Shouting ‘I’m A Soberista!’ from the Rooftops

Sobriety was once a dirty word to me. Boring do-gooders avoided alcohol. Cool people drank, and drank a lot.

This was probably the biggest challenge for me in terms of deciding to stop drinking. I could not conceive of losing my ‘edge’ and metamorphosing into a quiet dullard who couldn’t let her hair down. I know I’m not alone in thinking these thoughts, and I often read about other people’s experiences with friends and family who are sceptical at best, or scathing and down right rude at worst, with regards to that person’s new non-boozy status.

Magic water, magic nature, beautiful blue effect

What is it about alcohol that prompts people to share their opinion on whether or not we should be partaking in this national pastime? If I sat down for dinner with people I wasn’t overly familiar with and announced that I was a vegetarian, I would more than likely receive a lesser inquisition than if I declared my AF lifestyle and opted for a mineral water amongst the truckload of wine being delivered by the attentive waiter. But why do other people care so much about our drinking habits? Could it be that they don’t wish to draw attention to their own alcohol consumption? Generally, I’ve found that the people who have the least to say about me being a non-drinker are the ones who barely drink themselves, the ones who most definitely have not got any issues with alcohol.

Anyway, the point of the above observations is that society frequently has a tendency to be more accepting of heavy drinkers than those of us who opt for an AF life, and this can be a major obstacle in quitting. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can contribute massively to ‘wobbles’ and, ultimately, to caving in and having a drink. In order to stay true to the path of sobriety, therefore, it is vital that we believe in the alcohol-free way. And I mean, really believe in it – to find it an aspirational way of life, fall in love with it, want it more than anything, and be proud to tell anyone who listens, “No thanks, I do not drink”.

I did not feel this way about not drinking until at least eighteen months into my sobriety. I was ashamed of my problem, angry because I ‘wasn’t allowed to drink’, lonely and full of regret. But eventually, something clicked inside me and all the monumental benefits of being a non-drinker dawned on me. What the hell was I being so negative about? Where is the need to feel demeaned by a choice that will provide me (and my family and friends too) with a far happier and healthier life? Why be secretive about declining to consume an addictive substance that consistently made me fat and act foolishly, which caused me to hurt both myself and those I love, which damaged my mental and physical health and routinely put the brakes on all my hopes and dreams for future happiness?

When you think about it, becoming AF is a lifestyle choice that we should be shouting from the rooftops! These days I am supremely proud of being a non-drinker, to the point of being a bit smug. I like the fact that I am in good shape, that I am the best person I can be in all areas of my life (well, maybe there’s a little room for improvement here and there, but things are eminently better than in boozy days gone by!). I am not apologetic in the slightest about my choice to not drink alcohol, and when people ask me why I am on the mineral water I just tell them the truth: For me, one glass always led to another, and another, and the fall-out from drinking was too much. I’m so much happier being a Soberista.

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That Was Then And This Is Now – Sober Reflections

I have experienced a multitude of emotions with regards to alcohol since I last drank the stuff in 2011. At first I missed it dreadfully, and the love and devotion that I initially harboured towards my old friend, wine, eventually led to the idea behind my first book, The Sober Revolution (co-written by Sarah Turner). The book depicts booze as the wayward lover – not to be trusted, although deeply enchanting and difficult to extrapolate one’s self from.

A few months down the sober road, I remember becoming increasingly bitter towards booze, and angry at the alcohol industry for misrepresenting their products. It seemed that everywhere I looked there were adverts featuring glamorous, happy people enjoying a drink and not suffering any of the associated horrors that had become so firmly entrenched in my own experience of alcohol use. Where were the images of people collapsing in the street? The facial features that had drooped with alcoholic drowsiness? Why was nobody being honest about the effects this addictive substance was having upon such a large percentage of the population?

Eventually, I started to feel more positive about living life as a non-drinker. I recognised that not everyone has the same destructive relationship as I did with booze, although a deep mistrust of alcohol and those who sell it has remained with me. This is something which I feel has helped me enormously in staying on the sober road; whilst bitterness and anger are not emotions that we should embrace forever, a certain degree of ‘fighting back’ after years of being manipulated and possessed by alcohol is crucial (in my humble opinion) in building up an emotional resistance to this so-commonly accepted drug.

Me now, minus the internal struggles

Me now, a happy Soberista

In my third year of sobriety, everything settled down and became entirely normal. I no longer missed drinking at all, and had most definitely carved out a new identity for myself based on real things that matter, as opposed to the ghost-like fantasies that heavy alcohol consumption frequently initiates. I could say at that point that I knew myself, was aware of my foibles and strengths, had a healthy level of self-esteem, felt committed to the things in my life that I cared about, and had the confidence to believe in who I was and where I was heading. The self-loathing and regrets had long since fallen by the wayside and I had finally, at the age of thirty-eight, begun to enjoy living in the real world – with all of its challenges, ups and downs, and beauty. That was when I noticed a new sense of optimism in myself, a solid belief in things turning out OK. That in itself was a revelation, as previously I had always assumed everything would go wrong in my life.

And now, with hindsight, I often look back on my drinking years with an intense desire to gently put an arm around myself and whisper, ‘You don’t actually need alcohol to be OK. Your life would be much better without it.’ And then I feel an enormous sense of relief that I came to realise that my relationship with alcohol would never have changed – that off-switch would never have materialised, and my life would most definitely have continued to be characterised by shameful situations, wasted weekends and regrets so huge that they ate away at my soul.

Thank God I saw all of that. Thank God I became a Soberista.