January can provide the perfect excuse to reintroduce healthy choices back into our daily life after months of holiday indulging. For some, this may include cutting out alcohol.
For others, the decision to stop drinking entirely spans well beyond the Dry January initiative.
Reasons for quitting alcohol can include reaching fitness and weight loss goals to simply being a way to improve overall health. Whatever the reason, each person’s journey in cutting out alcohol is unique.
We spoke with Mia Manusco about her reasons for abstaining from alcohol as well as her tips for going alcohol-free.
Mia’s story is also part of a larger collaboration between Healthline and the American Liver Foundation. For more information and stories about America’s relationship with alcohol, click here.
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person's story.
How would you describe your relationship with alcohol in the past?
I started messing with alcohol around age 14. I drank throughout high school and right into college. The year I turned 21, I moved to NYC and started working in one of the most popular sports bars on the Upper East Side.
I made a ton of cash drinking with my customers at night and putting myself through college during the day. It was at that bar that I really learned “how to drink.” My co-workers became some of my closet friends, and we had the time of our lives.
We were highly encouraged to drink and get drunk at work — and we did. Some of my fondest and craziest memories of living in NYC were of those years, followed by some of the worst.
Once I moved on from that job, my drinking became more “adult.” By “adult,” I mean I had moved on to drinking nice wines in fancier restaurants as opposed to Flaming Doctor Peppers at biker bars.
In my late 20s, I found yoga and quickly became encompassed with all things healthy and on trend. I became a certified yoga instructor and eventually a registered nurse (RN).
I was a huge fan of the word “balance,” because this concept allowed me to identify as a woman who had it all: A woman who was taking care of herself, exercising, eating well, and walking the so-called spiritual path, while going out all night, getting drunk, and smoking a ton of cigarettes (while praying no one from my professional life would see me).
I used this “balance” as an excuse to allow myself to make choices I knew were not good for me. It was my ego saying to the world, “Look at me! I’m so amazing and disciplined and yet still fun and exciting!”
The truth is I wasn’t balanced at all. I was actually self-sabotaging myself and my life. And I certainly didn’t have it all. In fact, I was losing things quickly, like my self-esteem, my confidence, the ability to focus, my drive, and my looks.
We as a society normalize drinking and the rituals around drinking so successfully that the abnormal behavior is nearly invisible. We will often use blanketed statements like “But everyone else is doing it” and “I’m not that bad” to negate what we actually might be feeling inside.
This kind of thinking is what keeps people in a pattern of problematic drinking for much longer than they should be. I, myself, knew for years that alcohol was not doing me any favors. I heard that voice telling me not to mess with it for decades before I finally quit drinking.
How would you describe it now? What were the driving forces of that change?
I am a firm believer that one does not have to have a drinking problem for drinking to be a problem.
I was never physically addicted to alcohol, but alcohol was the common denominator in my life when it came to drama. There was not any one thing that caused me to make the decision to cut drinking out. Rather, it was everything.
I didn’t hit the proverbial rock bottom, and there were no arrests or emergency room visits. I was just tired of breaking promises to myself. I knew that if I was ever going to get what I wanted out of my life, I had to drop the party girl persona.
I am also an RN, and nearly every single day I witness how unhealthy choices affect the lives of others. When our bodies and minds are weakened by alcohol, drugs, stress, lack of sleep, and just overall not taking care of ourselves, it makes it much harder to fight back in times of aging, illness, and disease. Even simple medical procedures can turn into big complications when the body has been weakened by poor lifestyle choices.
When I choose not to imbibe, I know that I am more likely to be less stressed, more rested, more likely to get my workout in, and will choose healthy food. So, it is without a doubt that choosing not to drink alcohol is the first step to my overall healthy lifestyle — and as close as I can get to an insurance policy on this bod.
What are your tips for being at a social activity where alcohol (or the pressure to drink) is prevalent?
Confidence! You have to own your decision not to drink 100 percent. People will question you, they will make jokes, they will try to get you to drink, and they most certainly will tell you how they themselves do not have a problem with booze.
But if you are steadfast in your decision, they will feel your confidence, and nothing they say or do is going to matter. And they will back off.
I realize securing this level of confidence is not easy. So, until you get to this point, try to stay away from these situations.
If, however, you do attend an event where you will be expected to be drinking, make it a seltzer with lemon. No one will know the difference. Remember, you don’t have to tell anyone about your choice.
Mia decided to take control of her life and future by walking away from the standard alcohol-soaked lifestyle to redefine what real health and freedom truly means to her. She created The Sober Glow in hopes of connecting with other like-minded ladies who are looking for that same freedom out of life sans the booze. She currently lives in Los Angeles working as an RN. Mia spends her free time writing as well as coordinating and hosting alcohol-free events, including a sober book club, women’s circles, and adventure travel retreats.