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As a highly ambitious 20-something in corporate marketing, Annie Grace rarely drank—until her bosses assured her that skipping happy hour would be detrimental to her career. Matching the bigwigs drink for drink became a matter of course, the booze a welcome distraction from her demanding C-suite job. But then she began downing two bottles of wine a night on her own. A mom by that point, she was guilt-ridden and aching to cut back. As she traveled internationally for work, journaling became her respite and eventually fodder for her first book, 2015’s This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness and Change Your Life, a science-based explanation of how drinking often escalates and how we can regain control.
“You don’t have to hit rock bottom to question your drinking habits,” says the Evergreen-based Annie Grace, 41, who for privacy reasons only uses her first and middle names. “This is for the people who want to stop trying to stop and just want to get back in control. It then becomes a wellness conversation.”
Annie Grace’s teachings swap a focus on complete sobriety for one of mindfulness, helping us deconstruct why we drink, notice our triggers, question our beliefs about alcohol, and take societal norms to task. For the 90 percent of Americans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says drink excessively but are not chemically addicted, Annie Grace’s point of view could help them rein in their alcohol consumption without requiring that they abstain completely. (Her litmus test: If you can go three days without drinking, her approach is for you; if you can’t, call your doctor.)
Not everyone is a fan of Annie Grace’s philosophy. The most critical emails come from proponents of Alcoholics Anonymous, who decry her open-ended tack. “I had a band of people call to tell me I was killing people by not telling them to just go to [AA] meetings,” she says. “But I’m not taking AA to task—I’m taking the term ‘alcoholic’ to task.” While some of her followers successfully moderate their drinking, others do quit entirely. (Annie Grace herself hasn’t had a drink in almost five years.) Nevertheless, she maintains that AA’s you-must-quit message presents an unhelpful binary for most drinkers. “Where else in the world do we measure 100 percent as success and 99.9 percent as abject, total, shameful failure?” she says. “When you don’t beat yourself up, the path to getting to where you want to go is much shorter.”
Whether you agree with her approach to alcohol or not, you can’t argue with the commercial success her philosophy has reaped. Annie Grace founded her company, This Naked Mind, four years ago and now employs 10 people, including her husband. She receives up to 5,000 reader emails a month, has answered hundreds of questions on her YouTube channel, and earned $2.1 million in coaching fees alone in 2018. Annie Grace has also sold a combined 315,000 copies of This Naked Mind and her second book, 2018’s The Alcohol Experiment. Guiding readers through a 30-day drinking break with daily lessons on the science behind hangovers, memory loss, and other booze-related side-effects, The Alcohol Experiment is being republished on September 29—just in time for the holidays (and dinner with your in-laws).