I knew a lifestyle change of this magnitude (and the internal work it required) called for radical self-kindness, so I ‘rewarded’ myself for getting through each day with little treats like long walks, fresh sheets, fresh flowers, new books, raw desserts, and anything else that made things easier. I drank sparkling mineral water from fancy glasses and hugged my love a lot. I went to bed early. I cried some more and began to find it easier to talk about my fears and the jumbled mess of emotions that kept pouring out of me.
And in amongst the jumbled mess came some pretty big lessons and discoveries…
The Problem Wasn’t What I Thought it Was
All this time I thought the problem was my lack of willpower. As soon as I had that first drink, I didn’t want to stop, even though drinking to excess (and the awful shame and hangovers it left in its wake) had stopped being fun a long time ago.
It was a beautiful breakthrough when I realised that after I had that first drink, it wasn’t really me making the decisions anymore – my judgement was impaired, the Wine Monster was in full control and it wanted more, more, MORE! So it wasn’t actually the fourth or fifth drink that was the big problem for me – it was that very first one.
It’s Okay (and Healthy) to Redefine ‘Fun’
One of my biggest fears about quitting drinking was that I’d never have – or be – fun, ever again. I honestly didn’t believe I’d feel joy in a world without endless social events and free-flowing bubbles… Without a crisp white wine with dinner… Without cheeky sunset cocktails…
After a bit of (sober) time to think, I began to realise that perhaps the reason I got so drunk at particular events was because I wasn’t comfortable there in the first place.
Now I skip events that don’t feel right for me. With my increasing self-respect (thank you, sobriety!) comes a feeling of being quite protective of my energy and not subjecting myself to unnecessarily toxic environments or situations.
If I’m invited to a big, boozy affair, I’ll arrive early and leave early. I have a great time chatting to everyone and then make a hasty exit before things get too messy.
It took some adjustment but I realise now it’s only natural that my social life will change as a result of my decision, and with each passing day I feel more okay with that.
I Don’t Need Alcohol to Have a Good Time
Trust me, no-one was more shocked at this one than me. I was awestruck the first time I went to an event sober and had a really great time.
Belly ache from laughing? Check.
Deep and meaningful conversations? Check.
A clear and grateful head hitting the pillow well before midnight? Ohhhh, scrumptious check!
I Love People More
Back when I socialised with a drink in my hand, there was always part of my mind that was preoccupied with thoughts of booze.
Did I bring enough wine? Is it too soon to get another drink? Will anyone notice if I pour another? What happens if we run out? Will the bottle shop still be open? Will we make it in time?
Now, when I talk to people, I’m 100% present and focused on what they’re saying. Better yet, I remember everything we talked about! My relationships are so much stronger and deeper, and that sense of connection makes me feel so much happier.
Dutch Courage is a Diddle
I thought I needed to drink to feel confident. And yet, the longer I go without drinking, the more confident I feel in every situation. I trust myself more. I feel strong and graceful and grounded. I feel so incredibly peaceful without all that internal angst and drama.
I Feel Healthier
After decades of insomnia, I now sleep like an angel. No waking at 3am, staring at the ceiling, wishing my dehydrated head would stop pounding. It feels heavenly to wake up feeling fresh every morning with clarity, a feeling of connection, and a sense of purpose.
My face and eyes feel less ‘puffy’, my skin is less dry, and my little ‘wine pouch’ belly disappeared. I have more energy, my digestion has improved ten fold, and brain fog is a thing of the past.
I Feel Happier
I feel more myself than I have in a very long time.
That cheeky sense of humour I thought only came out to play at wine o’clock? Turns out it wanted to play all the time – I was just pigeonholing it.
The anxiety I thought I was drinking to soothe? Turns out drinking only delayed it and invited it back double-strength the next day. Craziest of all is that drinking actually caused most of it to begin with. I’ve rarely felt anxious in the past few months – instead feeling only increasing calm and bliss. Sweet Heavens!
I Have So Much More Time Now
Without late nights or days wasted in hangover-mode, I have so much more time and energy. Time for movies (and remembering the entire plot), farmers markets, brunch dates, early morning writing sessions, long walks, trying new things, and daydreams.
Time for greater creativity and clarity, productivity, and deep, peaceful relationships.
The Part I Love Most
The absolute, delicious, blissful freedom.
Freedom from counting drinks. Freedom from giving myself ‘those lectures’ about not making an idiot of myself this time. Freedom from saying stupid things I regret. Freedom from believing I can only connect with people when I have a drink in my hand. Freedom from searching for late-night cabs in the freezing cold, or worrying about how to get home. Freedom from the morning-after cocktail of tiredness, nausea, anxiety and paranoia.
I’m not saying it’s always easy. Some Fridays – especially when I’m hungry and/or tired – my inner 3-year-old throws a tantrum and still wants wine, wine, WINE!
But I am saying it gets much easier. And is so, SO worth it.
So Is This Forever?
‘Forever’ still feels too big, too scary, too infinite. It’s still too huge for me to hold-my-hand-on-my-heart and promise on. For now all I know is that sobriety is too beautiful a sanctuary for me to want to give it up anytime soon. I worked so hard to get here and it’s more sublime than I could ever have imagined.
Throughout this journey I promised myself that I’d treat myself to a lovely big gift at the end of 100 days to reward myself for ‘going without’ for so long… only to find now that I’m here (at day 139, according to my trusty little tracker app), I don’t need it anymore.
Alcohol-free turned out to be the biggest gift of all. ♥
Want to read more?
I share more of my journey and the tools that helped me in my best-selling memoir, A Happier Hour.