280 days sober: reflections on an alcohol-free life

280 days. That’s how long it has been since I drank alcohol.

The last time I blogged about my decision, I had reached six months, or 180 days. Unlike other milestones this one crept up on me. I’ve had lots of great days, good days and not so good days. Such is life.

I know that switching your lifestyle to one devoid of alcohol is not for everyone – that is fine, it is a choice after all – but there are some interesting green shoots of change pushing their way through the soil towards the sunshine.

According to Alcohol Change UK, since 2005 the numbers of people who say they drink, and the amounts they drink, have all fallen. During the same period of time teetotalism has increased. Younger people, we are told, are turning their backs on booze too.

The great days (most the time) see me much more comfortable with myself. Anxiety no longer operates like a silent thrum beneath my surface, exacerbated as it was by the depressant side-effects of alcohol. That’s not to say it’s completely eradicated but I am better at coping when it rears its head.

The bad days? Well… the first was in June 2018 when I made the decision to quit booze. Begrudgingly. The thought of an alcohol-free lifestyle didn’t fill me with unbridled joy. Like a truculent teenager who’s been told to tidy their room, I whinged for a while before walking that way.

Until that point, I had spent the best part of 20-odd years drinking socially in the way many people do – bars, clubs, pubs, birthdays, weddings, funerals, days, nights, you name it. As I explained elsewhere on this blog I had to face facts: as much as I loved alcohol it did not respond in kind.

But I wanted to change way more than I wanted to remain stuck.

In the first few months, I oscillated between capable and clumsy. I slept like never before, ate tonnes of ice cream, worried that people would think I am boring, and read book after book after book after book.

On one occasion I left a big party early to go home and drink tea. It was a loud, boozy, fun affair and the drink was flowing. As the night wore on the temptation to drink scraped along my skin, shredding my nerves. Rationally I did not want a drink but emotionally, goddammit, I DID.

I vamoosed. I drove home, swapped my heels for a pair of enormous sheepskin socks and messaged some friends whose responses eased the tension. That night, while I could only muster the strength to stop myself falling apart, they repaired the cracks.

I reflect on their words today and realise how applicable they are to a range of new journeys or beginnings. Perhaps you are on your own personal adventure or know someone who is? I hope that by sharing them they help you as they did me.

“Right here with you. You got this.”

“The new you will be thanking yourself in the morning. Keep going, you can do it.”

“I went through all of those thoughts you’ve just described. For me it was a blip. Feelings pass though, I hope they do for you too.”

“Well done you for going – and for leaving when it got tough. At first, these things will be hard until you settle into your new skin. Be kind to yourself.”

“Remember: you’re changing a habit. You aren’t going to suddenly adapt- give yourself time and appreciate that you are doing this for you. Recognising when you need to do some self-preservation is absolutely fine!”

“Keep pushing forward with what you are doing. Don’t look back, there’s nothing to see. If there was, you’d still be there.”

“Imagine you’re travelling to a new place… Everything may seem foreign at first but keep exploring and you will learn to love what you find.”

“So very proud of you. Be proud of your uniqueness. You are super-cool and super-brave for being able to be exactly who you are without resorting to anything to aid it.”

Cheers to 280 days (Earl Grey on a Saturday night!) and looking forward to many more ahead.

Em x

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I'm a writer, journalist and communications officer based in the South West of England. I write about wellbeing, the outdoors and life in a rural playground.

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