8 things I’ve learned from two years of sobriety – On March 28th 2020, I celebrated two years of sobriety. Well, I say celebrate I didn’t go out due to the current situation we are living in at the moment but I did have some cake. Actually, the day almost passed me by without realizing which was probably the biggest surprise.
You see, before I quit drinking I longed to be able to go two days or two weeks without drinking, two months seemed like an eternity and two years just impossible. Yet, here I am two years since my last drink and I can’t quite believe it because before I quit I had this vision that I would be forever counting the days, pinning for when I would be allowed to drink again or missing out on so much fun.
I thought sobriety would be boring or dull and I really expected it to be hard such is the stigma attached to the words ‘sober’ and ‘sobriety’ and that is what kept me and many of us from trying to change our drinking.
Actually for me, quite the opposite was true but until you are ‘in it’ it is difficult to see past the initial self doubt and fear that might be getting in your way.
But, although not easy, it is a simple choice to make. Stay stuck, stay scared, stay wondering just how much your life could change by changing your relationship with alcohol or take that step, get curious and see what might happen. That’s what I did and I have never looked back.
Here are 8 things I’ve learned from two years of sobriety
People ask why I did it and how I did it
I get asked all the time why I did it and how I did it. People assume that when you want to change your relationship with alcohol or stop drinking altogether that there must be some deep, dark reason for it, that you hit rock bottom or ‘have a problem’ and while, this is true for some people it wasn’t true for me.
Yes, I did have a scary moment that shocked me to my core which you can read about here, but in reality the main reason I stopped was because I was sick of feeling like crap all the time.
I was sick of alcohol taking up so much of my head space, my time, my focus and my energy. I hated the way my drinking ruined the atmosphere at home and how it made me into a selfish parent. I was missing out on so much life, the lives of my kids, my own life and it was making me miserable. I knew there was a better way and I knew that by not drinking anymore I would begin to open up my world.
Truth is, I was terrified and it took my husband to gently suggest that we stop buying beer for a bit and give ourselves a break to actually do something about the way I was feeling.
So on March 27th 2018 we bought our last pack of beer and here we are two years later still living completely alcohol free and it has been the most liberating thing I have ever done.
It is not just about removing the alcohol
One thing that might be holding you back from taking a break from drinking or stopping completely, is that you wonder what on earth you will do. How will you socialize, what will you do on a Friday night or for the whole weekend? How will you cope, how will you relax or have fun?
These are common questions, common fears too but they are based on the thinking that not drinking means simply not drinking and nothing else. Not drinking is so much more than just removing the alcohol which can also be a scary thought f you deal with everything with a glass in hand.
However, I found that slowly, sometimes without even realizing it my drinking behavior was replaced with something else. Sure I turned to cake and chocolate more than I used to but I also added in more reading, more walking and more time with my kids. I discovered yoga and meditation and hiking and cooking. I learned breathing techniques and EFT tapping. I started a business!
Some people take up weight lifting or knitting or run marathons or write books which can seem daunting if you are just on the edge of making a decision to change how you drink but the thing is that it all happens over time, when it is supposed to.
The more time you spend not drinking, the more you understand what it is you really need, what is missing from your life and with the freedom, clarity and more head space, you can begin to investigate what you might like to do and get to understand what you need to do. It could be as simple as more green smoothies and evening walks or you might need therapy or counseling or indeed you might be compelled to start anew hobby, a new job or move to another country.
But, until you give your body and mind a proper break to work out these things, you will never know and remain stuck wondering what else there is out there for you or how much better you might feel.
Some people won’t get it (and that’s okay)
Even two years on, my mother-in-law just doesn’t get that I don’t want to drink anymore. She asks things like, “When do you think you will be able to drink again?” or, “What will happen if you just have one glass of wine?” she even left us her bottle of gin after her last visit, just in case!
The first time she came out for a visit I got quite annoyed, now it doesn’t really bother me anymore and I don’t tend to go into all the explanations about the hows, the whys and whathaveyous. I just say that I feel better without it and leave it at that.
Some people will be supportive of you, others won’t understand and you may even get those who will try and persuade you and be pushy. This added social pressure and lack of support from loved ones can cause us real problems when we think about changing our drinking. But, as always you have to do what’s right for you and be prepared to expect some questions or annoying comments from other people.
Usually it is just because they don’t understand or you might even make them a bit uncomfortable about their own drinking. Don’t take it personally, it’s okay that they don’t get it but don’t let anybody stop you. This blog about how to deal with other people will help you if this is something you are worrying about.
I have a new freedom and peace of mind
It might sound like a small thing, but for me it is the biggest transformation. I spend a lot of time in my head anyway, but when I was drinking I was always in there instead of living in the real world and it was not a great place to be, I can tell you.
I would have full on conversations with myself and argue with the wine witch (or beer monster, whoever showed up that day) justifying my drinking, excusing my drinking. I would go over and over in my head how much to drink, when to drink, when to start, when to stop, where I would buy it, how much I would buy, if it was okay, if it wasn’t okay.
I would have full on conversations with myself and argue with the wine witch (or beer monster, whoever showed up that day) justifying my drinking, excusing my drinking.
The morning after my head would be filled with shame, regret and worry about my kids, my health, my bank account. Did I say anything stupid? Did I do anything stupid? Did I do this, forget that, say that, remember the other. Round and round and on and on – it was exhausting.
Not having those conversations anymore and not having alcohol take up so much space in my head has given me so much peace and freedom I never thought possible and this new found lightness and space is so liberating and has given me much more freedom to fill myself up with other things. I never want to share myself with alcohol again.
It gets easier and it gets better
One of the things that always put me off from trying to do something about my drinking sooner was the fear that I would always be thinking about not having a drink. I thought I would have to decline every social event or go to bed at 6pm every day so as not to have cravings. I had the idea that I would be counting days forever, wouldn’t be able to look at a bottle of wine in the shop or that I would become angry, hysterical, obsessed and be unable to cope with anything.
If you have been doing something like drinking for a long period of time or at regular times of the day or days of the week then it will take time and practice to get used to doing something else instead. But, you will learn how to do all the things again, including having fun! It took me about three months or so to get used to not cracking open a can of beer at 2.30pm and it took lots of practice to find something else to do instead that I enjoyed.
I tried walking, napping, drinking tea, reading or meditating and eventually settled into a new routine that I enjoy much more. Similarly in the evening I switched to cake or chocolate to get the same good feelings or sense of reward that I used to get from a glass of wine or G&T.
It takes time and practice to change things but the beauty of experimenting and trying new things is that you get to learn so much about yourself in the process and you may even discover a new love that you would not have otherwise even contemplated. So, while you might eat more cake and sweets and chocolate, don’t worry about it!
The fact that alcohol was not an option meant I had to think of something else which has been far easier for me than trying to moderate ever was. Also, every day that passes without drinking makes me feel better about myself.
I could talk about the great sleep, the no hangovers, the lost weight, extra energy and extra cash, which are all wonderful benefits but what it comes down to is that I feel good about myself now and proud and strong and the more time passes, the better I feel. Simple as that.
Connection is key
I didn’t quit drinking all by myself. I had my husband and kids to help me through it. I invested in myself, I bought books, I talked to people and asked for help. I didn’t do it alone and you shouldn’t have to either – no-one should and there is no reason for you to struggle. Especially if you are serious and if you really want to change your drinking then do something about it. If you have been trying to do this on your own through self help books, facebook groups, online forums or whatever and are still struggling then reach out for some help.
My own one to one and group coaching programs are designed to take you all the way from the preparation to quitting and beyond if you want to and there are lots of other programs, therapists and counselors out there who can help you too. We are all here for a reason which is to help you to live your best life without alcohol getting in the way, so why not ask for that help if you need it.
I wish I had done it sooner
Start before you’re ready is a motto of Marie Forleo, as is, ‘everything is figureoutable’ and you know what, she is totally right. I say start before you’re ready all the time because, let’s face it – there is never a good time to do something about your drinking, but right now is the perfect time – even if you think you are not ready. If I had waited until the summer, or I had more time, or more money or the shops had a better range of alcohol free beer, or (you get the idea) I would never have got started.
The beauty is that you don’t have to have everything in place before you give it a shot, you just have to have a willingness to try and learn and grow and experiment. Yes, preparation is important and so is commitment but those things can be figured out along the way. Just know that you don’t have to wait until you have all your ducks lined up before you try.
Life will happen anyway
Look at what is going on in the world right now, nobody could have predicted that we would be in the middle of a worldwide pandemic as I write this. But other things in your life will happen too. Personally I have been on the brink of repossession (twice) and had to use food banks to feed my family, all since quitting drinking, and if ever there was a time to turn to alcohol to numb it all out, that would have been it.
However I understand that drinking through these tough times will only make them worse, sure you might get to escape for a bit but it won’t make the problem go away. In fact, the only way to really get through tough times is with clear thinking, energy, focus, motivation and a determination not to give up and I can honestly say that I would have none of that if I was drinking.
Whether you are thinking of changing your relationship with alcohol, or are starting out on your sober journey then I want to encourage you to try, to keep going and be proud of your choice. No matter where you find yourself in the next two years, I am cheering you on and I want to tell you that you can do this and if you need it, I can help you.