One Year Sober & 3 Lessons I Learnt Along the Way
I had tried to stop many times before. It was this thing that I wanted to stop doing but didn’t seem able too. I spent almost the entirety of 2016 trapped in a Day 1 cycle. I think that deep down I didn’t really believe I could stop, until I did.
I didn’t have one rock bottom as they put it, more many major realisations (and a fair few blackouts) until one morning – after an uneventful night – I woke up feeling groggy and said to myself no more.
That was the day one that stuck. The night before, December 10th, was the last time I had an alcoholic drink.
I remember spending that first day alone, sat in my bed – only leaving to go to a 90 minute yoga class at Stretch – and returning back to my bed. I ordered Deliveroo twice. I can see myself sitting in my bed in the Hackney flat. I was so sad. Aimlessly sad, that sort of I drank a more than I wanted too and I don’t feel quite myself sad. I sat and scrolled through my phone a lot that day, I’d already been reading a lot about sobriety and so I followed some accounts and joined some groups Club Soda, One Year No Beer, Team Sober UK and Hip Sobriety. I scrolled, and I read, and I scrolled some more and then I started an instagram account: agirlandtonic (now called laurievmcallister) and this blog. I did it all from my bed that day, hungover and feeling like crap.
Day 1 of no drinking (again) is done. I wrote a lot today, I cried a bit, I cancelled all my plans bar the 90 minute yoga class I had booked and paid for. Yoga felt good. Tea felt good. Now for sleep.
And then a few days later I posted again, alongside the quote pictured to the left:
“I always seem to want to change everything at once, become a whole new person overnight. Stop drinking, make the pre-work yoga class, cycle to work everyday, eat well, spend less, be kind. But the truth is (or my truth at least), #alcoholfree isn’t an instant fix for the rest of my life. It gives me more time to improve and to live, but I need to do the work & also to give myself a break every once in awhile.”
Over a year later and I still need to take my own advice. I tend to run head first into every new thing, wanting to change everything at once. BUT and this is a big but, these days I don’t feel like I need to change everything at once.
Sobriety has given me what I hoped to find in every drink; a quiet confidence in myself, that I am enough as I am.
That what I have to give is enough. And that losing a bit of weight, or having better clothes, (or being in a relationship?) isn’t the magic key to being happy. Self acceptance is.
I used to use alcohol as medicine. I realise that now. I would drink alcohol on a bad day to numb the pain. I would drink alcohol to self-medicate my anxiety.
I used to use alcohol as an upper and a downer. To relax after a hectic day at work, to celebrate a birthday or a promotion and to pep myself up before a night out or mask nerves before a first date.
So what is life like when you take away your medicine? When you take away the thing you relied on to lift you up and bring you down? Fucking petrifying.
I felt naked most of the time. At work drinks, on first dates (and second dates), at friends birthdays, at Christmas parties, on holiday, at weddings. Every ‘first’ where I wasn’t drinking, I felt completely exposed.
Each time I would talk myself into going, or more accurately someone wiser than me would talk me into going (I’m looking at you Cath) – the next time felt easier. By my third wedding of this year, I danced until the music finished and then drove myself and my mum home – and had a brilliant time.
So did I learn anything that might help anyone else from being one year sober?
1. It doesn’t matter what other people think
It really doesn’t. It may feel like it does. It may feel like you’re (I’m) the only person in the world who’s not drinking and everyone is looking at you (me) … but the reality is most people are more concerned with themselves, and if they pay any attention to you (me) it’s because they’re intrigued or envious. This is easy to write and less hard to believe when someone is trying to force feed you a gin & tonic, but in my experience we act as mirrors to other people and choosing not to drink can nudge people to question their own behaviour.
2. “No thank you” is a complete sentence
Who knew? Not me. I used to justify, a lot. I used to feel like I had to give everyone a reason for my decisions. But in the last year or so I’ve come to learn, with a lot of nudges from the universe (and Gail Loveschock) that ‘no thank you’ can be a complete sentence.
Would you like a drink?
No thank you
Can I buy you a drink?
No thank you
Come on, just one?
No thank you
You get the picture. It doesn’t just work in the drinking situation. It works for all parts of my life. And allows me to hold firm in myself. Worth a try, don’t you think?
3. How to change your life? One bite at a time
So this one is, of course, borrowed from the age old proverb – how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time – yet if I l have learnt anything from one year sober it is that change doesn’t happen overnight.
I mentioned above that I always want to change everything all at once but this year has taught me that it’s not possible and also not necessary. I was at High Sobriety in early January last year (20ish days sober), and I was talking to a few people with a lot more sobriety than me. One was celebrating how she’d paid off £10,000 of credit card debt in two years. I congratulated her of course, and then voiced out loud how I wished that that was me. They responded that I would get there, and to focus on being alcohol free for now.
And so I did. I focussed on being alcohol free, and when I had a little bit more headspace I focussed on my yoga teacher training, then I added thinking about what would make me happier, and one bite at a time, and by one year sober, I changed my life.
Thank you so much for reading, any questions chat to me on instagram or comment below xxx
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