Melanie: Welp, here we go, y’all. Or at least those of us who gave up alcohol for Lent or who, like Ashley and I are doing the Eat Fit Alcohol Free for 40 Challenge. After the past three weeks of revelry, I’m quite ready to put down my vodka soda, wine and champagne. I’ll need all of the strength, clarity and energy within me to eradicate the glitter from my home — oh, who are we kidding, the floors are permanently sparkly at this point. C’est la vie in New Orleans, no? I’m ready. I have a strategy in place and have a couple of feast days set aside (the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of them, naturally) and am ready to do this thing.

Ashley: And we’re off!  Ash Wednesday has arrived. Over the past two weekends, I have logged an average of 20,000 steps each day along the parade route, consumed trays of finger sandwiches, shunned water for cocktails and beer, and left a trail of glitter and feathers in my wake.

I love the fact that New Orleans really revs up the party throughout the two main weeks of Carnival and then takes a huge step back on Ash Wednesday. Believers flock to church to receive their ashes, and sometimes even from road-side priests offering them up on the curb. Non-believers (or believers-adjacent) too use this day for reflection, and possibly nurse sore feet and heads. Everyone is a little quieter, a little more careful. A veritable hush falls over the city.

It is a fitting day to launch a stretch of sobriety, both physically and spiritually.


Good luck to us all!  We’ll get there, perhaps if only on a wing and a prayer.

Do you want to take the challenge? It runs from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26) until Easter (April 12). Sign up for free on Ochsner’s #AlcoholFreeFor40 page. If you decide to participate, use the hashtag #AlcoholFreeFor40 and share your progress in the comments. For questions about the program, email Kimball at or follow her on Twitter at @mollykimballrd.

Follow Melanie’s stone cold sober bon vivanting on Instagram at @melaniewarnerspencer.

Follow Ashley’s NOLA sober swizzle trip through mocktails and more at @taraashleymclellan on Instagram.