Sobered up

How one year without alcohol surprisingly changed a lot

It’s been one year without alcohol and I was surprised how much this one decision changed so much.

Last June, my partner and I decided to give up alcohol. It was a few months into the UK COVID-19 lockdowns and a fairly stressful time. The evenings or weekends would come and it was all too easy to grab a glass of wine or two. Many of the friends and family I spoke with were much the same. It even became part of our digital socialising on popular apps at the time, like Houseparty. While I wouldn’t have said my alcohol consumption was out-of-the-ordinary (or at least to British standards), I knew it wasn’t working for me and comparing myself to others wasn’t going to fix it. During COVID-19, I knew alcohol had become a coping mechanism- a way to distract, relax and escape stress, even temporarily. I was in a fragile state, not knowing the fate of the world, the impacts on our health, the well-being of others or the longer-term consequences it would bring.

June was a good time to go cold turkey. It is the halfway mark, which meant I could decide on New Year’s Eve/My birthday about whether or not I wanted to have a drink then to celebrate. I thought it was going to be a challenge, as it had been in the past. Like those dry January day’s that dragged on and everyone was counting down the days. But much to my surprise looking back it wasn’t. The same cues I had associated with drinking-networking events, nights out, after-work drinks or celebrations with friends didn’t exist in the same form. I never walked into a room, where a bartender greeted me with a drink. I didn’t have friend’s who loved to keep buying the next rounds there and ultimately, alcohol wasn’t easy to come by unless I brought it home.

This felt like it gave me more choice and power over temptations to drink because I could shape the environment I knew was better for me. During the year, I discovered how much the positive impacts outweighed the benefits of drinking. For starters, because my exercise regime was negatively impacted and didn’t move around as much, even foregoing those extra calories helped keep me in shape. More money was available each month and I could find better ways to make my money work for me. My overall mood improved and I felt more in control of how I was feeling and a healthy way to try to improve it (like meditation). This made me examine other coping mechanisms (like social media holes or Netflix and chill days) and explore whether they were really serving or helping me improve. And most importantly to me, I gained back time. I no longer had to deal with the headaches, fatigue or guilt if I had drunk more than I wanted the night before. I could start the day afresh with a clear body and mind, ready for better challenges I was now more prepared to face.

While I know sobriety isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, this has been my experience of a year being sober. I know myself a year ago would be surprised and proud I made it this far. I feel like a new and improved person. I don’t miss drinking and I am comfortable telling people ‘I don’t drink’ without feeling like I need to justify it. I’m not sure whether I will abstain from alcohol forever, but the more time that passes sober the more reasons I am finding not to go back.

Have you considered going sober for an extended period of time? Would love to hear about your experience.