I had my last alcoholic drink 226 days ago. That’s over 7 months sober.
I’m not sure if I’m expecting a fanfare for that announcement, or for you to all think I’m crazy!
I had made the decision to be sober a few months before that, I just hadn’t done the actual follow through bit!
I’m not an alcoholic. I’m your typical social drinker. Maybe a glass or two on a Friday and Saturday night, and then drinking everyone under the table on a night out. And let’s be honest nights out are a rare thing in my life. I’m not exactly a wild party goer. So my drinking was maybe one or two glasses a week. But then all out debauchery maybe two or three times a year, with a few more thrown in on social and special occasions.
From friends I have spoken to, it seemed a pretty normal amount.
Which begs the question, why did I decide to go sober?
It starts with a seed…
Two of my friends, Emma and Sarah, (Island Living 365 and Mum Muddling Through) had blogged about going sober, their reasons why, and the positive effect it was having on their life. In all honesty as much as I was pleased it was working for them my first thoughts were “I don’t have a drink problem.” Swiftly followed by “I gave up for a year each time I was pregnant, I’ve done my abstinence.” And then I didn’t give it much more thought.
But that’s the thing when people you respect and like do something a bit ‘different’, it plants a seed. And as that seed begins to grow so do your questions about your own alcohol use.
Do I have a problem with alcohol?
The more I thought about my drinking and how it had changed over the years the more sober curious I became. Drinking becomes a habit and you don’t really stop to think about how much, or why you are drinking. You just do it.
I spent many years building up my tolerance. There was a lot of experimenting. A Malibu phase, and Archers phase. Before settling into a Southern Comfort or rose, with a penchant for Prosecco. Oh and don’t forget the Pimms and the Amerula. I definitely didn’t like beer or larger though.
Whilst I have many fond memories of some epic nights out fuelled by alcohol. I also know that there have been times when alcohol has caused serious lapse in my judgement and put me in situations that were at best stupid, at worst dangerous.
I have no regrets about the good times that were had with alcohol. Ok, maybe a few after some pretty major hangovers! But it was actually one of those pretty major hangovers (isn’t it always) that made me see sober as pretty appealing. Hangovers when you have kids to take care of the next day are hell on earth.
The idea of giving up the Friday and Saturday drinking seemed pretty easy. I didn’t need it. There were obvious health benefits and I am trying to be more health conscious and this seemed like an easy thing to do. But still I couldn’t commit to being sober.
What was stopping me?
Other people’s reactions were holding me back. Sober has an unfair association with being boring. I also think people think sober people are judging them for drinking, and no one wants to be judged. So they edge away from the sober person. As someone who feels quite anxious in social situations, I didn’t want people judging me.
We also live in a culture that pushes alcohol on us so often that that people react with complete shock, horror and disbelief. The only valid reasons for not drinking are, driving, on antibiotics, or you have a bun in the oven.
But I didn’t want what other people’s reactions may be to hold me back. Turning 40 at the beggining of last year was a turning point for me in doing things for me and letting go of what other people might think.
In the end my decision to go sober came down to the though of a night out without drinking. The thought of socialising with people without alcohol to give me the self confidence I didn’t posses without it, was terrifying. It was that realisation of how much of a crux alcohol had become for me in social situations that made we want to stop.
I didn’t just enjoy a drink socially, I needed it to make me feel like part of the party. To make me feel like I could be a better version of myself. And if I look back I can see how so many times I backed out of social situations if I knew I couldn’t drink for whatever reason. I was socially dependant on alcohol, and realising this made me feel really uncomfortable. At 40 years old I should be able to walk into a crowded place with confidence and be myself without relying on a drink or ten to help me do it.
So I quit.
What happened next?
I quit quietly without any big announcement. I told my husband, and I told Sarah. And I got on with it.
It was actually pretty easy at first. Mainly because my social life was non existent. But like the bus analogy, there was nothing for months, then they all came at once. A night out with friends, a wedding, a holiday, a party, our anniversary. I’ve just done Christmas and New Year!
I did them all sober. It wasn’t easy. There were events where it would have been so easy to have one of the free flowing drinks. And no one would have cared but me. And in truth I missed the confidence boost that alcohol gave me. I can’t say that I don’t need alcohol to feel confident anymore. I think that is very much a work in progress. But giving up alcohol has helped me in ways I wasn’t expecting, which has spurred me on to stay sober.
What being sober has done for me…
It’s given me a bit of self belief that I can do things. It inspired me to do couch to 5k and go out 3 times a week. Whatever the weather I have been out. And my run might be the same speed as someone elses walk (short legs), but I’m doing it. I even got to the point that I was enjoying it. Although that has wavered when it’s freezing cold and dark outside!
It gives me a sense of control over something which keeps me steady when all the plates are spinning and threatening to fall. There is still overwhelm, but giving up alcohol has given me more inner strength to deal with things. It gives me a sense of balance when life chucks me one of those curve balls.
I have an app on my phone that tells me how long I have been sober for and what milestones I have reached. And whenever I look at that I get a little buzz. It makes me feel like if I can do this, I can do anything. And that’s a pretty powerful feeling that I do not want to let go of.
Not that long ago I would have laughed off the thought of being sober. But now the thought of drinking has no appeal.
I don’t know if an alcohol free life will be forever. I just know that at this point in my life it feels right for me. It feels good.
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