Faux beer, deep conversations and other tips for sobering up

In the aftermath of St. Patrick's Day, some people may wake up wanting to cut back on alcohol, or give it up altogether.

CBC Radio listeners share their experiences with going dry

Turning away drinks marks a turning point in many people's lives. (Shutterstock)

In the aftermath of St. Patrick's Day, some people may wake up wanting to cut back on alcohol, or give it up altogether.

CBC Radio's Maritime Connection spoke Sunday to Rachel Sunter, a musician in Halifax who swore off alcohol for six months. She describes herself as a "heavy social drinker" before the grand experiment, which ended last week.

"I would have considered Thursday, Friday, Saturday to be drinking nights, Wednesday or Tuesday a guilty drinking night," she says. "I would probably do two of those three every week. Maybe four to six to seven drinks."

She stopped for six months and blogged about her experience

Callers offered a range of tips for taking a booze break.

Non-alcoholic beer

Neil from Halifax cut out beer for six months and replaced it with non-alcoholic beer. "It looks like you're drinking," he said, adding that he enjoys crushing cans and remaining sober.

He found new outlets for adventure.

"I like pushing boundaries, and with the fake ones, you can drink and drive, or walk into a bank. That's kind of fun," Neil said.

When he wants the real stuff, he alternates between fake and real to cut down on consumption.

"Waking up's easier and I was not as grumpy during the day."

He also lost the "red face" he didn't realize drinking was giving him.

Nova Scotia Liquorless Commission

Donna in Wolfville totally stopped drinking alcohol nine years ago.

"I'm so healthy because of this," she said. "I'm 70 years old and don't take any medications. My face looks ten years younger. My friends are having all this Botox injected into them — they're all drinkers."

She switched to non-alcoholic beer, but said it can be hard to find. 

"When I go to a friend's house, I like to take a nice bottle of wine. I'm not against other people drinking. I go to the Nova Scotia liquor store to get the wine, but they don't sell non-alcoholic beer," she said. "Sometimes [grocery stores] don't even have non-alcoholic beers, or they'll have one."

Swap sociables for sociality

Michel took his first drink at 16 and stopped when he turned 65. He was famous among his friends for making his own wines and beer. Michel put his last drink down two years ago.

"Once you go away from alcohol, you see that the shadows and the veils [go away]. You can do something the next day you wouldn't do if you were drinking," he said. "When we're hiding behind the things we don't like in our life by having a drink as soon as we get home, we feel free when we have that bottle or glass in our hands."

He's found new ways to be free with his friends.

"They're showing up at my place because they like having a time without drinking and a real conversation," he said. "We need to give people permission to be real and allow more realness and more expression, instead of having to drink to get there."

He also feels physically much better. "My body feels the best it has since I was 17."

Out of sight, out of mind

Roland in Halifax got a cheap bottle of rye whiskey as a teenager and bombed it down. He'd drink too much, take six months off, drink too much, take a year off. He lived above a bar, which didn't help.

He compared his drinking days to trying to "forget about life for a while," as Billy Joel put it.

He stopped drinking 20 years ago and no longer lives above a bar. He found if he kept alcohol out of sight, it'd stay out of his body.

"If it's around, there's a good chance it will be consumed," he said.

Get help

Claude confronted his drinking problem 10 years ago, when he would consume up to 40 ounces a day.

"One night I left the bar and I didn't know where I was, where I was living, which street, which apartment. I didn't know my phone number," he said.

The next day he was dizzy and sick.

"I thought to myself, what am I doing? I'm destroying myself."

He felt like a loser and decided to put his life together. Now 77, he pours himself into his artwork.

"I don't need any substance to make me feel good," he said. "I found so many beautiful things in my life since I stopped. I meet different people. I go to the library. I'm so lucky."

He calls himself an alcoholic and so won't touch it.

"Go get help. Don't be shy to ask for help. People will understand you," he said. "Tell people, 'I am an alcoholic and I need help.'"

Heavy drinkers can go through dangerous withdrawal symptoms, increasing the need to get expert help.