Like many sober curious souls, I have attempted sobriety countless times over my life-sucking thirty-year drinking escapade. Now, sitting proudly at Day 120, I’m pleased to say I am riding on the crest of my “best attempt EVER”.
But what a journey it has been!
Parts that I was expecting to be nail-bitingly hard were bizarrely easy, whilst other parts I assumed would be easy, were desperately difficult.
Everyone’s journey to sobriety is unique, but for me it has been so full of surprises that I’d like to share what I’ve learnt to help others also taking the unconventional yet highly rewarding alcohol-free path.
1.THE POWER OF A REPLACEMENT
The simple action of sipping (ok swigging) on a glass of wine had become as natural as breathing for me. One of my biggest issues was: What the hell do I do instead?
In my case, it was … don’t laugh … knitting!
Such a simple, monotonous task which I could do without thinking. It kept my hands busy and relieved the need to reach for that ominous and ever-present glass.
Fact: Knitting is waaaaay healthier than drinking.
People may laugh but it was the saviour I needed in the first few weeks and beyond. And I’d rather have a lifetime of handmade knitwear than a lifetime of hangovers.
2.THE “JUST ONE THING” RULE
I’ve met a few peeps like me, you know, addicts. We tend to be extremists with the “all or nothing” mentality.
Previously, when I tried to give up the booze, it has been accompanied by grand plans such as going to the gym daily, changing diets and generally reinventing myself.
Don’t do this!
When you are giving up drink you need to focus on just one thing: DO NOT PUT A DRINK TO YOUR LIPS.
If it means you have to hide under the doona for the day, eat a litre of ice cream or knit a scarf that reaches from here to Timbuktu, do that instead. Just don’t drink.
3.PEOPLE CAN SURPRISE YOU
For some, getting is sober is a very private thing, and I totally get this. However, what I would say is to share your grog goals with those close to you.
I did this and was pleasantly surprised.
I have drinking friends who I (stupidly) thought wouldn’t want to hang out with me anymore and I would be reduced to leper status.
Not so, people still invite me places. And get this: Some even say they like having me there as having a non-drinking friend on the scene stopped them getting too plastered.
Now that was truly something I didn’t see coming.
4.DRINKING DREAMS MAY HAUNT YOU
In past endeavours of sobriety, I have experienced drinking dreams.
For me, they loosely involve me accidently getting wasted, doing something outrageous and upsetting everyone, followed by a mother-of-all hangovers and crippling anxiety. In fact, they are so like the reality of my drinking days, it’s scary.
Well, 120 days in and these little delights still fill my nights.
Just sayin’ … be ready.
5.I DO HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE!
My drinking started as social but following having children and then becoming a single mother, it became more introvert and sinister.
I found myself turning down invites because I was concerned (and rightly so) of drinking too much and shaming myself in the public. Not only that, I could drink waaaaay more at home.
Since stopping drinking, my social life has unexpectedly blossomed.
I can accept invites knowing that I can have a nice lunch/dinner/catch-up without spending too much money and trying to shag the bartender. I make it home with my memory and my dignity intact.
As much as I cringe to admit it, I think people are more comfortable to go out with me now, knowing I won’t fall over in the bar or fall into bed with an unsuitable suitor.
6.100 IS JUST A NUMBER
For me, not drinking is a new life-style choice, but I did focus on getting to 100 days.
And this was kinda a mistake.
It was like I expected something special to magically happen on that 100-day mark. And it didn’t. No marching bands, no fireworks, no congratulatory writing in the sky.
In fact, on that day I was struggling and will admit I felt very hard done by indeed.
For me days 1-60 were easy and from there to 100 days was like festering in hell. Who would’ve thought that would be the case?
Never assume what the journey will be like based on other people’s experiences. Tread your own path.
7.HOW TO JUST “SIT WITH IT”
OK, so those festering in hell days were the THE WORST.
But not in the way I had expected.
For me, the fiery pits of hell came in the form of boredom which I can sum up precisely with three words: Is this it?
When I put my concerns to my trusted group of allies on the Sober Circle, I was told to “sit with it”. And that is what I did.
I am so used to pouring a drink for every feeling or emotion that flits within me that I had the need to do something ... anything. Instead, I just had to let all those feelings flow through me. Easy? Noooooo. Earth-shatteringly surreal in a wonderfully liberating way? YES.
8.A BLANK CANVAS IS NOT DULL
If you have drunk as much as me for as long as me, alcohol can become your identity.
Stopping drinking was great at first. No hangovers, good sleep, no dry vomit to scrub of the toilet bowl. But after the novelty wears-off what are you left with?
In my case, it honestly felt like absolutely nothing.
I felt like a blank canvas. I was unsure what I liked to eat, what to feel, what to do. For the first time in my life, I had spare time … but it was like a foreign and frightening commodity that, in the past, was consumed with all-encompassing hangover recovery.
It took me a while to see that a blank canvas is actually incredibly exciting. I have the rest of my life to fill it with whatever I wish. The one thing I do know: It will definitely not have anything to do with poison in posh bottle.
9.HOW RELATABLE FRIENDS ARE LIFE-CHANGING
My biggest wish for as long as I can remember has been to get sober. The more I tried and failed, the more I hated myself and the more I drank.
Then one day, through my work I met Victoria (from this blog!) and in her, I saw me. I saw a vibrant, crazy, life-loving woman who one day had enough of drinking and gave it up. The revelation for me was that she was STILL vibrant, crazy and life-loving.
I learned from Victoria that getting sober took away our worst bits and left behind the best bits. We have partied hard and drunk enough for many football teams several times over. We have outrageous stories we both relate to and belly-laugh over, but we now understand they are bittersweet because those drunken antics of our past disguised a sinister spiral into addition.
But they are our stories, and we’ll keep telling them. Why? Because they are so damn funny!
Finding people such as Victoria and the Social Sober group was an absolute game-changer for me.
10.BEING SOBER IS ACTUALLY REALLY COOL
Yes, it is!
What is cooler than feeling good in morning? What is more meaningful than being present for my kids? What is more empowering than giving myself the gift of sobriety … something I honestly didn’t believe was possible.
And what makes it cooler still is the fact that whether you are sober or sober curious you have chosen not to conform, to stand strong and to be different amongst the crowd. Coolest thing EVER.
I no longer need a drink to fit in, to be funny, to feel alive. I am free.
And nothing, I repeat NOTHING is cooler than that.
Lucy Good is the founder of Beanstalk, an online platform that inspires and supports Australian single mothers with a range of resources and a large interactive, inclusive community.
Her mission is to help single mums navigate the maze of separation and divorce, and to confidently rebuild and embrace their new path in life. As well as having a blog and a podcast series, she is the creator of the “You’ve Got This” Single Mum eCourse which has already been downloaded and loved by 1.5K+ single mothers. She has appeared several times on national television, speaks regularly on national and local radio and writes articles for online and print parenting, news, lifestyle and business communities.