On 10 June 2017, my best friend & I were belatedly celebrating my 43rd birthday. We bought the obligatory bottle of Prosecco as we’d done countless times over the last 20 years, and toasted to good times and our forever friendship.
However, this time was different. This time I chose not to drink it.
I watched the bubbles in the glass try to seduce me but soon realised that I didn’t want to taste it’s bittersweetness. Instead, I drank an alcohol free drink and we continued our night, filled with music, dancing and laughter.
My 29 year relationship with booze was over.
Today, I celebrate one year completely alcohol free. I’ve decided to write a post about how my life has changed since I made my decision, how I coped with the change and what harsh truths have been revealed.
In July 2017, I wrote my first blog for The Sober Fish Story –
I was so grateful for the opportunity to share my story and found it really therapeutic. My relationship with booze had always been a heady mix of erratic love and apathy. I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic but more of a socially acceptable dependent whose entire adult life had been linked to booze in some way.
Every major life event was celebrated with booze; weddings, promotions, bad day, good day. It’s considered the social norm to crack a bottle of something open at the drop of a hat and I simply succumbed to the expected parameters of that.
I dabbled with sobriety for nearly a year between August 2016 and June 2017 however every drink I had, I drank in order to conform. I knew I needed to stop but still continued to have champagne to toast in the New Year or a glass of something cold at a BBQ or a cocktail on a girlie night out.
My main fear about sobriety was that I would become a social pariah within my broad circle of friends. This was manifested mostly by my own inner fears however, because in reality, very few people actually berated me for not drinking.
Initially, I felt like I was constantly explaining to people why I wasn’t drinking. Their standard response was ‘I didn’t realise you had a problem’ to which I would explain ‘Neither did I, but my mental and physical health is so much better without it’.
It certainly became repetitive to have to justify my own personal decision to commit to a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps they were reflecting on how I could consider sobriety and whether I would now become dull and boring? I could also sense that a few were negative about it but maybe because my decision was making them question their own habits?
Without sounding too dramatic, it is a brave decision to stop drinking alcohol and to deliberately go against the expected norm of your social group.
Sober Fish has written about how sobriety is a life changing decision. As with any positive healthy lifestyle change, you sometimes only realise the benefits over a period of time. You have to be wholly committed to your choice in order to resist temptation when everyone else is drunk and on a totally different wave length.
I’ve learned that I don’t need alcohol to lose my inhibitions. I am a very confident person and whilst I thought alcohol was my ‘crutch’, it was actually stopping me from being the real me. I’ve had much more fun on nights out since becoming sober and love being able to recall every moment. I also ‘think’ I’m much funnier and quick witted than before!
Since ditching the booze, the change to my physical health is enormous. I’ve lost three dress sizes and instead of languishing in bed with a hangover every weekend, I walk at least 10k steps a day and do a HIIT session with The Body Coach
I eat really healthily as can actually taste food now. I don’t diet, eat what I want and fully appreciate my health. I think it’s important to respect my body and want to look after it as best I can.
I believe that alcohol distorts the way that you think you look. I never thought I was particularly big or overweight, but when I look back at my ‘before’ photos, I can see how bloated I was and how puffy my eyes were. Interestingly, I was diagnosed with an under active thyroid during pregnancy in 2004 however since I’ve stopped drinking, it has become totally stable.
One of the most precious parts of sobriety is sleep. It is quite simply amazing. I sleep solidly for 7 hours a night without waking up thirsty or needing the loo. I don’t have heart palpitations, which I’m sure were caused by alcohol messing with my metabolic rate at night. Sometimes, I used to feel like I was almost being ‘kick started’ while sleeping! I don’t perspire and wake naturally at the same time every day, fully rested.
Alcohol is perceived as a social necessity and most people who drink cannot imagine socialising without it. There is almost a ‘pack mentality’ with alcohol; when a few people are all drinking together, it can spiral into matching each others pace, opening bottle after bottle.
Sobriety can make you consider friendships and the activities you do together. Personally, I think it’s far more satisfying to have a bonding day at the beach or a satisfying walk through a forest without the need for alcohol. I’ve become so much more aware of my REAL friendships; you know who you are 🙂
Sometimes, I feel like my sobriety can make other people feel uncomfortable or a little paranoid. This could be because they think I’m going to judge them for drinking alcohol but usually this couldn’t be further from the truth. Your choice is yours and my choice is mine.
My final point of what I have learned this year is that, despite stressful life-changing events, I finally feel content. I have a real sense of purpose and achievement that feels so fresh and so authentic, I can’t imagine ever diluting it with alcohol again.
Times are changing. People are choosing healthier lives by swapping junk food for organic and getting fit. The final part of the trilogy to a healthier and in my opinion, far happier life, is to assess your relationship with alcohol and find out what sobriety is really like.
I’m a mum to two daughters and we talk about alcohol and why I don’t drink. I’ve been very open with them and explained that sometimes you have to make a life-changing choice.
My youngest daughter cemented my decision for me when she said ‘Mum, I never used to tell you but sometimes you smelled of wine if we’d been out at a friend’s house. I remember one New Years Eve when you ignored me because you were having champagne with your friends’.
If that wasn’t reason enough to make me stop and re-adjust my priorities in life, then I don’t know what is.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every one who has supported me during the last year and give a big thank you to Dawn, aka Sober Fish, who I finally met earlier this year. We really are sisters from another mister; we didn’t stop talking for three days and proved that with the right friends, you really can achieve anything.
Written by Lysha 2018
Edited by Sober Fish