What I have learnt from two+ years of sobriety
Who's completed dry January? I used to love dry January which is why I became sober curious years ago. A month off drinking was a blessed relief! And I would often continue into February. It wasn't until 2020 that I managed to extend it further.
I had just had my 40th birthday, at the end of 2019. Obvs I couldn't quit drinking before THAT milestone. It was also my best friend's wedding in France in the summer of 2019. Quaffed my way through that. Anyway, I wanted to take 2020 off drinking, a year-long experiment to see how I felt.
I wasn't banking on a worldwide pandemic but I still did okay. None of my friends could believe I wasn't drinking through the various lockdowns, but I just thought 'god help us all if I was drinking'.
What was my relationship like with drinking? Hmmm at first I guess it was a medicine, a magic elixir that melted away anxieties and insecurities. For teenage me, it was the answer! Though I could drink plenty and was never sick, I was a lightweight and alcohol seemed to affect me more than those I was drinking with. I would often have no recollection of how I'd got home, what I'd done... and often, what I'd done instilled the fear of god into me.
I couldn't continue like this! But I gave it a damn good go... for 20+ years!
Anyway, back to 2020. To cut a long story short, I didn't complete my year-long experiment. I did seven-months and on 1st August I started drinking again? Why? Because anxiety got the better of me and I needed the 'medicine'. I was dating someone at the time and it was time to meet his family. He was the kind of person who probably needed a sober influence, us both drinking was a ridiculous combination and the relationship didn't last beyond the end of the month.
Did I count August as a blip and get back on the sober train? Nooooo. I stayed on the vino wagon until the end of the year. NYE 2020. And then I just thought 'I'm done'.
I haven't had a drink since and I don't intend to ever drink again.
I deemed that blip in 2020 a failure, but looking back it was a valuable learning experience. It's such a cliché but it's been a real 'journey'. There was the 'chugging AF drinks like they were alcohol' phase, the 'wacky backy because I needed something' phase, but now I just feel... free. I'm content with my life, proud to be teetotal, and I really don't care what anyone thinks.
Have I lost friends? I can think of a couple who have slipped away, but I have made countless genuine connections through sobriety and my ongoing interest in emotional and mental wellbeing.
"Do you feel really good allll the time?" my friend asked me incredulously when I was a year in. Erm... no! Not in the slightest. Despite sobriety I've still had my struggles with insomnia, anxiety and stress.
I really do NOT miss the hanxiety. What a horrid feeling the beer fear was. That's what made me stop in the end really. I just thought "I am paying good money to make my anxiety worse... am I crazy?"
Sobriety is just a lifestyle choice. A gift for me and my son. I want to be a good influence for him, I'd rather spend my money elsewhere, and I don't want to live my life in the grip of a toxic drug.
If you're in Hampshire and are looking for a supportive group who all wish to lives good lives without alcohol, check out The Hampshire Sober Connection.
By Helen Ruff