MY OWN HURDLES AND POSITIVES OF STOPPING DRINKING

I took the decision to stop drinking 8 weeks ago and haven’t drunk any alcohol since.

The advantages to stopping drinking have been way more incredible than I could ever have imagined. Going AF has changed my life. I’ll list the positive changes I’ve noticed so far after I talk about the main hurdle I’m having to overcome.

THE MAIN HURDLE:

Hardly anyone understands and most people feel deeply threatened by the fact I’m not drinking. Within days I had several people asking me what was wrong with me when I was out as I wasn’t being the “life and soul of the party” and was “disturbingly quiet”. I was told “Come on, get a drink down you!” and that I was “no fun anymore”. Discussing this site or alcohol in general on Facebook results in tumbleweed. No-one wants to know or to address the fact that the UK is soaked in booze and most people I know drink way over the government guidelines. I’m made to feel as though I’m “letting the team down” by mentioning what is obviously a taboo subject — alcohol being a dangerous poison and a hard drug. By even raising the subject of my abstaining from something they all enjoy, I get the distinct feeling that many people get the impression that I think I’m above them, that I’m being condescending and that I’m accusing them all of being drug addicts. So I’ve given up discussing it. I’m not avoiding socialising but if anyone asks why I’m not having a drink, I say “I feel happier and healthier without it and I don’t make an arse of myself.” If they continue to want to discuss the subject I tell them I’m not particularly interested in discussing drinking but as they’re so interested, have a look at a site called Soberistas. Change subject. End of.

ALL THE POSITIVES:

BEING COMPLETELY DF: As I didn’t used to take caffeine, nicotine, prescription or illegal drugs, alcohol was the only thing stopping me leading a completely drug free life, not enslaved to any addictive substance. Not having any cravings for any substance is like being let out of jail. I was already almost completely vegan (for cruelty and health reasons), but was aware that alcohol is a big contributor to cancer which always worried me and now that worry has vanished (according to recent medical tests my liver function is fine at least.)

CLEANING: I’ve never been big on cleaning. I used to accept that furniture covered in cat hair was part of sharing our home with several companion cats. Now I’ve discovered the brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner and am actually enjoying keeping the furniture clean. What. The. Actual. Flipping. Nora. I never thought I’d be saying or doing this.

TIME: I’ve been using all the free time I suddenly have in the evenings and at weekends to take up long-neglected crafts like jewellery-making and sewing. Arranging and sorting my glass beads is infinitely more fun than necking back wine until I’m almost comatose. Funny it took me so long to realise that. Sometimes I can’t believe that for a supposedly intelligent woman I’ve been so utterly stupid.

GLASSES: I’ve got a few beautiful drinking glasses I never used to drink out of for fear of breaking them whilst drunk. Instead I’d drink wine out of cheap wine glasses, the ones you buy four for a fiver from Tesco, part of the student range. Now I drink my favourite drink, sparkling mineral water, in my fanciest glasses. A seemingly small but noticeable improvement in my life.

FEAR: I used to live in an almost constant state of anxiety, guilt and fear. I frequently had anxiety attacks, was terrified of any problem which loomed in my life and felt constantly guilty about what, I could never figure out. Now I realise it was because deep down I was ashamed that I had a drink problem and wasn’t acknowledging it. Now I don’t feel frightened of anything and feel I can deal with anything life throws at me. Huge relief.

WANTING TO WAKE UP: I often just didn’t want to wake up in the morning, having struggled with waking up almost every night in the middle of the night and just generally feeling utterly shit about my life. Now I fall asleep easily, sleep through the night and wake up glad to be alive and eager to take on whatever the day brings.

WORLD SEEMING BRIGHTER: This shouldn’t be so surprising as alcohol is a known depressant of the senses, but suddenly the world seems brighter, flowers shine with more luminous colour, trees and grass glow greener. It reminds me of how the world looked when I was a child, long before alcohol entered my life. Everything seems new and fresh.

GETTING STUFF DONE: Since I stopped drinking I’ve got stuff done that I’ve been putting off for years.

For a decade I’ve been wailing every day to my husband “This fucking PC is so fucking slow it’s wasting hours of my day!” without doing anything about it. Recently I budgeted to buy a new one with a gaming graphics card. I don’t play games but now all my Adobe programmes run at lightning speed. Finally I’ve got a fast PC and will save myself hours of time a week not having to wait for programs to load and work properly. Somehow sorting out the PC is tied up irrevocably with giving up drink.

I’ve sorted out boxes of books and pictures which have been screaming at me to organise them for years.

I’ve published several novels in the last few weeks which were all written and edited to final draft but languishing on my hard drive because I was too terrified to put them out there, due to living in an almost constant state of fear and even though I’d already got two published novels under my belt, one a best-seller. How crazy is that, being paralysed by fear like a newbie author? Drink makes you crazy. Fact.

APPEARANCE: My skin is clearer, my eyes are brighter, the bags under my eyes have gone. I look and feel a decade younger and everyone keeps saying “Wow, you look fantastic!”

I’ve noticed a lot of talk in the soberverse about “The Pink Cloud”. When I stopped smoking thirteen years ago, life was instantly better, I was much happier not smoking and that feeling continued until this day. So far it’s exactly the same with drinking, every day I’ve had that feeling you get from the first glass of wine. That “Ahhhhh….relaxed…warm glow…it’s so good to be alive…” feeling. Only without the wine. Time will tell if this is Pink Cloud syndrome or not. Let’s hope it isn’t.

I realise now that, like any drug, I was taking alcohol to reach a state of equilibrium and normality, the kind of equilibrium you have when you’re AF. Now, I feel like that anyway and don’t need wine to help me feel it. We’ll see how things go. Right now, I’m happier than I have been for years, and much of the thanks has to go to Lucy Rocca for setting up Soberistas and its members for being so honest with their blogs which have encouraged me to face the truth about my own situation.

This article was first published on soberistas.com

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