Holly Whitaker on pursuing sobriety in a culture obsessed with drinking

Author Holly Whitaker discusses her book 'Quit Like a Woman' and her path to sobriety in a society obsessed with alcohol.

Video Transcript

HOLLY WHITAKER: given this really specific image of, we're supposed to drink alcohol. And if it doesn't work for us, then there's something wrong with us. And so in that alone, there's a large stigma against not drinking. Because if you don't drink, then it's just assumed you had a problem with it.

I'm Holly Whitaker, and I'm the author of "Quit Like a Woman," a book that takes into account our society's cultural use of alcohol, how alcohol is specifically targeted at women.

What I'm seeing from how people like Chrissy Teigen are taking it is it's giving them a license to really consider how substances show up in their lives, and then also how they want to approach that versus how society tells them they should approach that.

Alcohol is sold to us as this thing that once we turn 21, we're supposed to incorporate it into our lives. It took me a really long time to pull apart my own addiction to alcohol, because I believed that the only people that stop drinking are people that are certified alcoholics.

This is what happens when I go on a couple day drinking binge, when I make the choice to numb myself.

I always looked at it in this binary lens. Am I an alcoholic or am I not? And in our current time, are not encouraged to do anything about your drinking unless you actually qualify as an alcoholic. And so what really changed it for me was actually pulling back from that and asking myself whether or not I liked how alcohol showed up in my life. When I gave myself space to really look at it, the answer was no, I don't want this in my life. And so I made changes in order to remove it.

I'm also the founder of Tempest, which is a modern digital recovery solution. What Tempest really does is bring people into a process of recovery without forcing abstinence, without saying you have to work steps or get a sponsor, but really brings individuals into a process of recovery that is fashioned in their own needs, in order to help individuals achieve goals that they're looking for in their own specific recovery.

When people ask me whether or not it's possible to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, it's the same as asking, do you think it's possible to have a healthy relationship with cigarettes? Any time you're drinking, you're tangling with a toxic addictive substance that causes cancer and a whole host of other issues. And so while, yes, there is a healthy relationship with substances that aren't really great for us, it really comes down to a simple question of whether or not alcohol feels good in your life. And being able to ask ourselves those questions is really the start of everything.