When I first wrote this I had no idea if I would make it this far with my sobriety intact. It’s now been 10 months since I gave up alcohol, the longest period of abstinence in my adult life. I’ve had a few messages asking how I’ve been getting on so thought I would give you an update. Here’s a few things I’ve learned since January:
Sober Socialising Sucks
I don’t have to tell you drunk people are annoying, it’s a fact. I’ve found socialising without alcohol really difficult. I get panicky, then bored. Boredom leads to temptation and I struggle to resist temptation. Whether it’s weddings, baby showers, funerals or work functions; booze is the common thread running through each event. I can count the amount of times I’ve been “out” this year on one hand and there was only one party where an alcoholic drink wasn’t thrust into my hand. So I make my excuses and stay home. Social isolation isn’t a great long-term strategy but until I can control the urge to binge on booze it’ll have to do.
The Shame Struggle is Real
Sobriety is my dirty little secret. I don’t routinely tell people I’ve given up alcohol because I’m ashamed to admit I’m an addict. I also think if I don’t tell anyone I am in recovery less people will know I’ve fucked up if I fall off the wagon. I’ve made up some mediocre excuses for refusing alcohol rather than tell the truth – antibiotics, driving the next day (I don’t own a car), upset stomach and Dry January and Sober October were two bandwagons I was happy to jump on.
I Miss Some Aspects of Boozing
I miss the buzz I got when I was drinking. I miss the flush of my cheeks, the loosening of my tongue and my inhibitions melting away. Drunk me danced, sang, made friends with strangers and had no fear. I miss the loss of clarity. My problem drinking stemmed from wanting to escape from the pain of reality. Months of sober contemplation have made me crave a little less lucidity. I tried to replace the high from drinking with something healthier (exercise endorphins) but all I managed to do was injure myself.
Time Passes More Slowly…
…or it feels like it. I seem to have more time on my hands now I’m not spending two days in bed recovering from a night out/in. I could easily lose a whole weekend to vomiting, naps and pizza. My local takeaway actually thought I’d moved house when I called recently, after years of calling every Sunday to order a huge pizza and chips to finish off my recovery from Friday night. I certainly don’t miss the post alcohol comedown when the anxiety, fear and paranoia could stretch to over a week.
My Problems Didn’t Disappear Overnight
Part of me believed giving up alcohol would be the solution to all of life’s problems but unfortunately the majority of them are still there. I fall easily into destructive patterns so it’s really simple for me to replace one vice with another. Casual sex, sugar, junk food, spending – I’ve overdone them all. The mental clarity I’ve gained from sobriety has actually accentuated some of the issues I was having. My insomnia has gotten worse as the negative thoughts I would quiet with alcohol are now loud and clear in my head every night. My anxiety, particularly in social situations has never been worse. There have been some welcome side effects though – I’ve lost some weight, made less poor choices with men and my skin looks better. It’s not been all bad.
I’m Tougher Than I Thought
It may be strength or stubbornness but the fact that I sit here 10 months sober is all down to me. I’ve had the means and opportunity to get hammered every night but I made a conscious effort not to. In the summer I stood at a function for an hour with a glass of champagne in my hand, which I picked up out of habit and could have happily gulped down and asked for another, but I didn’t. I’m lucky to have found support from friends who read the blog and strangers who’ve gotten in touch since January to share their stories. Some who have been sober longer than I ever drank and some who are taking the first steps towards seeking help.
This year I’ve found determination I never knew I possessed. I dealt with really stressful situations without my usual crutch. I attended five funerals in three months after series of shock bereavements tore through my friends and family. I started a new job, suffered financial woes, had a serious health scare and experienced the worst PTSD episode of my life. And I survived them all without drowning my sorrows. Did I want to? Fuck yes. Sobriety will always be something I tackle one day at a time but the impulse to drink is getting a little less every day. Now we’re coming up to the biggest test of the year – the festive period where all day drinking is acceptable and merriment is mandated. Luckily I’m too bloody-minded to piss away all my hard work now.