I can’t believe 83 days ago I set out to stay sober for a 90-day challenge and it’s almost over.
I decided to cut the booze out of my life back in January for my health but also because I had too many nights where I blacked out and I was always relying on alcohol to release stress. In 2018 I felt my health needed to be my main priority for a change and I can honestly say sobriety has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I have learnt many new things about me and I have tackled things I didn’t think I’d have the courage to do without a drink in my hand.
So many people are waiting for a baby announcement as they can’t believe that I, Heidi Anderson the party girl, first to arrive and last to leave the bar, has stopped drinking. I do have something to tell you though. My exciting news is – I am going to continue sobriety, for now. I don’t know when I’ll start drinking again or if I ever will. Never say never but for now and the next few months, I feel like this is something I need to keep doing. I have seen so many benefits in my life and I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin.
For a long time, red wine had me believe that I was only fun when I drank two bottles of it. Vodka made me feel like my anxiety was under control and white wine, well that was just the devil and I had too many blackouts on the stuff. For far too long, I have numbed my emotions with alcohol and for the very first time, I have had to feel through some really difficult feelings. This year is a massive one for me personally and professionally, and I feel like alcohol will inhibit some of the big decisions that I will have to make. I think if it wasn’t my wedding year, I would have taken 365 days of sobriety as a challenge because I can’t imagine not getting drunk at my hen’s party, wedding or honeymoon. So then I rethink long-term sobriety all over again.
This question has gone over and over in my head:
“How can I be sober on my wedding day when everyone else is drunk?”
When I try to explain to people these thoughts, they are confused. People don’t understand why I wouldn’t want to over-indulge at those milestone events. The past few months have been incredibly challenging at times especially on social occasions. I have had so many people react negatively to my choice to quit booze, the hardest part has been their questions around why I am not drinking and the peer pressure people put on you to have “just one glass of wine.” “Go on,” they say “it won’t hurt you.” I can’t believe as a society how many things revolve around alcohol. It seems to be almost every single occasion, whether it’s a work function, lunch date, night out or even a Sunday afternoon catch-up. Finding new ways to connect with people and have fun has at times be tough. But for me, the self-growth has far outweighed the shitty moments.
I have had plenty of ah-ha moments – some of them have been positive and some have been incredibly hard to navigate without a red wine in my hand. I have had to discover new ways to cope with my feelings and at times that has been tough. In the past, if I’ve had a shit day at work or a disagreement with my partner or stressful conversation with someone, my go-to would be a few glasses of red to relax.
A few people joined me on the sobriety train & here is how there are going.
I would like to be writing this at 27 days sober. But actually, I lasted 21 days and caved on a night out…and got absolutely D.R.U.N.K. That was last Friday, and I’m only starting to feel ‘normal’ again 7 days later. This anecdote brings to life two of my biggest epiphanies taking on the 90-day challenge.
The first, which is obvious but so much harder when you’re living it, is the immense social pressure there is to drink. I’ve realised that most of the social events I attend and the friendships I nurture are based around drinking – dinners, after work catch ups, lunches, concerts. The thought of not drinking at these events scared me. I wondered about why… My friends would think less of me, I would be less good company. This was reinforced by the gasps and pleas – ‘What! You’re actually not drinking?!’, ’90 days, you’ll die’, ‘Oh but you must drink at X’.
On my second sober weekend I went out for dinner with my best friend of 20 years and his mate. My bestie complimented me on how good my company was – he said I sounded alive, clear, interesting and interested. Which brings me to my second finding. Despite the social anxieties, I have actually been WAY better company sober. After (sort of) four weeks sober, I can safely say I don’t actually miss drinking. The social pressure is not my problem, it’s everyone else’s, I am clearer and more driven towards my goals in life, and I’ve been better quality company.
I’ve tried to be sober before, but never took it too seriously. Then came New Year’s Eve, where I binged on alcohol and as a result was hospitalised for 2 weeks for the depressive episode that followed. It was at that point I realised I had to stop. It hit me that at 20 years old, I was wasting my weeks depressed and anxious as a trade off for being able to drink the anxiety away and feel great for a few hours on Saturday. The obsessive nature I had around alcohol wasn’t healthy.
I am now just over 2 months sober. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. I’ve swapped my mornings of not being able to hold down water, for taking my dog to the river. I’ve swapped my pubs and clubs for brunches and coffees. I’ve swapped using alcohol to calm the anxiety, for massages and the beach. I’m lucky to have a supportive friend who I recently was able to enjoy a sober camping trip with. I’m heading to Europe next month and I am 100% committed to not touching a drink.
Although, I haven’t quite mastered yet being able to have fun at a party sober. I’m planning to go beyond 100 days and have this as a permanent choice in my life. The positives are starting to greatly outweigh the negatives.
Cheers to three months of sobriety!