Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a time without alcohol. But for most of us, we managed to live for quite a few years alcohol free and had fun. Becoming sober is trying to return yourself to that state before alcohol appeared, to a carefree time before feelings got involved.
I don’t exactly remember my first drink. I’m sure I sipped some beer when I was very young and hated it. That feeling never changed & I still dislike beer. I don’t remember my first taste of wine but am pretty sure I didn’t like that either. It’s a strong taste for a young palette.So how do we change from small, young innocent beings, alcohol free and haters, into proper wine monsters?
The biggest reason for me was peer pressure. ‘Everybody did it’. It was naughty to sneak alcohol from the drinks cupboard, to drink cheap cider and fortified wine in the park with the big boys. What’s even more ironic is that it was cheap, nasty & disgusting drinks got us hooked .. drinks that made us sick.
When I started drinking ‘proper’ wine, I loved the medium to sweet version, mainly German, with ingenious names like Hock (my friends with more sophisticated tastes kindly renamed it ‘Cock’). I liked it because it was easier to drink than a stark dry white and could soon nail a bottle to myself without being sick. I saw this as a breakthrough as most alcohol made me ill. Did I listen to my body? No, I listened to my peers.
I remember ‘drinking alone’ being described as a characteristic of an alcoholic and so I always ensured I drank with other people. Another herd mentality. It was ok if ‘they’ were doing it, perfectly acceptable. So we drank in packs before we left the house … if we managed to leave the house.
It’s hard to break free, to turn your back on the crowd and do something different. It takes strength, courage and conviction. The ‘crowd’ may not like your decision but this is your life, your choice. Who says your choice is wrong and their choice is right? Why is ‘with the majority’ the safest place to be? Perhaps the majority are making the biggest mistake of their lives and you are a pioneer in Soberdom?
One of the bravest things you can do is stand up for yourself, to say ‘no’ when most people say ‘yes’. Don’t be afraid to do that. I can guarantee you won’t be the only person in your friendship group considering whether they have an alcohol problem. It’s rife, but shame & embarrassment are easier to bury than to admit.
Let’s change the majority rule into looking after ourselves, loving ourselves even? Let’s break the mould for generations to come and make sober the way forward instead of smashed. Let’s make Elderflower the drink of the century rather than Prosecco. Let’s make hangovers a thing of the past.
Sober For 2017 was just that. An experiment for a year, to give my body a break from the constant cycle of poison and hangovers. I’m not sure it crossed my mind at the beginning that I possibly wouldn’t drink again .. the intention was always to celebrate the completion of a sober year by getting pissed up on Prosecco!
I knew I could abstain from alcohol for short periods of time. I’d completed Dry January before. I’d even pushed Dry January into mid February one year, but never got further than that. My thinking was that, in the grand scheme of things, a year isn’t that long right?
By the time I’d hit January this year, I’d already been sober for 5 weeks. I’d survived Christmas and New Year and had lots of Dry January contenders on my wagon. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone but I must admit that January made me assess the enormity of the task ahead.
A year now felt like a very long time and made me start to question just what I’d taken on. I started thinking about alcohol free holidays and weddings and sober parties and gatherings. And it scared the shit out of me. I mean, can you actually have fun without getting absolutely annihilated? That’s what social occasions are all about right?
I began to understand that Sober For 2017 wasn’t just about choosing soda instead of Sauvignon. It wasn’t just about saying no to Prosecco and gaining a love for coffee. No, it was a complete lifestyle change. Saying no to booze was literally the tip of the iceberg.
Becoming sober changes everything. It affects your sleep, your energy levels, your friendships, your work, your social life, your opinions, your conversations, your tolerance levels, your happiness, your emotions. Once you stop harming yourself, you can see exactly how much damage you were doing in your little bubble of doom.
I think my peak of excitement and pride was hitting 90 days. I was high as a kite with happiness! It felt like such an achievement. I’d gone further than I’d ever been before and I was starting to see the benefits. The blog was growing at amazing speed and the weight was falling off. I think it was around this point that I started to realise that Soberdom was for life, not just for 2017.
Today, I’ve achieved the next milestone of 6 months sober. I’m still astounded this is me. Party animal, night owl, pisshead extraordinaire. My life has changed beyond measure.
It is truly unbelievable how much influence one substance can have on your life. Alcohol is a believed to be a fundamental part of adult life, of British culture. When are we going to wake up and understand it is an addictive drug that ruins lives? When are we going to start teaching the next generation that there is life beyond alcohol, that we are ok as human beings and don’t need a crutch to enjoy ourselves?
When is there going to be a campaign against alcohol like there is about other drugs? When are we going to explain that alcohol doesn’t make you sexy/happy/rich/slim? In fact it makes you the complete opposite.
My intention is not to drink again however, as a former drinker, I am realistic enough to never say never. My ambition to remain sober is strong and I am a firm believer that if you want something enough, your dreams can become a reality. Soberdom is not easy but neither was my life before. At least now I get quality sleep & my skin looks good!
The universal rule for Soberdom is ‘one day at a time’. It’s a great rule. Apply it to everything. Enjoy every moment. Life is too short to spend it in an alcoholic fug. Stop waiting for Friday and treat Monday like it’s the best day ever. Jump on my wagon and enjoy the ride. It will be the best decision you ever made.
1. Do not glamourise the first drink .. remember the phrase ‘one is too many, a thousand is never enough’.
2. Flood your mind .. read books about giving up alcohol, read blogs, join online support groups, listen to podcasts. Literally drown out the irritating voice telling you alcohol is the answer.
3. Create new habits to replace the old .. try jigsaws, cooking, crochet, colouring, crosswords, writing. Take up a sport, clean, sort out your finances/cupboards/love life.
4. Sleep is vital .. you are repairing your damaged body .. let it rest, let it repair. Don’t feel bad. If you’re tired, you’re tired for a reason. Go with it.
5. Find a strategy to ride the cravings .. eat chocolate if you have to, find your favourite alcohol free drink & drink lots of it, go for a run, anything that keeps your mind busy & satisfied.
6. Break time into chunks .. a day at a time .. build to a week .. then a month .. then 3 months. Forever will freak you out in the early stages. Don’t freak out.
7. Reward yourself. You are doing an amazing thing. You deserve treats.
8. Avoid social situations where alcohol is present in the early days. Don’t torture yourself! Remember, you’re not missing out when you’re not drinking .. you ARE missing out when you are.
9. Find a buddy/accountability partner .. someone who you have an affinity with .. maybe you share a sobriety date or maybe you live in the same town. Stay close & in touch .. you will spur each other on when you’re feeling vulnerable.
10. Buy a tin from the pound shop. Every time you would’ve bought a drink, put the money in the tin. You’ll be surprised how quickly it mounts up. Save for something special. Visualise how amazing it will feel when you get your treat & enjoy it when you finally do.
** these are not scientific facts, they are based on my journey & what helped me **
I thank you
I’ve always been a believer of what goes around comes around, that good energy brings good things. Before Soberdom, I was stuck in a rut of negative things that were literally bleeding me dry of goodness.
Now, I am positive and so is the life around me. I’m still amazed at how removing just one component (alcohol) can have such a massive effect on absolutely everything in my life.
One of the loveliest things that has happened to me since becoming sober, is being given the opportunity to stay in one of the new beach lodges on Bournemouth Beach. Launched earlier this year, they provide good quality accommodation directly onto the beach, with outstanding sea views and facilities. As I write, I am listening to the waves crash on the shore whilst wrapped up in a comfy duvet.
If I’m honest, I was quite sceptical beforehand. I live down the road so couldn’t really understand the advantages of staying in a glorified shed? I’m not the best camper in the world and wrongly imagined it would be on par, with nightly loo visits to the public block on the beach.
How wrong could someone be? Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the view. The lodges are literally on the beach with panoramic views overlooking Bournemouth to the right and Hengitsbury Head to the left. On a clear day, you can also see the Isle of Wight in the distance. I have been blessed with good weather but even on a rainy day, it would be heaven to sit inside with the heating on and watch the world go by.
The lodges are fully equipped. By this, I mean a proper toilet, shower, hot water and heating. They feel like a mix between being on a boat and in a luxury caravan. The folding doors onto the veranda open up fully so you have the feeling of inside being out and vice versa. There is a fridge and cooking facilities .. everything you need to hole yourself up for the weekend … and never leave again. That’s my intention anyway.
I have thought about drinking a lot this weekend. The sunshine and being away from home are definite triggers for me, plus being surrounded by other hut goers sipping on Prosecco and beers. I just know that if I had been drinking, I wouldn’t have appreciated this treat as much as I am loving it sober. From grabbing an early night listening to the sea, to waking up at 5am to watch the sunrise .. these things are far more precious than lazing around feeling awful. It’s days like this that assure me I am doing the right thing and remind me that life is for living, not just for drinking.
Taking a mind altering substance will rarely end well. In fact, it’s pretty guaranteed that at some point in its misuse, there will be some kind of disaster.
You’ve now reached the point that you’re sick of feeling sick, tired of waking up knowing that you have failed again, bored of the same repetitive pattern.So you decide this is it. You’re going to give up alcohol. For good. No more regrets, lost nights, embarrassing moments. You are going to become sober.
All you need to do is continue as before but just substitute poison with water right? Wrong.
I read so many posts where people try and give up alcohol but fail. Lots of times it’s because they need extra help such as a support group or medical assistance. But sometimes, they just need to do things differently, to think about their triggers and how to avoid them.
For example, if you were allergic to horses, would you go and sit in a stable for the afternoon? Or if you had given up smoking, would you ask to sit in the smoking area? Of course not. You would stay as far away from the source of the problem as possible.
So why, in the initial stages of trying to give up alcohol, would you go to an alcohol fuelled party? Or spend the day in a pub? It’s like torturing yourself and that won’t help you in your quest.
Part of becoming sober is accepting your life has to change. Some things will stay constant but lots of things will either have to be discarded or adapted and this will be the biggest test of all. This could be friendships, relationships or activities such as the pub. You may be able to reintroduce some activities later on in your recovery but as time goes on, you may find you don’t actually miss them anyway.
You will not succeed if you are not willing to change. Our clever minds make associations with lots of things .. sometimes just a song can remind us of a crazy night out and be a trigger, or simply the sun shining on a beautiful day can make us think of having a drink. You have to replace the triggers. Do something on a sunny day that you think about the next time the sun shines. There is more to life on a sunny day than getting bladdered!
You have to break the cycle. You have to fill your time with different things than you did before. Take up a new hobby, go for a run, read a self help book, listen to a podcast. You have to change your associations in order to succeed. You can do this but it will take hard work and determination and a willingness to change. This is your new life, a second chance. Make it happen.