Sober-curiosity is a “thing” now. With folk becoming more open about struggling with alcohol and liver disease levels rising, more people are trialing abstinence. Searching Twitter on the final day of Dry January, I found that people expressed their experience of sobriety in one of three ways:
1. Why the Hell didn’t I get sober sooner? This is awesome!
2. I’ve had my break. Now bring on the beers!
3. I appreciated sobriety. I’d love to stay sober, but…
This piece is for the third group, those whose sober-curiosity was rewarded but who have reservations about long-term sobriety. So let’s dispel any concerns that you can’t stick with sobriety. Abstinence is achievable and enjoyable with the right mindset and tools.
Why Do People Like Getting Drunk?
It’s impossible to address sobriety without understanding why people like to get drunk. But many of the beliefs around drinking turn out to be illusory. For example, people seem to believe that if they aren’t getting drunk, they are somehow “missing out”.
However, many people create an idealized image of alcohol. Much of this is based on their early experiences of drinking. When I was a teenager, alcohol was absolutely awesome. Booze was great bonding material, the perfect antidote to teenage angst, and a way of thinking I was “cool”.
But as adults, the best relationships aren’t established based on how off our faces we can get. We can find much better (and permanent) ways to quash anxiety. And let’s face it, no-one looks cool half-cut. You only think you do. Because you’re drunk. And you’re probably just irritating and ridiculous. Go to a party sober and you’ll see what I mean.
Boozing is not just harmless escapism. Lacking judgment and poisoning yourself are bad for your mental and physical health. So the idea of missing out on anything by not getting drunk is an illusion.
The Problems of Full Sobriety
But how about just having a tipple without getting trashed? This is probably the major sticking point for most people. Complete abstinence seems too extreme regardless of the massive benefits.
The truth is that a lot of people get tipsy to “take the edge off”. This “edge” always refers to difficult emotions. It may be the stress we feel from work, the sadness that arises around relationships, or the fear we feel when socializing.
So, what we’re really saying here is that we don’t trust ourselves to cope with our feelings sober. We’re saying that we can’t deal with regular situations without just a little bit of numbing. Firstly, that’s really sad. Secondly, I get it.
It takes courage to live life full-throttle, experiencing everything without a cosy alcohol overcoat. If I can do it, you can. It just takes finding your strength.
There are things you can use that aren’t alcohol. Natural mood-lifters include music, meditation, movement, and mindset. Stick on some tunes and trampoline on the bed when you feel stressed. Write a gratitude list when you’re grieving. Stop being so desperate for everyone to like you. Use your emotions as teachers, not dictators.
Get Sober Support
On Twitter, many people who had tried sobriety said it would be easier to stick with if only their friends were sober. If your current friends are worth having, they will support your sobriety even if they drink. Try talking to them about how you feel.
And let’s take a lesson from severe alcoholics here. Alcoholics are usually ambivalent about getting, and staying, sober. Alcohol was not only their worst enemy but also their best friend. Many of them swear that attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) keeps them sober no matter what happens.
While you may not need to go to AA, you may need the sort of “Fellowship” that AA provides. Sober fellowship is essentially friends on the same wavelength who support each other to live (and love) life sober. These are people who will celebrate your sober highs and support you through sober lows.
You can find sober fellowship online using hashtags like #RecoveryPosse and #Soberlife. Make friends with people who are sober. Attend social events where people don’t drink. Try out meditation groups, sports classes, and sober bars.
Look Forward to Sober Life
Staying sober is about momentum. It’s about enjoying the present moment as much as you can and developing yourself so you can have a better future. Constantly looking back, thinking negatively, and regretting things you think you’ll miss about drinking will make sober life hard.
What cool things could you do with your hangover-free weekends? What delicious things could you eat and drink instead of alcohol’s empty calories? Think about the sober self-respect that you’ll gain. Freedom feels better than any fleeting fake fun that alcohol might give you.
Celebrate overcoming all your hang-ups about doing new things sober. It is so empowering to realize that you can always do things you believed you couldn’t. You can genuinely do whatever you put your mind to sober. The more you do, the more you’ll build your inner strength; and the more, you’ll rock sobriety.