Friday, 5 January 2018

The first three things I learnt after giving up alcohol

Today is my fifth alcohol free day and the idea of having a drink hasn’t crossed my mind.  However, I have made a few observations about my new booze-free lifestyle.

The first is that I have had four absolutely terrible night’s sleep.  My brain has been totally preoccupied with planning life without alcohol and won’t shut down.  The only positive to the sleep deprivation is that it has given me plenty of time to read about sobriety.  For anyone considering going alcohol free, I highly recommend reading Jason Vale’s ‘Kick the Drink Easily’, which is written in a similar style to Allen Carr’s ‘Easy Way to Stop Smoking’ and shatters many conceptions about drinking and has certainly helped me to alter how I see alcohol and its role in my life.  I have also read a book by Clare Pooley, an ex-colleague from London advertising days, called ‘The Sober Diaries’ and I’m half way through ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ by Catherine Grey.  Both are well written and provide helpful advice framed in honest and often witty accounts of their journey to sobriety.  Knowing others have paved the way and their lives have improved immeasurably as a result is reassuring.

Apart from the lack of sleep I have noticed the varying responses I have had to my decision to give up drinking.  Mostly I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the tidal wave of support I’ve received since publishing my ‘Goodbye to Alcohol’ letter – thank you!  However, I have also had comments of dismay, inferring that I am now confined to a life as a social hermit missing out on all the fun.  Even my husband alluded to this by remarking that by going alcohol free we would spend less time together.  This is undoubtedly true in that we will spend less late night drunk time together when I would invariably speak a load of bollocks, get aggressive, possibly fall over and not remember much of it in the morning, so I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing!

Having read my letter, another friend asked me ‘Are you an alcoholic?’. This reaction is apparently fairly typical when people announce they are quitting drinking.  This is highlighted in Jason Vale’s ‘Kick the Drink Easily’ where he states:

“We have been conditioned to believe that you are either a ‘normal’ drinker or that you have lost control and are an ‘alcoholic.’ As a result, people who have finally woken up to the fact that they are not in control have to keep quiet about it for fear of being made an outcast. If they are brave enough to voice a desire to stop drinking, they are called alcoholics which suggests they have an incurable disease and would have to ‘give up’ drinking forever. This is an unwelcome and frightening thought for anybody who drinks. The truth is that the vast majority of people are never in genuine control of their alcohol intake.”

In short, I believe that I am alcohol dependent, alcohol often controls me and I want to change that.

My final observation occurred on my way to work this morning.  I bumped into a bloke I met in a bar a while back when I was watching rugby and knocking back vats of red wine.  Having not seen him for some time he suggested that my husband and I met up with him for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents Club and my knee-jerk response was an apologetic ‘Oh no, I’m sorry, I don’t drink any more’.  He looked genuinely surprised and said ‘You don’t have to drink alcohol.  I don’t care what you drink!’  How fucked up is it that I felt the need to apologise for not drinking and assumed that someone wouldn’t want to meet me if I wasn't quaffing alcohol?  It’s obvious I still have some way to go to fully accepting this new way of life.

So, overall what I have learnt over the last five days is:
  1. Not sleeping is really irritating but it is possible to use the time productively.
  2. By being honest and open you quickly find you have an army of supporters and that you are absolutely not alone... and that is just the best feeling!
  3. I’m not going to be apologetic for not drinking.  I’m going to be proud.  This is my new normal.

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