Alcohol free living – “But what do you do when you’re sad?”

Ooh it’s been at least a few weeks since I last gushed about my brand new for 2018/19 booze free lifestyle. Ha ha, forgive me, but this curve ball is something I can’t get enough of sharing about.

Since I gave up drinking in the summer of last year, I have had some pretty varied reactions to telling those around me that I no longer drink.

Well, of course I do drink, I still need to stay hydrated doh, but I no longer drink alcohol. Soz, that one never gets old.

So the responses have ranged from the super supportive right down to utter horror / alienation (often followed up by realisation that a) I mean it b) I’m still the same Sarah c) I’m actually a lot lower maintenance these days). That hasn’t changed. What has changed is my ability to hold the conversation; to explain without shame or fear of the consequences and to even feel proud of my accomplishment of what has been far from easy. A journey of self discovery that I could bore the pants off anyone talking about, because well, it’s been life changing.

One of the most memorable comments made, in a totally honest and raw conversation, without judgement and yet with genuine curiosity; “But what do you do when you’re sad?”.

Of course this in itself speaks volumes about how I, like her, and the rest of our society use alcohol. As a stress reliever, a shoulder to cry on, an escape from our problems and all too often a place where ‘good times’ go bad, because that sadness you’re drinking to forget all too often makes it’s way to the surface when you have entirely lost control of keeping it at bay.

In fact, whilst trying to take control of my own unhealthy relationship with alcohol, I imposed a rule on my mid-week drinking – that I’d only ever toast the good days, and not use booze to wash down the bad ones. Of course, as I found out most rules like that go out of the door on a really tough day, because those days were the hardest to drown out the clock chiming wine o’clock and calling me to unwind with a glass in hand.

Learning to feel sad every now and again, and not run away from it or try and escape has been a tough and bumpy journey, but one that I believe has led to a much more balanced emotional state. One that benefits also from getting off the rollercoaster of feelings which comes from the constant cycle of self medicating with booze and dealing with the anxiety riddled consequences.

In truth, I feel sad a lot less often than I did when I was drinking.

But of course, I’m only human, and we all have bad days. Sometimes the kids drive me up the wall, I feel overwhelmed with IT ALL, my social anxieties flare up (something which a course of therapy hugely helped me work through). Or I just y’know, get myself on a downer because we all have days where we feel a little bit sorry for ourselves.

So what do I do on those days? The days when my good old friend the cold beer was always there for me? Ready to send me into a snoozy state on the sofa at nine o’clock?

I talk to my husband and tell him how I’m feeling. I call my Mum and hear about her day. I catch up with a friend for a coffee and blurt it out.

Sometimes I keep it in, and mull it over inside. Watch crap on TV and escape to another place.

I write. A social media post, a chapter of my book, a blog post. The process of writing stuff down being so cathartic, it really helps to take away the power of the emotions building up inside.

I make plans with friends; times to look forward to and focus on. Putting myself around the people who make me feel happy, at peace and totally comfortable in my own skin.

I go for a run, and sweat out the sad, the angry, the upset. Getting the blood pumping and the endorphins surging; clearing my mind in a space that lays somewhere between home and away. And then, I run back to my safe space, refreshed and ready to start over.

I run a bath, or paint my nails, shave my legs or do my hair and make up. I put on my favourite clothes and indulge in time to make myself feel worthy.

I read. Novels to escape into the lives of fantasy characters, self help books to understand and grow, fact books to build my knowledge on the things that interest me. Blog posts to feel connected to other people like me, or not like me at all.

But most of all? When I feel sad, I let myself feel sad. If I’m hurt, I think about why those emotions have flared up, what I need to move forward. I let it sit, and I get on with my day.

Living without alcohol can’t remove sadness; but neither can using alcohol to fix it.

The beauty of it, is realising that you don’t need to numb out the feelings to work through them. And actually, there is so much peace to be found in feeling every emotion and learning to acknowledge them, and let them pass through. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tomorrow is always a new day, and it’s a darn sight easier facing it with a clear head.

x MMT

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