Well there it is.
My sober day counter reads 365 days and I have achieved my initial goal of giving up alcohol for a calendar year.
I have done so many things that I never thought I would without the crutch of alcohol. I have been on camping holidays, travelled through not one but two of the world’s most famous wine regions, attended 6 weddings, a rave and given 3 speeches. That is to name just a few!
I have also turned down countless offers of free drinks (even champagne!) and not once have I cheated despite my friends’ reassurances that ‘Vic never needs to find out!’.
I have learnt a lot but what I would love to do is narrow it down into 3 main lessons!
Before I do, let me emphasise the fact that these are coming from the point of view of somebody who gave up alcohol without having a prior problem or addiction to it. I am fully aware of the fortune I have in approaching sobriety in this way. And the 3 lessons below might be wildly different to those that have given up with a prior drinking habit.
The least interesting thing about going sober is not drinking alcohol.
You might have had to read that a few times for it to make sense. What I mean by that is going sober is mainly my choosing a non-alcoholic drink on the supermarket shelf or the bar where I used to choose an alcoholic one.
There is nothing too interesting in that. Where the real interest lies is how this changes you as a person. It is my belief that we all drink alcohol, to a certain extent, to cover up an insecurity. ‘I am funnier after a drink’, ‘I dance better after a couple of shots’, ‘I am sexier after a wine or two’. Well, what is the problem with that - you might ask? Nothing really. Most people carry on doing this, covering up insecurities with alcohol most of their life.
I am not here to judge. I was one of them for almost 20 years! But, what I have found fascinating is facing up to these insecurities head on. Proving to yourself over and over again that you can still be funny, dance or be sexy without alcohol. I feel as if giving up alcohol has improved me as a human. I have grown in confidence and through doing it I hope I have shown others that it is possible too.
There are more sober people out there than you think!
Other than Vic, Lucy and pregnant women I did not know a single person who was sober when I first gave up. Or so I thought. How wrong I was. There is an enormous sober community out there. They are vocal, they are fun and they are keen to get to know you! I have met lots through Cuppa, had meet-ups during my trip to London and have found more and more of my friends giving it a go than I could have imagined.
It turns out, lots of people are giving up alcohol whether they had a problem with it before or not. Although I was lucky enough to never experience anxiety on a hangover, loads of my friends do and have reached out to me to tell me they want to give sobriety a crack. This sober community plays two important roles. The first is that it makes you feel less alone. Less like you are a ‘weirdo’ that doesn’t drink alcohol anymore.
They become the support structure that you might not have at home. Secondly, they are a wealth of information. Tap into it. They have felt like you do. They have been sober longer than you. They may have relapsed more than once and their kind words can be exactly what you need to help you start all over again.
I can honestly say some of the members I have come across on the Cuppa community are the most supportive people you can ever dream of meeting.
Sobriety gives you the gift of time.
Oh my god are there more hours in the day that I thought! When alcohol is taken off the menu, you will not believe the amount of hours you get back. Hours you would have spent thinking of hotel, hours you spent in the pub or hours you spent hungover on the couch. (Or throwing up down a loo in my case!).
Holidays have never felt so long without alcohol. I am around for my young child and wife more than I could have dreamt and you will not believe what it will do for your career or the hobbies you wanted-to-get-into-but-never-had-time-for. Vic literally starting writing, began the Sober Awkward podcast, wrote a book and has a publishing deal for another! Slightly less impressively, I achieved a lifetime goal of presenting my first radio show, am training to become a breathwork instructor and have gone from the worst imaginable cook to (self labelled) Hamie Oliver.
You will not believe what you can achieve once you give up alcohol for an extended period.
I spend a lot of my time writing, editing and working on this podcast and I know from some of the messages that we receive that it is making a difference. Sobriety hasn’t just become a challenge for me – it has become one of the best things that I am doing in my life to make the world a better place.
If you are a drinker reading this, I am not going to tell to get sober. My job is not to guilt trip anyone into changing their ways. I would instead invite them to give it a go. I have and I can barely believe the difference it has made!
You don’t have to have a problem with alcohol to reap the benefits and although addiction is an incredibly serious subject – sobriety does not have to be. We try and make it as fun as possible on the podcast and encourage anyone to do the same!
Before I sign off, allow me to say three quick thank yous. Firstly, to anyone that has reached out to show their support for the podcast. I was as nervous as you probably were to replace Lucy and hope that I have done her and all of our listeners proud by contributing each and every week.
Secondly, to my wife Liz for supporting me at every stage. She lost her main drinking partner when I gave up (but gained a taxi driver so it ain’t all bad!). Finally to Vic, without whom I would not be sober, the podcast wouldn’t exist and the Cuppa community would never have been formed. Her sobriety journey inspires as much as it makes us all laugh. Long may it continue!
P.S - Any good blog post needs a little balance so let me state two slight grievances of sober life too.
Firstly, I still get hangovers. I am not sure if this is to do with social fatigue, AF drinks or just the natural exhaustion of having a young child but they suck.
Secondly, drunk people are way more annoying when you are sober.
Oh, and of course, it can be a little awkward. The only way to beat that is to think about our podcast’s slogan: