The Highly Sensitive Introvert’s Guide to Quitting (Or Cutting Back On) Alcohol

A group of friends drinking alcohol

Now that I’m sober, I drive myself home whenever my social battery runs out and put myself to bed (every introvert’s dream).

It’s quite unusual for a 23-year-old to quit drinking alcohol, especially when she isn’t battling an addiction of any kind. It’s frowned upon. It’s questioned. When you think about it, it really is the only drug we question people for quitting. 

“Come on, surely you can have one drink?” 

“Are you pregnant?” 

“But you’re so young? You should be living it up and partying every weekend!” 

“Why would you ever want to stop drinking?”

The truth is, I just don’t like alcohol.

I don’t like how it makes me feel. I don’t like not being in control of my actions (and we introverts like being in control!) and waking up and not remembering huge chunks of the night before. I don’t like hangovers and wasting precious Sundays with my head in a toilet bowl. 

I knew alcohol was no longer serving me — so I went against the grain. I quit. Little did I realize it at the time, but my sobriety would hugely impact my highly sensitive, introverted personality

From Alcohol-Induced Hangovers to ‘Introvert Hangovers’

The alcohol we drink is known as ethanol. Yes, the same liquid that is used in paint, hair spray, varnishes, and fuel. (Not a pleasant thought, is it?)

Plus, did you know that, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men should not have more than two drinks per day and women should not have more than one drink per day? And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use — also known as binge drinking — is defined as having four or more drinks for a woman and five or more drinks for a man. Heavy drinking is considered to be having eight or more drinks per week for a woman and 15 or more drinks per week for a man. 

Alcohol is also commonly known as “liquid courage,” and for years, it gave this introvert a huge confidence boost in social settings. Once I removed the safety blanket of alcohol, though, I realized how much I had relied on it, from engaging in small talk at bars to acting like the extrovert I simply was not.

During a night out, when my social battery was near empty, I would usually down a few shots and drink even more booze to suppress the exhaustion I was feeling. I didn’t know my limits and I certainly wouldn’t listen to my body when it was time to go home. As an introvert, I already deal with “introvert hangovers” as a result of social interactions. But when you add an alcohol-induced hangover to the mix? Absolute. Disaster.

As a highly sensitive person, an alcohol-fueled night out used to wreak havoc on my nervous system. The bright lights, crowds of people, thumping music, and Red Bulls mixed with vodka would send my sensitivity into overdrive. 

I liked to tell myself that alcohol was a way to “shut off the noise.” And even if the intoxicated haze did shut off the noise for a little while, I would end up spending the entire next day in bed, feeling sick, anxious, and exhausted. I’d make the same promise to myself: I’m never drinking again.

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Making the Decision to Quit Alcohol

Quitting alcohol changed my life. It taught me how to be confident in myself and my choices. It taught me to prioritize my health and well-being, to practice self-care, and to have a genuine conversation — without hiding behind yet another glass of wine. 

Now that I am sober, I drive myself home whenever my social battery is running out and put myself to bed (every introvert’s dream). Now that I’m sober, I am in control of my body and my actions. I wake up on Sundays feeling incredible. I’ve learned how to enjoy life as my true, authentic self. For my highly sensitive, introverted personality, quitting alcohol has made life so much easier. So much better!

I am sometimes told I must not be “fun” anymore, now that I don’t drink. But if you need alcohol to have fun, I think that says more about you than it does me.

5 Ways to Quit — Or Cut Back On — Drinking Alcohol 

1. Practice self-care and focus on habits that are good for you.

While I wasn’t a massive drinker before I quit, I certainly loved a glass of wine (or four) to unwind after a long day. I enjoyed the buzz after that first sip and, being an introvert, used alcohol to decompress after being around people all day.

The problem with this? Alcohol is a depressant. In the short-term, it releases endorphins and boosts serotonin, the feel-good hormone. But in the long run, alcohol induces anxiety and increases stress. 

So instead of reaching for a bottle of wine after a stressful day, try to turn to self-care practices instead. Recharge your social batteries by doing something physically active (like walking or hiking), practicing yoga or meditation, or journaling. Find self-care activities to add to your evening routine, too, that can help you unwind after a long day, like reading a book or taking a bath.

Remember to exercise, drink enough water, get enough sleep, and eat balanced meals, too. Feeling at your best physically can boost resilience and emotional strength, and ultimately, weaken the desire to drink.

2. Build a strong support system made up of friends, family, and/or a therapist.

As an introvert, I value authentic, meaningful relationships. Quitting alcohol, however, made me take a step back, reevaluate my friendships, and question if there was really any substance to them to begin with. Are we actually good friends? Do we really have anything in common? Or is there nothing left to talk about when we’re not stumbling out of a club at 4 a.m. together?

When I started to tell people I wasn’t drinking anymore, it became very clear who supported my decisions and who did not. Unfortunately, some people just won’t understand why you are quitting (or cutting back on) alcohol and will try to push your boundaries. But you should never feel obligated to say yes to a drink. Stay away from people who don’t respect your choices or who don’t take no for an answer. It can be hard for introverts to set boundaries, but it’s necessary, especially in this case.

This is why having a strong support system is so important. Whether it’s a friend, family member, partner, or therapist, make sure you know who you can lean on for support and encouragement. Finding local sobriety groups can also be a great way to socialize and meet like-minded people. Try to search “Sober (Your City)” on Google or Facebook. See what (and who) you find! Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings are a great support, too — and free.

While I love nothing more than staying in on Saturday nights now — typical introvert, I know! — I still make time for friendships and socializing. Also, an introvert, it’s important you don’t  let your sobriety cause you to isolate yourself so that you avoid social interaction completely. For example, rather than a big boozy night out, try to organize an introvert-friendly gathering, like dinner parties, watching a movie, or a games night. Prioritize your friendships that don’t rely on alcohol. Trust me, you can still have good conversations and a good time. 

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3. Find new activities to replace drinking.

When I first took a step back from alcohol in 2021, I realized how this drug had infiltrated every aspect of my life. From gin and yoga, and paint and sip classes, to bottomless brunches, all of the “fun” things I did revolved around booze. I associated holidays with sipping cocktails, mimosas at breakfast, picnics with wine, and kid’s parties with “adult juice.” I drank to celebrate, to mourn, to relieve stress, and to socialize. I would pre-drink before I would go out… and then drink all night.

When you remove alcohol from the equation, it’s normal to experience Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) in the early days of sobriety. When I was no longer partying or dealing with hangovers, I had so much spare time on my hands that, at first, I didn’t even know what to do with it all. 

Taking up new hobbies is a great way to distract yourself from wanting to drink, as well as actually learning to enjoy your life without alcohol. Quitting alcohol meant rediscovering what I loved to do. I started a blog, read more books, went for longer walks, and made time to be alone with myself.

What do you love to do? Make a list of everything you love to do, or would love to try, that does not involve consuming alcohol. This could be watching documentaries, going on road trips, hiking, or volunteering. You could take up gardening, cooking, or learning a new language. The possibilities truly are endless! 

4. Set clear boundaries — for yourself and others.

While I still enjoy the occasional night out, my boundaries look a lot different than when I was drinking. For example, rather than staying out until 2 a.m., I usually call it a night at 9 p.m. and drive myself home. 

And, when you turn down a drink, people will probably ask you why. While you’re not obligated to offer details, it can be helpful to have a go-to response ready and to set clear, personal boundaries

Here are some explanations to use:

“No thanks” — you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.

“I just feel better without alcohol.”

“I’m cutting back for my health.”

“It’s just a personal choice I’ve made.”

“I’m taking a break from alcohol for a while.”

“I’m driving tonight, so I won’t be drinking.”

“I don’t like the way drinking makes me feel.”

Practicing your refusal ahead of time can help you feel a lot more confident and secure when you find yourself in a situation that involves booze.

5. Explore non-alcoholic alternatives, like sober and “sober curious” events.

Sometimes, all you feel like is a bloody drink. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Thanks to the rise of the “Sober Curious” movement, though, the market for non-alcoholic beverages, and events, has grown exponentially in the last few years. There’s also a great book called Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington, who’s very inspiring.

I, for one, can tell you that being able to go out and have a non-alcoholic wine, beer, or “mocktail” has really helped me feel like I’m not entirely missing out on the experience. It has meant I can still reap the benefits of having a drink and socializing with friends, without all the nasty side effects of alcohol and the constant questioning of why I’m not drinking.

Choosing a great replacement beverage also allows you to stand firm in your desire to stop drinking. When attending a special event, I’ll usually pack my own bottle of non-alcoholic bubbles so I can still “cheers” to a toast, without feeling obliged to drink.

So get creative! Scout bottle shops for new non-alcoholic products and blogs for delicious mocktail recipes. Most of all, remember to be kind to yourself. Changing your relationship with alcohol is a journey and will take time.

What is your relationship like with alcohol as an introvert? Let me know in the comments!

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