I am sitting at my home office desk on a slightly grey but warm July morning and today my sobriety app is pinging loudly to congratulate me on 85 dry days. Wow. 85 days already!
Unlike the first month of sobriety, the alcohol free days now rack up almost unnoticed. I am pleasantly shocked by this. Drinking has been such a significant part of my life spanning almost 3 decades, it was an obsessive habit, a crutch, mandatory in all situations and now the wine free days roll by without a second thought.
It's honestly difficult to underestimate how brilliant sobriety has been so far. It has literally CHANGED MY LIFE. I read information daily about other peoples wins, losses, struggles and determination. I still listen to sobriety podcasts at least once a day and my social media feeds are swamped in sobriety group posts and pictures of people in recovery [mostly] achieving wonderful things. The feeling of self satisfaction and sheer joy at removing alcohol from my life, such a relatively simple action [once you get your head in the right place], creates a compassionate and calm approach I haven't experienced before. It's like a drug in itself. The strength to know you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it, the security that you are protecting your health both psychically and mentally and that you don't have to fear the grip of alcohol, the addiction, and the mess it creates - ever again.
A light bulb throbs brightly in my mind, a switch has been flicked on and my perspective of alcohol has dramatically shifted. I am aware enough now to know that the key to lasting change lies in self education. I read anything I can about the dangers and effects of alcohol and addiction. I listen to stories on TV, podcasts and films of how alcohol creates damage and why we drink so much. The social conditioning, the constant brainwashing we are surrounded by. The memes, mummy juice, wine of clock, holiday drinking, funerals, weddings, births, victories, sports events, films, TV, books, drinking culture is everywhere and its no wonder we have a global dependancy on booze.
When you see alcohol for what it really is, now in my case, you cannot 'unsee' it. I was talking to my partner over the weekend about how I would approach big drinking events with friends and family. Would I ever relapse? I explained that relapse is a definite thing that can come and bite someone in the backside and I should never take it for granted that 'it'll never happen to me'. I don't think it will, but I'm also aware that we are human and life is unpredictable. Even if I ever did relapse, the investment in the self education I've done over these past 3 months cannot be unlearned. I strongly believe that if I did relapse it would be temporary, because I have such a different view of alcohol and my addiction to it now that I would never ever go back to the drinker I was before.
The benefits of sobriety massively outweigh any slight desire I have to drink, which is so infrequent now that I can hardly remember having any craving for it. Just the simple act of waking up every day without a hangover in itself is pure bliss and never ceases to bring me joy.
I LOVE THE FEELING OF FEELING FRESH IN THE MORNING.
When you've had a good 28 years of hard boozing, even drinking half the nights in any year, that totals 5,110 days of drinking and feeling hungover the next day. Thats 730 weeks of my life dedicated to feeling high or feeling shit. Fourteen full years, or put another way, 34% of my life lost to alcohol and its menacing effects. It's crazy when you spell it out like that.
The second biggest win since going sober is the exercise. I'm a really sporty person at heart but the wine got in the way. Boozing put a stop to most things but sport was incredibly hard to maintain due to lacking motivation, feeling too rubbish and too dehydrated to get out there and be consistent. In the last 3 months I've reignited my love for tennis and running. I walk almost daily and play tennis 2-3 times a week. I'm back to running 5kms a few times a week and my body is getting strong and [slightly] leaner.
The other huge impact is good, solid sleep. I'm actually shocked at how well I sleep since quitting the drink. I track my sleep using my iWatch and 99% of the time I sleep at least 7 hours solid and I can see from the sleep report its good quality sleep with plenty of deep/light and REM sleep. I listened to a podcast on sleep recently, so I am better educated on how sleep patterns should look. It's all about education.
I feel a lot calmer too. I'm more patient and more at ease in all situations whether it be work, social events, with family or with my children, I just feel lighter. I also read more books. I've read a fair few quit lit books but I also have a passion for other areas of psychology, how the human brain functions [particularly around addiction and the learning of/unlearning of behavioural patterns] so I have a few books lined up which I can't wait to get into. I have always enjoyed reading, not in a heavy way, I was never a massive reader as a child but I did enjoy it. Unfortunately drinking so much meant I would never make time for reading [see sport above - same reasons], so it's a rewarding feeling now being able to line books up and know you'll actually get through them at a reasonable pace.
I could probably write all day about the things I've learned in sobriety, but for you it might get long winded, so I have summarised the rest below:
1) People freak about about your sobriety. My experience is that as soon as I mention I've stopped drinking, they always justify their own. Um, thanks.
2) I've found a new love for soft drinks. In past bouts of sobriety I've always relied on the alcohol free beers to get me through. They really helped. However this time I don't go to them as much as I thought I would. I savour ice cold sparkling water, sometimes with high end cordials like raspberry and cherry. Try it.
3) I hardly every eat takeaway food. I just don't have any craving for it.
4) I get so much done during my weekends. I'm up at 8am both mornings and pack my days with sport, gardening, shopping, days out with the kids and ticking things off my 'home' list. I feel organised.
5) I'm shocked at the social conditioning now I'm on the outside. The constant messages enforcing drinking and justifying black outs and getting wrecked. I find this really uncomfortable. I can't even walk past a wine shop or bar without seeing some blackboard scrawl about how life is too short to drink shit wine. It makes me shudder to think how I bought into that culture previously, and it makes me sad to think of all the people grappling with alcohol addiction and how society turns a blind eye to it and validates it. Thats really sad :(
6) I have more disposable income. Boy I spend it still, but I have nicer things and better experiences spending my money on things that matter.
7) I genuinely look forward to doing things sober. I love eating out and the food and company being the main event. Not wasting my brain energy on when I can justify my next glass of wine [who am I kidding, next bottle more like!]
8) I feel free. I appreciate this might sound strange but there's a real, tangible feeling of freedom when you don't drink.
9) I don't have so much in common with some friends anymore but I am ok with this. I believe that people come and go throughout life and you cannot expect your life framework to remain the same forever. I accept it.
10) I pay more attention to the little things in life. A new flower blooming in my garden, a fresh cup of coffee, achieving a great return on a shot playing tennis, cuddling my children, waking up fresh [this NEVER gets old], finishing a book I started less than month ago, sweeping the leaves on my drive, being on top of work etc...
Wherever you are in your journey, feel proud and take stock of what you have achieved. Pay attention to what is around you and try to educate yourself as much as possible on the alcohol trap. One of the best things I learnt in early sobriety is that alcohol is not something to miss or feel deprived of. If you approach sobriety using willpower alone, experience teaches you that you are approaching it wrong. Alcohol brings you nothing but false enjoyment. When you reach that mindset the journey just gets better and better. I wish you good luck and thanks for reading.