• Helen Ferguson

400 Days Alcohol Free

400 Days Alcohol Free

I decided to stop bothering with Alcohol.

She was the irritating friend of a friend who constantly turned up at events and never really added anything of value, but somehow everyone felt obliged to have her around.

She really got on my nerves after a while, so I decided to ghost her.

400 days later…..definitely a good decision.

Yup, 400 days ago, I made the choice to give alcohol the flick.

The thought was niggling in the back of my mind for a while, and suddenly it became the right time.

I was always a bit of a lightweight when it came to drinking.

I started later than most people.

I wasn't the under-age teen sneaking alcohol behind my parents back.

My College years saw me perpetually skint, so I was more likely to drink Tonic Water on my rare visits to the Pub, when everybody else seemed to be getting stuck into pints of Guinness.

Red Wine made me grotty.

White Wine got me giddy.

Gin and Tonic was my utterly delicious tipple of choice; one was wonderful, two had me tipsy.


I had my messy moments, the embarrassing gaffes fuelled by one too many, but in my 20's and early 30's I generally didn't drink as often as most of my peers.

I slipped into lazy drinking patterns as I got older and more comfortable in my lifestyle.

I wasn't going out for a drink, I was snuggling up on the sofa with my Husband and opening a bottle of wine in front of the T.V.

I didn't drink every night, but if someone topped up my glass, I would usually drink it.


Wine with dinner? Why not!

G&T on the deck after work, ok then!

Same Same

I noticed how alcohol inserted itself into more and more situations, and how 'same same' those situations began to feel.

Dinner, Theatre, Cinema, Beach, Picnic, Brunch….do you want alcohol with that?

That's when the idea to stop drinking really began to gain traction with me.

I usually volunteered to be the designated driver, so that made nights out an alcohol free no brainer, and it meant I didn't have to explain not drinking to anyone else.

Why do people feel obliged to justify that?

It's what most people are concerned about in the early days of cutting back.

What will I tell people?

What will people think?

That's why Dry July and Sober October have such success, it gives people the opportunity to experiment with quitting and they get a ready-made explanation for the delightful people who insist

'Oh go on, one won't make a difference'


'Don't be boring, have a real drink, just to be sociable!'.

Then, early menopause arrived; searing heat jolting me awake, drowning in sweat, night after night.


In the past, two glasses of wine were ok, 3 were a gamble….. now one glass had the same effect as flagon. Disturbed sleep and a hangover from one glass of wine?

Seriously, what was the point?

Covid Home Isolation took hold and my Facebook feed filled with people joking about 'day drinking' and having wine in their coffee mugs during Zoom meetings.

It left me feeling unsettled.

My problem, no-one else's.

I quietly decided to give myself 10 days without alcohol to see what difference it made.

Oh. My. Word!

7 nights out of 10 I slept like a log in a coma.

The other 3 I was in a froth of hormonal heat.

7 good nights though!

I could cope with that!

I decided to keep going and see where it took me.

After 25 nights my husband asked if this was forever.

I didn't know.

I didn't want to put a label on it.

I found that I still wanted the 'ceremony' of having a drink though.

I wanted the beautiful glass filled with ice and a bright flavour at the end of a busy week.

There was a simple fix: a good quality Tonic water with some lime and bitters worked wonders.

I experimented with some Mocktails and that was fun.

There were lots of resources and recipes out there for inspiration.

I really loved looking at the beautiful photos on The Mindful Mocktail pages


After a month, I felt more awake than I had for a long time.

I wanted more of that feeling, so I carried on for another month, and another.

Soon I hit 100 days Alcohol Free and I saw no need to change what I was doing, it was working for me.

I realised early on that this was for me and about me, nobody else.

I would still pour my husband a drink if he wanted one, I didn't want to be the irritating evangelist.

I noticed that his alcohol intake did drop quite quickly though and he would just as easily sip an alcohol free Cider as a Rum and Coke.

Want to know what else I noticed about not drinking?

  • Some people find it very off-putting. They assume that you're judging the amount that they are drinking and start justifying their intake to you. Like a Confessional.

  • Other people look at you with shock or a poker face. Total cessation must be an admission of alcoholism and they don't know which way to jump.

  • The received wisdom that if you stop drinking you will lose weight. Nope. Not one gram. Seriously.

  • Not all Alcohol Free Wines are created equal, some are really delicious, but my experience of Alcohol Free Gin has been a major disappointment. I've got 3/4 of a bottle left if anybody wants it.

  • My creativity has expanded to fill the nooks and crannies of time that were once occupied by sitting with a glass in my hand.

  • Nobody cares what is in your glass at a party, if they are not paying for it.

I found it was easier to stop than I assumed it would be.

I imagine that is because it was a habit and not a dependency.

Once I had made the decision that this was what I was going to do, I followed that path and it brought me here.

I like it here.

A few things that I did to help me in the early days was to go easy on myself, I gave myself permission to take a day off and have a drink if I wanted one. It turned out that I didn't need it, but I eliminated the idea of failure if I did have a drink.

As a podcast junkie, I listened to a podcast called 'This Naked Mind' which has interviews with people who had decided to stop drinking, exploring their why and how.

I found that fascinating.


400 days down and I can't be bothered to count any more.

One day I might have a glass of Champers at a wedding.

When cruising becomes a thing again, a Tom Collins at sunset might seem appealing, who knows?

It feels unlikely.

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