Melanie: We are six days out from the start of the Alcohol Free for 40 Challenge and Ashley and I both are working on success strategies for the coming days and weeks. Planning ahead always helps keep me on track, so this stage of the process is a priority for me. The two of us have begun ordering non-alcoholic beverages, mixers and elixirs and looking ahead at any feast days we might want to add to the calendar. I’m also stocking the house with sparkling waters and soda, as well as adding new bitters to the bar, so I can mix up a fizzy bevvy when I feel festive or when my husband Mark is imbibing at cocktail hour. I still haven’t quite decided for sure if I plan to do feast days. I didn’t back in 2016 when I took the challenge, but admittedly, the idea of enjoying a few on St. Patrick’s Day is mighty appealing. The last time, I sipped on a (non-alcoholic) Guinness Excalibur or two during the Irish Channel Parade, but I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t the same as having a real beer, or my go-to of late, vodka with soda and lime juice. So, the verdict is still out on that point. One of my other strategies is to plan a few lunch, coffee, tea and mocktail hour dates with friends. I already have a long Friday lunch on the books with a friend for after Ash Wednesday. She and I have both been wanting to try the plant-based restaurant Seed since it reopened under new ownership. I was a fan of the earlier incarnation and have heard great things about Seed 2.0. Cocktails are an integral part of the menu, but so are mocktails, coffee and espresso. I’m making a list of new places to try and I also plan to lean heavily on the list Molly Kimball and the Eat Fit crew publish throughout the challenge, and will take advantage of the free workout classes and meetups. By the end of Fat Tuesday, I’m confident that I will be ready to bag the booze for a few weeks!


Ashley: Ash Wednesday is on the horizon, which means taking in all the parades and fried chicken and King Cake and Bloody Marys and beer and so forth that we can get in until the last minute on Mardi Gras day. Here are some ideas that I am hoping will get things going for me, and may work for you too:

Clear the calendar. Sometimes work and social events can start to really rack up during the week. Instead, I plan on using this time to work on projects a little closer to home. Now, will I turn into a hermit? No. But it may mean embracing “no, thank you, next time,” a little more.

Start a new crafting hobby. Now that we are out of Carnival costume season, I’ll need to come up with a new creative craft until it comes time to get started again for next year. I have a stack of books on making soap, aromatherapy, crochet and knitting. I’m sure to find something to keep my hands busy.

Read those books that have been on my bedside table for months. I tend to get excited about a subject or an author and run to the library and put it all on hold. I have a stack of four books right now, with more scattered throughout the house. Now’s the time to get some reading done.

Exercise. In addition to my regular run, I plan on trying to incorporate some stress relieving, mindful exercise. Yoga has always been difficult for me, but embracing a slower paced exercise routine will be a goal to calm both mind and body during this time.

Download the “Dry January” app. Folks in Great Britain pioneered the Dry January movement years ago. To support that, a non-profit group put together a handy app that allows you to track your days without imbibing. You have the option of reporting dry days and planned days with alcohol, if necessary. It also tallies how much money has been saved, with celebratory alerts for streaks.

Start a new evening self-care ritual. Instead of pouring a glass of wine in the evening, I am investing in a barrage of face mask and bath salts and all things spa related.

So, looking back at my list, by the end of the challenge, I should be well rested, well read, polished and primped, and with a new collection of hand-crafted items to gift to my friends and family. Onward.


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.