It’s true to say that the standard reaction to my 180 turn around on booze is that of shock and horror, but at almost a year in to making the life changing decision to quit drinking completely, there have been plenty of folk whose ears have pricked up in curiosity.
Perhaps underneath it all there are more people who fall into the sober curious category than they’d care to admit, and the trends show there is somewhat of a movement towards a different approach to drinking. The health conscious, self care centred generation paving a new way that is causing even the old dogs some new tricks.
Whatever your reasons, if you have clicked on this post because you just don’t know where to start, I truly hope that my past years experience of abstaining from booze, can help you find your way.
Listen to your inner voice
Maybe I have watched too much Toy Story 4 (?) but I think for a long time I was refusing to acknowledge what my body was screaming at me – please stop. It’s a hard place to reach, when you 100% commit to wanting change, and no one can get you there but yourself. But when the time comes, trust your instinct and follow it to seek out a better way – one that you deserve.
Read yourself sober
I started off my journey by reading over some blogs about quitting drinking. They lead to books and books, and books… I really believe that shared experiences guided me along and I inhaled those words like my life depended on it. I’ve linked some reccommended reads at the bottom of this post, your welcome.
If you are planning a trial period, seriously consider extending your dry (insert month here) to a dry quarter. 100 days is a pretty achievable goal and the ideal duration to break a habit (66 days), have a proper good detox and get a real taste for the good bits which come after the first hard couple of months are done. I’d done dry months plenty of times, but a dry 100 days? Game changer.
My 100 day trial ended with me 100% certain that I’d keep going. My husband decided to return to a moderate drinking approach, like one beer every now and again. It’s fair to say almost a year since day one, that moderate drinking has almost become zero too, as is the realisation that he could give or take either way these days.
Own your vulnerabilities
I know it’s not easy, and to begin with its way better to hide behind a mocktail or claiming to be on antibiotics, but at some point you have to come ‘out’ as trying to go it alcohol free. Reactions will vary, but even the biggest shocks have a novelty that soon wears off once they see you mean business (and aren’t just having a never again hangover). Have courage to talk to the friends and family you can trust about why you are doing this, and ask for their support. Nothing shuts down a heckler faster than a heartfelt line about mental health or wanting to live a better life. #TruthHurts
You will suddenly have loads more time, energy and a big hole to fill, so find a new vice and make it one that adds to your new healthier lifestyle. It’s a double win and as your body detoxes your fitness increases…plus the endorphin boosts will be your newest buzz that you’ll crave as much as a cold beer on a summers day…well, maybe…
Find the alternatives
The alcohol free market has CHANGED big time. The savvy have realised that there is a huge demographic to cater for – one that doesn’t want to feel like a ten year old nursing a flat lemonade at the party. The AF beers, mocktails, bubbles and wines are just something else, and you will love trying them all to find your favourites. It’s been a total saviour being able to rock up to every social event armed with a booze free option and feel like you’re having all the fun with none of the shame.
Help is out there
If quitting booze is going to be major for you, don’t try and go it alone. There are loads of online communities and support networks, as well as organisations and charities which can offer advice and counselling. Your GP is a great place to start, and can let you know what help there is locally.
I used a combination of Mind counselling and a very small support network I met online as a sounding board. Having other people to talk to, to celebrate the small (and big) achievements with is everything and possibly the difference between success and failure.
Be kind to yourself
Essentially, learning to live your life without alcohol for the first time since your teens is like learning to walk again. Emotionally, you will have to , for the first time, learn to sit with your own emotions without the prop of a false confidence boost or stress reliever. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. But, once you get those first few months under your belt, there is no looking back. In the early days indulge in what you need; time alone, time with friends, hibernate, eat nice food, love yourself a little bit more. Do the things that make you happy and remind yourself who the real you really is, and what makes that person tick.
Believe in Yourself
I can see now, through the clarity of a year alcohol free that drinking for me wasn’t the party I had cracked it up to be. The bad had long since been outweighing the good and there was a huge amount of disappointment in myself for my inability to moderate or hold my drink. Drinking to excess had in a way become a form of self harm, a self fulfilling prophecy that wasn’t even worth fighting any more.
I was not drinking every day. I could easily stop at one. I didn’t fit the problem drinker stereotype, but I was definitely in a place where my binge alcohol use had become habitual, damaging to my physical and mental health, and most of all, was making me someone I did not want to be. The life and soul of the party until the jokes ended up on me.
I had never contemplated a life without alcohol, so deeply rooted were the behaviours learnt since early adulthood. But for the morning I decided I had had enough, I will be forever grateful. Because life on the other side is not just okay, it is truly remarkable. A place filled with childlike charm that I left behind aged fourteen, and one that I am so grateful to have found again. I didn’t know I could make it back here, but if I can, you can too.
The unexpected joy of being sober – Catherine Gray (I cannot tell you how life changing this book is! Catherine is the same age as me and some of her stories were very close to home. I read this book once a week in the early days…)
The sober Diaries – Claire Pooley (Claire is a brilliant writer and I connected with her story as a Mum and as a blogger. She is funny, endearing and captivating. Definitely one of the best sober reads yet).
The sober revolution – Lucy Rocca & Sarah Turner (I inhaled this one on my first sober holiday)
Recovery – Russel Brand (It’s so RB)
This Naked Mind – Annie Grace (One if you really want to get down with the science and pyschology of drinking)
The 28 day alcohol free challenge – Andy Ramage (I’d reccommend this for the lads, it had a much more ‘blokey’ feel about it than the rest and was an easy to pick up and refer to guide for the first 28 days and beyond.)