In January 2017, after several dismal attempts at moderating my drinking, I decided to do an extended period of sobriety.
For at least six months, I had been hearing this whisper telling me that the party girl lifestyle was no longer serving me; that if I wanted to live the life I dreamed of, alcohol had to go. But I was hesitant to make a change. Didn’t giving up alcohol mean that I had a problem? I didn’t feel like I had a problem…but that doesn’t mean that alcohol wasn’t a problem.
But it was.
So, on January 1, 2017, I decided I’d had enough and committed to doing a sober stint for Dry January.
What went from a 30-day challenge to a 90-day commitment turned to a whole year of testing the sober waters. A 30-something, social, single lady in a thriving city, I realized I had two distinct options when it came to my social and dating life: either withdraw and become a recluse, or figure out how to navigate the social and dating scenes sober.
I’ll be honest, the first option sounded appealing. A highly sensitive person and outgoing introvert, I used drinking as a social lubricant to make me feel more comfortable and outgoing in social settings. For a long time, I thought I needed alcohol to help me tolerate social scenes and help me be more talkative on dates. As I got deeper and deeper into my alcohol-free journey, I came to one solid (yet rather unpopular) conclusion: if something (a social situation or group of people) wasn’t fun unless I was drinking…the situation or people simply were not fun. Furthermore, if I wasn’t capable of meeting new people or conquering something without the liquid courage provided by a cocktail, who was I?
During this time, I found my truth. I had always been a wildly vibrant, outgoing, silly, joyful, insightful, empathic, smart, capable woman. I had not been using alcohol to bring out that side of me. I had been using alcohol to dull that side of me because I was afraid of my light. I was intimidated by sharing with the world what made me different and special. I was unsure how to operate in a world that settled for mediocrity, knowing I was meant to shine.
So, I dulled myself down in the most socially acceptable way there was: with alcohol (please note that my eyes are full of tears as I type this because I understand how profound this realization is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with you in hope that you will see a bit of my story in your own).
As I discovered my truth, I also gained the courage to accept the challenge of engaging in the social and dating world sober. Full disclosure: this took time. The physical detox from alcohol is just the beginning of the growth you experience when you quit drinking (regardless of the reason). I encourage you to take time to heal, explore and simply become comfortable sitting with yourself and experiencing the gamut of emotions which will now be available to you.
When I was ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool, a quick survey of my girlfriends and colleagues revealed that it would be quite tricky (some even suggested it would be intolerable). With few options, I decided to give it a try and logged back into a few popular dating apps. I knew immediately that I’d eliminate a large portion of the dating pool. There would be plenty of guys who couldn’t handle dating someone who didn’t drink. To be fair, I’d already dated a lot of those guys and it hadn’t really gotten me anywhere.
So, after I eliminated the guys who I deemed ‘too boozy’ from the start, I had to plan my next move. How would I reveal my new sober lifestyle to my dates? You might find yourself saying, “do I even need to tell potential romantic partners that I’m not drinking?” or “Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle?” I can give an unequivocal, “yes” to both questions, but let me offer you some insight.
If a potential romantic partner has asked you to meet for drinks, you do need to disclose your lifestyle to them. It’s not fair to you or them to wait until you are ‘meeting for drinks’ to disclose. This could turn into a waste of your time, and theirs, if there is a lifestyle misalignment. But, I’ve heard from many sober singles that this is a very tricky conversation. I agree, it is…and I’ve had it the wrong way enough times to know exactly how to have it (I share these tips in a special free guide I created which can be found on my website: authenticallyamanda.com/soberdating).
On to the second question: Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle? Yes, of course they will. But in the world of dating…especially with the added layer of complexity created through dating apps and sites, you have to manage this conversation with finesse because you, an alcohol-free person, are still in the minority and, while potential romantic partners might have the best of intentions, they do not know how to navigate the sober dating world…you might have to offer some guidance. This means, come to the table prepared to offer suggestions for non-drinking date options, as opposed to saying, “I actually don’t drink,” if they’ve asked you to meet up for drinks.
I’ve found that many potential romantic partners are very open to and accepting of my alcohol-free lifestyle, but also don’t have the immediate skill set to navigate a conversation. In the world of dating apps these days, it’s easy enough for a guy/girl to drop a conversation if he/she doesn’t know how to respond. And in a world where drinking is socially acceptable and encouraged; it’s completely okay if they don’t know how to respond. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a good match or date, they just need education.
I think it’s important to share that I have encountered a lot of uncomfortable situations dating; it hasn’t been all doves and rainbows. But I’ve learned so much about my own capacity for handling my own emotions and awkwardness. I share about my failures and successes dating and socializing over on my blog authenticallyamanda.com and Instagram @authenticallyamanda.
I hope you’ll follow along and reach out if you too are navigating the social, single and sober world.
Written by Amanda, barely edited by Sober Fish
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When I was 17 years old, I started my first dream job as a trainee Zoo Keeper. I was shy and uncomfortable around people and had always said I would never drink or smoke because I’d seen how alcohol affected people and didn’t like it.
I’d been invited out by my work mates who all liked a drink and was introduced to cider and baby sham, the ‘in drink’ back then. I liked the taste of it and it went down a treat. Then I had another, then another. It was great, I felt great and I could talk to people now! What a night! I felt amazing!
The next morning however, was a totally different story. I felt strange and confused, like I was hallucinating. I didn’t like the feeling and deep down, I knew this was something I didn’t want to do again; it really wasn’t for me.
On the next night out though, I felt shy and awkward and thought ‘I’ll just have the one to give me a little confidence’. And then had another and then another, and so it went on.
I soon realised I couldn’t have ‘just the one’ but I was young and your younger years were supposed to be spent like that right?
My nights out were amazing. I met so many people and had the best social life. Before long, I was out most nights of the week.
Sometimes, grabbing a quick drink after work turned into being kicked out at closing time, still in my work clothes. In the morning, I would head to work red-eyed and stinking of booze from the night before. My boss would shout ‘Were you out drinking last night again? Look at the state of you’ but I’d just laugh and get on with my work.
During those years, I tried all the drinks; different spirits, beers, wine, etc. I loved vodka but it made me violent. I tried whisky but didn’t like the taste and it gave me severe hangovers.
All of my relationships centred around alcohol and none of them ever lasted very long. I’d attract people who liked a drink as much as I did and gradually saw less of my sensible drinking friends.
When I reached my late 20’s and had another failed relationship, I realised that alcohol had played a big part in this relationship from start to finish. I’d become quite violent to my partner at the time and would feel terrible the following day, staying in bed for as long as possible so that I didn’t have to face the shame of what I’d said or done the night before.
After this realisation, I decided to monitor my drinking habits a bit more. I’d choose drinks that were a bit lower in alcohol content and try to have a glass of water in between drinks. I even decided to work in a bar at weekends so I’d still be socialising but not drinking, but none of it worked. Hell, I just drank more working in the bar spending all my tips on alcohol when I finished!
Every time I tried to moderate my alcohol intake and failed, my drinking would then get worse. It felt like going to a weight management class to lose lots of weight only to then put it all back on again and then some.
In my early 30’s, I knew my drinking was unhealthy but thought ‘I’m not an alcoholic’ as I don’t drink in the mornings, can keep a job and a roof over my head and don’t need to drink every day.
I knew I was a binge drinker but that was ok right? Yeah, I blacked out nearly every time I drank, yeah I’d wake up in strange houses and yeah, I’d been in hospital twice this year due to drink related accidents.
I then decided that what I’d do was just drink at home so I wouldn’t embarrass myself any further. I’d buy a box of red wine (because that’s good for you right?) and I’d have just 1 glass of wine per night, no bingeing and therefore consume less than 14 units a week.
This way, if I did drink more than a glass of wine, nobody will see me making a fool of myself. I wouldn’t dread answering the phone or the door the next day. It was sorted.
So on a Thursday night, I’d buy a box of red wine and sit it in the kitchen. I’d have a glass then convince myself it wasn’t quite a full glass so I’d just have a little more. Then I’d think ‘it’s still early and I feel fine’ and have another .. and then wake up at 5am the next day with a hangover and … you guessed it .. an empty box of wine!
So what do I do now? People keep telling me I’m not an alcoholic as I don’t drink every day but something is clearly not right.
On New Year’s Eve in 2001, I had a fabulous night celebrating in Edinburgh and ended up going to a party afterwards.
In the morning, I woke up half dressed with no idea what happened as I had no memory. Still drunk, I went to my parents for New Year’s Day dinner. As the alcohol started to wear off, the hangover and depression started to kick in with the realisation that something had happened, something I had let happen. I was riddled with guilt and fear and broke down to my mother. I was desperate now and knew I can’t go on like this. I knew that after this event, I could never drink again. Never.
I didn’t drink for the next 2 weeks but I missed it. I convinced myself that I’d had a huge fright and that I’d be ok but would stop drinking when I felt like I was getting drunk.
So, once again, I decided that I’d just drink in the house and bought a small bottle of rum. Oh boy I’d missed this; the taste, the feeling. I felt great, amazing, so happy. After a couple of hours, the bottle was empty and I was in a party mood. I called a taxi to take me to the local pub and decided to meet up with some old drinking buddies then go onto a party. It’d be fine, I convinced myself. I was working in the morning so I wouldn’t stay late.
When I woke up, my head hurt like hell. I couldn’t remember but concluded I must’ve drunk whisky. Then I realised I wasn’t at home. Oh no, I’d blacked out again and I needed to get to work. I quickly went home, got changed and somehow, drove to work. I was so ill, I just couldn’t be there and luckily managed to get away early where I climbed into bed, and stayed for 2 whole days.
I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t live with alcohol but I didn’t think I could live without it either. I needed someone or something to help me.
On 28 January 2002, my dad was having a retirement party. I didn’t want to embarrass him or make a fool of myself and knew I needed help.
I decided to go to the doctor but he wasn’t much help, telling me I wasn’t an alcoholic. He prescribed me some pills to help with the side effects of not drinking alcohol and refers me to a community psychiatric nurse, advising I will wait sometime for an appointment.
In the meantime, I tried Alcoholics Anonymous but decided it wasn’t for me. I then found a womens group through the NHS that I attended once a week. I found that talking to other women and being re-educated about alcohol helped me so much. My employer was a great help too by giving me the time off.
My parents were so supportive. I thought nobody understood but if it wasn’t for them, I’m sure I would’ve have failed. I cried and cried when I realised this was it. It felt like the end of a relationship I thought I could never leave, I was bereft.
15 years on, I now own my home, have my own business, have travelled all over the world; New Zealand twice, Australia, Kenya twice. I have volunteered for an HIV orphanage for 3 months, went to Namibia to volunteer with the Endangered Species Trust, visited Singapore and Hong Kong, all on my own. I have discovered a love of cooking and found out how magical and amazing life is. I have 2 dogs and a cat who are my life.
I am 48 and still single and that’s fine because my life is so full. I’d like to meet someone eventually but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’; I’m in no hurry.
Being sober is definitely the best thing I have ever done. It’s been an amazing journey of self discovery.
In a weird way, I’m actually grateful for my experience with alcohol, I reached rock bottom, my rock bottom and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have experienced just how wonderful life can be.
I know if I hadn’t stopped drinking when I did, I’d be dead now.
If I had listened to the people that told me I wasn’t an alcoholic, I’d be dead right now.
Instead, I listened to the inner voice inside me, the one I ignored as a 17 year old. The one I will never ignore again, for that inner voice, is my guide.
Written by Jackie, edited by Sober Fish
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Hello, my name is Kelly, I’m 25 years old, and every day I’m grateful that I stopped drinking when I was young.
My heavy drinking was between age 19 and 23 and it took until I was at least 6 months sober to realise I’d been trapped in someone else’s mind and body.
There’s sometimes a misconception that you only have to get sober if you’ve been an alcoholic for your whole life but here’s the thing guys … I caught control of my disease when I turned 24.
I didn’t know that I would be done with drinking for good at 24 years old. Maybe it was because I hadn’t got a drink driving conviction yet? Or hadn’t totalled my brand new first car? Or completely lost my mind? Or lost all respect from my family, friends and co-workers?
On 1st March 2017, I went out with a few friends drinking. We started at about noon with mimosas, then scorpion bowls (an alcoholic concoction containing fruit juice multiple types of rum, vodka, gin, and Grenadine) then on to a local city bar. I don’t remember anything from this night except my last pickle back shot (a shot of whiskey chased by a pickle).
Thankfully, I woke up at home the next morning and went downstairs. My car was there, untouched, so I guessed that I must’ve driven it home. My mom then told me exactly what had happened. It turned out that I had tried to drive my car home from the bar. My friend tried in vain to get me out from behind the wheel and we ended up fighting. My parents were then called and had to come to the bar to save me. My mom drove my car home and apparently my dad took me home in his car, where I proceeded to pee myself and found it hysterical.
That night, I lost respect from so many people but guess what? I still didn’t think I had a problem; I just thought I’d had a super rough night once again.
On 2nd March 2017, my mom decided to take me to rehab at Butler Hospital to stay as an inpatient for one week. She told me that if I didn’t go, the locks would be changed to our house and my belongings would be left outside for me to move out.
That morning, I walked over to the liquor store and bought a pint of Jack Daniels. I was on the phone to my friend Kelly, telling her how drunk I was going to be when I arrived at the rehab centre. I told her ‘It’s not like I can’t stop; I just like drinking! I don’t want to stop!’
But as soon as I arrived at the hospital, I sobered up. I realised that this was my last chance to make amends with myself, my parents, my close friends and especially my brother with whom I was once so very close.
The people around me at rehab were so inspiring and helped me transition mentally towards sober living. It wasn’t until I was sitting in group meetings with much older people that I realised how blessed I was to be given this opportunity at such a young age. I was, and still am, completely non-judgmental and so was everyone else. I lowered my guards, opened my ears, stopped defending my actions, and made the decision that I didn’t want to drink anymore.
I finally realised that the pain I was causing to myself and everyone around me wasn’t worth it. Nothing good was going to come out of my life if I didn’t take responsibility for myself. I realized when I was alone in the hospital that people don’t wait around forever, no matter how much they love you and working towards this new goal was extremely empowering. I was excited to work on my journey as a sober young woman, for myself and everyone else.
Dating sober is a different ball game for sure. I didn’t really start dating again until I was about 6 months sober. I had to learn how to date again, without pre-gaming and showing up annihilated. I remember thinking ‘do people actually meet up sober?’ That must be SO awkward. What am I even supposed to talk about if I’m not wasted?
Alcohol was always a great security blanket for me. Dating sober was like learning how to walk again. I definitely had to make sure that I took time to get myself right first. You really can’t love anyone else until you love yourself; I very much understand that in a new perspective.
Now that I have rediscovered myself, I’m able to meet people and tell my story. At first, I felt ashamed and like I had nothing to offer anyone but now I’m so proud and have higher standards for both myself and in someone I’m dating.
My family relationships have been given a chance to rebuild as I lost a lot of respect when I was drinking. My grandparents love to hear my progress stories and look forward to seeing me and hearing about my sober life. I feel much more included than I have in years.
Before I got sober, I would drink a water bottle full of Smirnoff before I faced the stress of a family who hated me because of my drinking problem. Now, I get excited to see my family and talk to everyone freely because I don’t reek like booze. It takes away a large amount of my social anxiety for sure. Not needing to hide everything is such a great feeling!
I cope on my own in a much healthier way now. Instead of buying alcohol to mask my good day, bad day, sad day, work day, I meditate instead. I write, I exercise and I go for hikes. I find the outdoors and fresh air is great in recovery. It might sound silly, but reflecting on all of my days sober so far helps me cope with many things.
I don’t think about drinking again because it would destroy all of my hard work which has got to me where I am today. Writing my story down and looking at pictures also helps me immensely. I’m so grateful to all of my best friends who stuck by my side through many chapters of my life and I’m glad I made it possible for them to see the person I’m capable of being. I love them all more than they’ll ever understand.
I’m so grateful to be alive and to be able to tell my story. I feel like I am finally myself again after being in the dark for so long.
Recovery is so worth it. If my story gets to one person that needs to read it, my work here is complete ❤️
Written by Kelly, edited by Sober Fish
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