What It’s Like To Go A Month Without Alcohol, Sugar, And Caffeine


Amanda Chan
Deputy Editor
January 29, 2015

Could you do it? (Photo courtesy of Phoebe Lapine)

Phoebe Lapine is a food writer, chef, and creator of the website Feed Me Phoebe. She’s also undergoing a year-long endeavor, which she calls “The Wellness Project,” that involves a new health- or beauty-related challenge every month. Yahoo Health is catching up with Phoebe each month to see how she fared — so you can take her tips and teachable moments and apply them to your own life.

Yahoo Health: What was the challenge for January?

Phoebe Lapine: For this month’s experiment, I chose to go off of my two vices — caffeine and alcohol — along with added sugar. I also did it last March because my skin was a disaster at the time.

What was the hardest part about it?

Cutting out added sugar. The thing with cutting out added sugar is that you’re also cutting out processed foods. I swapped out sugary breakfast bars for homemade smoothies, I limited packaged foods, and I treated myself to other indulgences — like massages — instead of sugary indulgences of the dessert variety. But the problem with cutting out sugar is that there are so many not-obvious foods that have it.

For alcohol, the hardest part was surprisingly the loneliness and social isolation. It’s not that I needed alcohol to have fun, but I felt like I was missing out from connecting with other people.

Caffeine was surprisingly not that hard to go without. I realized that I was drinking caffeine-filled drinks as part of my morning ritual. After the initial withdrawal hump, I didn’t really need the caffeine to function.

What changes will you make going forward?

For sugar, I try to read ingredient labels. I don’t drive myself crazy trying to calculate the added sugar, but I do use the sugar information on labels to make decisions about what I do and don’t consume.

For alcohol, I drink now for the taste. I drink more slowly, and if I don’t like what I’m sipping, I’ll put it down and socialize sans drink.

And for caffeine, I now have a cup of green or herbal tea in the mornings. It allows me to keep my morning ritual.

For Phoebe’s full rundown of her month without sugar, caffeine and alcohol, be sure to check out her post on her website Feed Me Phoebe. You can also follow Phoebe on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.


… Step by step you get ahead

Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day – if you live long enough – most people get what they deserve.
— Charlie Munger

Going Public With Alcoholism



Writer/blogger and Author of ‘Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade’


I am, among other things, an alcoholic.

When describing myself list-wise, alcoholic would probably come after writer, wife, activist, mom etc; but I am still, and in a very public way, an alcoholic. It’s the business of being public that puts me at odds with a lot of my fellow alcoholics. But I haven’t had anyone complain, and I am increasingly certain that going public isn’t such a bad idea.

Most alcoholics have very good reasons for keeping their anonymity. Outside of AA meetings their addiction — conquered or not — could cost them jobs, friendships, reputations. I lost some of all the above in my drinking days, but letting people know that those days are behind me poses no identifiable risks.

At six years alcohol-free, I moved to San Francisco in 1992 to marry the old friend known ever since as my Final Husband. I had to make a choice: Spend the rest of my life saying “No, thanks, I don’t care for one right now,” or, “You know, I’m an alcoholic. I can’t handle the stuff.” If I chose the latter, I figured I would soon not have to say it very often, if at all. I chose the latter, and never looked back.

The Final Husband, a man who does love his cocktail hour martini (gin, of course, up with a twist) and a good wine with dinner, bought into the plan. He would have far preferred a wife who would join him in wine appreciation, but took my word for the fact that I am an addict and vowed to support me. For the first several years of our alcohol-bifurcated union, he quietly took a bottle of non-alcoholic wine to cocktail parties so I could be comfortably unobtrusive. (This led to one rather hilarious episode that has become a favorite family story: From across the room in a crowded party thrown by one of San Francisco’s impeccably elegant hostesses, I once spotted a gentleman filling his lady friend’s glass from my non-alcoholic wine bottle. Unable to dive over the crowd to intercept, I watched as her pleasant smile turned to a disbelieving grimace and she set the glass down rather abruptly on a nearby table. We have imagined all manner of repercussions from this incident, but thought better of telling the hostess.)

From the beginning, I worked hard to craft comments that would not come across as judgmental or argumentative. Those were mild-mannered remarks like “I was a ‘social drinker’ for a long time but my drinking changed and became very bad for me.” Or, “Some of us can handle alcohol and some can’t. I really can’t.”

But I also fought hard against the common, almost reflexive attitude that being alcohol-free must leave my life barren and deprived, supremely dull. So I tried to say things like, “Whoa. I hated feeling like my words and thoughts were not super-sharp.” Or, “I really love waking up in the morning without feeling blurry, let alone hung over.” In the land of perpetual cocktail events, wine etiquette and Nectar-of-the-Gods believers, living outside that culture is generally assumed to be the worst of all worlds. I took the attitude that I’m delighted to see others enjoy themselves with alcohol, but for me, being without it is far more of a delight. Unadulterated joy, as a matter of fact. My comments at least carried the weight of demonstrated truth.

After the first few responses of shock and disbelief, my new friends on the Left Coast fairly quickly adapted to this strange situation and joined me in laughing about it all… or soon, ignoring the issue completely. I never imagined that it mattered to anyone but me. But here is why I suspect being public about being alcohol-free does indeed matter, and perhaps more of us should consider doing that.

One day I received a Valentine that reinforced my conviction about having taken the right course. It was from a woman I had known, though not intimately, for several years; we had frequently been together at concerts and parties. She is bright, pretty, accomplished in many areas, widely admired and respected. If anyone had ever suggested to me that she had an issue with alcohol I would have scoffed in utter disbelief.

The Valentine included several brief lines. She said she was sober now. She said I had influenced her to try that route to new life. Over the years I’ve gotten several other notes, like the email that just came, wanting to make sure I saw John Skoyles’ essay in the New York Times Sunday Review “about his coming of age with the bottle. I am 14 years plus now,” she wrote. “I have you to thank.”

It may be mid-summer, but that’s the best Valentine’s gift I’ve ever received.