I used to be so frightened of not drinking, not nearly so scared of all the associated horrors of downing excessive amounts of wine on a regular basis – the nights when I couldn’t remember getting home, waking up to discover horrific bruises in bizarre places, and the endless, all-consuming feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred that would linger for days after each terrible binge.
I’m fascinated by this phenomenon now, as with several years of sobriety behind me I can’t believe I was ever scared of becoming alcohol-free. I love my life today, and there isn’t a single thing about booze that I miss or wish still featured in my daily existence. Much has been written (on Soberistas and elsewhere on the internet) about the obvious positives that stem from sober living; weight loss, brighter eyes, more money, heightened self-esteem, increased productivity at work and so on. But what about the real, under the skin benefits of alcohol-free life? What does it do to you as a person, not drinking? How much changes, and what, if anything, remains the same when you turn your back on booze?
For me, the number one benefit of an alcohol-free life is that I now have clarity and emotional intelligence. I know myself inside and out, understand when my ego is getting in the way of the important stuff, recognise my insecurities and weaknesses, have developed strategies that work and help me to cope with life’s challenges, and I realise when I need to take a step back from a given situation and rethink my position on it. I am fully in control of my life, and of my human instincts – I trust myself.
I no longer feel ashamed of who I am. These days, everything has a reason behind it, validity and a purpose. There are no knee-jerk reactions and over-emotional tantrums; no more hours spent crying into a pillow, too filled with shame to leave the house. There are no moments of terror in public places when I see someone and cannot remember if I said anything or acted in a particular way in front of them that should now be causing me embarrassment. When I apologise to people nowadays, it is without the heavy weight of disgrace dragging my heart down to the ground. I can look in the mirror and feel proud of who I am.
I have drive and ambition. My thoughts have the freedom to go beyond wishing I hadn’t drunk so much, or wondering when I can next have a drink. My days aren’t wasted lying around, saturated with self-pity. Things get done. I am organised. My life works.
When people ask me if I ever miss alcohol, I consistently, honestly and with a great deal of passion, tell them no. For me, living soberly is the source of a great deal of pride. I love being a Soberista. I love sobriety far more deeply than I ever did alcohol, although I could not have known that as a drinker. As a drinker, I did not possess the emotional intelligence to understand how far from happiness I was, and therefore had no idea about what I was missing out on in life.
Every day spent as a non-drinker is magical; better, brighter. Life has taken on an exciting quality again, as I remember it from my childhood. Everything is there for the taking and there are no barriers anymore preventing me from enjoying it. There really is nothing to fear from embarking on an alcohol-free life, and much to gain. It is so worth taking the leap.