“Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself.” ~Rob Lowe
I tried and failed to have a fabulous relationship with alcohol for many years.
When my children were tiny I drank far more than was good for me, thinking I was relaxing, unwinding, socializing, and having fun. I’d seen my life shrink down from a world with lots of freedom and vibrancy to a socially restricted void, and I wanted to feel normal. I wanted to join in with everyone else.
All my birthday cards had bottles of gin or glasses of fizz on them, all the Friday afternoon memes on social media were about “wine o’clock,” and I wanted to be part of that world.
The opening of a bottle in the evening had me thinking I was changing gear, moving from stressed to relaxed and treating myself to some self-care. Nothing could have been further from the truth; the alcohol made me wake during the night and gave me low-level anxiety and an almost permanent brain fog.
I’m not proud of the drinking I did when the kids were small. I now feel a deep sense of shame about that time. I’d created such a happy life for myself—lovely husband and kids, nice house in a great town, wonderful friends. What was I drinking to escape from?
On the outside I looked like I had it all, but I didn’t—I had overwhelm.
I was a wife and family member, a mum to two small children, an employee and a freelancer … I had all the roles I’d longed for, and yet it was all too much.
I didn’t know how to let go of some of my responsibilities, and I didn’t know how to cope with everything that was going on in my life. Alcohol felt like the treat I deserved. It took me a while to figure out that alcohol was the common theme in my rubbish decision-making, tiredness, and grumpiness.
I’d spent a long time feeling trapped and stuck. I knew I wanted to stop drinking, but I was worried about what others would think of me, how I would feel at parties without a drink in my hand, and whether I’d be able to relax properly at the weekends.
I kept going back and forth deciding I’d stop then deciding I wouldn’t or couldn’t. It was a hellish merry-go-round. When I was forty-one, I finally made the decision to quit alcohol for a year as a little life experiment. I wanted to see how I would feel without it for an extended period of time.
I decided to take a bold action in Autumn 2019. I told a group of online friends that I was not going to drink alcohol for the whole of 2020, and once I had said it out loud I knew I would have to do it.
This step toward accountability really helped me to move forward with my sober mission. I started to count down to 2020 (still binge drinking), wondering how this experiment was going to go!
Toward the end of 2019, my mindset began to shift. Instead of dreading the start of 2020, I started to look forward to it. I made plans that I knew would lead to a successful sober year. I read books about quitting, listened to inspiring podcasts, and watched films or documentaries that didn’t show alcohol consumption in a glamourous light. I followed people who were a few steps ahead of me on their sober journey. I asked questions and I followed advice.
I had my last drink on 8th Dec 2019—nothing monumental, out with a few friends and no hangover the next day. It was a total non-event!
I wanted to have a year without alcohol to know if life would be stressful, lonely, or boring like I’d led myself to believe, or if it was possible to relax, connect with others, and have fun without a drink. The hangovers and brain fog were getting worse. In my late thirties/early forties I just couldn’t get away with it like I had done in my twenties
I wanted to be a more patient parent—no more selfishly rushing the kids through bedtime because I wanted to get back downstairs to my drink.
I wanted hangover-free weekends to enjoy my time away from work.
I wanted to maximize my nutritional choices—no more rubbish food choices dictated by low-level hangovers, or high-level for that matter.
I wanted to sleep deeply and wake up feeling rested and ready for the day ahead.
I wanted to know I was giving myself the best chance at not getting high blood pressure; heart disease; liver disease; breast, mouth, throat, liver, or colon cancer; dementia; or a compromised immune system.
I went through the whole of 2020 without a drink. There were some tough days to navigate, some challenging events to negotiate, and awkward conversations to have with friends, but I did it all and I did it all sober.
When 2021 rolled round I knew I wasn’t going to go back to how I’d drank before. I had changed my relationship with alcohol for the better. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually a different person, and I didn’t want to go back to numbing my feelings.
It’s easy to name all the benefits to our bodies and minds when we cut alcohol out—deeper sleep, clearer skin, better mood, more energy, and less anxiety, to name a few, but for me, the real shift has come a couple of years down the line—I feel more spiritually open than I’ve ever felt before, and I cannot wait to see what unfolds next for all of those of us on this sober-curious journey.