Keeping a Clear Head

USD alumna Karolina Rzadkowolska celebrates the benefits of going alcohol-free


Alcohol has long been a lubricant in bringing people together to socialize, but an increasing number of people are seeing the benefits of abstaining
from hitting the bottle altogether.

Karolina Rzadkowolska ‘16 (MBA) began exploring an alcohol-free lifestyle in 2018. She was tired of the social pressure to drink at social occasions and every weekend. She hated the repercussions that came along with drinking: poor sleep, mood shifts and a decline in her overall physical well-being.

“There was a part of me that wanted to challenge this norm,” says Rzadkowolska. “Most of the time, when women get a break from alcohol, it’s because they’re pregnant. It’s ridiculous to me that being alcohol-free isn’t an acceptable choice in our society for casual drinkers, even though it’s one of the healthiest things a person can do. People are still really judged for choosing not to drink.”

She decided to flip the societal norm on its head and explore an alcohol-free approach to her own socializing by participating in her first-ever “dry January,” a movement that began in 2012 as an initiative by Alcohol Change UK to “ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline and save some serious money.”

“I fell in love with that break,” she says. “I had more energy, my self-love was growing and I began discovering new hobbies.” From that point on, everything began to change. Her alcohol-free life inspired her to start a company and write a book that would help other sober-curious people take charge of their lives.

Rzadkowolska started her entrepreneurial journey with The Brink Small Business Development Center at USD. In 2017, she contributed to the successful launch of the center as a strategic initiatives manager, after earning her MBA from the Knauss School of Business. When she saw how The Brink could help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, she decided to become a client herself and was paired with a marketing mentor who helped her to grow a clientele base.

Once she had an audience, Rzadkowolska saw the need to write a guide to help people on their alcohol-free journeys. She’d always been interested in writing a book but had been paralyzed by not knowing where to begin.

“I used to write all the time when I was younger,” she says. “By the time I went to college and started drinking, I stopped writing. I remember having these New Year’s resolutions: ‘Every week you’re going to write for 30 minutes.’ I would do it the first week and then stop. But when I went alcohol-free in 2018 and all of a sudden, all of those limiting stories were like, ‘Well, why couldn’t you write a book?’”

Rzadkowolska began with baby steps, writing 15 minutes each day. She then took a book proposal course and used The Brink’s accountability group to make sure she was taking daily actions to achieve her goal of becoming a published author.

Now, she’s a certified alcohol-free life coach and author of Euphoric: Ditch Alcohol and Gain a Happier, More Confident You (HarperCollins 2022), an eight-week guidebook for casual drinkers looking to transform their relationships with alcohol and tap into their self-growth as they learn about the benefits of going alcohol-free. 

While eight weeks without alcohol may sound intimidating to some, Rzadkowolska says not everyone’s journey to an alcohol-free life will be the same.

“At first, you may just want to learn more about it by reading a book or listening to a podcast, and ask yourself questions like, ‘When did this become an ingrained part of my life and why?’ Then you try it out yourself by taking a break and learning
first-hand about all the benefits.” 

While some may worry that going alcohol-free will isolate them from social activities, Rzadkowolska points out that the non-alcoholic beverage
industry is steadily growing, which points to the larger trend of more people eschewing liquor. Plus, there’s a burgeoning array of alcohol-free events and bars that cater to those who’d prefer to skip imbibing. 

Non-alcoholic beverage sales increased 33% to $331 million between November 2020 and November 2021 in the U.S., according to data from Nielsen. Rzadkowolska says that number is forecasted to reach the billions in the coming years. She hopes to see this trend continue with more people exploring their options when it comes to drinking.

“Even if I help just one person discover their potential, that’s my deeper why for doing this.”

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