On New Year’s Eve 2016, I decided to give up alcohol for a year to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
At the time it seemed like a wild, slightly audacious goal. Whilst I didn’t drink ‘regularly’, there were definitely occasions of binge drinking.
I’d done Dry January for ten years; doing 12 x Dry January’s in a year which included big birthday parties, three international work trips and a boozy company weekend in Marbella would surely be very different!
However, as the saying goes, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’.
I’d just finished reading Johnny Marr’s autobiography detailing a transformation from a rock and roll lifestyle to a teetotal and vegan one. Whilst I wasn’t ready to become a vegan just yet, the challenge of abstaining for 12 months seemed like a good one. Also, as I see myself as a bit of a rebel, it seemed like the perfect ‘rebellious act’ to choose not to drink for a year!
What I didn’t anticipate was that this ‘challenge’ would actually become a new way of life for me especially when my husband decided to follow suit.
My initial challenge would ultimately transform our lives completely.
Two of the most popular questions I was asked during my ‘dry year’ were,
‘So, what drink will you celebrate with on New Years’ Eve 2017?’ and, ‘Will you ever drink again?’
The truth was that, until November 2017, I actually didn’t know the answer. Initially I’d dreamt of huge decadent cocktails in beautiful glasses and champagne on ice as my reward for my achievement but, as Christmas loomed, I realised I had made my final decision.
I was never going back to drinking.
In a year, I’d learned so much about life, alcohol and myself. It had become clear that drinking was not a reward; in fact, the reward was actually not drinking and all that I had achieved in abstaining.
There have been so many positives during this 19 month journey but there have also been challenges in a society where drinking alcohol is the norm.
It can be slightly puzzling for people to learn that you no longer drink. One bemused friend asked ‘But how do you have fun?’ as though he had forgotten what it was like to have fun as a child before drink was ever considered!
I had one fleeting moment of regret when sitting in a lovely restaurant on a boiling hot day and watching everyone around me ordering chilled glasses of rose wine. This lasted seconds before I realised that I was actually thirsty and ordered cold sparkling water instead which was perfect.
– You’re much more like to succeed if you have a good support network. Go online and surround yourself with people who ‘get it’ and cheer you on. Read about other people’s journeys and their daily struggles to make you feel less alone.
– Before I started my challenge, I read Jason Vale’s ‘How to kick the drink easily’
and it was like a lightbulb moment.
– My husband also becoming alcohol free in May 2017 proved to be incredibly supportive.
– When you don’t drink, going out suddenly gets incredibly cheap. I have been shocked by how much money we have saved as a family simply by both of us cutting out alcohol. I have treated myself to braces on my teeth and hope to have a straight smile for my 50th in 2019!
– The best thing about not drinking for me is definitely no more hangovers. My productivity has gone through the roof and there have been no more wasted weekends feeling sluggish.
– People often talk about using alcohol to ‘take the edge off’ a stressful day, yet coming home and heading back out for a walk has allowed me to become more relaxed than I ever did previously.
– Being sober enables you to live life consciously and experience all of its good and bad parts. When drinking, I was sometimes happy and sometimes unhappy. Now, there are now no ups and downs. Cheesy as it may sound, I am just always happy all of the time!
So I guess I kind of fell into sobriety.
My wife Sara had started her journey with a view to completing 12 months alcohol free for charity and I decided to offer some moral support. I would drink quite heavily 2-3 nights a week and seeing how much Sara was enjoying her alcohol free life, I became curious and started to think about not drinking a lot! So in May 2017 I also stopped.
As a business owner, I noticed that after a few months, my decision making was growing in strength and I was becoming much more ambitious and confident. We went as far as to set up a business in San Francisco and hopefully this could be absolutely life changing for us.
I noticed that instead of people becoming judgemental and suspicious of why I was not drinking, they seemed, if anything, to be hugely impressed and maybe even a little envious.
Initially, the test was social events. We offer a lot of work incentives to our salespeople and thus spent several days at the races, at business conferences, and work nights out where we were surrounded by alcohol. But seeing people slowly lose the plot on a night out just strengthened my resolve. I now get my buzz remembering EVERY single conversation, waking up clear headed and looking to attack the day. I’m just so uber positive, it could actually be annoying!
Will I drink again? Genuinely I don’t believe so. The Alcohol Free alternatives in the UK are very good and improving all the time. A cool Alcohol Free beer in a bar after work still does it for me. Being 100% happy, positive and running a fantastic company so outweighs the initial thrill of alcohol which quickly evaporates and eventually just brings you down.
– Never look back. You messed up from time to time. So what? You are forgiven and that’s behind you.
– Don’t care what people think. Life is tough and complicated and people have actually got their own stuff to worry about.
– Laugh lots. And surround yourself with other non drinkers. They are fun and also clever enough to have stopped!
Written by Sara & John, edited by Sober Fish
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