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.
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.