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Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol

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The founder of a female-focused recovery program offers a radical new path to sobriety.

“You don’t know how much you need this book, or maybe you do. Either way, it will save your life.”—Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30 co-founder and CEO


We live in a world obsessed with drinking. We drink at baby showers and work events, brunch and book club, graduations and funerals. Yet no one ever questions alcohol’s ubiquity—in fact, the only thing ever questioned is why someone doesn’t drink. It is a qualifier for belonging and if you don’t imbibe, you are considered an anomaly. As a society, we are obsessed with health and wellness, yet we uphold alcohol as some kind of magic elixir, though it is anything but.

When Holly Whitaker decided to seek help after one too many benders, she embarked on a journey that led not only to her own sobriety, but revealed the insidious role alcohol plays in our society and in the lives of women in particular. What’s more, she could not ignore the ways that alcohol companies were targeting women, just as the tobacco industry had successfully done generations before. Fueled by her own emerging feminism, she also realized that the predominant systems of recovery are archaic, patriarchal, and ineffective for the unique needs of women and other historically oppressed people—who don’t need to lose their egos and surrender to a male concept of God, as the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous state, but who need to cultivate a deeper understanding of their own identities and take control of their lives. When Holly found an alternate way out of her own addiction, she felt a calling to create a sober community with resources for anyone questioning their relationship with drinking, so that they might find their way as well. Her resultant feminine-centric recovery program focuses on getting at the root causes that lead people to overindulge and provides the tools necessary to break the cycle of addiction, showing us what is possible when we remove alcohol and destroy our belief system around it.

Written in a relatable voice that is honest and witty, Quit Like a Woman is at once a groundbreaking look at drinking culture and a road map to cutting out alcohol in order to live our best lives without the crutch of intoxication. You will never look at drinking the same way again.

Paperback

First published December 31, 2019

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About the author

Holly Whitaker

2 books808 followers
Holly Whitaker is the founder of Tempest, a modern, trauma-informed, human-first recovery program, which she started in 2014, a year after becoming sober. Holly is a writer and bestselling author of Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, a memoir/self-help book about drinking, the mammoth and often under-recognized influence of Big Alcohol, and what women+ really need to recover.

Holly has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Vogue, TechCrunch, Refinery29, Goop, and was named in Inc’s 2019 Female Founders 100 List. She lives in the Catskills region of New York with her cat Mary Katherine.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,303 reviews
Profile Image for Holly Whitaker.
Author 2 books808 followers
August 8, 2020
It's my book so I definitely, definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Valentine.
1 review3 followers
November 17, 2019
I feel like I'm reading HUNGER GAMES 4. I'm eating this sh** up and bookmarking every f***ing page. This FEMINIST MANIFESTO takes down the patriarchy of the alcohol industry and current recovery models. It's STUFFED with WISDOM & TOOLS. So much f***ing RESEARCH went into this book. I feel like I'm being deprogrammed from old a** oppressive beliefs about recovery and alcohol that have been drilled into me by society and the alcohol industry since I was a child. This sh** is fresh, fresh, fresh, empowering, accessible, trauma informed, and harm reduction friendly. This really needs to be read by EVERYONE but it specifically speaks to the experiences of WOMXN AND MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES that have been underserved in current masculine recovery modalities. Quit Like a Women teaches us to access our inner wisdom, KNOW WHAT NOT TO F*** WITH, and how to map out our personal recovery needs through a holistic lens. For those already in recovery and worried that this will convince them it's ok to drink again, NOPE DEFINITELY NOT, I read this book three years sober and the knowledge in this book makes it a lot easier to get through any kind of craving or thoughts about drinking/using because I have more information about how much it hurts our bodies and society. The approach laid down in this book is big picture and zooms out to include much more than traditional recovery models. IF THERE ARE ANY BLIND SPOTS in your recovery this book will help you find them.
Profile Image for Lara Frazier.
3 reviews50 followers
February 18, 2020
I want to gift this book to everyone I know, but really I just want to tell everyone to read this book. QLAW is for anyone who drinks alcohol (in any amount) AND those who are sober already.⁣⁣

Holly breaks down the lie we have been sold about alcohol, how it keeps us from our power, how it is a feminist issue, and how alcohol is having a cigarette moment (which was one of my favorite chapters in the book). It’s packed full of research & data & statistics & QLAW allows us to wake up and see how alcohol keeps us from the most poignant moments of our lives, how it keeps us from ourselves. ⁣⁣⁣
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Some believe quitting drinking will lead to a boring existence, but that’s a lie. Holly weaves in her own story of sobriety and the ways in which she has come alive, come to know who she is & who she isn’t - how sobriety is the best thing to have ever happened to her (& why). ⁣⁣⁣
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My favorite thing about this book is the deconstruction of the dominant recovery path & how 12 step recovery was built to break down male privilege, but if you have no ego, if you are already broken down - perhaps you would most benefit from what Holly calls a feminine-centric recovery, that contains six elements that are covered in detail & is built from the recovery path she founded & created, Tempest Sobriety School.

Each element has its own chapter packed full of tools & resources & guidance - to lead you to yourself. ⁣⁣⁣
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This is a revolutionary & ground-breaking book & I know it will have a huge impact on the way we view & treat addiction (& drinking in general). This is the book I needed to read when I was trying to get sober; but there was nothing like it - nor did I know there were options outside of 12 step recovery. ⁣⁣⁣
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Holly knew what she needed & she trusted in that. There was no deconstruction of an ego she didn’t have - there was a slow build of self esteem & self worth, which Holly owns, unapologetically. ⁣⁣⁣
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QLAW is brave & beautiful & humane - it is compassionate & empathetic & revolutionary. I LOVED.
Profile Image for Michelle.
20 reviews6 followers
January 5, 2020
A lot of the information and ideas presented here are beneficial. It’s important to examine the way our culture normalizes alcohol, a literal poison, and then demonizes people who become addicted. I love the idea of ditching the terms alcoholism and alcoholic. However, as I read this book, something kept telling me in the back of mind that this is not for me. Similar to the way that the author knew AA wasn’t for her. It took a while to determine the reason, money. This is a book for people who have money to throw at their problems. Money for massages and yoga classes and trips to foreign countries and to pay others to watch after your kids while you focus on self-care. The Tempest Sobriety School, founded by the author, is “just” $547 (though you can get $50 off with a promo code). I applaud the author for opening our eyes to Big Alcohol and offering an alternative to patriarchal treatment methods and I would still recommend reading it, but some of the methods will not be feasible for those who struggle financially.
Profile Image for Josie.
3 reviews4 followers
February 3, 2021
As a substance use counselor who is also 7 years sober, I looked forward to this book from the first time Holly announced it.

I knocked 2 stars for a couple of reasons. 1. much of what she describes as tools for recovery are accessible to mainly people with money. For example, sure a morning cup of lemon water and meditation is almost free, but yoga classes and international travel are hella expensive and I lost count of how many times the words yoga and Rome appear together. 2. As an addiction professional I am perturbed at the portion about “just making a decision not to drink ever” being enough...and I’m paraphrasing. But I think that is a dangerous message to spread about a substance that can and does kill people attempting to detox.

I believe the world needs the overall message she shares about alcohol, about how we have normalized and romanticized the (over) consumption of rocket fuel, as she refers to it as. The book provides a nice balance of memoir, education, and critique of recovery from a feminine perspective.
Profile Image for Kasia.
187 reviews14 followers
June 4, 2021
This is all my fault. I should have foreseen that "woman" in the title will indicate that this is going to be heavily feminist in this very modern and hard for me to stand way. So my first eye roll happened when I learned that women start drinking because of social pressure and anxiety (and because Donald Trump is a president) and men start drinking because they are sick from wielding too much power. Sorry, I should write "woman and other historically oppressed groups" because it is not only about woman drinking but about social justice.

I hoped that this book will bring some interesting insights into our drinking culture and to some degree it has but then I've checked bibliography and I started to wonder how much information included in this book is actually trustworthy. There are multiple moments when author writes something like this:
Most of us are not rised learning how to manage our bodies, emotions, discomforts and feelings (page 205)

or this:
Countless articles, studies and texts prove that acquiring a sense of power - not diminishing what little we have - is the foundation of meaningful recovery (page 149)

or even this:
But trauma is stored in the body as unprocessed, stuck energy, and traumatic memories are coded in the brain nonlinearly and through our implicit memory (page 2015)

and we have no idea where the information is coming from. Is it something that author believes or it has some scientific background? Bibliography is not providing any clues. I guess I'll never know. Instead I've found out that publications used to write this book contain not only reliable sources (WebMD, NCBI, The Lancet etc) but also the websites of the Sun magazine, Frank Bonomo, Man Repeller, CBS news or someone called Alex Fergus to name just a few. You can write anything on the internet and it won't make it any true. There was only one moment when I actually decided to validate the information in the book because checking it seemed simple. On page 219 author wrote:
Yoga translates to "yolk" or "union"

which didn't make much sense. Why yolk? And then I opened Wikipedia and found this:
The Sanskrit noun योग yoga is derived from the root yuj "to attach, join, harness, yoke".

Is it misspelling that wasn't catch by editor or this is calculated misinformation because "yoke" isn't really appealing?


Author is heavily influenced by California lifestyle so her way of getting out of addiction was very California-esque. She is proposing yoga, meditation, good therapist, essential oils and herbal teas as a coping mechanisms. And spas. And her sobriety school (haven't check but probably pretty pricy plus I couldn't stand that this book is turning into a leaflet). And hiring cleaning help and babysitter to get some time for yourself. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. Sobriety is a buisness too. Don't even think about getting sober if you work two shifts just to make ends meet. It kind of made me angry that AA meetings are discarded and described as oppressive because they didn't work for the author and then her way of getting out of alcohol addiction is shown as a miracle cure.

When it came to authors opinion about treating trauma it got even worse. According to information in the book you are unable to process your trauma (because apparently it's an unprocessed energy) by only getting in touch with therapist. You need to release this energy by hypnosis (in book it is fancy called "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing" EDIT: EMDR is actually effective in treating trauma and PTSD and I should check it more closely before discarding it like that) or acupressure (fancy name "Emotional Freedom Technique"). On top of that add the information that addiction is dysfunction in your first chakra. From that moment I stopped treating this book seriously and because of that it felt like a waste of time. I like the idea of promoting soberness but this book just made it wrong.

I guess I wasn't really the target of this book.
Profile Image for Rennie.
301 reviews56 followers
February 8, 2020
I started out completely loving this but then it went downhill so fast. I wanted to read/learn more about the culture around why alcohol is marketed to women the way it is and the history behind this, and the specific reasons why women come to alcohol dependence and there is all that, but not enough. Spoiler alert, it’s all just the patriarchy. Not much to it beyond that! It becomes very blandly self-helpy and repetitive. The author’s anecdotes, which are admirably honest and helpful to know and understand in establishing what she’s been through and how meaningful sobriety is to her (and by extension, can be for everyone) are repeated so many times with the same details that they trigger eye rolls when you see them coming, and I really didn’t want it to be that way!

Also, although she goes to great lengths to emphasize that you should take from this what’s useful to you, apply what you need to your specific addiction/situation/needs and don’t worry about following it all and being perfect and it’s very non-judgmental and flexible in that, it’s also really only going to have full effect if you’re on board with the same things that helped her because there’s so much in here about those things. That is: yoga, meditation, breathing, and some questionable wellness techniques/products that can be somewhat controversial at worst or else just ineffective and useless. I wanted to love it but I was so annoyed with it by the end. She has a great and much appreciated sense of humor though.
Profile Image for Regina Rutledge.
13 reviews4 followers
April 22, 2020
I should say I really wanted to like this book. I’m a liberal feminist, white woman with a PhD in public health, and my recovery has largely not included 12 step programs but rather a “choose your own adventure” path— I don’t think I could be more in the ‘target’ audience. But there were several aspects that I just couldn’t get past.
1) Like others, I don’t disagree this is written very much for a select group of women with significant financial resources. I don’t fault the author for this as that is her lens/life. Reader be aware: if you’re looking for a story to relate to and your recovery is on a budget, you may feel more alienated reading this.
2) I can’t put my finger on it but I felt like the tone oscillated between fact-driven, preaching, condemning and superficial. I was always whiplashed trying to figure out where she was coming from in that segment.
3) The lack of proper footnotes/citations given the level of research done is mind boggling at best. A reader shouldn’t have to guess from the notes chapter where facts may match up to source material. This alone made me read every sentence as a skeptic of potential bias/inflammation because the source data is not clearly linked to the sentences/description.

I would never discourage anyone from trying a book on recovery- this book has clearly meant a lot to so many women and they felt seen/heard. If it wasn’t for that, I would have gone with one star. :/
Profile Image for Kari.
31 reviews34 followers
August 6, 2020
It's frustrating to see someone promote her paid ($850 per year!!!) program by criticizing AA, a free program. She claims it is not conducive to helping oppressed groups like women and people of color. What addicts in marginalized communities are able to afford $71 per month or the therapy and kundalini yoga programs she suggests in the book???

I am all for people getting involved in whatever recovery program works best for them, but I think it is suspicious when someone has such a bone to pick with a program she has never been involved with (she admits to going to just one or two AA meetings in the book) while trying to make a profit.

This kind of rhetoric is really dangerous and will steer people who cant afford her program away from free services like AA and back to the bottle.
Profile Image for Sarah.
396 reviews11 followers
January 23, 2020
I wanted to like this book, but I just don't. It's like like listening to the newly saved prostletize or the newly skinny talk about how many grams of protein you should eat.

While some of the research on alcohol was enlightening (did you know the ethanol in a drink is the same stuff used in gas?), Whitaker makes some leaps of logic that just aren't backed up. The tie between "alcohol culture" and sexism, racism, and homophobia is more pronouncement than a revelation.

There is also tons of unintended irony. She goes on against the patriarchy, and then uses the terms masculine and feminine to describe the human characteristics as the same patriarchy uses them. Drive and competitiveness are not masculine any more than caring for others and empathy are feminine. They are characteristics all humans have--we've just been sold the idea that they are gendered.

Legend
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Can't stop talking about/want to re-read
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Recommend without equivocation
⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Enjoyed and recommend with caveats
⭐️⭐️ = Finished but don't recommend
⭐️ = Couldn't finish
Profile Image for Amanda Hill.
33 reviews3 followers
January 31, 2020
This was pretty much girl wash your face but about sobriety. I'm big on taking personal responsibility and I just think this kind of missed the mark for me.
Profile Image for Lorilin.
757 reviews243 followers
April 28, 2021
Today marks 120 days sober for me. Wow, right? I have a friend who just hit 4 years sober and says she’s the happiest she’s ever been. I’m over here like…maybe....

What I miss about alcohol: the first sip, the first hour of pleasant numbness, the idea that I’m doing something even though I’m not really, the 5pm ritual of “ah, relief is finally here,” the social bonding and purpose that comes with drinking in groups.

What I don’t miss: everything after the first hour, the racing heartbeat, the mild nausea, the upset tummy, the dry and patchy skin, the stupid shit I do/say/purchase while drunk, the money wasted on booze, the very loud and shaming sound of putting all my empty wine bottles in the recycling, the sadness that follows me around for two days after I drink.

Will I ever drink again? I don’t know. But even when I consider it, I can’t help but think of the book Quit Like a Woman. Author Holly Whitaker has really helped me see the issue more clearly, and I don’t know that there’s any turning back now. We put so much emphasis on “Can I handle alcohol? Am I an alcoholic?” But the better question is, “Is this serving me? Is alcohol getting in the way of my life, dreams, positive self-esteem? Does it make me feel bad more than it makes me feel good?” Alcohol is a way to escape, for sure, but it doesn’t help me. In fact, it usually makes life harder in the not-so-long term.

The even better question: How can I create a life for myself that doesn’t make me feel like I need to escape it?

And that question brings up all kinds of stuff—like what should I be doing?, how should I be acting?, what should my personality be like? It’s remarkable to me how much of my day revolves around what other people want for me, what they want of me. Whittaker makes an astute observation when she says that we tend to use alcohol in situations we don’t want to be in in the first place. So what do I actually want to do? Who do I actually want to hang out with? Turns out being sober is an easy way to find out.

One of the most empowering parts of this process for me has been learning to say no. No, I don’t feel like volunteering this year. No, I don’t feel like hanging out. No, I don’t feel like talking. No, your “ask” isn’t my “emergency.” No, I’d rather take a nap. No, you can fold your own laundry. No, I don’t feel like cooking tonight. No, I don’t like that plan, so I’ll create another one that works for me. No, you can’t interrupt me while I’m studying. And through all these NOs, I’m starting to feel more in control over my own life.

The last thing I’ll say is that this book also has helped me understand that I need to take care of myself and manage my energy throughout the day so that I don’t create the 5 o’clock shit show in the first place. She rightly observes that many of us slam into our days the second we wake up, pumping ourselves full of stimulants like news, email, social media, caffeine, and carbs. And then we keep that pace up for the next 10 hours so that by the time the end of the day rolls around, we’re so overstimulated and fried that the only thing we can think of to do to calm ourselves down is drink a gallon of Merlot.

We’re clearly better off if we manage our energy more evenly throughout the day. This means slowing down and paying attention to how we feel. Take some breaths every once in a while, eat a snack, drink some tea, put down that seventh cup of coffee, meditate, get a massage (a cheap back massager from Amazon was my favorite Christmas present last year), read a book, go for a walk, stretch, look up at the trees, or treat yourself to a lavender heating pad. Another good one: let that rage/sadness/disappointment pass. No emotion lasts longer than 90 seconds if we just name it, feel it, set aside the “story,” and move on. (I thought this was BS at first, too, but it actually works.)

So yeah. This book is pretty powerful, dare I say life-changing. I had already sobered-up when I read it, but some of Whittaker’s points still keep me going today.
Profile Image for Ashley Marshall.
41 reviews2 followers
March 2, 2020
Taking personal responsibility isn't oppressive, it's liberating.

I enjoyed the points about the alcohol industry, but that's where it stopped. I'm not convinced the author fully understands ego or what the lives of oppressed people (other than women) are actually like.
Profile Image for Heather Balog.
Author 22 books134 followers
January 20, 2020
I’m really not looking forward to reviewing this book, but I feel compelled to warn anyone who picks up this book with the real intention of working on their issues. This book is not only conflicting and contradictory, the book itself is confused. I felt like I was on a roller coaster the entire time I was reading. Is it self help? Is it a memoir? Hence the three stars instead of five or one.
If it’s a memoir, well then it’s pretty interesting. While I don’t agree with a lot of the author’s choices, nor do I agree with much of her politics (she clearly is an extreme feminist) it’s a raw examination of her battle with alcoholism. It was a painful journey and she’s in a good place. Kudos to her. Especially for doing it without AA. I loved the message that you don’t need to do it a certain way to be successful in your own journey.
But if it’s self help? Two thumbs down. First off, when Whitaker makes suggestions of how you need to incorporate a morning and evening routine in tour day to avoid drinking, she’s clearly coming from a childless, partnerless place where YOU are the center of your universe. She comes off completely clueless and narcissistic. I feel like her “plan” of journaling and Kundalini mediation in the morning, followed by lavender baths and massages at night, spits in the face of many women who might be reading this book for real advice on how to walk away from alcohol. Secondly, if it’s self help? We definitely don’t need all the cursing and the details of when some rando pulled your tampon out. I’m not a prude, but damn that’s way TMI.
So if you want to be entertained and maybe inspired by someone’s journey to sobriety, pick this up. If you’re looking for sound, relatable advice, this book isn’t the right fit.
Profile Image for Melissa Hiett.
5 reviews
January 20, 2020
Disappointing

I wanted to like this book. I had an open mind. But the author was so unfair in her assessment of AA , there’s no point even having an exchange of ideas about it. There’s no bridge that can be built here. And that’s unfortunate. She talks about our purpose being about love, but what I read about was a lot of anger and resentments.

AA isn’t the only way to get sober, but it’s proven to be one of the best ways to get sober and stay sober, historically. It’s also affordable for low bottom alcoholics. Telling women it’s evil and wrong isn’t just irresponsible, it can have serious consequences. So it made me sad.

Profile Image for Toni Smith.
80 reviews5 followers
August 14, 2019
My only critique is the title! There's so much great information in here for everyone. Gents, don't be deterred; everyone should read, learn, and self-examine.
Profile Image for Brandice.
800 reviews
June 2, 2022
Quit Like a Woman has piqued my curiosity since it was published in 2021. I finished this book 2 weeks ago and have mixed thoughts. ⁣

I drink though I’m not a big drinker and had no intentions of reading this book “to” quit drinking. I was curious to see what information Holly Whitaker shares. I almost stopped reading in the first chapter because of the tone — It felt braggy and grated on me. Fortunately, this tone quickly faded as the book progressed. ⁣

I have not shared many of the experiences Holly details in QLAW however, some things did resonate with me — She is spot on about the prevalence of alcohol in our society, it’s everywhere and dominate in our culture from overly saturated “cutesy” phrases (like Mommy juice) to meeting up for drinks as a routine social and bonding activity. She also discusses the origin of AA, created by and for men. ⁣

Holly shares habits and activities that helped her in her sobriety, including creating a morning ritual and building new habits — This can provide value to anyone if you’re intentional about what those habits are. Some of the solutions that worked for Holly felt a bit oversimplified though. That said, I’m glad she found things that worked for her and that she offers suggestions which may help others. ⁣

Regardless of what challenges you’re currently facing or working to overcome (sobriety doesn’t have to be one of them), it can be difficult to be vulnerable, putting yourself out there and asking for help. But it almost always feels better when you do. ⁣

This is a good book for reflection, understanding that what may resonate is highly subjective based on personal experience.
Profile Image for Charly.
200 reviews55 followers
January 6, 2020
Women lead lives of quiet desperation. This book helped me validate my decision to eliminate alcohol from my life after a decade-long off-on relationship with it. As Holly predicts, it has also led me to examine a lot of my other behaviors — as of press time, I left my iPhone on airplane mode at home, read a book on the bus, and generally feel calmer, happier, and more in control of my own thoughts.

Part of the rise in drinking among Millennials I'd attribute to our being constantly bombarded with inputs. As she posits, alcohol is a way to swing quickly from this state of hyperarousal to hypoarousal. I'm enjoying getting reacquainted with my own consciousness.
Profile Image for Mackenzie Newcomb.
49 reviews633 followers
March 18, 2021
This is one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. I feel like Holly just saved me years of therapy and helped me gain clarity into my own relationships with sober people. I highly recommend this book to anyone considering reading it whether you have an interest in sobriety or do not.

Edit 3/17/21
While I really do think this book was a great resource for me, it's pretty limited in who will gain from it. After some conversations with friends about this book I think that the author fell short regarding the science behind the book and the lack of reflection on her own privilege. I still very much enjoyed it, but as my emotional impact waned I was able to see flaws more clearly.
1 review
January 6, 2020
The passion here is definitely encouraging for a mind set on the better life of a non-drinker. First, I want to say that AA changed my life. For years I struggled. I didn't want to do the steps. For 1.5 years I didn't even want to go to meetings sober. My sponsor was religious and it felt like pulling teeth to ask her not to use her Christian workbook to guide me. Every tool I learned through my sobriety process has fueled my growth. I learned patience, integrity, compassion, and plenty of other characteristics that I never would have attained otherwise. To immediately dismiss AA in the preface could seriously harm those aiming for sobriety who might actually need those 12 steps to survive. This is a program that has been around for almost a century, exists around the world, and has helped millions of people. Instead of using sense to say others might need it, the idea of going is put down immediately. And that is why I would never recommend this book. Disappointing and ignorant.
Profile Image for Natali.
415 reviews302 followers
February 14, 2021
I really liked the first half of this book. I did not at all like the second.

Whitaker challenges the idea of alcoholism as a disease that only affects some people without self control. She points out that alcohol is toxic and addictive for everyone and labeling it as poisonous for just some people lets others sell themselves the false notion that they can handle it when in reality, no one can. She examines the profit that big business makes from this false narrative and juxtaposes the national response to opioids, which are less of a problem statistically, to alcohol and asks us to think about why we hold opioid makers accountable but not alcohol companies.

I appreciated this perspective and have used it in my own choices. I find myself increasingly unable to tolerate a second glass of wine at night and choosing to drink less and less. I wanted some camaraderie for this choice and I found it. I really appreciate the way that the first half of this book gave me the tools to reduce the role of alcohol in my life.

But then the second half of this book, oh my goodness, spare me. Whitaker eschews Alcoholics Anonymous as a patriarchal organization and she makes her case compellingly. She is a good writer. But she's got a huge chip on her shoulder about anyone who has questioned her refusal to join AA and it is off-putting. She DIY'd her recovery with all kinds of new age empowerment, which is great, but she goes on and on about how enlightened she is and how she broke with the patriarchy and anyone who has ever wronged her or didn't want to keep dating her is vile and not enlightened like her. She is hateful towards people who did not quite know exactly what to say about her sobriety. She cuts them 0 slack. She uses this book as an opportunity to call out people who wronged her in her life and it comes off as petty. She still carries a grudge towards the grade school bully for goodness sakes and we are all supposed to agree that this little girl was a “fantastic bitch,” and not question why this child was troubled. We are supposed to hate her because Whitaker still does? Maybe if Whitaker had gone to an AA meeting, she would have learned the adage that "hurt people hurt people" and would not ask her readers to adopt her personal grudges.

She brags about spending weekends with her cat, reading three books and taking five baths. She meditates several times a day. She practices hours of yoga. She eats a conscious diet and prioritizes hydration. She has regular therapy. She challenges her white privilege with activism. (I was not quite clear why this is part of recovery but I think it was just another opportunity for her to tell us that she's woke and awesome.) She practices "extreme mothering" of herself because she is a single white woman living in Los Angeles who spends a lot of time navel gazing. I especially did not need parenting advice from her so that I too can practice "extreme mothering" of myself. Just give my kids unlimited treats and screen time so that I can meditate and take luxurious baths? Alright for some, isn't it?

There is a part about her going to her second yoga teacher training. Yes second people. She's so enlightened she needs to be double certified! She meets a guy named Bob who simply does not like her. I found myself relating to Bob. Her point in introducing Bob is that some people are just not going to like you and you need to examine what this is showing you in life and assert your right to take up space and not be a people pleaser. In which case, she won't mind that I found the second half of her book as nothing more than a not-so-humble brag about all the ways that she is a disciplined new age free spirit who conversely carries resentment for a lot of people who have crossed her. The book would have been so much stronger without all of this.

But I won't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I have since been really careful about my words and actions around alcohol. I no longer want to reply to a text about a stressful situation by telling a friend that they "need a glass of wine." I have reclaimed my sleep by not drinking regularly. I reframe my relationship with alcohol and I rethink the entire notion of alcoholism as a disease just for some. I think it was brave of her to make this assertion so I give credit where credit is due.
Profile Image for Baillie Ward.
203 reviews15 followers
January 12, 2022
As the adult child of an alcoholic I picked up this book looking for a few things:
1. I was curious to see if it would shed any perspective on the sobriety experience from someone who successfully overcame their struggles with addiction
2. I wanted to see what all the hype was about
3. I wanted to re-examine my own relationship with alcohol and see if the author addressed any research about genetic predispositions to alcoholism


Here’s why I knocked off three stars: While the book was obviously well researched and mostly well written, I finished the book thinking that the steps to recovery outlined in the book were largely unattainable for most women—especially low income women with children. Yoga classes, trips to Rome, massages, facials and the other self care methods Whitaker specifically recommended aren’t easily accessible for most people.

It did make me analyze my own relationship with alcohol and the role Big Alcohol plays in society, specifically with how it targets women. I did learn a lot and will probably walk past the wine aisle more often than I did before listening to this audiobook, but ultimately I’d say this was a 2/5.
Profile Image for Marisa Susan.
81 reviews4 followers
February 2, 2021
This book is garbage for so many reasons. I'm surprised at how many things I didn't like about this book. Quitting alcohol is much more difficult than the author makes it out to be, and I know this because of the amount of people I've seen struggle to do it. Basically this book says: If you're rich, then quitting alcohol is as easy as saying that you quit and then drinking all the expensive green juice and taking all the expensive yoga classes and taking all the expensive vacations. This book excludes most of the female population with its advice.
Profile Image for Katia.
36 reviews15 followers
January 16, 2020
I liked many parts of this book, which is a compelling combination of autobiographical experience, history, little known fact, and light feminist theory. In many ways, Whitaker makes some great points. She explores the origins of AA, created in the 1930s by and for white Protestant men, and discusses how its history has shaped it into an organization whose tenants are not always helpful or inclusive to women in recovery. Her writing is persuasive, and it is obvious that she has done extensive research in the writing of this book. Overall, I think it is worth a read.

However, I think Whitaker suffers from a branding problem, which is evident in the title of the book, in the many swear words riddled throughout, and in the way she frames herself as a "sobriety evangelist." The name of the book evokes a particular brand of stale, gimmicky feminism that many large corporations have co-opted to capitalize on the fact that feminism has become "hip." (Indeed, the former name of Whitaker's own recovery program was "Hip Sobriety.") Though Whitaker is at certain points very intersectional in her writing, nodding to the fat positive movement, the nonbinary community, and BLM, she also occasionally strays into a "girl power," "female sisterhood" kind of feminism that feels outdated and trite. The swearing peppered throughout her writing is unnecessary and detracts from what she is trying to say rather than adding power. I wish Whitaker's editors had polished the book just a little more, because I fear this branding problem will discourage people from reading it entirely, or put them off of her message despite its real validity.

Profile Image for Juliette Smith.
149 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2020
(My rating is probably closer to a 2.5, but since this is my good reads account I’m choosing to round down)

I am currently on accutane which means I can’t drink. I got this book so that maybe I’d feel more empowered in my sober lifestyle and not like I’m missing out on my twenties. While this book has likely inspired me to enjoy sobriety more, I don’t think I’m completely convinced that there is societal change around drinking coming and that I’m going to be a part of it. Do I want to drink less after this book? Yes. Do I miss a cold glass of beer or a delicious Chardonnay at a restaurant? Absolutely.

I think that Whitaker is a little difficult to trust throughout this book. She chose to immediately go with scare tactics, saying that alcohol is a poison (which it totally is, but what isn’t poisoning us), and throughout the book called it “drinking ethanol”. This felt a little PETA-esque, like when animal rights activists choose to call meat “animal flesh” to just add that imagery. I don’t even eat meat and I find that scare tactic a little annoying. Same goes for ethanol. She was almost distancing us from alcohol, not bringing its poisonous side to light.

The second half of the book was very spiritual and a little more convincing. I like the idea of finding friendships that don’t focus around drinking, and enjoying solitude. There were tips towards the end that I will definitely be using.
1 review
February 18, 2020
If I have to hear the words Kundalini in a valley-girl accent one more time I'm going to lose it. (I didn't realize how annoying the audiobook would be.)
As other people have brought up, no one has the expenses for yoga, regular massages, etc. At one point she mentions ignoring all responsibilities (including taking care of your kids) to have "me" time. Sure that sounds nice, but is it realistic? This may have all worked for her, but I doubt she's going to reach a very broad audience. I also don't know who edited this book, as it JUMPS from topic to topic to topic that don't relate in any way. It feels like she's taking a mash-up of every self-help alcohol book out there and retelling it for profit.
I will say I found it interesting to hear about the history of cigarettes and alcohol and the roll that women played... but I found for most of the book, she talks about herself and her meditation practices. I'm fascinated with everyone's journey and recovery with alcohol, but there's only so much you can repeat about yourself and your different morning routines.
If you're really looking for a book with helpful guides and life-changing knowledge, I'd recommend This Naked Mind. There were some good points made in QLAW, but nothing groundbreaking that you can't read somewhere else.
Profile Image for Jordan Santos.
78 reviews254 followers
August 1, 2021
One of the most important books I’ve read this year and maybe ever. This is about our society’s obsession with alcohol and how alcohol companies target women, but more than that, it’s a book about self discovery and not feeling guilty about growing into who you are, even if it means outgrowing others.

I highly recommend to everyone — not just those who are looking to quit drinking bc I actually am not 100% sober myself. It’s such an eye opening examination about the drinking culture in america and how capitalism and alcohol go hand in hand. It sheds light on how toxic alcohol really is for our minds and bodies and how alcohol addiction and alcohol-related deaths had more than doubled in recent years, but how ignored it goes because of the alcohol industry’s power today (which is not unlike Big Tobacco decades ago).

On a personal note, it helped validate SO much of how I’ve felt towards alcohol. I used to party and binge drink multiple times a week in my late teens / early 20s and it wasn’t until getting into a car with a drunk driver and breaking my neck did my relationship with alcohol change. Since then, I have decreased my alcohol intake loads and only drink on occasion a few times a year, but have learned how weird others find sobriety. And I understand it, bc I too, used to judge people for not drinking. Much like the author, after lessening my drinking, I’ve learned so much more about myself and even have began liking myself a lot more and make space for the things I want in my life, now that alcohol isn’t there to “improve” the things in my life I didn’t actually want to do.

This is not a book about shaming those who drink at all — and it doesn’t seek to make you fully sober, but to shed light on the things we never knew about alcohol and the ways the industry targets us.

It is one of my favorite reads this year and I’ve highlighted and dog-eared nearly every page. It does get a bit white feminism at times and it’s definitely a book for a specific type of person who is trying not to drink (think those who are able to go to yoga, meditate, eat healthy, etc etc) and would not at all work for every person addicted to alcohol (especially those who are underprivileged or have low income) but I personally learned a lot about myself and the alcohol industry in reading this book.
1 review1 follower
January 1, 2020
I didn’t realize this book was about liberal politics or I wouldn’t have bought it. What does alcoholism have to do with political beliefs?
Profile Image for Sarahisagenius.
13 reviews
January 7, 2021
It was profound and thought provoking. But I wouldn’t recommend. I think I could find a better book on the subject. I don’t like the blame the author puts on men. It seems unnecessary and immature. Taking responsibility for yourself makes more sense. I do appreciate some of her shared opinions on the amount of things that are thrown at us and the culture of peer pressure but not everyone has the time and money to go to yoga classes and travel to Italy to break themselves away from addiction. And I don’t think doing those things are key to becoming sober. She does have some good ideas... but ultimately I think she likes to brag about all the things she has done and the things she used to do drink and high. Which was entertaining... but it was more of a self biography than it was a book about the culture of alcohol.
3 reviews
January 2, 2020
My first book finished in 2020.

I preordered this in August or September and then forgot about it. In the meantime I had stopped drinking. This showed up on my doorstep yesterday, the last day of the (my drunkest) decade.

My story closely parallels the authors (especially through high school and college) except for the fact that I actually used to work in the alcoholic beverage industry for several years, I even went back to school for it. I lived and breathed and ate and slept alcohol for years. One day over a month ago I took a sip of (not good) wine and a thought popped into my head, “why am I doing this?” I poured it out. Read a book instead. Went to the gym the next morning. Enjoyed my kale stir-fry. All the things we do to keep ourselves healthy...

Like the author I also tried twelve-step programs and every form of self-help possible. The only thing that really, truly stuck was asking “why am I doing this?” Why am I doing ALL THE THINGS for my health but I’m still pouring poison into my body? Is this habit helping me reach my best life? Do I really care about the social capital of being “good at wine” so much that I am willing to sabotage my health for it?

Finally the answer is no, I’m not. Holly Whitaker will explain further.

If you have ever even had an inkling or question around your “relationship” with alcohol, you must read this book. It is certainly geared towards Gen Y, millennial and Gen X career-aged women (ages 18-45), but this is the “truth to power” book we need as a culture. Yes, alcohol is having a tobacco moment. And it’s long overdue.

Thank you, Holly, for putting our collective story into such powerful, undeniable language, backed up with science and underlined with your incredibly relatable personal story.

-

For those confused about the “political” frame up for this book in the first few chapters, and thus compelled to rate the book a low rating based purely on a differing understanding from the author’s of current events, please read Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,” or watch John Oliver explain the opioid crisis and the Sackler family on the HBO show Last Week Tonight.

“Politics,” or rather the historical domination of everything by, power seeking/protecting and privilege of WASP men is a salient underlying factor for many (bad) American habits related to capitalism - smoking, drinking, overweight, pain killers the list goes on - to the detriment of the poor, minorities, women and children.

Anyone see the pics of Jeff Bezos hulking around St. Bart’s over the holidays? Asking for a friend.

I do believe a more thorough exploration of the issue of exploitation of the poor, the working class, women and minorities (men are including in most of the above groups) for the gross profit of a few men at the top the substance industries would have benefitted this book, but really it’s a separate book (Holly, would you?).

Readers, if you are curious to come at this very large, complex (though not really complex) issue from another angle you can try Marion Nestle’s “Food Politics,” or Joseph Stieglitz’s “Globalization and its Discontents.”

Or watch Mad Men. Or a Weinstein Brothers or Woody Allen movie... whatever.
I mean, I don’t know what you’re into.

The more things change the more they stay the same. If you’re pointing at “politics” you’re not really trying.

Holly is simply asking everyone to reframe why we all starting getting schlitzed in the first place (or really, why we do any bad/addictive habit - like compulsively check social media) - and her research and experience points to the exploitative capitalism that has historically been the exclusive domain of WASP men.

That’s just her, but it’s also a good place to start.

-

For those of you confused about Holly’s rejection and criticism of 12 Step Programs (of which I share), I point you to page 249-250:

Holly has just publicly outed her recovery on her blog (that is, used her real name). “After reading those essays, a friend of mine—a daughter of a man who’d recovered through AA—wrote me a note. It said in effect: /You seem to be in pain, your family seems to be in pain, maybe you should work the Twelve Steps, my father did that, it helped my family./ At this point, I’d been working on myself and towards sobriety for 16 months, and it was going, by all accounts, pretty well. Further, in this recovery, this woman hasn’t once asked me how it was going, what was happening in my world, how I was saving my life, or how she could help. She was a spectator; one who read a few blogposts, interpreted them through her lens...and decided she understood the missing course of action in my f*cked-up life, which led to her unsolicited advice about my recovery.”

This is evangelicalism by another name. Have you heard about the 12 Steps (Jesus Christ)? Yep. Doesn’t work for me. Didn’t work for Holly. Doesn’t work for a lot of people. AND THAT’S FINE. Everything Holly posits in this book as a recovery tool DID work for me and it DID work for Holly and countless other women, minorities, or other groups of people (the majority of people in the US) who are not of an white male evangelical bent. You need to do what most makes sense for you, people. Bruce Lee and Kung Fu your life - keep what works, toss what doesn’t. It is criticism but only insomuch as that is her (and many other people’s) reality. It’s a needed criticism so that others like me can realize we have different options, and that may help many people reach a place of recovery FASTER.

Pg. 253 sums it up:
Quoting AA material: “Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are CONSTITUTIONALLY INCAPABLE of being honest with themselves.”

THIS. This is the problem with AA.

Holly goes on to explain what this really means in AA world: /there is nothing wrong with the program, there is only something wrong with YOU—it if doesn’t work, it’s because you’re not trying hard enough/. The idea that there’s something wrong with a person—instead of the society that made them sick or the program that was possibly ineffective or oppressive—is inherent to the patriarchy (remember the white, wealthy men who started AA in 1930??? [my insert here]), a sweet little tool to keep people in their place.

She is not saying they did this on purpose, but the mindset is IN the pudding. Just like Big Tobacco. Just like Big Pharma. Just like Big Alcohol.

Think. About. It.



As Holly says, there should be a fourth (or fifth, or sixth) position of recovery and that is: “I am human, and being human is a messy affair with lots of twists, turns, and in-betweens.”

Exactly.

Good luck to everyone wherever they are at using whatever method works for them.
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