Today I’m celebrating 50 days being alcohol-free!
They're opening alcohol-free wine, obviously...
I sometimes say sober – but I feel like that makes people think of the word ‘alcoholic’, which is a label I don’t really like and definitely isn’t one I identify with.
Which is funny in itself isn’t?
A lot of the time, people are only known to quit alcohol fully when they’ve reached an undeniable rock bottom – the drinking in the morning, hiding bottles under the bed, ruining all your relationships type situation. And when people reach this level and are crowned ‘an alcoholic’, their friends and family shower them with support for trying to get sober. No one pushes a prosecco under their nose or moans at them for not drinking. Their decision is celebrated and never questioned.
Yet, if someone hasn’t reached that stage yet – but feel like their relationship with alcohol isn’t doing them any good and they decide to quit… it raises eyebrows.
What?! A lot of people say. FOREVER?! WHY?!
People will try and convince you you’re being a bit dramatic and there’s no need to quit FOR GOOD. Just take a break! They’ll say. Or Yeah, I felt better after a few weeks off. Just have a detox and then start drinking again.
Why, just because someone’s life hasn’t been totally and completely ruined by alcohol yet, does it make people unwilling to accept the idea that their life is better off without it?
Anyway… I digress.
For the reasons I wrote about in my last alcohol-free blog, I decided to stop drinking 50 days ago and I’ve never felt better! To celebrate my 50 days, here’s a list of the 10 things I’ve learned:
· I used alcohol as a crutch
Someone I dated once told me I used alcohol as a crutch and I was fuming and bitched about her to all of my friends. I now realise she was on to something!
A few weeks ago I went to a gathering at my girlfriend’s house for her birthday, so the room was filled with people I didn’t really know. I was used to being the chatty, tipsy, fun girl at parties. But sober, I felt myself constantly questioning when to speak and when to stay quiet. I felt nervous in conversation and wondered how I was coming across. I had no alcohol numbing my senses and ridding me of my inhabitations, and suddenly I felt like I didn’t know how to socialise!
It’s unlikely anyone even noticed my nervousness, and I know overtime this will start to feel like the norm; my brain just needs a little time to adjust to speaking to strangers without a slight buzz.
· Your not drinking will upset some people
Some people will feel sad or defensive when you quit drinking, partly because they fear you not drinking means less fun for them, and partly because it calls into question their own drinking habits.
My mum loved me coming home and being her drinking buddy, and at the start of lockdown I definitely took my role seriously. We would easily make our way through two bottles of prosecco on a Wednesday night, and often opened a third!
When I told her I was giving up drinking, she looked disappointed and continued to offer me prosecco, secretly hoping I’d change my mind and come back to the dark side. Then as the weeks went by she started to ask if she was bad for drinking and wanted my approval before pouring herself a glass.
But as times gone on, she now doesn’t try to offer me a glass. She’s accepted I don’t want to drink and that my decision doesn’t have to impact or change her decision to drink. And luckily, she’s now realised we can have just as much of a nice night watching Bridget Jones when I’m sober and not falling asleep.
· Alcohol doesn’t make my night fun – the company does
I was excited and nervous for my first girl’s night in without alcohol. I bought myself limes, lemonade, mint leaves, berries and kiwi to make myself tasty mocktails and I was determined to prove I was just as much fun sober as drunk.
I, and hopefully my friends, weren’t disappointed. I had a great night, laughing and chatting with everyone, and I felt even more present and engaged with them than the times when I’d be necking prosecco.
I realised that it wasn’t the alcohol that made a night with my friends fun – it was their company. Who knew!
· Sometimes I’m not craving alcohol, I’m just thirsty
On hot days I sometimes feel a dryness in my throat and the thought crosses my mind of how refreshing a glass of prosecco would be. And then I feel scared that I’m going to give in and ruin all of my efforts.
But then I take a sip of something non-alcoholic, and I realise that I’m not in fact dying for a glass of prosecco… I’m actually just thirsty.
· There’s so many nice non-alcoholic drinks to try
Seriously – so many! I’m currently enjoying CEDER'S alcohol-free gin and Nosecco.
. You’ll still embarrass yourself sometimes
I thought when I stopped drinking I’d feel really confident and never embarrass myself again. But, I’ve realised that just because I’m sober doesn’t stop me from saying stupid things and feeling like I want the ground to swallow me up sometimes.
I’ll still feel anxious and embarrassed occasionally as I work to build my self-confidence, but the good thing is – without hangxiety and blackout drunken behaviour, the level of shame I’ve felt has decreased by at least 90%!
. My subconscious is catching up
I used to have dreams about drinking, then when I quit I had dreams that I'd accidently drank and embarrassed myself and woke up with shame. But now, only recently, I've started dreaming about being in bars and ordering Diet Cokes!
· Sex is even better sober
Sex that you remember fully, where you know what you want and you’re attuned to what the other person is feeling, is ten times better than drunken sex where you wake up unsure if anyone actually enjoyed themselves.
. I feel less tired
A lot of things cause tiredness, so of course there are still days when I feel shattered. But take away the massive drinking binges, followed by 4 hours of tossing and turning, and replace it with 8 hours of deep sleep – and I’m definitely a lot brighter, more energetic, and more likely to seize the day!
· I get to live in the present, and not regret the past
Over the last 50 days, had I been drinking - I probably would have spent 25 of them regretting things I did drunk. I would have spent beautiful sunny days throwing up in bed, and I would have cancelled plans with friends and family to nurse a hangover.
So – without drinking - I have gained at least 25 days of living in the present. And I would argue 50 days, because who’s really that present when they’re half a bottle deep in a prosecco haze.
My next big milestone will be 100 days and I’m excited to find out how much better I will feel by then! Wish me luck!