alcoholism as a high-flying New York City lawyer. Lisa works long, punishing hours as one of the city’s brightest legal minds – but her workaholism is mirrored by an equally unhealthy addiction to wine and cocaine. 

As her relationships around her buckle under the strain, Lisa’s career promotions just keep coming; but her “success” is propped up by a 24/7 booze habit. A great snapshot of the contrast that exists between how we present to the world, and what’s really going on within. 

Read it here

Images: Getty, Instagram

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.