Quit Like a Woman, by Holly Whitaker (+ 4 Additional Memoirs to Consider for Dry January)
Topics: Codependence, Mental Health, Recovery, Sobriety
Memoirs with Melissa shares bimonthly reviews intended to expose readers to diverse authors and life experiences. To see more of what I’m reading, browse my virtual memoir shelf on Goodreads.
When the spine of Quit Like a Woman first caught my eye in the new release section of the library, I was sure Holly Whitaker wrote it for me. I take immense joy in quitting boring jobs, bad relationships, and excess commitments. Then I saw the book’s subtitle: “The Radical Choice to not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol.” Never mind, I thought. This book isn’t for me.
I’ve never had a problem with alcohol and have long enjoyed a glass of red wine daily. Fast-forward to fall 2022, and I checked out the audiobook out of concern for another person. Waiting for the part that might help me help them, I did the mental equivalent of shoving my fingers in my ears as Whitaker rattled off a list of alcohol’s disturbing side effects: disrupts sleep, fuels anxiety, messes with blood sugar, disturbs hormone function, linked to seven kinds of cancer, causes premature aging…la la la la la.
I’d always heard moderate drinking was healthy. The former registered dietitian in me cringed when I found out a number of studies have been published in the last decade that counter the “wine is healthy” narrative. By the end of chapter two, I found myself questioning my commitment to moderate drinking.
The former registered dietitian in me cringed when I found out a number of studies have been published in the last decade that counter the “wine is healthy” narrative.
Through her own personal journey and insightful cultural critiques, Whitaker offers a compelling case for sobriety in what I would call a prescriptive memoir. The narrative dives into the author’s life, but also offers guidance for the reader. Chapters like “Is Alcohol Having a ‘Cigarette Moment’?” (remember when people thought cigarettes were normal?) and “The Right Question: Is Alcohol Getting in the Way of My Life?” prompted me to set down my glass of red wine long enough to truly evaluate my relationship with it.
Since finishing the book, the relationship has changed. Whitaker’s observations revealed alcohol as yet another manufactured want—a learned desire influenced by advertising, entertainment, and cultural norms. My new attitude toward alcohol most closely resembles what I heard from memoirist Cheryl Strayed in her recent interview on The Active Voice. In short, her goal is less. (Learn more at minute 37:00 of her interview.)
For the first time ever, I’m participating in Dry January. I’m using the month as an opportunity to take a break from the bottle and explore alternative ways of celebrating, coping, socializing, and treating myself, many of which I was reminded of or discovered anew by reading Whitaker’s book. If you’re looking for an informative, inspirational read to keep you on track for the month, or forever, Quit Like a Woman is a great place to start.
Want This Memoir?
Consider purchasing from Femme Fire Books or your local independent bookstore. You can also read more from this author on her Substack, Recovering.
4 Additional Memoirs to Consider for Dry January
Punch Me Up to the Gods, by Brian Broome: This award-winning memoir is on my 2023 TBR list. It tells the story of a dark-skinned boy growing up in Ohio and dealing with attractions to other boys, who then turns to liquor and drugs to cope. Find more recovery memoirs by Black authors here.
Lit, by Mary Karr: I haven’t read this particular book by Mary Karr, but I’ve read enough of her other books that I can tell you she is a master of memoir.
Drinking Games, by Sarah Levy:
This new release comes out January 3, 2023. The publisher gave me an advance reader copy in exchange for a review, which you can find here. You can also check out the author’s Substack, here.
Stumbling Into Sobriety, by Tracy Collins: This one is by Jacksonville, Florida’s local author Tracy Collins and is edited by the talented local poet and writing instructor Lynn Skapyak Harlin.
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Great timing for this review, Melissa! Whitaker's work has played a vital role in my sobriety journey. Her voice is part of a growing chorus that offers alternatives to the traditional recovery approaches. Cheers to your Dry January (with a mocktail, of course😘).