Are you sober curious? 16 things I’ve learnt from 100 days of not drinking
I decided a while ago to stop drinking for an undeclared period of time.
In the beginning, I didn’t set a target on the number of days of planned abstinence as even though I thought I had a pretty normal attitude towards alcohol I wasn’t confident I could last out thirty days or even seven days let alone the one hundred days and still counting that I’m at now.
I had been aware for a long time that there was a part of me, a secret, under the radar part of me, that looked forward far too eagerly to the glass of wine I poured for myself most evenings as I set about preparing dinner for my husband and me.
Without consciously acknowledging it I’d somehow come to expect and anticipate marking the end of my working day and the beginning of an evening’s relaxation by winding down with a glass of wine in my hand.
There were odd days in the week when I didn’t drink at all but those days were in short supply and not drinking hadn’t been the norm for me for a long time. It was easy to justify to myself what I considered was my light-weight drinking habit as I know so many of my women friends who drink so much more than me. I also know that’s a self-deluding game to play.
There were rarer but still fabulously enjoyable nights out with friends when I’ve drunk too much and felt ill or even been sick from alcohol.
Opportunities for excess were certainly more common in my twenties and thirties than they are nowadays but if I was feeling happy or reckless or a mix of both I have been known to drink enough to break through my sensible drinking threshold and feel inclined to press my internal ‘fuck it’ button. Then I wouldn’t want to stop drinking, laughing and chatting or stop dancing or want to even go home!
Most of us, both men and women, living our first world, metropolitan lives have normalised our drinking.
Abnormal drinking has been normalised
I have clients who black-out from drinking or wake up naked in stranger’s beds with terrible hang-overs struggling to recall names or even the events of whole evenings or who regularly get through bottle after bottle of wine over a weekend while socialising with friends.
All tell me they think their drinking is pretty normal and certainly not one of them would say they have a serious alcohol problem or call themselves an alcoholic.
Sometimes people come to see me because their insomnia is ruining their lives or their level of anxiety has increased so much it’s limiting what they feel able to do in their life. If they speak about their desire to cut down their drinking or take a sobriety break it tends to emerge later but they rarely identify their use of alcohol could be the root cause of their mental health challenges.
The elephant in the room is holding a glass
For me, seeing so many clients struggling to balance their demanding professional life with their personal commitments, or managing their unpredictable emotions; or struggling to hold together turbulent relationships alcohol was often the marauding, life-wrecking elephant in the room. Working therapeutically with clients to help them transform their relationship with booze made me curious to want to find a new relationship with alcohol for myself too.
I also know when I recommend a period of total abstinence to a client they are often anxious about being able to manage even a few days without drinking and would much rather cut down or limit the number of drinks they have during a session than go without completely.
For my own authenticity I wanted to know and understand what teetotal felt like and the challenges it involved so I set about going without booze just like they tell you in Alcoholics Anonymous – one day at a time.
I’m not drinking but it feels like an energised state in as much as I’m very aware I’m not drinking. I’m counting days and I’m using red dots in my desk diary to signify days of no drinking. I don’t do that about cigarettes as I’m not a smoker so not smoking never enters my mind. Clearly, my mindset is not quite yet at the point where I see myself as not a drinker.
It feels okay though. I’m interested in my progress and feeling a bit like a lab rat observing myself and how all this feels.
I’ve felt more tired since I’ve stopped drinking. I’ve wanted to go to sleep earlier at night and sometimes even had an afternoon nap.
I feel slightly despondent as I thought I’d have more energy not less. Other than that I’ve not noticed feeling very much else. Wondering if as the weather is so cold feeling that my feeling tired could be my natural seasonal desire to hibernate and sleep more. Hope so.
I’m sleeping more soundly than I have for years and I’m not waking up at all during the night. That’s how its been night after night and that’s unheard of with me as I’d often wake around three or four in the morning and then struggle to go back to sleep. These days I’m sleeping for England or even Europe!
Wow if this is the universe testing me I don’t know what is! I’ve been sent some wowzer-type challenges this month!
In my personal life, an upsetting and not completely unexpected dispute erupted over some legal and financial arrangements my husband and I were planning on putting in place.
While professionally the marketing mentors I was thrilled to have in my corner working with me and whom I’ve been committed to for over a year have badly let me down and we’ve parted company.
To say I’ve been having a trying time would be an understatement.
It would have been very easy to want to drink more with this all going on around me. I feel really appreciative that I’m not drinking at all. I feel confident I can trust and fully own my emotional responses because I feel clear headed. I love not drinking – hey who knew!
I am naturally waking consistently an hour earlier in the morning – every day.
I’ve been using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) for several days in a row to work through some of the painful emotions I’ve been experiencing from the fall out to the events in my personal and professional life.
I’ve been embracing all of these feelings as a way to face up to them and do the work to get clear. There is no hiding. Just as in my work with clients who feel triggered in their life, I’m accepting negative emotional triggers as the gift they are to see where clearing work needs to be done and getting on with it.
I notice that I experience moments of feeling awesome, energised and really healthy. They are fleeting but savoured and highly prized.
Hmm, not drinking feels much more normal now. Abstinence has lost its high energy status and I’m feeling much more relaxed about it. I am now really fussy about having classy, high quality chilled bottled water on the table at dinner with lots of ice and slices of fresh lemon or lime. It feels like a treat.
Continue to sleep really well. I rarely wake in the night now. Not feeling particularly energised when I wake in the mornings though and without alcohol, I feel tired earlier in the evening. Perhaps this is just my new normal I guess but it’s hardly thrilling. If anything, not drinking feels slightly underwhelming.
It feels a bit like a watershed day as I’ve had the realisation that I’m waking every day clear-headed and energised. It feels like my new normal plus feeling more energised and positive in the afternoon too. All of these feelings might be the holy grail I’ve been waiting for 🙂
Being sober feels completely normal now so much so I hardly even think about drinking at all. That old trigger of preparing dinner comes and goes without me missing a glass of wine at all. I can even sit in pubs and bars with my husband or with friends and its fine. I do notice how noisy people get when they drink though and how after about 9.30pm just as they are warming to an evening of drinking that I want to go home. Even though I might be struggling with their vibe sometimes there is no sense of deprivation or going without for my part. Booze seems to have disappeared off my agenda.
On numerous nights out or at dinner parties I must have tried all the alcohol-free wine out there and they all taste pretty disgusting. The small number of wine producers who create zero wine seems to be on a mission to take out the alcohol and replace it with sugar so that they all taste revolting and are undrinkably sweet.
There is a couple of pleasantly drinkable Prosecco fizzy wines that are okay but fizzy wine without the accompany fuzzy feelings from imbibing the alcoholic versions leave me feeling a bit flat.
There are more alcohol-free beers available now than ever before. Most of the big breweries seem to be producing their own version of a zero beer but many seem to brew it just to tick a box and they seemingly don’t care how awful they taste.
Microbreweries tend to try harder and are better tasting. Some alcohol-free beers successfully make the criteria of looking like an appetising beer and some even taste pretty much like beer.
Ultimately though it doesn’t matter how good facsimile of beer or wine or even gin I resent their empty calories and their carb load without the benefit of making me feel different.
Of course, none of the alcohol-free drinks out there causes a change of state and that is why most people drink – to create a change in how they feel and without that booze is pretty boring in and of itself.
My favourite drink now is Angostura Bitters with ice and soda water and fresh lime. Looking at it mixed in a glass it could even pass as a proper grown-up drink and so having surveyed all the fake beers and wines I’ve embraced that I’m not actually a drinker any more and let go of the fantasy of fake alcoholic drinks
I’ve noticed I’m far more awake in the evening and my feeling more alert in the mornings too. I barely ever think about drinking and although I’ve had plenty of opportunities to drink alcohol I haven’t been tempted once.
I no longer make a note every day that I’m not drinking as it just feels very normal.
The strangest thing has happened. I used to never ever remember my dreams. I know we all dream every night when we sleep but for years I would remember only one or two dreams every few months. Now when I wake I remember what I have dreamt! I love having access to my dreams and now I regularly wake and can recall them I realise what a loss it was all those years not being able to access that part of my subconscious processing. I’m really thrilled to have my dreams back.
I’m sure my husband was kind of hoping I’d start drinking again when I hit my century but I’m simply not feeling any need to. He’s also drinking less because there’s hardly ever any bottles of wine at home these days unless he buys it!
I was under the legal drinking age when I started going to pubs and drinking so I’ve been a social drinker for many, many decades.
I’ve loved drinking. It was mostly great fun and alcohol has been an incredible social lubricant for many of the joyous times in my life and has helped me through some exceedingly traumatic and unhappy times too.
Today, though I’m done with drinking. I’m ready to say goodbye to alcohol without a backward glance – taking it one day at a time, of course, for as long as I want and I’m excited to face the prospect of my future as a non-drinker. I never thought I’d ever say that when I embarked on this experience over one hundred days ago.
If you think you have normalised your own drinking and you know alcohol is adversely affecting your life and your relationships you too could benefit from taking a break from drinking too.
Health warning for long term heavy drinkers and alcoholics
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically begin within hours of you stopping drinking and feel worse in a day or two. Symptoms usually subside and improve within five days.
For some heavy drinkers and alcoholics, withdrawal is not just unpleasant it can have serious health ramifications and can even be life-threatening. Seek emergency medical help if you experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms:
- severe vomiting
- confusion and disorientation
- extreme agitation
- seizures or convulsions
The symptoms listed above may be a sign of a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, or DTs. This rare, emergency condition causes dangerous changes in the way your brain regulates your circulation and breathing, so it’s important to get to a hospital immediately.
It is important to have the right medical support so check in with your doctor or an addiction specialist to find out what support you may need.
Many people drink to manage their symptoms of anxiety or depression
If you think you would benefit from therapeutic support as you reduce or cut out alcohol out from your life I’m happy to have an obligation free chat with you to see how I could help you transform your relationship to alcohol. I’ve worked successfully with many clients to resolve the underlying reasons for their drinking and transformed their relationship with alcohol and I’m confident you can be successful too.Click here to schedule your discovery call with me
Links to other posts written by Sally Baker on this topic:
Useful contacts for alcohol problems (UK)
- Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0300 123 1110
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its “12-step” programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups.
- Al-Anon Family Groups offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they’re still drinking or not. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and can be attended by 12- to 17-year-olds who are affected by another person’s drinking, usually a parent.
- Addaction is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse.
- Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam operates an online message board and a database of local support groups.
- The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned about their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456 for the Nacoa helpline.
- SMART Recovery groups help participants decide whether they have a problem, build up their motivation to change, and offer a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery.
With thanks to www.nhs.uk
Sally Baker is Senior Therapist, published Author and Speaker in private practice in London for face to face sessions and the world over via the internet.
With almost twenty years of professional experience, she employs cutting-edge therapeutic approaches to help one person at a time to transform their lives.
She has extensive experience working with people to alleviate their anxiety, depression, anger issues, eating disorders as well as conflicts within relationships and the family.
To find out more about Sally Baker, her books and her work visit her website, www.workingonthebody.com