I Got Sober at 27 (and I Didn’t Quit to Save Money)

I’ve been debating whether or not I should talk about my sobriety here. There are so many challenges and insecurities that have come with it, that I usually don’t talk about it with anyone, let alone readers. But I have to wonder if there’s anyone reading this who might be going through something similar. And if there is, I’d like them to know that they are not alone.

I toyed with the idea of giving up alcohol for almost two years, before I finally made the decision to ditch it for good. My New Year’s Resolution in 2011 was to not drink for one year. I think that lasted for 23 days. Maybe only 9. I don’t remember but it wasn’t long. For nearly two years after that, I went through phases of “I’m not drinking for a while” and “I think I’m done”. Some lasted two months, others only days. But I wasn’t done, until I was really done.

By the time I finally gave up drinking, I could polish off two bottles of wine at home before going out and taking multiple shots at the bar. I would dance all night, thinking my girlfriends and I owned the floor and not caring what anyone thought of our moves. The more I drank, the more confident I became. And my inhibitions were gone, so I could choose to drink more and more and not feel bad about it. I could also wake up early without so much as a headache, go for a hike and be back before 9:00 a.m. I loved alcohol and I loved that it rarely ever made me regret drinking it.

I’m sure every alcoholic remembers one moment that made them want to get sober. I don’t care to hang that one out for everyone to see, but I will say it was the morning after a night I consumed way too many drinks (go figure, eh?). I distinctly remember curling up under the covers, crying and knowing I couldn’t do this to myself anymore.

Much like my debt, I don’t think anyone in my life knew I had a drinking problem except for me. I didn’t drink daily or even weekly. But when I drank, I drank fast and hard. I was always a happy drunk who loved to dance and sing all night. And because I rarely got hangovers, it didn’t seem like alcohol affected me or my life in a negative way. What bothered me, however, is the fact that I blacked out almost every time I drank. It’s one thing to hear that you were “so cute” or “so fun last night”, but it’s quite another to wonder if that’s really true because you don’t remember anything after 11:00 p.m.

I don’t like to count my sobriety in days or weeks or even months (ok, maybe I do count months). I do like to say that I got sober at 27 and everyday feels a little bit better than the day before. But I could never write a how-to post about staying sober because, the truth is, it’s a conscious decision I make everyday. When I open the refrigerator, I look at my roommate’s bottles of beer and wine and I choose not to open them. When I’m at dinner with friends, I see all of their fun drinks and I choose to consume what feels like a gallon of water. I often wish I could have “just one”, but I know I can’t so I just don’t.

The reaction to my decision has generally been positive. Of course, my family and friends are amazing. I’ll never forget the day I told my dad I was an alcoholic. We were in separate cities talking on Facebook chat, and I finally said the words for the first time. Then I cried for a few hours – but I read his reply over and over again. “I’m proud of you for recognizing your behaviour.” And that’s what mostly everyone says. There have been a few people who have called me out, labelled me as “the sober one”, and generally just made me feel like I was different or was somehow bothering them by not drinking. Those reactions all sting, because sobriety comes with many of those insecurities.

Even though everyday feels a little bit better than the day before, I still:

  • worry what my friends think
  • worry that my family worries
  • wonder what new people I meet will think
  • wonder if I’ll ever find a guy who accepts me
  • try not to isolate myself
  • feel left out sometimes
  • have moments where I wish I could drink
  • hate when someone tells me I’m not an alcoholic, and
  • feel angry whenever someone asks if I quit to save money

My Internet BFF Clare said it best: Not drinking is serious business.

However, I have also:

  • been more productive on the weekends
  • been more productive, in general
  • become a better writer (I think)
  • become passionate about new things
  • started to volunteer again
  • gotten more physically fit
  • gotten even closer with my family and friends
  • been more careful about who I let into my life and my heart, and
  • learned to put myself first

There are always going to be people who judge me, or question my decision, because they don’t understand, but I don’t need them to. Just like I don’t need to explain what the definition of an alcoholic is and why I know I am one. I grew up in a house where neither of my parents drank, because alcoholism exists in our family. I knew the warning signs. I knew I had a problem. And I know I always will. But I can confidently say that I know I’ll be sober forever – because I need to be, in order to live my happiest, healthiest life.

Thanks for reading, friends. <3

  • I commend you for taking control of your life in yet another way, Cait. It takes a lot of self motivation and character to realize a trait or behavior about oneself that you don’t like and then change it even if it is seemingly not having any negative impacts. Good for you for making that conscious decision each and every day!

  • You go girl! You should be so proud of yourself for knowing you and staying true to you! I imagine this was very difficult for you to write and publish. Thank you for sharing. You are an amazing woman – continue to stay true to you.

  • You are amazing for writing this post and an inspiration to many people :) As always I love love love reading your blog!

  • I can imagine it being very difficult not drinking, particularly in your twenties, and especially since there is SUCH a drinking culture out there. When J and I first started dating, he wasn’t drinking at all for other reasons, and I remember feeling like my own family was pressuring him. They’d always say things like “you can have a glass of wine. Just have one, you are with family”. I would get so mad and they would take it as me forcing him to not drink.

    It was really frustrating for me, I could only imagine what it was like for J.

    Alcoholism is no joke and I’m proud of you for recognizing that you were on a slippery slope and doing what is best for you.

    • Major drinking culture out there. And I’m fine being around friends while they drink… those moments really don’t bother me at all. But I do feel awkward in social situations, with new people especially. I’m sure that will get easier with them.

      Thanks for sharing J’s story with me last night and for sharing this experience you had together. It was really great to see you. :)

  • Great post Cait, it can be difficult making the change and taking the first steps to get off alcohol. During my divorce, alcohol was a big way for me to deal with what was going on. I was on my own, left to my own devices, it went from bad to worse. I was drinking almost every night, staying up until 2AM and then dragging myself into work. I finally realized I couldn’t do that to myself anymore. My life was changing, I had to sober up and accept it. I then threw myself even more into exercising, eating healthier and it gave me a new focus along with the new life I was creating for myself.
    Sadly for the past year I’ve fallen a bit back into my old habits of drinking wine on the weekends. I know what you mean by being able to polish off a whole bottle of wine in one evening. I have once again made the decision to get alcohol out of my life and this time for good. I live with my parents and I get reminded that I may be consuming too much.
    Like you, I also want my weekends back, and the productivity and clear thinking.
    I find coffee and alcohol are the two worst things I can be consuming. They both have an adverse affect on my body and my thinking.
    Proud of you for admitting it to your parents, good job on staying away from a bad habit :) Never fear being judged or not fitting in. You may get made fun of on occasions but then people start realizing you have your life together and when they admit that to you, it’s the best feeling ever.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this post – it takes a lot to be able to admit there was an issue. Good luck with continuing your positive progress!

    Personally, I do not have a problem with alcohol, but I don’t especially love drinking (for multiple reasons), which gets me called a few names in the process. I don’t quite understand why my decision not to drink is any different than those who want to have a drink at a social event. I have my reasons for not drinking, as they have reasons to drink, and I shouldn’t need to be ridiculed by my acquaintances for my decision.

    I love what Michelle said above me about those people realising you have your life together :)

    • And it’s true – people already do realize it. But it’s not always easy to “feel” like you are someone who has it all together, because some days you don’t feel that way. But I know it’s true. <3

  • So glad you decided to blog about it. I am insanely proud of you and so glad we’re in the same sober boat. Where should we go? Oars in!

  • Hi Cait,

    You are very brave to share your story with us. I imagine its gotta be tough a lot of days but keep on going. Just like paying off debt, the end result is worth the hard work.


  • I think you’re amazing for being so self-aware and dealing with the problem, and for sharing your struggles with all of us readers. You should be so proud of yourself!

  • I remember the first time we ever met and the other 2 ladies and myself included ordered girlie drinks and I asked you if you were going to order a drink as well and you simply replied “I don’t drink anymore.” I thought you handled it with so much class and grace just like you are handling this post with the same class and grace. I know it will help your readers Cait!

  • Hi Cait. As others have commented, thanks for sharing this very personal information with us, your loyal readers.

    You say:
    “Even though everyday feels a little bit better than the day before, I still …”

    To which I reply:
    Try not to worry about what others (friends, family, strangers) think.
    Just so that you are comfortable in your own skin with yourself because it’s true – we are our own strongest critics at times. And knowing that you will rarely go around thinking of or judging others just remember that it works in reverse. Each day is a new day, right?

  • Good for you Cait. I admire your courage. Keep going and THANK you for posting this. It means more than you will know. Thank you.

  • Cait- i think you are AWESOME….i found your blonde on a budget blog last year trying to put my family’s budget into simpler terms…YOU ARE A GREAT WRITER!! We all have flaws, and acknowledging them is always the first great step..right??? weather its financial goal or self-improvement. So to all those haters out there..tell them to bug off!!

  • This post was so powerful Cait! I can only imagine summoning up the courage to write about it. I am always in awe of bloggers like you who are willing to share more of their personal life- I will really respect you for it because I know its harder than it looks. Who cares what anyone thinks about you not drinking. You be you! People who don’t get it don’t deserve your friendship or time. :)

  • Thanks for sharing your story! I’m sure it’s not easy to talk about on the interwebs but we can all benefit from hearing your self-realization, strong decision making, and perseverance. No matter what anyone says, we all have some habit or another that’s holding our lives back and being able to recognize that and kick the habit to the curb is truly amazing. You are an inspiration!

  • Hey Cait thanks for the story.

    You know, sometimes opening up our vulnerabilities lead to the best stories. They are real. And they show that we aren’t perfect. And being imperfect and vulnerable really connects with others.

    Because we are all imperfect, vulnerable, possess fears, and make mistakes. Thanks for connecting on a deeper level :)

  • Good for you, and I hope others read your article and have the courage to give up drinking, which offers absolutely no real benefit (much like soft drinks, but the damage done is a lot more in the first case). And you’re right, it’s a concious decision one makes everytime they see a bottle or glass of wine. Many people subtely discourage you by making passive remarks about your decision, but you’re winning your onw battle, your own life.

    • I have already received some great emails, DMs, etc. from this… so I am starting to feel good about my decision to post it. “Winning your own bottle – your own life.” You may never know how true that statement is. Thank you, Tammy. <3

  • Amazing post. Thanks for sharing your bravery! I hope this helps make tomorrow a little easier :-) and also helps other people considering making the same decision or trying to understand someone who has quit.

    You continue to be a role model on all fronts of being a human being! <3

  • Cait, you are so well spoken, honest and brave. Thank you for sharing your struggles and life. You are an inspiration in so many ways. Hugs.

    • Thank you for reading, Jaime. PS – We really need to do that coffee sometime soon! I’ll let you know when I’m in Vic next and see if you’re free. :)

  • Great post, when we are at the most vulnerable is when we accept change. A person who can share this is braver than most. A little joke you can share with those who question you; Say to them, Do not Stay Thirsty My Friends.

  • Cait, you are awesome. Completely, fabulously awesome.

    For what it’s worth, the people who make comments are probably the ones who understand the least and need to the most. It says more about them that they can’t respect your decision without judgment than it says about you. Because it bears repeating. You. Are. Awesome.

  • Cait! Bravo for being so open and honest but more importantly for having the courage to make such a tough decision and follow through with it. I know for a fact that having an addiction of any type it is not easy and it is a daily choice like you said. So, Way to go! xoxoxo

  • Cait, what a great blog post! The company I work with has recently published a large study about how people are hesitant to be their authentic selves at work because of the judgment or others or wanting to fit in to the company culture at all costs. I think the same applies personally in many cases. We all have the right to be our authentic selves, and you have the right to be proud to live the way you choose. I wish you much luck with your journey, and may you continue to be your authentic self!

  • This is very inspiring. My BF tries not to drink too much due to reasons that are his own, and it’s always hard, especially around friends. It’s so good to know that there are other great and young people out there making this decision!

  • I had absolutely no idea, and we have lived side by side for years! Alcohol targets everybody differently, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why I didn’t notice.

    It takes a lot of willpower to admit to flaws, mistakes, or bad habits. But it involves confidence, as well. I am glad you transformed yourself from the unproductive dancer girl into the savvy young woman you’ve become!

    And don’t ever forget, I am SO happy to call you my sister :)
    You inspire me, I love you! xoxo

  • Cait, thank you for sharing your story with us. It takes courage and bravery to say what you did and it will inspire lots of people. We all have our own demons to deal with whether it be alcohol or something else. I can imagine how hard it is, as youth culture focuses on drinking. Heck, almost all my meetups with friends are happy hours! I try to mix it up and get coffee or tea, just because I don’t like the idea of having friends I just drink with. It rubs me the wrong way, as I have seen alcoholism in friends and family. It’s good to know that you can’t just have one. You are such an amazing young lady!

  • Great personal story Cait, and excellently written. I think that there are so many people in the world who have this problem and aren’t willing to face up to, or admit, the matter.

    Inspirational read, thank you so much for sharing.

  • Of course you’ll find a guy who accepts you! I don’t drink as I don’t like the taste and don’t like the idea of being hungover the next day – my bf couldn’t care less, he loves having a designated driver every time we go out tho lol ;)

    • I know, I know… just one of those insecurities that comes along with it, I suppose. (And you’d be surprised how many first dates seem to revolve around going for drinks. No, thanks!)

  • THAN K YOU for writing this. It’s inspirational and useful to us all. You have been doing great and you’ll slowly see the benefits. Don’t bother with what other things say. Consider being named ‘the sober one’ as something good. You are making a conscious choice EACH DAY and are not breaking down. This is what matters. You can have fun and not drink, you can be a great friend and not drink etc. Do what’s best for you, at the end of the day YOU MATTER.

  • I don’t know you, but I virtually wrap my arms around you (if that’s your thing). You are so wise to have made this decision. You are setting a great example for many.

  • So proud of you for writing this! It’s amazing that when we clean up one area of our lives (like finances), usually other areas follow suit. And the older you get the less you care about what other folks think. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind :]

    Looking forward to seeing you in October – over a coffee or some yummy food! xoxo – A

  • Awesome post Cait and congrats on talking about your story. I don’t drink alcohol and it’s a personal choice – not for financial reasons, but because of my family’s history.

    My family drinks, I have several family members who went to rehab and not recovered. I choose not to drink so that I can avoid making the same mistakes.

  • Congrats Cait! I think so many women in their 20’s feel this way and we all have become to accept what is a problem (drinking to excess every time, blacking out, etc.) as the norm. It is so commendable of you for putting this out in the open and facing your demons. You do not have to rationalize your decisions to anyone, you only have one life to live and if this is what is best for you than go with it!


  • Really enjoyed reading this and great that you’re willing to share your experiences. I’ve pretty much been a non-drinker forever – and you do realise how much of adult social life is based around alcohol. But as long as you don’t mind being around people who are drinking, there’s so many benefits – definitely the cost of a night out, not having a hangover the next day, being able to drive yourself home, generally (hopefully!) being healthier…

    It’s great that many people love to drink, but I do think a some rely too heavily on alcohol in social situations. They feel they can’t fully relax or be themselves without it – which is a shame, because they’re wonderful people and that would shine through without the booze.

    But not drinking isn’t the norm. Now I’m in my mid (to late!) twenties, people question me less about why I don’t drink and I’m less embarrassed by it than I was as an 18 year old…

    That was a bit of a stream of consciousness there! But my main point is it sounds like you’ve made a very positive decision for you and I’m happy for you – being sober is great!

    B x

    • People *definitely* rely on it in social situations; that’s even easier to see when you’re the “sober one”. It’s not the norm but I’m ok with that. Thanks for the comment, B.

  • I’m really glad you shared this!

    Back when I was in university, I drank a lot. After completely blacking out on my 23rd birthday, I knew I had to calm down. I put myself on a drinking ban for that summer, and I’ve never gotten that out of hand again.

    To this day, I’m not a big drinker. I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve drunk alone, and can keep beer in my fridge for months at a time.

    Good for you for doing what you needed to do!

  • Hi Cait,
    Thank you for sharing your story. My sister-in-law has a story very similar but hers ended up where we was arrested and that very moment changed her life. She will be blogging about it at CBB in hopes of helping others. Alcohol is a huge part of growing up for many people with parties, bars, etc.. but there comes a time where we have to take responsibility for our actions. I believe everything happens for a reason and her getting caught we an angels way of saving her life and potentially others.
    Cheers mate

  • I can only imagine that this post took a lot of courage to put out there and I think you handled it wonderfully <3

    Kudos to you for sticking to your guns and making a healthy choice for yourself. I can appreciate the gravity of the decision you face every day decision because I know that there's a lot more to drinking than just putting a bottle to your lips. You're one tough cookie, Cait :)

  • Thank you for sharing your story Cait. I imagine this was not easy for you.

    Like you I don’t really drink alcohol, but mostly because I get a headache after having only one drink, so it’s not worth it to me. This is great that you have been strong enough to recognise there was a problem and take steps to eliminate it. Don’t ever feel uncomfortable about not drinking, I think this is great and very rare these days, so you should be proud of yourself.

    Sending hugs and kisses your way.


  • I loved this post, and I’m glad you had the courage to share. Like you said, it is inevitable that someone in a similar position will come across this, and if this post provides them the final push to stop drinking, you might have just saved a life, or two, or dozens.
    So congratulations to you – that is amazing. It takes real discipline to overcome something you know you have a weakness for. For all the past times it took to get to this point, I have a favorite quote that reminds me that past failures were needed to get to where you are now.

    The quote is: “Modern man is conditioned to expect instant gratification, but any success or triumph realized quickly, with only marginal effort, is necessarily shallow. Meaningful achievement takes time, hard work, persistence, patience, proper intent and self-awareness. The path to success is punctuated by failure, consolidation, and renewed effort.” – Mark Twight

    Congratulations, again! Wish you the best! =)

  • Wow, what courage you’ve shown to share this with all your readers. All power to you – it’s hard to stay strong, drinking is such a large part of our culture. I didn’t drink much/at all when I was young (but of age) and a lot of people thought I was weird. I’m not sober now, but then I’ve only ever been hungover once, so I pride myself that I don’t as a whole go too hard, and can easily abstain. Even if it’s been an easier route for me, I empathise wholeheartedly with the struggle you have day in and week out and every month!

  • Good for you Cait! I’ve definitely changed how I drink since I’ve gotten older. I used to drink hard and fast when I was in my early and mid twenties, especially since some of the jobs I worked at included lots of parties with free booze. Now if I go out I consciously make a decision to have no more than two drinks and I’m glad I’ve put that limitation on myself.

  • I made a decision early on in life to not drink and I think I’ve only had one sip of beer and one sip of champagne since I was born. As such, I can relate to the peer pressure you can sometimes get to drink. For me I think my friends who loved to get loaded wanted to see what I would be like drunk and almost looked at it as a personal conquest to see if they could convince me.

    However, after a few polite rejections, they almost always dropped it without much further ado because they quickly realized I couldn’t be cracked. I’ve also never found the fact that I don’t drink to be a social or career liability as some people seem to think it will be.

    You’ll also find that the older you get, the more mature people will be about it and understand without any explanation that your life decision is simply that, yours, no matter what your reasons are. Anyone who still pressures you about it are probably the kind of people you should be distancing yourself from anyway because they lack maturity and strength of character.

    Finally, if you get sick of drinking the endless gallons of water, you can always switch to sparkling water like I did. That’s what I drank whenever we went out during CPFC13 and most bars have it. Paying for water can be a major bummer but at least it makes the experience feel a little more special. There aren’t many choices because I avoid pop for health reasons and I don’t like the taste of most other drinks that would be served at a bar. Virgin drinks would definitely be an option for you though wouldn’t they?

  • Would you believe that I woke up this morning, made my coffee and began a google search looking for inexpensive ways to maintain blonde hair? I’m serious!! Needless to say, I have spent the last two hours going through your journey because each and every post has been an exact mirror image of my life so far. I’m almost 32 and still cleaning up the mess of bad financial decisions from my twenties.

    I feel compelled to respond to this post in particular because I know exactly what this feels like. You talked about maxing out credit cards buying dinner and rounds of drinks. I too spent most of my twenties living a “borrowed” lifestyle. Looking back now, I’ve realized that buying rounds and rounds of drinks for others helped disguise my own problem with alcohol. I figured if everyone was as drunk as I was, then there was nothing wrong with it, right? I know the shameful, sick-to-your-stomach guilt feeling of not knowing what the hell happened the night before and then getting the same feeling when you see the bill. People don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen on a daily basis. I lost contact with a lot of people when I stopped allowing myself to get to that point let alone stopped buying everyone drinks. While I haven’t chosen to completely cut alcohol out of my life (I make beer for a living, so it’s kinda hard) I do understand others who have chosen to do so. My father gave me some advice when I was 12 and getting bullied at school. He said “Jenn, you have to be comfortable in your own company before you’ll ever be comfortable in anyone else’s.” So I’d say to hell with what others think of your decision to be sober. If anyone didn’t want to hang out with me because I wasn’t drinking then I’d say “Good! I’d rather stay home and read a book anyway!” :) Keep up the great work Cait!

  • This gave me chills when I read this. I felt as if I was reading my exact story. I just recently decided I truly want to quit, but it is not easy and I am having a hard time feeling left out. Giving up the actual alcohol doesnt seem to be the hard part, it is dealing with my anxiety about feeling the need to explain to everyone else why I am not drinking anymore. I have tried AA a few times, but I am really turned off by some of the culture and feeling as if I am being told what to do. I want support and realize I need other people in my life that are sober, but I am struggling. Any advice you have would be amazing. I cannot believe how similar our stories sound. I feel very insecure I wont meet a man that understands why I choose not to drink, sober dating is not easy!!! Anyways, thanks for your post, I hope to read more :)

  • You don’t know how this post has helped me not feel so alone or “crazy”. I am 28, in the middle of some legal battles as a result of drinking. I can attest to everything you said. I didn’t/don’t drink everyday; but once I tip the bottle back there is no turning back. I’ve blacked out, made some very bad decisions, and made a lot of regrets. I often worry about what it will be like when I’m out with friends and the only one not drinking. I’ve isolated myself the last month or so trying to just wrap my head around what is happening. But aside from my sob story, I just want to thank you for being so brave as to put this piece of yourself out into the world. Of the stories I’ve heard and read, yours is the first one that has really been perfectly parallel with mine. So thank you, brave soul. Good luck in your sober journey. :)

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