How to Be Sober and Happy
I drank more than was good for me for almost twenty years before I finally found the motivation to drink my final glass of Pinot Grigio, and put a cork in it forever.
Before I gave up drinking, I experienced hundreds of fleeting moments in which I knew that I wanted to become teetotal, but I couldn’t bear the thought of living the rest of my life craving something that I had deemed off-limits.
And so I continued to drink.
That is, until I changed my approach to the whole business of living life sober. Please read on if you (like I used to be) are a perpetual binge drinker who wants to end an unsatisfactory relationship with booze. I hope this helps.
You will no doubt have endured the pain of numerous "morning afters," that horrible feeling of slowly coming to and experiencing the double whammy of a cracking hangover, and a multitude of regrets. And perhaps a rather large dose of fear, due to the fact that you can’t remember how you got home, what you said, if you texted that ex, if you locked the front door, if you remembered your handbag, and so on.
Next time that happens, remember this: if you continue to drink, you will continue to have these mornings. If you stop drinking today, you will never, ever have a morning like this again.
If drinking defines you, then you probably cannot imagine what sort of a person you will become without it.
If, like the old me, you consider yourself to be the consummate party girl, the idea of putting down the Cab Sauv once and for all may conjure up images of future Saturday nights at the knitting club, playing Scrabble and being bored stiff in a pub while everyone around you gets drunk and has fun.
My advice? Open your mind and believe me when I say that yes, you will become a different person, but Future You will be a million times more interesting, more confident, more sociable and less miserable once you've kicked the booze.
I'm not going to lie and tell you that you will stay the same. You won’t, because you'll grow up and learn how to live like a normal, self-sufficient human being who doesn’t need a prop to get through the day or night.
You'll look forward to a game of Scrabble, or to baking cookies, because you'll come to realize that connecting with other human beings when you aren’t smashed, is what makes you a well-rounded and happy individual.
The thought of coping with life’s challenges without alcohol will definitely be causing you concern, should you be considering a life of sobriety. This is the biggest leap of faith you will need to take, but please take it; your stress levels and apparent inability to cope are caused by alcohol!
Yes, it sounds obvious, but the damage that alcohol causes to your central nervous system is behind your depression and anxiety. I was the biggest stress head in the world when I drank. I used to think I had Italian blood in me because I would blow my top at the slightest thing, shouting and gesticulating like a Neapolitan fish wife. Alas, my emotional tirades stemmed from nothing so poetic – just the combination of masses of alcohol, a debilitated central nervous system, and a whole host of problems caused by my continued drunkenness.
Let me tell you a secret; all the good times that you think are down to the booze, aren’t.
You're having a good time because of the people you are with or the activity that you are doing, not because you are sloshed.
Since giving up alcohol, I've had numerous moments of true happiness. I'd imagined I was happy drinking, but I'd been kidding myself. My head was continually filled with guilt, shame and anxiety about how to get the next glass of wine without anyone thinking I was an old lush.
Real joy is simply out of your reach if you are regularly getting drunk.
Denial is something that you cannot see while you’re experiencing it. Once you've ditched the drink for good, you'll only recognize the lies that your alcohol-addicted mind was telling you.
To accept this involves a massive leap of faith but trust me: your brain is extremely clever at convincing you that your desire to drink is harmless, a bit of fun, sociable, normal. (It’s what everyone does, right?). Your brain is a master at convincing you that it's not hurting your health (Red wine is good for you, n’est ce pas?) and that without it, you'd be the dullest, most boring dork in the room. Wrong!
That voice of denial is a lying piece of crap, but you won’t see this until you step away from the booze.
And finally, a little tip for living happily and fantastically, without alcohol; after you’ve poured that last glass down the kitchen sink, write yourself a little memo and stick it on your fridge door. This memo should read as follows:
Five Reasons to Give up Drinking and Start _______________
And then fill it in the blank. The idea behind this is that the reasons you're already aware of for stopping drinking are real. You'll need to remind yourself of them next time you imagine that a glass of Pinot is just the thing to help you relax/cheer up/feel more sociable, and you've forgotten how disgusted with yourself you were after your last binge.
And the second part of your memo, Start _______________ is for you to write an activity that you are going to commit to in order to fill the vacuum that booze will leave behind in the early weeks.
For me, this was running and that works a treat: it's a fantastic stress-booster and mood enhancer. It gets you in shape and it gives results, fast.
But your Start _______________ can be anything, from needlecraft to rock climbing, to yoga, to learning to play an instrument or writing a book, or mastering fancy cake making. Just pick something that fills your time, and that you enjoy.
You’ve never met me and for all you know I could be a big, fat liar. But I hope that you believe me when I say that all of the above worked for me, and giving up booze almost two years ago was the best damn thing I ever did.
Why don’t you give it a go?