Quitters: How Quitting Alcohol Made Me Better at Everything

Quitters: How Quitting Alcohol Made Me Better at Everything

Jina Schaefer looks like the picture of perfect heath. She runs marathons. She meditates. Gluten? Psssht, she doesn’t eat that. However, this lifestyle she leads was earned, decision by decision, small step by small step. And what’s especially great is that she’s super normal and relatable and not holier-than-thou about it, which hardly ever happens. 

A year ago, she decided to give up the booze, not because she needed to, but because she just wanted to. What happened next surprised her. We discuss the culture of alcohol, what it’s like to be the “sober friend” and why she’s not planning on drinking ever again.

* * *

Let’s get down to business: What did you quit & why?

Alcohol. I felt like I needed alcohol to get through the holidays. Instead, I decided to try and give it up for 100 days through the holiday season in 2013. I knew this change would feel quite punishing and I was a tad nervous I wouldn’t stick to it.

Because of that, I made the alcohol-free endeavor the only way I knew it would actually stick: risking public humiliation upon failure via a video-a-day 100-day challenge on my Youtube channel. I knew I needed people watching me, rooting for me, and talking to me about it.

After about a month into the challenge, I felt such an elevated feeling of general happiness in my daily life that I played with the idea of quitting forever. *gulp* Alcohol had been my buddy since I was 14 – nearly 20 years!

60 days into the challenge I knew I was done drinking for good. I didn’t need it to cope with life anymore, I had much more energy and less guilt.

quitting alcohol

Hey, wait a second… that’s not a Jagbomb!

What did your life feel like before you quit drinking?

Here’s the thing, before I quit drinking, I considered myself a light drinker. I would have a couple drinks each week. Maybe five drinks at the most in a week.

I realize the “light drinker” status I had given myself was only relative to the years prior when I could take down a bottle of wine and feel fine. Which, to me now, it’s absolutely wild that I could do that. And – no way! – I didn’t “feel fine.” Clearly I was just used to feeling like shit! Ha!

Right before I quit drinking, I felt more burdened by the regular leg wrestling matches with guilt that I was having after I would drink. I would feel guilty about things I said. All of which I would have said if I were sober, but because I was drinking, I had self doubt and anxiety about it. I would feel guilty about the drinks themselves and the food I ate while drinking. And I couldn’t shake this guilt no matter how much I believed I would have said it anyway or that I was a good person. It was always this tango with guilt.

What pushed you to quit? Was it a specific moment, a constant internal nagging or something else?

There were many tiny pushes to get me there. The nagging was definitely a part of that (see guilt tango above). There was also a whisper of curiosity about people who led a sober life.

I was brought up in a family and community where alcohol is everywhere and a part of everything. I remember my boyfriend once saying (when we were leaving a baptism reception at a bar), “It wouldn’t be a Schaefer gathering without the risk of a DUI!”

I know, right?!

Because of this when someone would tell me they didn’t drink, I would assume it was an addiction they weren’t participating in. If they didn’t have an addiction, I was mystified. What do they do to unwind? Have fun? Bond? What made them make the decision? WHAT? WHY? I would even read articles and blogs about being alcohol free. I never thought I would do it, but it still really interested me.

Hey, wait a second... that's not a Jagbomb!

Jina, drunk on life.


The hardest part about quitting?

Making the decision to do it. Alcohol was such a part of my life. It was how I celebrated, how I coped, how I bonded with some people, and it was an effective lubricant for those awkward social situations. It was fun to talk about the practice of drinking – all of it: the kind of drinks, joking about needing a drink, how much I drank, what happened, etc.

Quitting can be emotionally taxing. Who or what helped you cope?

One of the tiny pushes to get me to quite was the quote by Brene Brown: “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive ones.”

As a drinker I didn’t get this because I thought I was happy at that time in my life. But now? The shit is off the charts. I’m so much happier. One of the reasons is because I don’t have alcohol in my system bringing me down. Another reason is because I deal with stress effectively instead of waiting to take the edge off with a cocktail on Thursday or Friday.

I started journalling, meditating, exercising in ways I enjoyed, and having honest (sometimes tough) conversations. This helped to not only take the edge off, but to really deal with and process the pressures of life.

Was quitting scary for you? Why or why not?

Any commitment makes my chest tighten a bit, so committing to an alcohol-free life raised that issue for me. After a month without alcohol, I felt so much better that it was a no-brainer to quit for good – for my sanity and my health. It was liberating.

I think it was more frightening for the people close to me. They didn’t say it with words, but their reactions said it all when I told them I was done with alcohol forever. Would I still be fun to be around? Would I suddenly start judging their habits? Did I have some big rock-bottom wipeout I’m not sharing?

How did you feel immediately after you quit?

When I was in the practice of drinking, I thought I was happy. So when I first stopped drinking, I felt sad that I couldn’t drink. I felt like I was missing out, and I was morning that lifestyle. I had no idea what I could feel like on the other side of sobriety.

After three or four weeks, when the alcohol had been completely flushed from my body, I found myself less anxious, I was laughing harder and more often, I had more confidence, and I was better able to deal with stress.

Funny, because I thought alcohol helped me amplify all those parts of my life. I had no idea the levels I could experience without it.

Quitting alcohol

How do you feel now? Any regrets?

No regrets at all!

When I was 25, I started working to become a happier person and to rid my life of toxic people (or at least put up the boundaries for people I couldn’t eliminate). So, when I quit drinking at age 33, my core group of people we’re overall supportive after the initial shock. This made me love them more. There were friends who faded away, but that’s okay. The only thing we really had in common was alcohol.

How has quitting changed your life?

I’m happier, more confident and peaceful. I love who I am even more. A method I use on myself and my clients is to aim to be healthIER. Meaning, it’s okay to eat a little too much or have a few cocktails, just try to be a bit better (meaning more aligned with your goals) next time or in the hours or days around the indulgence.

Quitting alcohol was the next step in my healthIER journey. It was like my soul knew it, but my conscious mind didn’t. That’s probably why I started with a 100-day challenge instead of just cannonballing into a sober life.

As a light drinker, I thought drinking just affected me the night of and the day after. I had no idea how much alcohol was affecting my brain chemistry the days and even weeks after drinking. This reaction resulted in me feeling more anxious and less in control of my emotions.

Advice to someone who’s thinking of quitting?

Be more mindful about how you use alcohol (or other mood-altering substance). Notice how it affects you, how it influences the life you want to be living, and how it impacts your ability to be the best version of yourself that this world needs.

This mindfulness is the very first step in improving your life whether you’re giving up alcohol or not. Only from this space of mindfulness will you bring yourself more in alignment with your purpose, and find the motivation to get there.

* * *

You can read more about Jina’s alcohol-free journey on her YouTube channel. Her website offers tons of info on this healthIER lifestyle stuff. Wanna find her elsewhere? Try Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Lastly, if you’re looking to get better at life & live in the Twin Cities area, think about signing up for Lifestyle Design Camp in January.

Check out other Quitters here. Oh and on a related note, I just quit beer.

PS If you want to share your quitting story, email me at heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.

Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.

I completely respect your privacy.

You might also like

Comments (12)

  • Niamh 5 years ago Reply

    Awesome, thank you! Starting today, I’ve had enough and am really excited for the next chapter….

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply


  • Mol 5 years ago Reply

    This is a great post!!!!! I quit drinking a little more than 2 months ago and the change I feel is incredible. I realized I’m a naturally happy person and life is so much sweeter without the anxiety and guilt that alcohol would produce in me. I definitely plan on doing this for the long haul…if life is like this 2 months in I can’t even imagine how great it will be as time goes on! 🙂

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Nice job 🙂

  • Kone 5 years ago Reply

    I could have written this! This is the first mention of that ‘guilt tango’ I’ve come across and I feel so relieved – I too experience it every time I drink even after only 2 or 3. Yes, just normal things I probably would say sober. Sometimes it’s guilt about not being ‘nice enough’ etc, as if I should have tried harder to be nice even though I was perfectly friendly?!. Weird and no matter what I can’t shake that feeling for the next few days. And it is awful. I’ve asked friends if they feel this way before and they shake their heads in disbelief ha, so it is validating to hear someone else mention it! Very inspiring, thank you.

  • Shell 5 years ago Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this, I stopped a couple months ago without really intending to. Weight dropped off, moods improved and feel like I have a better handle on things. I still go out to the bar a lot, I live on a military base so it is our social hub, but people have been generally very accepting of it. I think a lot of them don’t understand why I choose not to anymore because they only have seen me as a ‘light drinker’ but before joining the military I would have been considered borderline alcoholic. It is always reassuring to read people not regretting the decision to go sober, it is scary for the first few months in social situations without it there but it does improve your confidence knowing people still like you without it. It feels like you get your life back when you no longer drink, freedom to live without the fog.

  • Patel Stone 5 years ago Reply

    Alcoholism is a condition in which you become physically as well as mentally dependent on alcohol. The entire process is gradual and you don’t even realize when the change in the level of brain chemical happens due to regular consumption of alcohol. As a result of these significant transitions inside the brain, you start craving for alcohol. To make you feel good, your brain will keep on demanding alcohol from you and to satisfy its demand you will drink more and more. This is what we call alcoholism.You can easily get rid of Alcoholism by using <i><b><a href="http://homeremedies9.com/common-remedies/home-remedies-a/alcoholism-home-remedies/">some simple home remedies.</a></b></i>

  • David 5 years ago Reply

    This is great to see people overcome this bad habits

  • Wendy 3 years ago Reply

    I’ve been alcohol free for 45 days now and can completely relate to all of this! I was never a huge drinker, but would get so anxious for days after- the self doubt thing as well has always been a problem and it’s slowly going away. I’m changing my career goals, exercising more and feel like like I did before I started drinking (20 years ago, what?!?) thanks for sharing your story- was very nice to hear and relate to.

  • John carr 3 years ago Reply

    Txs for the journey. Its so true what has been said here. Take it from me drinking is a waist of time and money. Txs

  • Paul 3 years ago Reply

    I have been alcohol free for 10 months it was never a problem but it was starting to be I had the feeling that I wanted to drink more and more and I was starting to have problems with my wife who does not drink
    It all started one day then the next day passed a week and so on it was not easy going cold turkey but it is the only way dont kid yourself all or nothing
    I lost 12Kg in 2 months save 250 euro a month started to run seriously and also my blood tests are back to normal
    The best thing now is that I am proud to say am a non drinker
    I can honestly say that I will stay dry for ever the positive benefits are too much
    If anybody needs some tips

  • Anne 1 year ago Reply

    What a great read!! I related to nearly every word. I’ve been sober for two months and feel fantastic. Looking forward to seeing where all extra positive energy leads me!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.