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 ..
A couple of years ago, I ruined Christmas. It was truly horrific and an experience I never want to repeat.
Tradition had always been to meet up with friends on Christmas Eve, drink to excess from lunchtime & feel like crap on Christmas Day. Christmas Day usually began looking green, gagging over the Bucks Fizz & binge eating sausage rolls.
So, in an attempt to break tradition, I decided to stay in on Christmas Eve & stay sober. I was spending Christmas Day with friends & then Boxing Day with my family.
For the first time in a long time, I woke up hangover free on Christmas Day. It was a revelation! I was actually excited about the food & the wine & the presents & the palava!
The problem with me however, was that if I woke up sober on a special occasion, I was so proud & excited that I generally lost the plot.
The day had started well. My friends & I had made a pact that, as we were spending the following day with family, we’d take it easy. Yes, we’d have a couple of drinks but we’d get home by 8pm, we’d get a good nights sleep, we’d be fine.
We did so well. We got a taxi home by 8pm as planned. Well, my friend’s home. And then the infamous words were uttered ‘come in for a quick one?’.
Instead of telling the taxi driver to drive on, there was no hesitation in me jumping out the cab. What harm would a quick one do? It was only 8pm. I’d stayed in the previous night .. I would be home by 10pm, no harm done. Yeah right.
My friend had her Christmas stash of booze ready. We thought we’d be sensible (oh the irony) and stick to free pouring vodka rather than wine. That would be ‘better for us’ in the long run.
And that was that. I remember nothing. Still to this day I have no idea how long I was there & no one knows how I got home. All I do know is I woke up in my own bed, fully clothed, half an hour before I was getting collected to go to my parents and I was very very sick.
Rather than get dressed up nicely for the day ahead, I could barely have a shower. Bluntly, I was fucked. I literally couldn’t pull anything out of my pathetic empty bag.
When I got to my parents, everyone could see I was struggling. They opened a bottle of Champagne I’d received for my 40th. We’d saved it especially but I was sipping water. I tried to binge eat my way through the sausage rolls but they just made me sick again. We opened presents but all I really wanted to do was die.
I felt like a ticking time bomb. My mum had worked so hard to cook a lovely dinner and I knew that I needed to be in some kind of state to be able to eat it. But things weren’t looking good. I couldn’t keep down water, let alone a roast potato.
Tick tock tick tock
Inwardly, I was willing my body to sort itself out. Please body, just stop vomiting. Food will make you better. Please, come on, just one more time .. I can’t not eat.
But the pressure was too much. And my body was poisoned beyond belief. And dinner time came. And I couldn’t do it.
My mum’s disappointment was overwhelming. If I didn’t eat, she wouldn’t eat either. But my throat was closed and nothing would go in. She scraped my dinner from the expensive dinner plate into a cheap plastic box to take home for later. Christmas was ruined.
I understand people are worried about Christmas. How can you possibly survive without a Bucks Fizz or a glass (2 bottles) of red with dinner or a port or a shot? But my Christmas story is enough to put me off for life.
Stop focusing on what you think you’re missing out on and think about what you’re gaining. A clear head on Christmas morning & money in your pocket to spend on far nicer things than making yourself sick. Enjoy your Christmas dinner for once & stop dreading that you’ll have to do it all again tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Go for a long walk to burn off the excess Quality Street. Be present for your friends & family rather than a drunken corpse in the corner. If nothing else, give it a go! You never know, you might just like it 🎅🏼
I’ve been thinking about my dating demands, about whether I’m cruel for writing someone off for not understanding sobriety by asking ‘can’t you just have the one?’. And my conclusion is no, not cruel but realistic.
When I decided to give up alcohol for a year, I had no idea that it would even change the type of person I was looking for. To be honest, I’d always scrolled through non drinkers believing them to be weird or mad. I mean, they say never trust a sober person right? I deliberately hunted down a party animal, someone who didn’t mind smoking, someone who had no off switch. I didn’t want to meet someone put off by Marlboro Light breath or who would put me in my box at midnight or God forbid didn’t partake at all.
And that’s what I got. Mahoosive party animals with no off switch. Enablers in my own personal party. And in turn, I enabled them to have the time of their lives.
But now that has to change. I have to scroll through that glint in the eye, that photo holding a magnum of champagne, that group shot of bug eyed boys out on the town. I’m looking for the quieter ones, the ones who do more at a weekend than shove 10 pints down their neck, who enjoy more than lazing around under their duvet watching Match of the Day.
I’m looking for someone with spirit, who has had the balls to admit and agree alcohol is as damaging as I’ve proved it is. I’m looking for someone who understands my mad morning walking and the fact I turn into a pumpkin at 10pm and that an afternoon in the pub to me is as exciting as an afternoon in a mortuary.
One of the biggest problems I see online is unsupportive partners, of people desperate to be sober but whose partners insist on buying them alcohol because they are too frightened to see their partner change. I have no intention of going into a relationship where a. I may be tempted to drink or b. My partner already thinks sobriety is ‘just’ an option or c. The person thinks they can change me.
Through this blog, sobriety has become my life, my passion, my baby. It will not & cannot be compromised by anyone else and for that reason I shall continue to discard anyone who doesn’t ‘get it’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to discuss & educate before dismissing but there are some people who will never understand this way of life and they’re not for me. So for now, I shall continue swiping and hope that Mr Sober Fish is out there hopefully swiping right on me.
On my journey I have been criticised for calling it an ‘experiment’, that ‘proper addicts’ can’t ‘experiment’ with sobriety. For the record, I’ve never called myself an addict & or an alcoholic .. for me it is irrelevant if I am either. I had a problem with alcohol, admitted it, and my personal choice was to stop doing it, for good, forever.
An interesting question I’ve been asked is why I chose to become completely sober & not moderate my intake if I’m not a proper addict. My answer is always that if I knew what moderation/moderating was and was able to do it, don’t you think I would’ve been doing that before?!
Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture, so acceptable. Imagine swapping photos on Facebook of people drinking alcohol for people shooting up heroin (considered to be a less harmful drug). Social media would become a plethora of zombies and needles. This is how I see alcohol now. A powerful, socially acceptable killer. In my view, moderation is just a slow release of a drug rather than bingeing it like I did. Sadly, the end result is the same. Alcohol is a poison whether you drink it slowly or not.
My heart breaks for people who try abstaining from alcohol, love it and then reintroduce it slowly to enjoy themselves at the weekend, fearing they are inferior without it. It is rare this is successful. I read about lots of people who say that once they start moderating, their old habits soon reappear and they are back to square one. After all, we all know how one or two drinks can soon escalate into a couple of days & disaster. That’s what got us in this mess in the first place.
The more sober I become, the more I can see the sadness spread across our society. I see it walking through town, I see it in the supermarket and particularly notice it on vacuous dating sites. Sad eyes blink back at me, photos of men with pints like trophies. It makes me want to scream ‘that pint is a deterrent not a magnet’ but what’s the point? They think it’s making them happy when actually it’s masking a multitude of problems. One day, they will understand.
I believe the future will not be about getting hammered. Remember, only 20 odd years ago we were still smoking on aeroplanes. Alcohol is expensive & ruining lives. The younger generation have already worked out alcohol makes you fat and drink far less than we did at their age.
I believe that in the future, alcohol will become as much of an issue as smoking, that it will be recognised for the harmful toxin it really is and that there will be more (less expensive) help available for those affected. I believe it will become socially unacceptable to drink until you’re sick, that maybe people will start to understand the damage being done rather than think it’s a hilarious incident.
I believe that it will become more socially acceptable to be sober than be a drunken slurring mess.
I believe Soberdom is the future.
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