How I quit drinking (a few times)

If quitting smoking for me was almost unintentionally, overcoming alcohol addiction was a voluntary and conscious choice. I tried twice and both times were successful (a joke intended).

I never considered myself an alcoholic, but I guess most alcoholics think the same. I never had a “zapoy”, a form of alcohol abuse behavior resulting in two or more days of continuous drunkenness. By the age of 20-24, I had already quit drinking myself to a wasted condition and massive hang-overs the next day. Only social drinking on the weekends, sometimes a can or two of beer after a hard-working day. Sometimes half-bottle of wine or glühwein1 with my wife during cold winter days in Shanghai. So, here it is: drinking almost seven days a week.

The first time I decided to stop drinking completely was in 2016 or so, when we started to think about having kids. “Healthy parents – healthy kid”. It worked for us pretty well. We had a goal. We were motivated, and sober for three years after “The Baby Project” was successfully completed.

Then life took on. Stress at work, stress at home with the kid. We started to drink non-alcohol beer (“just to remind ourselves of the beautiful taste of beer”), then low-alcohol drinks, and finally fell back into old habits of daily drinking.

The COVID outbreak and Shanghai’s strict lockdown of 2022 didn’t help at all. We were mostly out of jobs, locked for a few months at home, with daily antibody tests penetration in both holes.

But then something happened. Looking for some motivation and inspiration, I enrolled to an online course by my favorite capoeira master, Mestre Cueca. It was a course for established capoeira teachers, more like coaching, and a lot of talks (and exercises) on self-improvement, teams, relationships with students, and your place in the capoeira world.

So during that course we had to come up with a morning routine, a daily ritual. I started to get up at 5am, or even earlier. Mediate, do a breathwork, workout, journal, read, and study. It was an awesome experience combined with coaching from a master. And then I found out that even one can of beer in the evening, would make me feel tired and bad the next morning.

I decided to stop drinking and see what happens. My sleep has improved; post-workout recovery has become faster2. I also quit some other dopamine addictions, before the “dopamine detox” became a thing. And I just felt wonderful about overcoming this addiction, and not feeling the urge to have beer in my hand every night.

I never read any books about quitting smoking, or drinking. The only book I read on habits in general was “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. So I believe it’s more about conviction, not a specific method.

Many people have a hard time making decisions because they don’t know what is important. 

When you have a clear mission and you are completely sure what is important to you, most decisions become easy. Once you’re fully committed, you don’t need rules for how to spend your time. It’s obvious which decision to make. It’s clear what to prioritize. 

Many people don’t need productivity or time management advice. They need conviction.

James Clear


1. Also known as “mulled wine,” usually a red wine with spices, served hot.
2. Back then I would teach around 16 capoeira classes a week, sometimes 4 to 6 classes a day.