In a recent episode of HBO’s Sex and the City reboot, Miranda gets a mysterious Amazon delivery: a copy of Quit Like a Woman, a bright, approachable manual for women who, in increasing numbers, are looking to cut back or eliminate their alcohol intake. Only problem? Miranda assumes it was sent by Charlotte, who had expressed concern about her drinking. And just like that, the book goes back in the box.
In my drinking days, I would have reacted exactly the same way.
No one can make the decision to quit for another person, especially someone with an addiction. But the funny thing is, after more than a decade of problematic drinking, devouring recovery memoirs, and taking “Am I an alcoholic?” quizzes in the middle of the night, a self-help book is exactly what gave me the strength to stop.
It was a random day in February 2019 when I downloaded This Naked Mind, which had previously sat untouched in my Audible library for months. As author Annie Grace recommended, I didn’t pressure myself to stop drinking or make any decisions; I didn’t ask myself to do anything but listen. Somehow, her words began to work on my subconscious, replacing the mental load of denial and bargaining—not to mention, my finite reserves of willpower—with a deep internal certainty: Drinking isn’t my friend and, without it, I’d be free.
I’ve since recommended This Naked Mind to many friends, though never unsolicited. (Speaking of which, spoiler alert: Charlotte was innocent! Miranda bought the book herself.)
When the pandemic hit, I was grateful I’d quit drinking first. The long days of quarantine, lack of social and cultural stimulation, and overwhelming grief and uncertainty would have given me plenty of justification to drink more than ever. But in fact, anyone contemplating stopping or pausing now has several advantages. For one, the seltzer and mocktail explosion means that a plethora of delicious, complex, grown-up nonalcoholic beverages can be delivered to your door (one of the most mind-blowing things I learned in early sobriety was that drinking can be simply replaced with…drinking). The growing wave of cannabis legalization has also helped some people cut back on alcohol, which in turn allows them to better evaluate its effects. And the pandemic greatly accelerated the growth of virtual meetings and online recovery groups, an invaluable resource for folks without easy access to in-person events.
Another important shift is the recognition that treatment for alcohol abuse has long been too narrow—and too narrowly focused on men. The first step of AA, admitting that one is “powerless” over alcohol, can feel detrimental to someone who struggles with feeling powerless in other areas. So does the idea that you have to hit “rock bottom,” or even label yourself an alcoholic, to recover. Just as women have spent the past few decades being marketed wine and cocktails as uniquely suited to their lifestyle, many are now questioning those messages and proposing another way. The growing genre of “Quit Lit” runneth over with audiobooks, memoirs, and podcasts specifically for women—and whether you’re detoxing for Dry January, moderating, or trying to quit for good, they could be exactly what you need to hear.
Keep in mind: Quitting drinking should always be pursued in close consultation with a doctor, as stopping on your own can be dangerous or even be fatal for dependent drinkers. But with a plan in hand, the right listen could change your life.