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A Sober Hangover

The confronting aftermath of a sober social.

The only me I have ever known is loud, confident and social. But since giving up booze I’ve realised all those traits were due to the fact I was, well…. pissed.

It was the booze that was turning up the volume, giving me a backbone and forcing me to be the life and soul of the party.

It was booze that turned me into an extrovert.

You'd think all that outlandish, laddette style behaviour would just automatically dissolve once the wine was off the menu? but for me there has been a weird side effect that comes from giving up booze, one which I could not have ever predicted.

When I go out - I still pretend to be that person.

I still pretend to be drunk.


It‘s awful.

I've become sober drunk person and I can’t shake it off!

I tell jokes, I dance, chat to people. I do all the things I would have done drunk (apart from sleep with strangers or vomit in Taxis) without a sip of alcohol.

I’m not sure why I do this, perhaps I’ve got something to prove?

‘Look world, sober isn’t boring, just look how damn fabulous I still am!’

Or perhaps I just don't know who I am without ethanol pumping around in my blood stream.

So I go to my default personality.

I switch her on in times of need, when socialising is too difficult and the real me can't cope.

Inevitable events pop up in my in box or appear on my fb profile mean I‘m forced, on to step out of my comfort zone and put on the show, the one that was expected of me as a drinker. I automatically resume the facade, slip into the roll that has become as ingrained as the liqueur itself.

I mean, I don't want my friends to think I'm dull just because I no longer whack shots down my throat at every opportunity. I want to show them I can still party. Still be fun.

This bizarre sober/drunk show is my people pleasing ways coming to the fore. When I quit I promised myself to bury these characteristics along with my blackouts. But they've snuck up on me, crept back into my social persona.

The truth is, when I’m out, dancing and smiling - I would rather be at home watching gritty British crime dramas whilst sipping tea and stuffing my cake hole with sugary snacks. I’d rather be tucked up with a book or a heart wrenching podcast, or in fact, doing nothing at all.

What sober has done is make me content in my own company.

Therefore, staying at home is appealing now.

I don’t have anything to prove and it's liberating.

Sobriety has forced me to nurture the introvert and morphed me into someone that can’t really be arsed to go out and be the entertainer or the bringer of joy.

Being the one solely responsible for fun…was and still is fucking draining.

This pretence, the fake smile and extrovert behaviour, takes up a lot of energy. some days I can’t face myself, I can’t bring out the social butterfly and I hide. I scroll past the invites and ignore the messages.

But, unfortunately being sociable is human nature. It’s something that, if we don’t get enough of, we wilt. Meeting friends and having relationships is like rain to a flower. So although it's hard, I still go out and get wet!

I click 'Going' and make promises to myself as I hop on the bus into town.

‘Everyone else’s fun is not your responsibility Vicky.’

‘Just relax and don’t take on the expectations of others.’

'Just relax for fucks sake!'

But before anyone has said ‘Fizzy water’ I’m reeling off crude jokes to get the hoards approval.

I don’t want to do it, but I don’t know who I am now. I’ve posed as her, the drunk girl, for so long that I don’t know who else to be.

I interact as the person I was; the piss head with the red wine teeth, the funny one that can organise lock-ins.

I’m still pretending to be her even though I am not her at all.

It’s like an old acquaintance seeps through my skin and takes over my body in social circumstances and the real me oozes out of the bottom of my Birkenstocks.

Sober hangovers are nothing like the boozy ones.

They start earlier.

And my way of dealing with the rawness of it is to pretend I’m ok with it.

If you saw me, eating at a restaurant with friends or leaning on a bar with my faithful 0.0 Beer you’d nudge your companion and go,

‘Wow, look at her, she is alcohol free and is having just as much fun as everyone else.’

And that’s the impression I’m portraying. the one I want you to see. But inside I’m struggling.

I’m giving the world what they want and doing so means I’m pushing who I am aside like an angry bouncer. It’s frustrating, all I want is to be the sober me and I can’t reach her because I worried the crowd might boo her off the stage or kick her out of the VIP lounge.

So I grit my teeth and act.

When I’m at a pub or a bar with new faces and old mates I find each conversation is long and intense. I’m so conscious of myself, so aware of every person and every movement in the room. My jaw aches. Socialising without alcohol, is like my body is plugged into the mains, attached to an amplifier that’s controlling the sound of the room. I can hear clearly and it’s loud. I hear drinks being poured and glasses clinking. People shouting, slurring and slurping.

I can see everything too, the lines on people’s faces, their pulses beating in neck veins. Spit in the corners of mouths, sweat running down temples My senses are on high alert, no longer numbed out by wines and shots.

It is an all-encompassing orchestra of chaos.

Before, on a night out, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if the guy I’d been chatting to for 30 minutes had a beard or was wearing a sombrero. I was not mindful of my surrounding when drunk. People, places, sounds and tastes drifted from me when over inebriated. Nothing had structure or shape. My vision was blurred like a yeti in a fading photograph and nothing felt real.

Sobriety means the lights have been switched on and I’m able to see. I have to soak up the atmosphere and I have to pretend to like it.

Sober hangovers last thoughout the entire evening and then multiply as the evening wears on. By the time I bid my mates farewell with awkward cheek kisses, Anxiety is peeking. The self-awareness skulking at the back of my brain is now scraping its fingernails down the black board inside my brain.

As I sit at a cold bus stop, I feel my shoulders start to stiffen and my heart palpitates, banging against my chest. It’s as if I’ve knocked back five red bull and vodkas. I have actual physical side effects from not drinking.

Then the mental attack,

Why did I say that?

What did I look like?

Does everyone hate me now?

The questions tumble around inside my head like ice cubes in a whisky glass.

All of this combined make me feel anxious, raw and a little bit sad.

It’s exactly how I felt after drinking.

Except nowadays it’s not the alcohol causing my mental equilibrium to faulter,

It’s me.

The sober hangover is not a symptom of sobriety I could have ever predicted. I thought I would learn to be a new version of me, one that was just happy being herself, yet even thought I am changed,

I still find socialising without alcohol extremely confronting.

I wish I could learn how to be the introvert and it be less painful.

There are only two options to cure this problem and beat the sober hangovers.

1. Become a hermit, live in a cave (maybe with a Yeti) and never go out again.

2. Or, keep on feeling uncomfortable in order to save my social life.

At the moment I’m opting for number two. I have to. Partly because I don’t know anyone with a free cave right now and partly because I know, deep down underneath all the anxiety that stands alongside sober socials, I want to be able to go out and have a genuine good time alcohol-free.

I’m guessing, like anything, practice makes perfect and unlike the booze fuelled hangovers of my past, sober hangovers will dry up with the help of a little self-love, a lot of deep breaths, a few ‘chins up old girls’ and a lot of ‘Now - let’s just get the fuck on with its.’

So, I keep on going. Even though I find it draining.

I keep going.

And going.

And going.

In the hope that I can change.

In the hope I can blossom into a happy, sober socialite….

A person with no fear, no self-doubt….

A person with no hangovers at all.

Victoria Vanstone Writer/Alcohol-Free Living Advocate, Drunk Mummy Sober Mummy Host of The Sober Awkward Podcast - Facebook Group - Drunk Mummy Sober Mummy - The Group

Me in my happy sober place....on my own in a cafe! All Hangovers Averted.

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Reading this was literally like being inside my own head - what a relief to know that I’m not the only one that feels like this! Thank you, thank you for your raw honesty and vulnerability - it really makes the world of difference Xxx


I loved your piece on the sober hangover. I stopped drinking two years ago. We’ll, actually, leukaemia stopped me. Overnight. I’m out the other end of it now after a two year battle, Chemo, months of isolation in a filtered hospital room I couldn’t leave and full English stem cell transplant that also tried to kill me. But now I’m out and about, the question mark hanging over the social aspect is beginning to creep in. How will I cope on a night out when all around me are reeling?

I did a night out in London with friends and laughed out loud when I got back to the hotel room at 2am thinking, “Wow, what a gorgeous room.…

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