I stopped drinking alcohol approximately four and a half years ago. I am a non-drinker, a teetotaller, a Soberista. This is what I do well; I don’t drink. Society dictates that we need to drink alcohol in order to be normal and to fit in with the status quo. We exist in a world that is awash with booze, and if you step aside from that and opt out, then you stand out. You are a bit strange, like an alien wandering amongst so many who are all one and the same. Binge drinking is acceptable, society-approved mind alteration on a grand scale.
So normalized is this drinking culture in the UK that prior to 2011 when I stopped drinking for good, I did not consider myself to have that much of a problem with alcohol despite having found myself doing all of the following: falling into an empty bath in the middle of the night and banging my head viciously on the taps; sliding down several feet of a muddy, snow-covered bank of mud and landing in a tangle of raggedy rose bushes at the foot, not even registering the pain; falling into bed with men who I barely knew, didn’t like and who repulsed me in the morning when I woke up and acknowledged what had happened; being thrown out of nightclubs, too drunk to stand; finding myself covered in severe bruising and having no idea where or how the injuries had occurred.
But, no, I was not an alcoholic. I was just a woman who loved to drink, who knew how to have a good time.
Nowadays I’m rather quiet, and I like to spend my time running, or writing, or in the company of a very small number of friends. I enjoy being with my three-year-old and my sixteen-year-old, watching them develop their personalities and finding their feet in this world.
I invest a good deal of time in inventing smoothies and juices, and I like to experiment with cooking healthy meals. I love my job, running Soberistas.com, and promoting the idea that being a non-drinker is a very nice way to live, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of for once having been dependent upon alcohol and then being strong enough to kick the habit and rebuild your life. I’m interested in Buddhism and Taoism and how tenets from both philosophies can help better my state of mind. I love reading books, and going to the cinema.
I will be forty years old tomorrow. All of the drinking stuff is a long way behind me now. I’ve entered and am firmly entrenched in this much healthier chapter of my life – it’s not a passing fad, as I maybe feared it would be when I first cut out alcohol four and a half years ago. This is who I am now, and I feel safe. I don’t worry about being pulled back into the madness because things are too nice over here on the other side.
Where will I be ten years from now, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday? There’s no certainty that I’ll be here at all but I quite like that knowledge, the acceptance of my own mortality that seems to have finally become real after so long behaving as though I was going to live forever (despite all the physical and mental abuse I once subjected myself to). I like the appreciation and gratitude for the small stuff that goes along with knowing my time on earth is finite. I love the road of personal discovery that seems to be never-ending; all the opportunities that potentially lie out there, the adventures waiting to happen, the people I have yet to meet and the places I’ve yet to visit. I’m so happy to know that all of this awaits me without any of the fog of drinking, with none of the regrets and self-hatred that were once so prevalent. If I am lucky enough to live a long and healthy life, then the years to come will all be alcohol-free – I can say that with certainty. Our time on this planet is too precious to piss it up the wall on booze. It demands that you grab hold of it with both hands and squeeze out every drop of life that comes your way.
The biggest lesson I have learnt so far is this: every one of us is amazing in our own unique way and we don’t need to be altered in any way by alcohol in order to be accepted, or liked, or self-confident. Believe in who you are and follow the path you were given in life, and everything will fall into place. Heavy drinking just messes with the equilibrium and slams the brakes on you reaching your full potential. And life is really very short, so it’s a good idea to start living it right now – minus the mind-altering alcohol fog.