Making Connections – Sober

One of the reasons why alcohol can appeal to us is because it’s a social lubricant. It has the power to transform a shy, awkward wallflower into a wild, life-and-soul-of-the-party type – although for lots of people it unfortunately then has a habit of pushing things too far in that direction, drawing them into doing things they later regret. I used alcohol for social confidence, and over the years it became that I required more and more of it to get the same, initial hit. And when I consumed increasing amounts, I acted in an increasingly out-of-character manner of which I was deeply embarrassed and often ashamed the next morning.

But, a sense of connection is what so many of us are craving when we reach for a glass of something alcoholic at a social event, and it’s this crutch that can be so difficult to let go of when we decide we really would like to become alcohol-free. Is it possible then to achieve this connection when we are teetotal?

My answer to this question would be yes. Yes, you can obtain a sense of belonging, a feeling of unity with others, when you are stone cold sober – and the trick to doing so lies in self-confidence, patience and a solid belief in the knowledge that if you can’t control your alcohol consumption, people will far prefer you as you are naturally to when you are completely out of your mind.

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It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that alcohol makes us wittier, sexier, more attractive and interesting, but in reality this is a fallacy created in our own drunken minds. To the sober onlooker, people who are inebriated are quite boring, and they look a bit of a mess. These days, I enjoy far more the company of those who don’t drink to excess, and if I am forced to spend time with people who are heavily under the influence then I’m desperate to escape their company as soon as possible! The truth is that people who are not drunk are way more interesting, sensitive and funnier – although you do need to ensure that you’re spending time with people who you actually like (it’s fairly common when you quit the booze to realise that many of those you’ve always socialised with as a drinker are, in reality people whom you don’t care for all that much at all when sober).

With time, patience and no more drinking, a person’s self-confidence can be restored remarkably quickly following sustained and heavy alcohol misuse. And with that confidence, and a more positive reaction from friends and family, it is soon the case that one enters into a virtuous circle: a good response to the non-drinking version of you reinforces your suspicion that you’re better off not drinking, and the longer you continue to be alcohol-free, the more of a positive response you receive from the people in your life.

What it boils down to is this: connectedness is all very well and good, but if YOU are the sort of person who becomes drunk each and every time you consume alcohol, you are not connecting with anyone; rather you are distancing yourself more and more from the people you love and who love you. If you are someone without a reliable off-switch (like me) then it is absolutely true that you will be loved far more and by many more people as an alcohol-free person. Try it and see for yourself.

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Flat Days, Evil Gym Classes & Proper Happiness

We are schooled in the West to expect each day to bring us happiness and perfection, and when these ideals fail to materialise we often feel disheartened and annoyed with ourselves, as if we are a failure. There’s an easy assumption to jump to when you decide to quit drinking, which is this: the booze was behind all my mistakes, it was the drinking that brought on the depression and the anxiety, it was all down to alcohol. And now that the drink is gone, everything will fall nicely into place.

Except things rarely pan out like this, at least not all the time and on every single day. Yesterday, for instance, turned out to be something of a flat day for me. I awoke with the kind of paranoid fear that only parents will ever experience owing to the fact that my three-year-old had had a fall off the top of a slide at an adventure playground on Sunday afternoon. She was fine when I put her to bed (we’d given her the once over and everything was ok apart from a couple of big bruises) and yet I was convinced, when I woke up at about 6am, that she wasn’t fine at all and that some delayed reaction to the fall may have occurred during the night. I raced into her room and found her lying in her pink bed; eyes fluttering open, cute smile on her face and voicing an invitation for me to climb in beside her and Boris the Bear.

As the morning went on I felt tired and weary, owing to the fact that I’d had a restless night worrying about my daughter. By lunchtime, my eyes were stinging from the need to sleep and I couldn’t concentrate on much. This dragged my mood down into the doldrums and I subsequently cancelled my boot camp class at the gym, booked for 6.30pm.

Daughter Number One then arrived home from school to find me moaning on about being so tired that I couldn’t take her to the gym after all, and that I was going to have an early night instead and do absolutely nothing. She swiftly changed my mind (she was coming too, poor girl – pumping iron with a beefcake instructor barking loudly in your ear to move faster, lift heavier and stretch further is not many people’s idea of a fun evening) with a few short, sharp words, and I rebooked the arduous session.

My eldest daughter and I don’t get masses of time together these days as she has social engagements and work commitments that don’t involve her mum, and I have her energetic sister to keep entertained plus a heavy workload to manage. So it was very nice to spend some quality time together in this place of agonising physical hardship, sweating like pigs and groaning over the ridiculously heavy weights we were supposed to be lifting. We arrived home, exhausted but happy, and slumped in front of the television for a while before bed.

It wasn’t a day filled with hugely exciting things. It wasn’t a day during which momentous events took place, or even a day that presented anything new. It was a day in which I mostly felt very tired, slightly dissatisfied at times and even fed up at others.

But by the end of it, I felt blissfully happy, and I pondered why this was as I lay in the dark in my bed, aching like a bas***d from the boot camp session.

This is what I came up with: the love and deep satisfaction we derive from long term, committed relationships such as those we have with our children, partners and other family members (if we are lucky), bring us vast oceans of happiness and contentment. These relationships require effort but the pay-off is massive. Love is ultimately what we, as humans, are set up to prioritise over all other elements of our existence. It’s what leads us to procreate and continue the species. It’s what enables us to provide a secure and nurturing environment in which we can raise happy and healthy children. Love, demonstrated to those around us and to ourselves, is the prerequisite for our self-actualisation and to be truly fulfilled in life.

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There’s no magic recipe, a secret formula that will deliver a constant supply of laughs and smiles. It’s just that when we live a real existence, one that isn’t interrupted regularly by the shit that alcohol reliably brings with it, we can focus on exercising love. And when we do, we are rewarded by good, functional relationships with the people around us. Which makes us happy.

It’s not rocket science. It’s just love.

Girl on the River Tyne

A photograph emerged over the bank holiday weekend of a young woman, presumably drunk, perched on the edge of the River Tyne in Newcastle’s Quayside as she relieved herself in full view of all those in the near vicinity. Unfortunately for the ‘reveller’, as she was referred to in at least one newspaper, her actions were also caught on camera and have since been widely shared on various social media channels.

This image has been on my mind for most of today as I was called this morning and asked to comment on it for BBC Radio Newcastle. My immediate reaction was more to do with the response from the media and the people viewing the photo via the Internet rather than with the girl herself and what she was up to in the picture.

Firstly, there is a gender issue. Would people have reacted in the same hostile manner, branding this person ‘scruffy’ and ‘disgusting’, if it had been a man in the photo? Society does not regard women – and especially women who are obviously under the influence of alcohol – equally to men. Women are not supposed to act with such outlandish disregard for themselves and the thoughts and feelings of others, and being drunk is no excuse; females should remain ladylike at all times otherwise they are labelled shameful and unfeminine. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to get drunk and display tomfoolery because it is simply illustrative of ‘boys being boys’.

Secondly, there appeared to be a response to this image from some quarters that could be described as light-hearted, a trivialising of the event. A hand in front of the mouth hiding a smirk as people observed the cheeky lass from Newcastle exposing herself in broad daylight; giggling because it’s all a bit of a laugh.

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I’m not banging the temperance drum here but I don’t think it’s funny at all. This picture reminded me of myself back in the day, legless and stupid, having a ‘bloody good time’ as I drank myself into a stupor day after day and consequently found myself injured, in dangerous situations, being abused and falling way short of my potential because I was always either pissed or recovering from being pissed. Fast forward a few decades and I can see this girl in her middle years, dying of shame and self-loathing because women of ‘a certain age’ cannot joke so easily about their drunken behaviour like teenagers can. Furthermore, when I was a teenager and doing stupid, mortifying things when I was drunk, I didn’t have the humiliation of social media to cope with on top of my own deeply felt self-hatred.

Thirdly, there is major concern, I think, for the fact that this girl may well have slipped through the railings and into the River Tyne where she could have drowned (as many do in the UK each year). Not so funny if that happened.

Agreed, this girl shouldn’t have become so inebriated that she dropped her trousers and took a slash in public, and yes, she should have more dignity, and OK, whatever happened to personal responsibility? But none of us start drinking with the intention of acting shamefully and idiotically, dangerously and with no self-respect whatsoever – most people are under the illusion that alcohol will just make a social event go with a bang, inject a bit of excitement and glamour, and help loosen them up a bit. These type of outcomes are never planned or desired; rather they are the fall out from being immersed in a binge-drinking culture which, hypocritically, condones alcohol consumption on the one hand while chastising those who take things too far on the other.

Ebvory and Cocktail

When I was a little girl I had two imaginary pets, Cocktail the parrot and Ebvory the cocker spaniel (the name of the dog being derived from its monochrome colouring, ebony and ivory, and one of which I was terribly proud of inventing). Every morning when I left the house for school I would remind my grandma who lived with us to feed the animals and she dutifully did this I’m sure – when I came home in the afternoon there would always be a bowl of water on the kitchen floor for Ebvory, and a smaller one on the side for Cocktail (oh the irony of that name choice!). For quite some time I would take the dog out for walks, requesting that it sit at the edge of the road to wait for passing vehicles, and generally ensuring he behaved himself at all times. The parrot would sit on my shoulder, serene in its demeanour.

It absolutely did not occur to me that this was in any way strange behaviour. I don’t think I spent a single moment pondering the reasoning behind my make-believe pets nor did I consider that other people might regard me as something as a curiosity as I wandered about with an outstretched arm (holding the dog’s lead) and chattering away to myself (or so it would have looked to observers).

My imaginary pets gradually disappeared into the ether when I was about nine years old and I don’t recall any significant departure or goodbye ceremony. I probably didn’t need them anymore and so happily allowed them to drift back off to wherever they came from.

But several years later (twenty-six to be exact) I stopped drinking, and although Ebvory and Cocktail didn’t witness a magical resurrection, I did conjure up another imaginary being, this time in the shape of me – specifically, a (happily) non-drinking version of me.

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I had no reference point to draw upon when it came to learning to be someone who didn’t touch alcohol. I was, after all, a serial drinker, or just a drinker. However you thought of me, I was a drinker through and through. And so I found myself visualising the sober me as a way of providing myself with a goal, a target to reach – a person I wanted to grow into.

There is science to back up the notion of visualising the things we want to happen in our lives, so if you are trying to lose weight then it can be helpful to repeatedly picture yourself ordering a salad in a restaurant and refusing a pudding. If you’re trying to quit smoking then you could visualise yourself doing something else other than lighting up at a routine cigarette break. And similarly, if you’re aiming to cut out alcohol then it can really help if you imagine yourself asking for (for instance) a soft drink at the bar, or how you will inform your friends that you are no longer drinking.

I did this, but I took it to the extreme. I started to see myself as someone who focused on health in all areas of life, a person who was confident and satisfied with a life that didn’t feature booze anywhere in it. I looked to people I admired who I knew didn’t drink (or who didn’t drink much) and borrowed bits of them that I liked. I basically dreamt up a new me, and I gradually allowed myself to blend into her. I saw her in various situations, how she would handle socialising and everyday life, sober.

When we don’t like who we are as a drinker, it’s really helpful to have an alternative version of ourselves to aspire towards. This was a key piece of ammo in my fight to move on from an alcohol-fuelled existence so I thought I’d share it with you – I hope it helps.

What Does ‘Soberista’ Mean?

This post is about what being a Soberista means. The definition of this word has changed for me since I first came across it four years ago. Back then, my outlook on being a non-drinker was a little more simplistic than it is now; this is to be expected, as in 2012 I’d only been sober for about a year, now it is almost five. Time affects how you perceive things, and time changes you on the inside – you grow in strength and wisdom as a result of dealing with challenges. You learn.

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In 2012 I was very excited to first read the word ‘Soberista’. I thought it summed up beautifully all that it is to love not drinking. Its positivity shone out, and when I saw those letters together they conveyed something to me about being proud.

In the last four years, ‘Soberista’ has developed for me in its depth of meaning. Yes, it is still an optimistic take on being alcohol-free; yes, it still has nothing to do with gritted teeth and willpower; yes, it’s a way of life, and a really good way of life at that.

But then it’s all of these things too. Being a Soberista is not simply about quitting drinking. It’s not someone who is dull and doesn’t know how to live; it’s someone who recognises what life is really about. A Soberista is a brave person who’s been able to identify alcohol as being problematic for them, and set about conquering the fucking stuff. It takes guts to take a stance and stop drinking when everyone around you is downing gallons of booze. A Soberista means being willing to walk through miles of emotional crap because there’s a tiny glimmer of light at the other end that you believe is surely better than where you are now. Being a Soberista is being brutally honest with yourself, cutting through delusions and denial and drinking lies, recognising when enough is enough. And being a Soberista means sticking up for yourself and following your heart, even when you’re faced with unsupportive and unhelpful comments.

To me, ‘Soberista’ now also denotes community. I never imagined the thousands of wonderful people all coming together like a warm cloud of friendship and love who make up the Soberistas worldwide community, when I first saw that word. Truth be known, I was a bit down on humankind back in 2012.

But not anymore. Today, ‘Soberista’ means kindness, courage, love, friendship, and, as was the case right back at the beginning, it’s all about loving a life without alcohol.

My Name Is…And I’m An Alcoholic

There’s a documentary on Channel 5 tonight at 10pm called ‘My Name Is…And I’m An Alcoholic’. And I’m in it. Along with seven other people who all fell foul of the demon drink but managed to successfully pull their lives back from disaster.

This programme has had a strange effect on me. I’ve already seen the rough cut of it, and it’s profound, sad, moving. It had me in tears. It dragged me right back to a very dark place I inhabited a few years ago where I drank far too much and my perspective on the world was incredibly small, restricted to bottles of wine and trying to lose my mind. A place where I showed myself up on a regular basis, where I wasn’t a fantastic mum, somewhere where I strived to be a person I’m not.

It has been almost five years since I last drank alcohol, and I can barely equate who I am today with that depressed woman who spent half her life in a fog of booze.

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I forgave myself my alcohol-related wrongs a long time ago, because what’s the point in wasting the present wrapped up in feelings of regret over the past? But my involvement in ‘My Name Is…’ has brought me closer to my history than anything else has since I became a non-drinker.

In the making of this film, we were all interviewed in a room in London, and Mikey, the director, asked the questions: a very straightforward set-up, a set-up that brought out some honest and heart-wrenching stories. Talking to Mikey, I forgot that I was being recorded for much of it and I suspect the same is true of the other seven people in the film, as their accounts are brutally frank.

I’m glad I took part in this documentary. I think it’s vital to get our version of things out there, those of us who have struggled with addiction, and especially those of us who have managed to get sober – to offer hope and insight to other people who are fighting the fight, desperate to believe that life can get better but not quite seeing how it ever will.

There’s always been prejudice against people who are alcohol dependent. Those who can manage their intake and exercise ‘responsible drinking’ are at a loss when it comes to understanding anyone who can drink and drink and drink, with terrible repercussions, and who goes back to the bottle for more the next day. And the next. And the next. Knowing that their health is suffering and they are risking everything but still not being able to stop.

Alcohol addiction is a secret and sad state of affairs. When you are floundering in the thick of it, you become wonderful at disguising it. And afterwards, as you recover, you may well prefer to keep your struggles private, and who could blame you, when one considers the stigma that is rife in our society with regards to ‘problem drinkers’?

So, I am pleased I took part in this programme, even though it has upset my internal apple cart a little. I am full of admiration for the other seven who feature in it; they’re a brave bunch of fighters who have my utter and total respect.

One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor…

Flicking through a magazine the other day, I came across a feature entitled, ‘10 Ways to Disguise a Hangover’. The subtitle read as follows; ‘One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor…from hiccup to beauty queen get-up the morning after the night before’. The content consisted of a number of beauty products, ranging from Christian Dior Capture Totale Le Serum Yeux (£77 if you’re interested), Kerastase Chronologiste Perfume Oil (£39), Foreo IRIS Illuminating Eye Massager (£99) and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Compact (at a rather more affordable £20) – a grand total of £235 for a bunch of lotions and potions that will allegedly diminish the physical side effects of over drinking.

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Hmm. A few things struck me about this article (irresponsible, lazy journalism, predictable to name a few), but the overriding thought I had after glancing through it was this; we are routinely fed one great big fu**er of a lie when it comes to drinking, and specifically, when it comes to excessive drinking.

Alcohol is a toxin. And if you are downing so much of the stuff that you’re hitting the deck (as per the subtitle of the aforementioned article) then you’re really damaging yourself. And yet, we (as a society) seem to have this attitude towards booze that is so hypocritical, ethereal and hard to pin down. It’s not OK to be a drunk – you know that, right? Drunks are bad. But! It’s really fine to drink lots of tequila at a New Year’s Eve gig, fall over, and suffer an almighty hangover the following day…just so long as you disguise the fact with a load of high end products. Confusing, no? Just where is the line drawn?

If I saw a grown adult at a party (NYE or not) drink so much that she fell to the ground, I would find that pretty upsetting. It would remind me of myself a few years ago, when I would drink to excess because I didn’t like myself much and had no confidence in social situations. I would conclude that this person was either a) out of control when it came to drinking and had a dependency upon booze, or b) really depressed about something and was deliberately getting hammered because she wanted to block it all out. Either way, I wouldn’t be laughing.

Then again, if everyone stuck to the recommended guidelines and consumed just one or two drinks at any one sitting, there would be no cause for an article such as this to be written, one that’s basically flogging a load of expensive beauty products and fills a couple of pages of a magazine.

The images on the pages depict sexy, slim and glamorous women, sipping Prosecco in their beautiful designer clothes. They don’t portray a person that represents me as a drinker, staggering about in a pub, scanning the room for half-finished drinks that people have left, slightly overweight due to all those booze calories, flushed skin and eyes that reveal a haunted, unhappy soul hiding beneath the veneer of false, alcohol-induced confidence. No, the women in the magazine are in control, and confident, and stylish. So where, then, are the ones who are collapsing after too much tequila, who might be in need of all those lovely magic potions the next day?

These sorts of articles are, to employ the use of a technical word, crap. They sell a lifestyle that doesn’t exist. They make us think we can be something that is a fantasy – the heavy drinker who cares not; who does not invite the criticism or judgment from those around her; who doesn’t let loved ones down repeatedly because of her alcohol dependency; who doesn’t look like shit because she drinks too much and her poor liver is crying out for a rest.

Approach these features with caution – and, as we venture forwards into a new year, remember that most of the cultural messages regarding alcohol that we’re subjected to are motivated by money, one way or another.

When you quit drinking you find CLARITY…

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Clearheaded. Day after day, without interruption, free from fog and confusion: this is my experience of living without alcohol. I think straight because mind-altering substances of any kind no longer hamper my thoughts. I just think. Clearly. When I drank, I spent so much of my time simply treading water, waiting, drifting, as I looked forward to feeling well again, or to drinking some more. I wished my life away, dragged down by the physical and mental weight of hangovers. So yes, this is what it is to be alcohol-free – clearheaded. You are able to exist as you are, unencumbered by any negativity brought about by poisoning your mind and body with ethanol. It’s freedom.

Love. If you’re addicted to something, it prevents you from loving anything else or anyone fully. How can you give your heart completely to another human being when a proportion of it already belongs to a substance? Answer: you can’t. I cherry-picked my relationships as a drinker, based on whether a potential boyfriend demonstrated a tolerance for my proclivity for heavy alcohol consumption. Specifically, he had to be a heavy drinker too, which, of course, nicely disguised my own shortcomings in this area. But since I became alcohol-free, I’ve got my head around what love really is. And I know that I never had it when I drank; I had nothing that resembled love at all.

 Appreciation. When you’re running from yourself, either drunk or with an almighty hangover, and you hate every part of what you are, inside and out, there’s no room to notice the world around you. I internalised everything when I drank, I turned in on myself and expended all my energy thinking about me, and the terrible things I did, and the current mess I’d landed myself in, and the bad hand that life had seemingly dealt me. I rarely took in a beautiful sunset, or the sound of a bird chirruping on a branch, or the friendly smile of a passing stranger. I was locked inside my own dark world, and I had neither the inclination nor the headspace to absorb my surroundings. Without alcohol, I appreciate, and I see, and I care.

 Remould. You’re never fixed. As a human, you possess an immense ability to rework yourself. All you need to do is to start putting into practise new habits and small changes to how you lead your day-to-day life. When you stare into the mirror and hate what is looking back, just remember that it doesn’t need to end there. It’s never end game. There is always tomorrow. For years, I suffered from depression, anxiety and panic attacks –nowadays, I’m fine. I removed the alcohol and the rest took care of itself. It is always possible to remould.

 Instinctive. One of the best things about being a non-drinker for me is that I now completely trust my instincts. I rely on my gut feelings to help me navigate my way through life, and I’ve not yet been let down by this as a strategy. When I drank, I often had my head in the clouds – life was part reality, part fantasy, and I found it difficult to separate the two. It’s a different story now. My feet are planted firmly on the ground, I don’t take any shit off anyone, and I know when I’ve taken a wrong turn and redirect myself back to where I want to be. Life seems easy now, but in the old days it was a constant challenge and I regularly felt out of my depth.

 True to yourself. It sounds like a cliché, but I found myself when I stopped drinking. I was lost as a drinker, had no idea of who I was or what I wanted out of my life. Or of what I was capable of. Or of the sort of people I wanted to spend time with. I flipped from this idea to that, sporadically focusing on various projects that never got finished. And then, with spectacular ease, my vision of the person I was and what life was about, and how I should spend my time on earth, all magically became apparent. It didn’t happen overnight but within a few months of becoming a non-drinker, there it was – clarification of me, and of my life.

 You. You matter. I matter. We all matter. Our happiness counts. We deserve to live a life that is true to who we are, and one in which we fulfil our potential. Self-compassion can be impossible to exercise when we are frequently filled with self-hatred, when we turn away from our own reflection and can’t sleep at night because we can’t stand what we have become… and yet, self-esteem can and does return when you stop doing things when you’re pissed that you later bitterly regret. And when you have a bit of self-esteem, you don’t want to damage yourself quite so much. Your dignity begins to emerge again from wherever it’s been hiding, swallowed up by oceans of wine. You come back to the fore. You start to matter again.

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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.