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Transformations

How to Quit Drinking

It's like saying goodbye to an old friend who's been stealing your money and eating your chips.

Jeff Vrabel

With a new year comes new beginnings, one that's free of all that came to define 2016: the early death of every musician you ever loved, escalating violence in the middle east, and the election of a generously proportioned tangerine-colored womp rat who's currently plotting to take away your grandmother's insurance. 

It might also be time to free yourself from the clutches of the booze habit that so generously helped you survive such a disastrous year. No doubt you have your reasons to quit drinking—you want to lose weight, sleep better, save cash, stop embarrassing yourself at karaoke, and so forth. Respectable. But the challenge won't be easy. Here's how to get started: 

Enlist a friend or spouse. 
Misery loves company. That's why support groups work: Everything's easier when you're part of a team. It'll kind of be like that study that found that rowers could muster more muscle power when they were rowing with teammates instead of alone. Plus, it's just good to have a sober friend. When other people are out partying, you can explore the new frontiers of sober fun.

Shout it from the rooftops (e.g. social media).
Nobody except maybe your mom and the people who have had to carry you home drunk care that you're giving up booze. Still: Be proud. Drop the news on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social-media bullhorn you prefer. The accountability can help keep you on track, according to science. Researchers found that people who posted their goals online—in this case, the subjects were posting fitness goals on the site Daily Burn—were more likely to follow through. 

Avoid bars.
There are other places to hang out besides bars. None come to mind, but I just googled and got: bookstores, coffee shops, parks, and museums. Those all seem pretty cool. 

Quit smoking.
It may seem like a sick form of sadism to give up two vices at the same time, but research indicates that smoking and drinking are bedfellows best evicted in tandem. In trying to understand why drinking rates are dropping in England, researchers collected surveys from more than 6,000 people. As it turned out, those who recently attempted giving up cigarettes had also begun binge drinking less. Of course, your goal is a little loftier than simply giving up binge drinking. You want alcohol out of your life. But the two habits are linked—and besides, why the hell are you still smoking? 

Eliminate the drinks in your house. 
The three IPAs in the fridge back behind the baking soda? Gone. Those Coors Light cans your dad brought for Boxing Day? Pitch. The half bottles of booze in your liquor cabinet? Donate them to friends or set them on the curb for the neighborhood kids.

Experiment with the world's healthiest drug.
Endorphins, of course! They're the everything-in-life-is-good hormones that your body makes every time you exercise. They probably won't get you as high as ethanol, but at least they're free—right? So run, ride a bike, do yoga. There's plenty of research showing how these activities will help you break your bad habit, and even serious addicts are tapping the power of exercise. 

Find your non-alcoholic drink.
Upsides: Plenty of options for non-alcoholic cocktails, including seltzer with fruit, club soda with lime, and virgin cocktails like daiquiris and Shirley Temples. Downsides: Reasonably tough to look even remotely cool ordering a virgin daiquiri. 

Fight off the bullies.
If you've ever known a non-drinker—or been one—you know one crucial fact: People can be dicks to teetotalers. Lots of people have very good reasons for not drinking, and more people like to make fun of them for it anyway. So prepare for someone to be all like, "Did you really just order a virgin daiquiri, Sally?" before launching into an exaggerated impression of you that features a fey British voice and a lot of avian arm-flapping. When this happens, calmly explain how your doctor recently delivered some bad news: You have severe cirrhosis. You're currently hoping that a liver transplant comes through, because if not…well, you just don't know what will happen. That will catch your assailant off-guard and give you an opportunity to punch him in the face and pour your daiquiri on him when he falls down. Drunk people fall down pretty easily.