Oct 1, 2023 - Things to Do

New book explores the power of quitting everything

Author Freda Love Smith. Photo courtesy of Agate Publishing

In early 2021, Evanston musician and writer Freda Love Smith had an epiphany. In the deep space of isolation, quarantine and political upheaval, she needed to quit … everything.

What she's saying: "I needed a complete and total reset, because I was just not doing well, especially with alcohol," Freda Love Smith tells Axios.

  • "As soon as I decided to do that, I realized I also had developed some other bad habits, and my body was paying the price."

What happened: She quit alcohol, caffeine, sugar, weed and social media, "which had all become very addictive and kind of damaging." Then she wrote a book about it.

Why it matters: The book is far from a 12-step manual or even a how-to guide on recovery. ("I'm the least-qualified person in the world to write a self-help book," Love Smith says.) But the memoir explores the power of quitting everyday habits.

Context: Freda Love Smith is an accomplished musician and writer, playing drums for indie rock bands Blake Babies, Antenna and Sunshine Boys.

  • She retired from drumming in 2022 and is now living in Evanston as an advisor at Northwestern University.

The intrigue: The book ends on one of her biggest challenges, quitting the need to quit.

  • "It became a drug in itself," says Love Smith. "Just the feeling of space and freedom and the confidence to make changes was inspiring, but ultimately I had to quit quitting.
  • "You can fall into unnecessary rigidity with this stuff. I wasn't looking to quit cold turkey and never go back; what I was really looking for was just a little more awareness."

Reality check: Which was the hardest habit to quit? "I think everybody needs to figure out for themselves what they can and can't mess with," Love Smith tells Axios.

  • "For me? Caffeine. Man, quitting it just about killed me."

What's next: Love Smith is on tour promoting the book, but she'll be back in town to reunite with longtime collaborator John Strohm at Space in Evanston on Oct. 22.


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