Giving up booze can sometimes feel like a path of solitude. My choice to no longer get pissed means I don’t fancy going out as much. I spend more time alone.
Hanging out in clubs, bars and kebab shops (or prison cells – but that’s another story!) isn’t quite as appealing when sober. The noise pumping from speakers seems louder than ever before, half-cut revelers at the bar pushing me out of the way aggrevate me, friends getting too close and repeating the same old stories with spit in the corners of their mouths gets exasperating. It wasn’t just everybody else or music making me feel self-aware, it was me, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin when trying to sober socialize. Attempting conversations was awkward, my entire personality got soaked up into a soggy beer mat and my ability to make a joke, faltered. My words didn’t make sense and my timing was off. I just wasn’t the same person anymore.
In fact, being out and being sober felt so overwhelming that I nearly caved a few times, I nearly had my elbow twisted and gave into a pint of Stella.
Going out is confronting, it reminds me of who I was and who I don’t want to be and honestly, the fake smile that hides my inner torment is cracking, my jaw is aching. I’m bored of pretending to enjoy being somewhere I don’t want to be, just to fit in. I’m bored of pretending I’m still that version of me.
The time has come to be truthful and admit - I am not who I was and being in a bar surrounded by booze and the calamity that stumbles shoulder to shoulder alongside it, is not how I want to have fun.
I’ve discovered this party girl doesn’t mind the quiet, in fact life without chaos, loud music and vomit, is better in every way.
Sobriety has forced me to look outside of that ‘old me fun’ and redefine what fun is.
I’ve had to uncover new ways of connecting with the world beyond my front room.
So, for those of you that are no longer enjoying the same sort of fun that you used to here is a little list of what I do instead….
1. Sober Instagram Account
One of the best things I did when I first became sober was to create a Sober Instagram Account, a separate account to my private one. I created a persona (@drunkmummysobermummy) and then searched for sober people and followed every sobriety account I could. Doing this has been one of the most surprisingly helpful tools on this often-uncomfortable journey.
If I’m feeling bored or alone, I can scroll through and be uplifted by stories, quotes and photos from people all over the world that are on the same path. It is so inspiring to find this online community of like-minded people who are not afraid to share their struggles and their wins.
2. Sober Meet-Up Groups
Hanging out with people that are going through the same changes is essential to keep treading this path. There are loads of groups out there, even the virtual ones can be a huge support. Try finding some Facebook groups, meetups, regular zoom groups and even walking groups. Anything where you get out and can feel comfortable and accepted. Finding new friends doesn’t mean you still can’t be friends with your old ones, you just have to be sure you make time for both. I don’t think I would have stayed sober if I hadn’t met other women like me. Sharing and getting advice has kept my head above water. Going for a beach walk and talk, knowing someone gets me, has been the key to staying on track.
Try www.untoxicated.com.au, The Sober Social for Sober Curious Women, Sober Curious, Sober Tribe Australia, Sober Momma’s and Club Soda Uk. There’s an endless amount of Facebook pages and support groups for people to join.
3. Finding New Hobbies
I started pottery and boxing. But have sober friends that have started knitting and running. Whatever works! Sobriety is an opportunity. You’re not giving stuff up, you’re actually opening up a whole new chapter of your life. It’s time to do all those things you’ve always wanted. You have more time now, time that was preoccupied with booze is now available. Join art classes, swim more, join the gym, replace all the bad stuff you were putting in your body with healthy things and it’s a great way to meet new people, make new relationships that are not based around alcohol. I love that my pottery friends, or boxing buddies don’t know me as a boozer, it means they get to know the real me and being accepted by people as a sober person feels like a very satisfying win every time. It means my new friends have no expectations of me and when in the early stages of sobriety …. that is a huge relief.
Even if you’re not the best writer in the world, logging how you’re feeling in moments of boredom and anxiety is a great way of letting off some steam, be it in a blog, a diary or on the back of your hand, registering a feeling can sometimes be enough to escape it. I started writing a diary the day I got sober. I wanted to remember how I felt and read back at how far I’d come. My diary became a sort of companion that came with me everywhere, I jotted all my inner most worries and thoughts in there. Writing for me was as good as therapy (but get that too!) it meant I was able to see my faults and progressions clearly, put everything in order and gain some understanding of my own behaviors. Making notes can be a good distraction from old habits and having to put together sentences filled with emotions can fill the void where alcohol resided.
5. Finding Safe Places
Don’t avoid going out in the evening forever, learning how you fit in to this whole new world means trying to find what works. I made the mistake of trying to go to all the same places I went to as a drinker when I first got sober, thinking I’d just be able to carry on, but without a glass of wine in my hand. The problem with that was there were the same people there with certain expectations of me and that just made me want to get wasted. I associated my old haunts with alcohol, so it felt like I was going backwards not stepping into a new lifestyle. In sobriety you have to feel like you’re moving forward. So, even though going out triggered me, I kept going out until I found places that suited me, new restaurants with a good mocktail lists, quieter bars where I was able to have more meaningful interactions and I even went out earlier so not to be confronted by the masses. I tip toed my way around a social life until I found places that felt easy. It took time, and I often dreaded the thought of going, but the more I stepped out of my comfort zone and into the world of sober socializing, the more I enjoyed it.
6. Finding Safe People
Who you hang out with (sober groups aside) is going to affect how you feel. So, avoid idiots. It really is that simple. But unfortunately, there are some people you can’t avoid, close friends and family might be defensive and even confrontational over your choice to no longer partake in a tipple. You just have to keep showing up and keep proving this is something you’re in for the long run. I think eventually they will have to accept you are no longer a drinker. I find that now that people know I don’t drink they leave me alone. My biggest sobriety surprise was just how supportive everyone turned out to be (even the idiots!). people like hanging out with non-drinkers because it means they won’t have a hangover in the morning and being a good influence on people instead of a partner in crime, feels amazing.
7. Learning to be comfortable in your own company.
Redefining loneliness and being happy in your own company means you should be able to experience a true sense of peace. I used to hate being on my own, my mind worked overtime, and I worried about things I’d said and done, anxiety filled my boots after drinking alcohol and any solo time meant my brain skipped directly irrationally to worst case scenarios. Now, if I’m alone I’m happy to sit and absorb the silence, appreciate the world around be and be thankful for my life. Sure, my mind still prattles on in the background trying to steer my brain towards negativity but the more I practice being with myself the more comfortable I am. I am not a spiritual person, but I guess being with oneself and sitting in that space of tranquility is a sort of meditation. An acceptance of the self. (I think perhaps this is something I need to try. Where’s Russell Brand when you need him?) So, trying to feel grateful rather than feel lonely will help make a sober life more bearable. I mean hug a tree if it makes you feel less lonely...it's worth a try!
Embracing being socially sober and soberly alone will be one of the toughest challenges on this alcohol -free escapade. It will take time. Learning to be this brand new you will mean you have to go out, feel the awkward and do it anyway! Then do it again and again until your jokes make people laugh, and your fake smile becomes genuine.
So, please don't be lonely in sobriety, reach out and find your sober community, find kindred spirits and give old friends the opportunity to get to know the new you, if you keep at it the thought of drinking will disappear into the crowd.
Please Listen to my new podcast ‘Sober Awkward’ in which my mate Lucy and I discuss everything awkward about sobriety. It’s available on your favourite podcast platform or you can listen via my website.
Pic - Me, attempting some alone time in the storm yesterday.