I had my last ‘proper’ drink on Christmas Day 2017 and, as I come up to a year without the ol’ demon drink, I’ve begun to reflect on the experience. First off, let me say that the benefits of sobriety FAR outweigh the downsides. I am fitter, healthier, mentally alert and firing on all cylinders. But as with many things in life, it’s not all roses. Here are a few of the things that have begun to grate on me over the course of my sober year.
1. The free taxi
Socialising without a drink hasn’t been a problem. In fact, I’ve probably enjoyed it more as I’ve actually enjoyed the food and company, rather than it being a side-show to the wine. I also remember conversations I’ve had and don’t end up, pissed, repeating the same (no doubt boring) story for the third time before the night draws to a close. That’s a great thing about not drinking – you can go home when you fancy and before the party’s on its inexorable slide into messy, way-past-your-bedtime, ‘just one more’ territory.
The trouble is (and I’ve been guilty of this in the past), when a non-drinker says, ‘I’m not drinking tonight’, a drinker hears, ‘I’m your free taxi home later!’
It’s frankly irritating when you are trying to leave an event to drive yourself home, heart set on getting in between the sheets for a good sober night’s sleep, for someone to pipe up, ‘oh, you can give us a lift, can’t you?’ And – bang – you then spend the next hour running various pissed people all over the place, to their door, with the consequential responsibility that comes with ‘offering’ a lift to make sure they get home safely.
Don’t get me wrong: there have been many occasions when I’ve been more than happy to run people home. But the point is, it should be my decision to offer a lift, not yours. Grrr.
2. Being eyed with suspicion
I chose to stop drinking for a while to see what effect it had on me. It’s an experiment. It’s not because I’m: pregnant, on antibiotics, breast-feeding, an alcoholic, boring, uptight, a party-pooper. So when I’m out with people who are drinking, I’m not the wine police! I don’t care if you drink yourself into a stupor. I don’t judge you if you want to work your way through the cocktail menu. I won’t remind you the next time I see you of anything stupid you said or did. So please, just relax folks – enough of the ‘so why are you not drinking tonight then?’ interrogation. Your choice to drink is just as valid as my choice not to.
3. The sense of missing out
This is tough to admit. I have, on occasion, missed having a drink. That glass of fizz at the start of an evening. A chilled white wine on a hot summer’s day. A warming glass of red on a cold winter’s evening. And, being honest, I have occasionally succumbed to the odd sip here and there (shocker – I’ve failed sometimes!!). But what I’ve found is that it’s the THOUGHT of the drink, rather than the reality that is so alluring. It’s the sense of warmth, belonging and relaxation that I’ve sought, not the drink itself.
Last night was a case in point: it was stormy outside, but I was lying in front of the fire with the dog, a veritable picture of hygge. In my mind, the scene would be completed by a nice glass of red and I was sorely tempted. Instead, I cracked open an Erdinger AF beer and the sense of missing out passed quickly. And now on Sunday morning, I am bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and looking forward to the day and not nursing a hangover or a sense of guilt. But yes, I do miss wine and that sucks.
4. The weight loss
Advocates of sobriety regularly extol how giving up booze results in dramatic weight loss. According to my sober-days counting app, by not drinking for almost a year, I have saved 98,000 calories. 98,000 CALORIES!!! That’s, what, 300 doughnuts?? By rights, I should have vanished. And yet I haven’t. I’ve still got wobbly bits.
I haven’t weighed myself for over two years (that’s another story) and so I have no idea what my weight was before my experiment, or what it presently is. But I can’t say that I have seen dramatic weight loss.
On the plus side, what I can say is: I can eat whatever the Hell I like (and have, on occasion!) and I haven’t put on significant weight. I have, after all, ‘banked’ 98,000 empty calories and so if I’ve wanted that piece of cake, I’ve had it. When I was drinking, I was forever calorie counting to maintain weight and had this infernal internal dialogue running in my head, ‘if I want to have a drink tonight that’ll be 500 calories, so I won’t have that cheese toastie/piece of cake/*insert anything that wasn’t lettuce*.’
Whilst I’m not vying for a spot on the Victoria’s Secret runway, I’m a healthy weight and am so pleased to be free of the internal negotiation I would previously have with myself.
I hate to break it to you, but it’s only 44 days until Christmas.
Social media, TV and work are all beginning to gear up to the festivities. It seems every ad I see and every event that’s planned involves drinking. ‘Pre-Christmas’ drinks invitations arrived in September because apparently there isn’t enough time in December, we have to bring it all forward to November. The diary is full of work do’s and client events, all of which involve drinking. The TV shows me endless ‘3 for 2’ deals on wines and spirits, I go to the supermarket and the shelves are groaning with Baileys and Amaretto. It’s everywhere.
When did Christmas become an excuse for a massive piss-up?!
I think this one particularly annoys me because it was Christmas Day last year that I decided to knock drink on the head for a bit. The lead-up to Christmas had been intense: I was stressed, tired and emotional. An evening wine was my treat as I flopped in to the sofa at the end of a long day. Then the festivities began in earnest and culminated in the usual Christmas Day: champagne at 11am (because that’s the law on Christmas Day isn’t it??), drinks with canapés, a glass of wine to help with the cooking of lunch, wine with lunch, wine with the Queen’s Speech…you get the idea.
By 7pm, I was done. Physically and mentally, I was done with wine. The Boxing Day hangover was the catalyst for the path I’ve found myself on this year and I’m certain this year’s booze-free Christmas will be quite different – in a good way.
And so the endless marketing of alcohol is really getting to me. What should be a calm, enjoyable holiday spent enjoying the company of family and friends has become a marketeers dream: a chance to push booze into our consciousness and our bodies at every available opportunity.
So here are just five things that have been difficult in my year of sobriety, but what of the future?
I don’t know whether I’ll continue this sober journey once I’ve done my year. I suspect I will as the benefits FAR outweigh the bad bits. But I’m all about honesty and so I think it’s important not to paint an entirely rosy picture of sobriety. There are challenges and it can be really tough, but talking openly about both the good AND the bad must be a good thing, surely?
Laters alligators – it’s time for a cuppa!