Today marks the start of Go Sober for October and I’ve been thinking about how different my life is compared to the one where alcohol was part of it.
At the weekend, I went to the Isle of Wight for a writing course. I woke early each day to go for a run and spent time writing before workshops. I explored the island and devoured food in the pub while sharing stories and hair-raising life experiences with other delegates. Alcohol never even entered my mind.
This would have been different two years ago. I would probably have woken up with a mild hangover and dragged myself out for a run, grumbling all the way. I may not even have run at all. My intentions to explore the island would have just that. Later on, I would have been knocking back wine in the pub with great enthusiasm. I definitely would not have gone for a run the following day and may not have remembered all the fun conversations from the night before.
The difference has been my decision to quit booze and embrace an alcohol free life.
My drinking was not every day but it was a big feature in my life socially. Sometimes I got completely hammered but usually I drank until I felt fuzzy, blunt and tipsy.
I did it to relieve stress, relax, celebrate or commiserate. But as time went on, and more often than not, I felt it was interfering with my mental state of mind. It didn’t de-stress me. I wasn’t relaxed. I felt depressed when I should have been celebrating and even more depressed when commiserating.
I kept returning to the same thought: I’m better off without it.
It took me a little while to take the plunge and stop entirely. The enormity of it overwhelmed me. After a few false starts, lots of research, some books and conversations with sober friends before the idea of being sober stuck.
My wise and sober-living friend Graydon made me see the joy of leading an alcohol-free life. He recounted tales of being richer practically, emotionally and mentally. I wanted to live like that more than I wanted alcohol to be an ever-present.
He advised on breaking the decision down into manageable chunks, binning those grandiose aims of ‘never drinking again’, and taking each day as it comes. Treat every day as a mini-win, he said, and they’ll soon add up.
My approach also involved framing the decision as a positive life choice rather than a punishment. I reminded myself of the reasons for quitting until my brain formed a new way of thinking and fresh habits were born.
On days when I felt like caving to my craving, I focused on why I was doing this and how I would feel if I gave in. Momentarily good? Probably. Rubbish tomorrow? Very likely. Disappointed and cruddy for a while? Most definitely. Is it worth it? Not at all.
Today I have 478 alcohol free days under my belt. Packing in drinking is 100% hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve made. And you can do it too.
How? Take the first step by joining Go Sober for October. Here are some tips to help you go all the way.
1.Take one day at a time. Lots of small steps become massive milestones eventually. Daily mini-wins, remember?
2. When the tough gets going, remind yourself why you are doing this (the fact you’re raising money for charity is a really big motivating factor too).
3.Revel in sober-weekend mornings. After a mammoth bender do you ever wake up wondering what level of hell you’re in? Listen up! Sobriety means no more walks of shame, no more panicked cancelling of lost bank cards, no more wondering what utter tripe you said to your boss. None of that! Subtract booze and you’ll look after yourself, get home safely and know exactly where everything is and what you said. It’s lovely, health stuff. (It’s totally OK to be smug about this too).
4. Watch the pounds add up. Not just the weight – I mean the money, baby. You will definitely see a difference in your financial situation. By my calculations, my 16-months sobriety has saved £1,914 which is astonishing (and when I say *saved* I mean spent on things like running apparel and camera kit).
5.Enjoy being a healthier version of you. Take away the depressant effects of alcohol and you’ll sleep better, experience increased energy levels and allow your body time to repair itself (research shows a month off booze leads to a reduction in liver fat).
6.Stay positive and be realistic. It won’t be easy but be kind to yourself. If you know you open a bottle of wine on a Friday evening, take action to avoid it happening. Simple steps like replacing it with an alcohol-free alternative will help you change those habits. Focus on why you are doing this and allow the feelings to pass.
Thank you for reading. Let me know your thoughts, whether you’re on a sober journey or want to start one. Comment below or find me on Instagram. Em x