Last night, I popped my proverbial sober dating cherry. Not literally, I hasten to add, but I climbed back on the horse of Tinder and got myself a date.
Dating is a minefield when you’re drinking but feels even harder when you’re not. It’s not a pleasant experience weeding out potential fun/drama/chaos/love, just by a lone snapshot of their face, captured in one millisecond of time. It’s insane how some can people look so different from photo to photo, or what some men think is attractive to the opposite sex.
Common dating site photo themes men obviously think are attractive to women are –
The ‘fish shot’ – ‘me holding a giant fish’ – evidence they are a hunter? Or a fish lover? Or a murderer?
The ‘poking out tongue shot’ – why? There is nothing sexy about this .. in fact it just looks like they’ve lost their mind
The ‘holding a child’ shot (not necessarily their child) – why would you plaster your child or someone else’s child or any child whatsoever on a public dating site. Women are not stupid. If you ‘borrow’ a child thinking this makes you look loving & caring, you are wrong. It makes you look like a psycho.
The ‘obligatory bathroom selfie’ – loo seat up in the background showing a complete lack of basic skills essential for a meet up.
The ‘group shot’ – the entirely intelligent shot where women are expected to guess which one is on offer, praying for the hottie on the left but knowing full well it’s highly likely to be the minger on the right.
The ‘obligatory pint shot’ .. ‘I know how to have fun, I can down a pint in less than 5 seconds’ titter titter.
The ‘shot that isn’t even of your face’ .. and believe me, sometimes it’s worse than all your wild dreams put together .. various body parts, sex toys, plants, views, Halloween photos, cars, stockings, heels, fish (I don’t know what it is about the fish), and children again.
In order for me to pick someone, I scroll past all of the above. Which leaves me about 1% of the population. Then I change my radius. Which leaves me with even less. Then I swipe, hoping for a match. If we match, he’s now one in a million. And then he can’t spell.
If anyone thinks online dating is easy, that you have the pick of the crop, that it’s like being in a sweet shop, you are very much mistaken. It’s more like being in a maze, in the dark, blindfolded, with earplugs in, being spun round and yet by some miracle, you find the exit and survive.
My date last night was a modern day miracle making it through the callous swiping game. He managed to avoid all the photos mentioned above, was within radius, could spell and actually suggested something other than getting smashed on the first date. We met for a walk on the beach and he could actually converse too.
I was upfront and honest about Soberdom and he seemed to take it in his stride. The evening ended with a cheeky snog, proof that I’ve still got it .. I just needed to convince myself that I do!
Sober dating is nerve wracking. It’s like exposing yourself like you never have before. There is no protective cloak to blame if things don’t turn out well. It is you against the world and you have to be strong and convince yourself that it’s worth it, that you are worth it. And I’m slowly starting to believe that I am.
I’ve always been an over thinker, a predictor of the future. Before every situation, I’ve already pictured it in my mind & thought of all the possible disasters that could happen. I’ve always been this way & guess the reason is because when things work out well, I can feel a sense of relief that things were not as bad as I thought!
I’ve been so lucky to have visited this area in France many times over the last 20 years as my friends family have a holiday home here. On my first holiday here, I was aged about 19 with 5 girlfriends. It was boozy. We drank on the plane & on the way to the house & spent a good chunk of our holiday money on ‘supplies’ to last the week at the local supermarket & then drank nearly all of it in one night! After that, I’ve come with many different sets of friends & gained the (undisputed) reputation as the one who got pissed in the daytime. Some of our friends would do yoga by the pool & some would go for a run. Some would swim a lot or find somewhere to play tennis. But not me .. I’d be the one opening the Sancerre at midday or whipping up a Sangria.
I’ve never really ‘moved’ much whilst I’m here. I would tend to get on the sun bed and the only travel I would make would be to the fridge. Despite coming here so much, I have never really had a clue where I’m going beyond the house as someone else was always driving & I had no real desire to explore.
This time is so different. All the things I thought would be massive triggers have not bothered me in the slightest. Unnecessary worry. You don’t ‘need’ a drink at the airport .. in fact, obstacles that are put in your way are far more easily dealt with sober, with a clear head.
You don’t ‘need’ drink on the plane. Plane wine is abysmal anyway and costs the Earth. I had water & a kip.
If I had drunk the night before travelling out of sheer excitement, then drank at the airport then on the plane, I would’ve arrived at the house feeling shocking. Instead, although tired & a teeny bit stressed, I was in much better shape sober.
I’ve been lucky that my friends I’m staying with are not drinking much although it really wouldn’t bother me if they were. But it does make it easier not to think about the ‘what ifs’ & just enjoy my precious time.
I had also thought that the French would frown upon someone who didn’t drink their national delicacy but in fact, I’ve seen lots of cocktails ‘sans alcohol’ & the supermarket is packed with alcohol free alternatives.
The timetable here is so different on a sober time zone. We’ve been getting up early to walk .. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sunrise here before unless it was an extra late bed time. I’ve also rarely been up before anyone else in the past .. I was usually the last to stagger out of my dark, shuttered hole complaining of feeling sick. I’ve also never been to bed to early however the combination of walking loads first thing & the heat means you’re fit for nothing beyond 10pm. Unbelievable!
So in summary, all of the things I worried about were just a figment of my overactive imagination. We can cleverly think we need to throw alcohol in the mix because that’s what we’ve always done, what everyone else does. But actually there is a lot of life beyond alcohol. There’s a whole world out there beyond the cocktail jug & the sun bed. A whole lot more hours available to enjoy everything France has to offer. I can honestly say I think I have enjoyed this holiday far more than others before because it actually feels like a holiday, a chance to recoup, to recharge the batteries and be kind to myself.
Tired. I was always tired. Most of the population is tired. Everyone is quick to blame it on work or kids or a late night out but actually, one of the most common reasons for your tiredness is the poison rattling around your body.
Before Soberdom, I would complain of being tired from Monday to Friday, counting down the days until the weekend. And at the weekend, I slept for England & replenished my system with lots of lovely nutrients & exercise.
Did I hell?! As soon as work was done, I was on it. Downing copious amounts of poison, thinking it would help me chill & ultimately sleep better. In fact, it did the complete opposite. I’d stay awake late, have a fitful, dehydrated sleep & be awake early with ‘the fear’. I’d then be sick & lethargic all day Saturday, eating crap, not moving from the sofa. Sunday would be similar then back to work on Monday feeling like shit. Again.
Now, I wake up rested after about 6/7 hours sleep .. far less than I ever thought I needed. I can’t get back to sleep or snooze, no matter how hard I try. I’m awake and that’s that. Like a battery, I use my charge through the day, and by 10pm, I’m running on empty, even at the weekend. If I’m tired during the day, it’s usually because I’m hungry, because I need fuel. Day time naps are a thing of the past.
In the majority of cases, removing alcohol improves sleep quality & reduces daytime tiredness. You don’t hear of many sober people being constantly tired, drained & lethargic. In fact, the energy levels are insane .. it’s like being a kid again!
If you take away the alcohol & reduce the tiredness, you are more likely to want to move more and therefore eat better food. This again will give you more energy and before long, you’ll be like the Duracell bunny!
It can take a while for your body to adjust to being sober and for the sleep to become good quality. Just be patient and it will happen and boy, is it worth waiting for!
I had my first alcoholic drink when I was about 15 at our school do when my friend Heidi & I shared a bottle of Thunderbirds before we got to the disco. Unsurprisingly, by the time we staggered there, I was paralytic and passed out on the sofas. I don’t remember anything other than waking up at my friends house the next day and my legs aching – her mum called it ‘legless’ and I knew from an early age that alcohol could make you feel lousy.
I didn’t really drink much after that other than the odd vodka and orange until about age 18 when all my pals went to Uni. I then experimented with lots of awful alcopops such as bluebols, martini, and the like – plenty of fun, nights of dancing, kissing, probably embarrassing myself and all part and parcel I think of becoming an adult and learning your limits.
In 1997, on the infamous Matthew Street in Liverpool, after an afternoon of drinking one cheap wine too many on an empty stomach, followed by a hotdog and onions- don’t forget the onions .. I spewed up all over myself. I swore I would never get that drunk again – and I didn’t until August 2016.
Throughout my 20s I pursued a career in recruitment- a sector notorious for party- ing hard with booze and drugs. I am the rarity in that I have never taken a hard drug so I stuck to what I knew best and progressed up the glamour stakes, preferring the stereotypical champagne parties (but without the charlie).
You learn to party hard til the early hours and then get up at 6am to work a 12 hour day. It hardens you up. You have to be able to hold your own and until I decided to start my family aged 30, I was a regular social drinker every Thursday and Friday with colleagues and then a Saturday with friends. I never drank at home or mid week so looking back, it all felt really controlled and safe.
Once I had my family, I naturally gave up alcohol during pregnancy and then breastfed both children for 12 months so in effect, didn’t drink for 4 years. I never missed the booze. I was very intolerant to anyone drinking around me during my abstinence though .. the smell, the lariness of it, the apparent inconsideration for anyone not drinking. I would sometimes find myself a pariah socially for wanting to put the children first. I remember one episode with some friends (no longer I hasten to add) who chastised me for leaving their house early on a Good Friday to put the kids to bed – ” no, stay all night and party” and thinking how outrageous they were.
Inevitably, as the children got older, alcohol consumption crept up again. It would only be a “friday wine o’clock” drink. Sat evening out with friends. Glass of wine over Sunday lunch.
But then slowly slowly…. that Friday “wine o’clock” would become Thursday…. lets celebrate a good day with a glass. I’ve had a rubbish day, let’s drown our sorrows. And before you know it, you have had 4 units on every weekday night and that’s before the inevitable Friday binge.
I was also actually ‘creating’ an appetite by having a drink. I was genuinely not hungry so would have a glass of wine to make myself peckish. And then I wondered why I was always a few pounds heavier than I ‘should be’ considering I am very active. This latter habit formed around 5 years ago and I now feel so cross with myself at the way I convinced my brain this was normal.
You don’t really notice it. It just happens. And because it’s what everyone around you does, you never stop to think about it. The constant feeling of lethargy. The fact you can’t bounce out of bed anymore. That you never feel rested. That the weight slowly creeps on despite a seemingly healthy lifestyle. You look in the mirror and notice the saggy eye bags are getting worse despite the expensive eye creams and touche éclat.
And that was life for most of our late 30s to early 40s. The conflict began when the kids were around when we drank. We believed they weren’t aware we were drinking but they must’ve been. Friends staying over so no-one had to be the sober one to drive home. Waking on a Sunday to enough bottles to fill the recycling bin in one go. No shame. Just the norm.
And I knew it had got out of hand mid August 2016. We rented a cottage for our family of 5 and for a week we planned to chill in our self catered haven. For the two adults, we took a bottle of gin, a case of ale, 2 bottles of Prosecco and 2 bottles of red wine. Enough to last the week away? It was all gone by the second night.
Now this is where i cast the first doubt on my lifestyle. This was an excessive amount for 2 adults to drink in 48 hours when in charge of 2 minors. So over the days that followed, I tried hard not to drink but then I realised I was addicted to the thrill of the alcohol .. the light headed feeling, the loss of inhibitions, the relaxed state of mind it allows you. The need to create my appetite ….
But by this point, I recognised that these were symptoms of addiction. I couldn’t actually cope without that one drink a night. When we got back from our holiday, I tried not to drink for a week or so afterwards but then the Bank Holiday weekend of August beckoned. There was a physical withdrawal and I noticed myself being ratty with the kids for no reason. I felt ashamed and knew that a change was ahead but was too afraid to try and do something proactively.
We went out to celebrate Bank Holiday Sunday at our favourite restaurant. Prosecco to start, wine with dinner, cocktails in the bar. I got home and felt awful, my body felt bloated and alien. I stepped out of the taxi and just knew I was going to be sick so quickly said bye to the babysitter and raced upstairs to our bedroom. I tried lying down but had the ‘spinning room’ feeling (not experienced since my teens!) which made me 10 times worse! I made a dash for the en suite loo and that is where I spent the next 3 hours vomiting. 3 hours of my life regretting the booze. 3 hours of fear as my head felt like it was going to explode. 3 hours of promising myself this would NEVER happen again.
I woke the next day feeling dreadful but actually also full of hope that I was going to conquer my alcohol dependency.
The first few days were easy as I was so repulsed by the smell or thought of alcohol it was never going to tempt me.
My first big hurdle was going to a local music festival in our town- attended by thousands of tourists and also all of our friends. I made everyone aware I wasn’t drinking and then accidentally made myself “chief child watcher” and spent a miserable weekend mainly alone whilst everyone else wandered off, apparently carefree and pissed.
I struggled through those first few weeks, avoiding social engagements and deliberately not having booze in the house.
I would have the “odd” glass when out for someone’s birthday but whereas the old Lysha would have had a bottle in a night, this new version struggled to consume one glass all night……
By Christmas, we were away on an all inclusive holiday. You would assume that this was hard and too tempting. Not as bad as you think…. I filled my days with aqua aerobics, walks on the beach, reading books. Anything not around the bar. At night time I would get sparkling water with fruit in- soon to be my saviour drink of choice as you stick it in a wine glass so those drinking don’t actually even notice its a soft drink you have.
Over the coming weeks, a life changing event would be the deciding point on my pursuit of sobriety: my separation from my husband after 17 years together.
For my own sanity, I am not discussing that in this blog as it is very private but right from the start, I knew that drinking alcohol would be a catastrophic journey into a downward spiral towards alcohol dependency again. Even as my brain was processing the changes that were happening quickly, telling the children, him moving out: subconsciously my inner voice knew NOT to turn to booze. And so from that point I knew I couldn’t be a drinker again.
And yet I felt like a social pariah: like my choice NOT to drink was the stigma. As oppose to the seemingly normal status quo that every single person I know and love has allowed to become their fall back.
I would make excuses for not drinking- driving to meals and saying i had an early start. I would fumble around for why I was maybe only having the one (which I would nurse for an hour and never finish).
As the weeks passed from my announcement about my marriage separation, I knew that the occasional loneliness and sadness could be replaced by a gin but I was so fearful of where that would lead to that I physically had to prepare myself before embarking on any social engagement where others would be drinking.
It reminded me of when I gave up cigarettes in 2001. Back then everyone could smoke pretty much anywhere. My entire social circle smoked and me making a conscious decision to stop is still one of my accomplishments in life: from 20-40 ciggies a day to zero- cold turkey. No props or replacement therapies. And I have remained a non smoker since that day.
But it takes will power. You literally have to put MIND over matter – I do NOT want to smoke again. I WILL NOT smoke again.
And so I knew I had it in me to stop the emotional attachment that I had unintentionally formed with alcohol.
I announced I was teetotal formally to my social group at the start of July 2017. And because all of my friends and family a) knew about my sober months previously and b) my separation, every single person has been supportive on me as I enter the next stage of my life.
It’s funny as since I have stopped drinking, I am calmer, I get less anxious. I rarely get grumpy now. I have lost weight and bloating on my face. I have huge bursts of energy during the day. I never get lethargic ever now. I am happy. I can still party til the wee hours- I did that last weekend on a girlie trip away- 5 other ladies all drinking all evening – I was joining in with their fun til the early hours, But they got the benefit of the sober early riser who cleaned up and made them all brunch!
Too many mornings and days wasted in a grumpy, tired, hungover state. Weekends listless not wanting to do much or just topping up with hair of the dog. Not now, no more. Life is too precious and my time is now spent fulfilling goals and relaxing without the need to poison my body.
Single, healthy, sober. In control. I am in control of who I am, how I behave, my re- sponses to others, my future. In my opinion, alcohol strips you of all of that control.
I don’t judge anyone who drinks, never. But I would encourage anyone reading this to really think about their relationship with alcohol. Do you really NEED that drink. What about a run or a chamomile tea to chill out instead?
I am happy to chat to anyone about their own journey or if you want advice.
Good luck, Lysha
This weekend is my baby brothers 40th birthday .. he celebrates every year in the same way by having an all day session in a pub in a beautiful setting near to where we live. Everyone looks forward to the annual pilgrimage .. some come by boat, some by bus, some by car. And it is drunken. Very drunken.
So I woke up yesterday dreading it. As most of you know, I’ve gone from a social butterfly to a social recluse since Soberdom, unsure where I fit. So much so, that in May I decided I would no longer socialise in pubs or around very drunk people. Apart from yesterday, when I had no option of backing out.
I guess my feelings where a mixture of fear, shyness (can you believe it?), apprehension & dread. Not much excitement to be seen. The day was to start at 12pm & carry on long into the night at a surprise party. The day ahead felt long,scary and uninspiring.
It really was a case of mind of matter. Did I want to sit there all day ‘with the face on’? Did I want to ruin my brothers special day by being a misery? Did I really have to be a misery or was there a very small chance I might actually have a minuscule amount of fun somewhere along the line? Could I actually, possibly, maybe, still have an ounce of fun in me to pull out of the bag?
To make matters worse, my favourite sober buddy who had been by my side for the last 8 months, had selfishly gone to the hospital to give birth, leaving me to complete this challenge alone. The absolute cheek of it!
The event had been planned well in advance. I had agreed to drive & take my toddler nephew & the dog Lola. This was the logical option but also gave me a good excuse to leave if I needed to.
And so the day began at 12pm. It felt so very odd & ‘against my religion’ to be in a pub at that time. Well, to be in a pub at all. I felt twitchy & weird, but in my head was telling myself to get over it, that freaking out at 12pm was not gonna help me get to 9pm! There was a good selection of AF drinks and so I chose something different to feel different.
When we arrived at the main venue, the sun was shining & people started to arrive. There were people who’d travelled to be there from afar & people I hadn’t seen for ages & people interested in my sober journey. Yes, people were getting pissed around me but actually, I realised I was having fun. I started to feel normal in a social setting. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. So much so, that when the time came to take my nephew home, I wasn’t wholly ready to leave! Unbelievable!
After a couple of hours break, it was then time to join the surprise party. This was the bit I was truly dreading. People had now been drinking for more than 8 hours. They were on repeat. They were slurring.
But, some were not. Some were still in my gang, not totally sober but not totally wrecked. And these were the people I gravitated to. I met new people, saw old faces & actually had conversations. And I enjoyed it. I actually had fun! I actually felt like myself again & didn’t care that I was drinking soda water! And I got high on that. That I was finally out out, that I was finally enjoying myself at a party. That there actually is a life beyond alcohol. That perhaps I don’t need to be a social recluse!
And finally, the biggest miracle of them all happened when my pregnant buddy gave birth to a beautiful bouncing boy called Bernie.
Welcome to the world Bernie, it turns out it’s not as scary as you think it might be!
As Dawn the Drinker, I was well known for getting far too excited, far too early. For example, I’d always get hammered the night before a wedding in anticipation for the next day & generally spend the first few hours at the ceremony feeling like death, propped up against a wall, my face an interesting shade of green.
I was the same with holidays. The night before, whilst packing, I would always indulge in at least a bottle of the white stuff, with the end result being a stonking hangover to travel with. It was also compulsory to have a few large glasses at the airport .. the only thing that would stop me was if the hangover was too severe!
This year, it’s going to be very different. And whilst I’m a little apprehensive, I’m also a little intrigued to feel what it feels like to travel and enjoy a holiday completely sober.Ironically, I’m going to the land of wine, cheese & baguette, a Sober Slimming World persons dream (or nightmare). I’ve been to France many times before however was mainly drunk or eating carbs. It will be interesting to see how the French ‘cope’ with me as not sure the non alcoholic choices are going to be extensive. I’m also interested to know what it feels like to wake up with vigour every day rather than stumbling out of bed, gasping for water.
Historically, I have never moved much on holiday .. mainly to the fridge or the bar .. but this time will be a novelty as I still need to walk 50 miles towards my challenge. I will be packing my trainers for the first time ever & am still getting used to the thought of the essential space they will take up in my minuscule hand luggage.
And then there’s my holiday money, previously spent on copious amounts of alcohol & cigarettes. I’m still debating how much I’ll need .. it’s like being a born again holiday virgin .. and I’m guessing that this time, I might actually come back with some Euros in my wallet!
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