Happy Birthday Soberistas x

Soberistas.com is three years old. Today, thousands of people belong to this online community, which started out on November 26th 2012 as just a couple of hundred members posting blogs and comments and nervously wondering what would happen next…

Soberistas has been a major part of my own story of recovering from an alcohol dependency that eventually put me in hospital. When I set the site up, I genuinely had no idea that so many people felt exactly how I did – people from all walks of life; men and women, from England, America, Canada, Australia and so many other countries in between.

Gradually, this community has increased in size and strength, and over the last three years we have come to represent a viable resource for those drinkers who want to become alcohol-free but who need a bit of friendly support in getting there.

The things that helped me personally become happy, and therefore to stay happily off the booze, are detailed below, because I wanted to share them again for the benefit of anyone who is in that desperately dark place that I once was, back in the spring of 2011. But before I go on to explain what has helped me get and remain sober, I think it’s important to state why it’s worth putting yourself through the challenge of stopping drinking. What are the benefits of becoming alcohol-free?

Well, here’s what I’ve gained in the last four and a half years:

  • My self-esteem
  • A love of life
  • An appreciation for EVERYTHING I have, and for all the people I am lucky enough to have in my life
  • Confidence
  • A job that I love
  • Lifelong friends
  • New experiences, travelling and taking up different and challenging opportunities
  • Clarity
  • Thousands of mornings, clear-headed and hangover-free
  • Quality time with my children, free from the guilt-ridden anxieties over my drinking that plagued me so much in the past
  • Becoming a published author
  • A life free from a daily dread of developing liver cirrhosis or cancer caused by my alcohol consumption and smoking habit
  • Finally knowing my own mind and what makes me happy – and what makes me tick

The stuff I did to help me become firmly established as a Soberista all stem from the first, extremely important (and perhaps obvious) starting point: I didn’t touch alcohol at all once I decided to quit. No cheeky little glasses of wine because it was my birthday, no sneaky halves of lager when nobody was looking. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This was vital to my long-term sobriety because it enabled me to develop a completely clear head, free from all the negativity and confusion that arose from the excessive alcohol I once consumed.

I got fit and found other things to do with my time. This prevented me from getting bored, it gave me the mental lift and escapism (especially running) that I had previously attempted to obtain through alcohol, and it boosted my self-esteem, which in turn helped me to realise that I did actually deserve a life that wasn’t coloured by the terrible consequences of my drinking.

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I discovered gratitude. I started to think positively about my life, and focused on the good bits instead of the crap parts. I recognised that actually, I was very lucky, and had a lot that was worth living for.

I spent time in the countryside and indulged myself in nature. This helped me to put my problems in perspective and reminded me that we are so small in the grand scheme of things, our lives are so fleeting, and that ultimately, we should be grabbing onto life with both hands and living it to the absolute max – rather than wasting it in a drunken haze, routinely floored by self-hatred and shame.

I reached out to people and opened up. I admitted to people that I had a drink problem. Again, sounds simple, but I stopped pretending that it was normal to pass out and blackout and embarrass myself terribly.

I repeatedly told myself that This Too Shall Pass. When the going got tough, I stuck it out. I persevered. I never gave in. I believed in better. And eventually, things got better. Much better.

I meditated and practised mindfulness. I made a concerted effort to live in the here and now. To focus on today, instead of worrying ceaselessly about shit that hadn’t happened yet, or shit that had happened and of which I could do nothing to change.

And so, here I am. Sober, happy; a happy Soberista. Thank you to all those inspiring people out there who helped me find this life free from alcohol. And to anyone who wants to be a Soberista but who hasn’t got there yet – if I can do it then so can you. This sober life is a vast improvement on a drinking life, for anyone who can’t moderate his or her alcohol intake. Good luck. xx

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Soberistas31 Challenge 2015

Any sober person residing in a country that celebrates Christmas will be all too aware that from the beginning of December until January 1st, many, many people go slightly bonkers in the name of the festive season. From November onwards, the shops are packed with decorations and trees, glitter and lights, all attempting to draw in the crowds and fill up the tills; television adverts are mainly focused on gifts and products tenuously connected to Christmas for weeks prior to the ‘Big Day’; and of course, wherever there is mass celebration, there is sure to be mass drinking following closely behind.

Nothing highlights how consumerist Christmas has become better than the drinks industry, which has successfully hijacked the occasion and ensured everyone (or nearly everyone) falls into the trap of thinking they must have a drink in order to have fun. From the work’s festive night out to the kids’ Christmas play at school, people seem to be pushing booze in your direction and it can be difficult, to say the least, getting through December while sticking to your alcohol-free endeavours.

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And so, for the third year running, we are pleased to announce the Soberistas31 Challenge, which we hope will help both those trying to stay sober and the families who benefit from Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity’s much-needed services. The aim is simple; don’t drink for the whole of December and donate the money you would have spent on alcohol (or a proportion thereof) to RTCC.

Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity supports around 2,000 families in England who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. It’s the leading charity in England providing emotional and practical help direct to families who find themselves in this unthinkable situation. Their Family Support Workers care for the whole family, from their child’s diagnosis, during treatment and, if needed, through bereavement. The money raised through the Soberistas31 Challenge will enable the charity to provide additional support workers, thus helping even more families in need.

The Soberistas31 Challenge steps up the support you can already find on Soberistas. There is a special Forum category http://soberistas.com/forum/categories/soberistas31/listForCategory just for the members of the site who take part in this fund-raising month, plus regular motivational reminders about the vital work carried out by Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity to keep you focused on why you are committing to a month off alcohol at this, the booziest time of the year.

If you would like to take part, please email me on lucy@soberistas.com with your name and address, and you will be sent a welcome pack from Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and Soberistas. The details of how to donate at the end of the month will be posted on Soberistas.com, and for any further questions, you can contact me on the above email address.

I hope we can smash through our previous totals by exceeding £1000. And as well as knowing you are helping this charity out and all the families that depend on their work, you will be able to greet 2016 with an alcohol-free month already in the bag, raring to go for a sober New Year.

Many thanks, and here’s to a happy and healthy December!

Happy 3rd Birthday Soberistas!

On November 26th 2012, Soberistas.com launched. Within a year, twenty thousand people had signed up to join this brave and determined community, all seeking a happier and healthier life without alcohol. Today there are almost 34,000 registered members and the site continues to flourish, providing a non-judgmental and safe haven for anyone with alcohol issues to come and offload, to seek support from a group of friendly and inspirational Istas.

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So where did the idea for Soberistas come from? I was a heavy drinker who mostly thought it was normal to drink myself into oblivion several nights a week, to fall into drunken stupors on dates, and to throw up noisily in pub toilets on a regular evening out with friends because I just couldn’t stop boozing once I started. It bothered me intermittently, this lack of control with regards to alcohol, although never sufficiently enough to make me stop drinking altogether. But it really gave me a kick up the backside one morning in April 2011 when I woke up in A&E covered in congealed sick (sorry for the grossness but it was, well, gross), and with a complete blank where my memory should’ve been.

Stopping drinking was easy. Deciding to stop was easy, but staying stopped and feeling happy about it? That was the tough part. Urrgh, become a boring teetotaller? Never get drunk and dance on tables again? No more sitting around in restaurants talking until the cows come home, with bottle after bottle of red on the go? No, that all sounded like my idea of hell on earth.

My discomfort in the idea of becoming a sober woman in my mid-thirties led me to a light bulb moment one day, when the idea came to mind of a social network website that brought together a lot of like-minded women (and a few So-Bros!) from all over the world, who would help one another feel less alone and not so desperate about the fact that alcohol had simply stopped working for them…I saw the website in my mind, as clear as day, and I still have a sketch of it on a scrap of paper, which doesn’t look a million miles away from how Soberistas looks today.

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So that’s how Soberistas came to be in existence, but it could never have become the inspirational and heart-warming place that it is without our members, the individuals who blog and comment every day, helping so many other people recognise and begin to resolve their own drinking issues, as well as working through their own relationships with alcohol – and learning to live without it.

As a thank you, we are holding a 3rd Birthday Competition – and the prize is a rather gorgeous Clarins advent calendar, a lovely pre-Christmas treat full of miniature Clarins beauty products. In order to enter, all you need to do is write a blog on Soberistas.com stating exactly why you love being a Soberista. There’s no maximum or minimum word length, but you will need to tag the blog ‘Soberistasbirthday’ (all one word please) in order for it to be included in the entries. The competition closes at midnight (GMT) November 26th 2015 and we will announce the winner during the following week. This competition is open to all our members worldwide.

Going Back To My Roots

I was thinking recently about the shift in thinking that occurs when we stop wanting to drink, when we become completely satisfied with the idea of being alcohol-free on a permanent basis. When I quit drinking, I didn’t expect to turn into a happy Soberista. I imagined a life of teeth-gritting boredom, tedium as I observed the world around me downing alcoholic drinks with gusto, and the endless pursuit of attempting to fill the hole that booze had left behind.

I hid away from the world for a very long time when I put down the bottle. On the odd occasion when I did venture out socially, I felt like a freak, convinced everyone knew about my ‘little problem’. I didn’t conceive of this feeling ever disappearing, but instead resigned myself to growing accustomed to it and tolerating an existence defined by my teetotal stance.

As it turns out, my life has become somewhat characterised by my decision to not drink. But not for the reasons I thought it would: cravings, stigma, embarrassment and shame arising out of my ‘issue’ with alcohol. No, my life has become defined by sobriety because stopping drinking has been the most monumental decision I have ever taken – and the person I’ve become as a result of not drinking is the one that I should always have been. I feel like I’ve returned to my roots since quitting the booze.

What began as a painfully awkward, steep learning curve of living free from the shackles of alcohol dependency has blossomed into a profound love of life that is a million times better, because drinking no longer features in it. From April 2011 onwards, every ‘first’ was a giant hurdle that needed clambering over – sober. Christmas, birthdays, stressful days, boring days, lonely days, busy days, disappointments, nights out; each one loomed like a dark and treacherous mountain, but conquering those events brought satisfaction and confidence and contentment. And a healthy dose of self-belief too, which only furthered my ability to manage the next challenge that lay ahead.

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As time has gone on, I have forgotten what it felt like to want to escape my reality. I have lost the sensation of ‘needing’ a drink. I look at other people drinking and have absolutely no desire to join them in altering their minds. I am very happy to not drink.

If you are just starting out as a Soberista and currently every day without a drink, every minute of intense cravings for alcohol, feels like a mountain to be climbed, don’t despair. It passes. Honestly, it does. The only things that you need to embrace for the transformation to occur are a commitment to not having that first drink, and patience.