Welcome to The (Not) Drinking Diary Series! I’ll be chatting to people on alcohol and on life; about their sobriety, mindful drinking and/or alcohol free period.
Africa is based in London, UK, & is one of the first people I connected with via Instagram – and in real life – when I first started my Not Drinking journey. She is a girl on a mission and I’m very excited to share her story with you.
Read on for her not drinking diary …
Location: London, UK
1.Tell me a little bit about yourself …
I’m a 24-year-old Londoner. Born in Zimbabwe, I moved to England when I was 9 years old. I’ve now lived in London for 16 years and have had such a tumultuous relationship with this city although I hold it very close to my heart. A lot of that turbulence includes alcohol or some kind of substance.
2.Tell me a little bit of your drinking story …
Once I started drinking, I didn’t know when to stop, the aim would be get hammered, no less. On the 31st October 2016 I took it too far once more and offended my partner and friends in the process, nothing new there. I woke up alone with an anxiety hangover so severe it terrified me, I had hit my rock bottom. Alcohol had created a version of me I was struggling to part with. In the week that followed I realised that blacking out almost every time I drank, was not normal or as common as I thought. I was sick of losing hours & hours of my time, even after just 2 glasses of wine I would start to get glitches. A side of me I loathed would come out, I would go on the hunt for attention, for a non-existent spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some fun times on the sauce but it was starting to be clear that the bad nights outweighed the good, at an alarming rate. I never wanted to face up to the fact that I couldn’t drink in a sensible way. I had got used to apologising, attempting moderation, then quickly slipping back into those that blackout robe I’d supposedly hung up. I was tired and constantly guilt-ridden.
3.How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
Alcohol and I no longer have a relationship. It’s the best breakup of my life! Alcohol first won me over with promises of great memories and a sense of freedom, and only until it had sucked me in and spat me out, I realised the only thing that could offer me those things was sobriety. Today I am nearly 8 months sober and there is no looking back.
4.What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
The biggest challenge for me was (and in some ways still is) socialising sober. I was terrified at the thought, which is why I went back to drinking the other times I attempted sobriety. I associated sobriety with boredom, and God-forbid anybody find me boring! I could not stand the idea of being stone cold sober whilst everyone was else was en route to Lushville.
I thought sobriety would do nothing for me besides keep me out of trouble whilst slowly dimming my personality. I was convinced that my best sociable self only surfaced when I drinking or using. Today I know these myths are far from true. I am now able to enjoy myself truly and freely in ways I haven’t done still my early teens.
5.What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
I have learnt that it’s okay to accept that you have a problem. I have learnt that not everyone will be happy for you and your journey. I have learnt that I am not defective because I choose to abstain from alcohol. I have learnt that I don’t have to simply exist, I have the choice to LIVE. I have learnt that the vulnerable & shy me is just fine.
I am discovering that I am on a beautiful unstoppable journey
6. What benefits of cutting down on alcohol or stopping drinking have you experienced?
Since going sober the benefits have been very rewarding. I have more energy, better skin, authentic relationships, I’ve saved so much more money, I’m more reliable, I can commit to plans and not forget I made them, I am able to be present in the moment without yearning for escape…to name a few.
I know I’m on the path to freedom and daily I keep unlocking new things I can have access to if I keep pushing.
7. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
I have started to change my routines in many ways. I work long days so the days I am off work I now try to be as active and productive as I can. I write daily goals for the following day and each day I write down up to 5 things I am grateful for which helps ground me a lot.
At 24 years of age I am also learning to swim, something I never would have committed to when I was drinking.
8. Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
Reading & Writing – personal therapy!
9. What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free & not drinking) at the weekend?
I love going to art galleries and I now find myself doing more of that. Painting is something I have re-introduced into my life, nothing beats the feeling of seeing the outcome of something you have started and FINISHED.
Journaling has also been a huge part of my sobriety, it’s amazing the things you can do when you are not wasting your entire day nursing a filthy hangover/come-down.
10. When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
Procrastination & unreliability had always been close companions of mine. I would make promises, big plans, ideas, always tomorrow, tomorrow, TOMORROW. And never see any of it through! Most of the time I would be tipsy/drunk/in a blackout when I would make all these ambitious and sometimes ‘normal’ plans, but I would either not remember, or just not bother to act. Today I make note of every goal I want to achieve, and the steps that will take me there and I do my best! I do my best to not go back to being that person I left behind, I’m not exactly where I need to be, but I’m bloody trying, and for now that is all that matters.
11. What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
12.Any go-to people we should follow for inspiration? (Health, Fitness, Life, travel you name it!)
If it wasn’t for my Instagram family, I honestly don’t think these 8 months would have been entirely possible. When I decided to do this, I went in without knowing a single sober friend, now I have them in abundance, some I have even got the pleasure to meet in person! I’ve listed a few of them below:
Sobriety & fitness: @girlandtonic (of course!), @soberinthesun, @laura_mckowen, @servedupsober, @recoveryherway, @clubsodaguide, @polorunner, @happybeingpete, @charlotterosecoyle (huge inspiration of mine!), @hello_its_michelle, @ebonykayenglish, @queensofsobrietyclub
& many many more!
13. And finally, thinking differently about your relationship with alcohol can be challenging and isolating, is there any advice you turned to or do you have any words of wisdom for people reading this?
Seeing alcohol for what it really is, has completely changed my life. In the beginning my aim and focus was to not drink, now other things are also unfolding. Now it’s about what I can do to make my life better. Finding what it is I enjoy, making honest relationships, focusing on other people, and trying to be of service to others going through recovery.
Through Instagram I have found a wonderful community for people in recovery, the support system is overwhelmingly touching. I haven’t delved into AA as I just don’t think it is the path for me, although I might give it another try further down the line.
I have read quite a few self-help books and biographies related to alcoholism & alcohol-abuse and it has helped me a great deal. If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol, it might be time to give abstinence a chance. If going to meetings is daunting for you, simply get online and connect with people going through the same thing. There are so many sobriety forums and apps, you’d be surprised by how many stories out there are identical to yours. Open up & bare yourself and you will reap the benefits. It’s not easy and it can be complex but it will reform your life. Some people ask me when I will start drinking again, and when I tell them never…I truly believe it this time.
For me, sobriety is a big part of my journey to true freedom, I’m in this for the long-haul.