Christmas. A time of peace & goodwill to all men. Or a bloody logistical nightmare. You choose.
Believe it or not, when we were small, we managed to have a good time without alcohol. We managed to put up the tree without having a sherry & managed to party without a Prosecco. We managed to get up on Christmas morning full of joy rather than green at the gills & full of woe. We managed to get so excited on Christmas Eve without the aid of a beverage and be happy just in the knowledge that some big bloke with a beard was gonna make all our dreams come true. If only that bit were true.
Instead, somewhere along the line, alcohol became the uninvited guest. A glass of sherry & a brandy laced mince pie for Santa, sherry whilst you put up the tree, brandy in the Christmas pud, Prosecco to celebrate doing the wrapping, port in the innocent cheddar cheese, gin in the advent calendar. Jesus (pun), the list goes on.
There literally is no escape. And this is all due to marketing companies knowing exactly who to target at this time of year. The stressed ones, the sad ones, the ones at the end of their tether. The shy ones, the nervous ones, the ones who don’t know when to stop.
Here’s an interesting fact. You don’t need alcohol to do any of the things you think you do at Christmas. Ironically the tree goes up better if you’re not half cut, and the Christmas dinner is better if you’re not so hungover you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t buy as much crap online if you’re not swaying in front of your computer and you don’t hate Christmas as much if you’re not constantly hungover.
One of the consistent worries of being sober at Christmas is what other people will think. Why exactly do you care what other people think??! Surprisingly, some people don’t need alcohol to have a good time and using the excuse ‘but it’s Christmas’ shows their insecurities more than yours. You have made a monumental decision NOT to poison yourself because some London marketing company told you to do so! Be bloody proud of that! Be the ultimate rebel against a society with a twisted brain!
One day, being drunk will be as alien as being sober. When the big cats understand our country is actually a nation of (legal) drug addicts and something must be done. It will (hopefully) be sooner than we think. It’s not easy being sober at this time of year but it is possible. Give yourself the biggest gift of all and do it for your health, your wealth and your happiness.
A year, 12 months, 365 days since a drop of alcohol passed my lips, since smoke hit my lungs, since I stayed up all night, since I threw up, since I suffered hangxiety.
In this epic year, I’ve changed jobs, got a new car, lost 3.5 stone in weight, got rid of a toxic relationshit & gained addictions to walking & Magnums, Curly Wurly’s & podcasts.
I found my sobriety twin Steve, my SSS Emma & countless new fantastic sober friends through various online support groups Club Soda Together, Team Sober UK, Recovery Buddha & Gary Topley – alcohol awareness specialist. I can’t thank you all enough.
My blog has gone from strength to strength gathering followers from places such as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Spain to name a few. I’ve made video blogs & been interviewed for podcasts. I’ve heard the worst stories that alcohol can do to a person but also epic success stories from people who had no hope.
I’ve cried a lot, laughed loads, been pissed off at the injustice that I can’t have ‘just the one’. I’ve sober dated & sober kissed & sober ran the other way. I’ve been on a sober holiday & went on a sober boat party.
I fell in love with Russell Brand, discovered audio books, started counselling, went to gong baths & hung in a cocoon.
I decluttered my flat, employed a cleaner, E-Bayed my old clothes, bought new clothes, purchased a bloody cagoule (yes really) & resized my rings.
I drank shit loads of Elderflower cordial, ate too many Curly Wurly’s, way too many Magnums & thousands of Lindor Balls. I discovered I do actually like cheese.
I got a tattoo & I decided I would never drink again.
Sobriety is so much more than not drinking alcohol. It is a way of life, a freedom like no other.
Without alcohol, I can do all the things I couldn’t do before. I sleep well, eat well, exercise regularly, love myself .. all the ingredients for a happy life.
Alcohol clouded my judgement about myself. It made me feel a failure, unworthy, fat, unloveable. I am none of these things without it.
Alcohol made me believe it was my friend, that I needed it in my life to be more confident, funnier, sexier, a better person.
Alcohol is a lying bastard.
Will I drink again? Why on Earth would I? Alcohol made me sad, depressed & distorted my view of the world and myself. I never want to lose sight of the person I have become without it.
I am worthy. I am loveable. I am sober. I am free.
With mahoosive thanks to
Jen & her amazing Team Sober UK – https://m.facebook.com/groups/1622901908009979
Laura & fantastic Club Soda – https://joinclubsoda.co.uk
Gary & his fab group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/715729241889906
Penni & her awesome group – https://m.facebook.com/groups/1524386261221269
And EVERYONE who found me. You all rock 🙋🏻🐟
I’ve always thought I was lucky that my sober year began full of illness. Not wanting a drink or a cigarette certainly helped my sober quest, although missing out on Christmas parties because I was deaf and not being able to work for the first week at my new job was not ideal.
By the New Year, I was feeling better and had been sober for 5 weeks. It was then that the reality started kicking in. A year was an awfully long time.
If you’ve ever done Dry January, there’s a certain euphoria around day 29/30 when you can almost taste the wine on your lips. You think about it constantly, planning how to celebrate your enforced alcoholic fast, deciding what you’re going to drink when the restriction is lifted and discussing how great it’s going to feel when you take your first sip of Devil’s juice. Then get completely hammered.
Well, that euphoria still creeps in at the end of month 1 but you have no debauchery to look forward to. Instead, I rewarded myself in other ways, buying little gifts as I reached each milestone .. a ring, a necklace, a plane ticket .. I needed these things to look forward to, to make the journey worth it.
From the start, I found socialising hard. I had always been the ultimate party animal. Now I was the ultimate wallflower. My friends were wonderful, always making sure there was alcohol free alternatives for me to drink. But it was strange for them too. I was there. But I wasn’t there. Dawn the Drunken (crying) Devil had disappeared, leaving a sombre, Elderflower sipping Sober Fish in her place.
The sober me soon realised that the best time at a party was the beginning before the slurring began, rather than at the bitter end that I was used to, watching the sun come up & freaking out. I’ve never had so much sleep! There is a certain smugness to a regular 10pm bedtime .. in fact, I turn into a pumpkin shortly after! My sleep is so different. Solid, deep & restoring. There are no more lazy lie-ins .. I wake up early and snoozing is a thing of my drunken past.
In May, I set myself a challenge to walk 10000 steps a day. I’ve never really challenged myself to anything before. I mean, I could barely stick to a diet, let alone anything else. But Soberdom was going well so it was time to tackle the booty. And I loved it! And smashed it! And so my addiction to walking began.
It has totally taken me, and everyone who knows me, by surprise that I’m walking to the extent I am. I went through periods of exercising before but became despondent if I didn’t see quick results. This time, the results are clear.
Cut out alcohol = weight loss = more energy = expel energy by walking.
I now try to walk at least 5 miles a day and the weight is staying off. It’s a winning formula!
After tackling the alcohol & smoking then the weight then the exercise full on, it was time to tackle the brain. The emotional iceberg was thawing, leaving feelings of ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘where am I going?’ and ‘what do I want?’. So I started counselling & light mediatation & gong bathing, even hanging in a cocoon on one occasion! I am constantly surprising myself.
My words of wisdom to you.
Be patient. This has been a long but incredible year. Nothing happens overnight. You have spent years abusing your beautiful body and it will take time to recover. It will need sleep and exercise and nourishing. It will reward you but only when you are repetitively kind. Remember, it knows your habits better than anyone else.
Be brave. You can do this. If I can, you can too. I promise.
Make sacrifices. Your life will have to change. You will miss out on things. You will sleep when your friends continue to party. You will drink water while they drink champagne. But their reward is temporary & yours is permanent. Remember that.
Don’t give up. You may not succeed the first time but that’s ok. Keep trying. How many times have we all said ‘I’m never going to drink again’ but then crack on for another 10 years. In the words of Ice Cube ‘You can do it, you put your back into it’.
I love a good success story. One of my favourite programmes used to be ‘A Year To Save My Life’ with Jessie Pavelka. Each programme focused on a morbidly obese person & Jessie coached them back to a better version of themselves over a year. Plus Jessie was hot. Super hot.
What I didn’t know when watching this programme was that in a few years time I was going to need to save myself. That my not so secret bingeing of takeaways & wine & Marlboro Lights, plus meeting the relationshit, plus working in a highly toxic environment, was going to lead me into a year to save my own life. Dramatic but true.
Whilst documenting my progress this year & through the power of Facebook reminders, it appears I flirted with Soberdom far more than I remembered. Yes I did Dry January but I also had other periods across the years when I wearily climbed onto my lonely rickety wagon. I now understand that my relationship with alcohol had been bad since the very first moment it hit my lips. I very rarely ‘had a glass with dinner’ or ‘a quick one down the pub’.
I drank to get hammered. To forget. To stop thinking.
I’ve learnt over this year that lots of us drink to forget. That there is a lot of trauma behind alcohol. That alcohol promises to make things better but actually makes things a whole lot worse. That alcohol is a poisonous demon that damages relationships, careers, friendships, emotions, routine, self worth, looks, lives.
When I started my initial experiment to lay off the sauce for a year, I naively believed it was just a matter of saying no to Sauvignon & yes to Squash. How wrong could I be? Saying no is the tip of a ginormous iceberg packed full of emotions & feelings, just waiting to thaw.
Once the ‘experiment’ had started, it was fairly easy for me not to drink or smoke. I was ill, stressed, run down, fat, tired, sad, finally single and emotionally ruined. Ready. There was no real reason not to begin and I was actually sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
Day 1 began with a hangover. Day 2 began with a trip to the doctors. I’d been away for the weekend & my eczema was the worst it had ever been. I was covered from head to foot, literally scratching myself to pieces. Whilst away, I’d noticed that I’d been given the wrong steroid cream and it wasn’t touching the sides. Scratch, bleed, cream, scab, scratch, repeat. The cycle of eczema alone is enough to drive someone insane.
At the doctors, I broke down, shouting at the doctor I’d seen the week before who has apparently decided (without my permission) to reduce my steroid cream to a lower strength. I yanked my clothes off showing her my poor damaged body saying ‘look! Look what you’ve done’, only she hadn’t really done it. I had.
The doctor was visibly shocked at the state of my skin and at how stressed I was and immediately gave me my normal prescription, apologising profusely. However, she still failed to find out what the real problem was, the underlying cause(s) of why I was really scratching myself to bits. She also never asked about my bad habits which clearly were contributing to the problem. I left the doctors clutching the correct medicine. A temporary fix to a permanent problem.
As if this wasn’t enough, I also had a sore throat. Which turned into a cold. Which turned into an ear infection leaving me deaf. Which turned into flu. Which rendered me bedridden just as I started my new job. My body was actually shutting down on me.
I’d never been so ill. With hindsight, I truly believe that my body was screaming out at me to look after it. Years of abuse had started to take its toll. Isn’t it interesting that we all seem to plough on year after year, expecting no side effects? Well, I got them all. At the same time.
And so my year of sobriety began on 27 November 2016, 5 weeks earlier than planned. Little did I know then, it would be the year that completely changed my life.
1) What are your biggest regrets in life to date
SF – I try to live a life without regrets .. everything happens for a reason, to teach a lesson. The only regret I do have is that I wish Sober Fish had hatched earlier but hey, I got there in the end!
2) What are your biggest fears now facing the future as a sober person/fish
SF – I guess I’ll always worry that I might get tempted back into drinking .. although the longer I stay sober, the easier it is not to be tempted.
3) What is your new 5 year plan now you have remained sober for a year, dreams plans aspirations?
SF – funnily enough, I was asked recently where I see myself in a year & I realised I’d never really looked too far ahead. Ideally, I’d like to be doing the blog & associated work full time, hopefully be in love & definitely sober. Oh, and have published a book 😁
4) What advice would you give to others setting out on the sober/quitting journey at the early craving stages from your own experience – what helped you?
SF – when I was younger & started dieting, I found the evenings hard, scratching around for food, so I used to go to bed early. I applied the same principle to drinking. If I was getting fidgety and thinking about drinking, I’d grab an early night. I would also read or listen to a podcast about other people’s stories .. or I’d write down how I was feeling.
5) In your opinion do we only need to help people with problematic drinking, or does the world need to be made aware of the dangers of Alcohol and the addictive nature of it.
SF – Alcohol is a poison. It is ruining lives. Heroin isn’t promoted so why is alcohol? I think there needs to be far more education about alcohol but doubt this will happen as there’s too much money in the industry. Instead, it will be up to people like us to spread the word.
6) Do you ever see a future where Sober Fish could moderate Alcohol consumption
SF – never. I can’t moderate anything.
7) What are the top 5 positive things that have changed this past year because of sobriety.
– losing weight
– stopped hating myself
– the blog & all the epic people I’ve met
– regained confidence & stopped bloody crying!
8) Have you suffered any anxiety as a result of stopping drinking
SF – yes but more about where I’m headed than anything else .. I was far more anxious when drinking
9) Do you feel you have missed out on any social occasions this last year because you stopped drinking.
SF – yes but social occasions are temporary. My sobriety is permanent.
10) Who has been your biggest inspiration to stay on track when the road has seemed dark long and bleak
SF – my lovely followers
11) Any advice for people who are flirting with the idea of going sober on how to make the commitment
SF – Just do it .. write a list of positives & negatives .. there will be no doubt it’s the right decision
12) What new things have you learned about Sober Fish now the fog has lifted?
SF – that I’m alright .. that I’m not as overemotional as I believed & was led to believe by others .. that I’m a better person sober .. that late nights are overrated .. that hangovers were a waste of my precious time on this planet .. that I am more of a morning person that I realised .. that I missed shit loads of sunrises whilst I was asleep .. that I can lose weight & keep it off ..
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