AN ACCIDENTAL SOBER OCTOBER AND WHAT IT TAUGHT ME ABOUT DRINKING

I did not voluntarily partake in ‘Sober October.’

In fact, strictly speaking, I didn’t officially complete it this year. I only actually realised a week into November that I’d done it at all. Any long time readers of the blog will know how incredibly surprising that is; that it took me a week to realise that I basically hadn’t been drunk for a month.

I say ‘basically’ because the devil’s nectar passed did pass by my lips a couple of times, but since I did not get drunk, not even once, I do feel as if I have some explaining to do.

I haven’t been drunk for about eight weeks and I think I’m well over due some reflection.

Full disclaimer: I am not very well at the moment and my current bout of not drinking has not been for a lack of trying. Yes, I hear the ridiculousness in that but here we are. Every time I drink alcohol at the moment, I vomit fairly immediately. Such is life with as-is-a-currently-undiagnosed-form-of-gastritis.

SO.

This is not a big blog post on how to best give up booze, full of handy tips and tricks on ordering an elderflower cordial and somehow shaking off your inhibitions for long enough to attempt some slutty table dancing as if you’re actually six tequilas deep.

No no, this is not one of those blog posts… although, if it were, I’d tell you to quietly order a soda water and lime, act as if you’re sinking vodkas at an impressive speed and crack on with all the things that you’re too self conscious to do in your real life, safe in the knowledge that you’re not going to wake up tomorrow feeling like your duvet is a weighty cloud of shame from which you cannot escape.

But that’s just one gal’s opinion.

I’ve written in the past about drinking when you have anxiety, but if you haven’t got the time to get into that particular wasp’s nest of a shit show right now, I can probably catch you up by saying that a bit off time without booze, being all sober and holier than thou, would surely do me the world of good.

To take back total control of my life (read: mouth, when I have one too many white wines and begin the inevitable and often intangible process of massively oversharing) and allow my mind a bit of time away from overthinking everything I said and did the night before, would no doubt help me to alleviate some of the stresses my anxiety causes me.

With all of that in mind, I’d really like to tell you that I’ve taken my mental health into consideration and have opted for a bit of time booze less because I’ve got impeccable self-control and am practising a bit of self-care.

This is not the case. That is not my bag. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.

I’m notnot drinking because I’m putting my mental health before my social life, in fact, my FOMO is normally so bad that I’m hard pushed to put anything before my social life. I’m not doing the right thing by my mind or doing any of this because I want to be a better person.

Although my anxiety would no doubt have benefitted from a bit of time ‘sober’, that is not why I did it.

As much as I’d like to claim it, as much as I wish it wasn’t; my sober October was an accident.

But, since it did teach me an awful lot about my relationship with alcohol, I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to divulge my findings… y’know, so I’m not left feeling as if I just sacrificed my entire social life for nothing.

The only problem with that, with talking about my love/hate relationship with Prosecco, is that, to acknowledge a ‘problem’ with alcohol, in any capacity, is terrifying.

To even hint that your relationship might be anything more than checking the ‘less than two units a week’ box when you fill out a medical form is scary. And that’s because alcohol, when abused, can be scary. It’s damaging and dangerous and because of that a lot of people are unable to maintain a healthy relationship with it at all.

Of course there are miles between having one glass of wine at Christmas and reaching for the bottle with your morning cereal and it’s in that no-man’s land that things begin to become a bit complicated.

In that space I am lumping together functioning alcoholics and students and, since I’ve never been either, I am grossly under qualified to comment on any of it. But I’ve been ‘sober’ for a few weeks now and I figure I might as well try my hand at being pious.

For most people, alcohol is used as a means of escape.

Whether you’re using it to escape your shitty day or to escape your life, the objective is often to get away from it all. To let loose. To relax. To have fun.

See, alcohol is really fun. Until it isn’t.

And I mean that in two ways. Both in a deep ‘until your relationship becomes dangerous’ sort of way and a ‘until it wears off and you’ve got a fucker of a hangover to shake off’ sort of way.

I don’t have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. But then, I’m hard pushed to describe my relationship with it as ‘healthy’, since, as a substance, it so famously isn’t.

For the sake of this blog post though, I think I need to separate ‘drinking to forget your life’ and ‘drinking to forget your day’ and focus on the kind of drinking that I was involved in: ‘let’s go out for one and if we end up having forty then so be it’.

It’s very much a part of British culture (or at least the bits that I’ve seen) to drink. I finish the sentence there because that’s pretty much it.

A lot of my life as a teenager was spent with warm vodka in a park (it felt pretty cool at the time), as a brand new adult basically everything I did revolved around Jaeger bombs and now, in my mid-twenties, it’s not entirely uncommon for me to find myself ready and hankering for a glass of wine by 5pm on a Tuesday because ‘I’ve definitely earned it’.

As far as life as a Londoner is concerned, I’d say that’s totally and entirely normal.

So why then do I feel as if my social life has totally dried up since my stint as a sober citizen began??

Disregarding the fact that I’m ill and therefore lacking the energy to dance-table-top every night of the week, I’d be an idiot not to notice that since the booze eased up, so too have my plans. I can’t remember the last time I went out, in fact.

It’s not that my pals haven’t invited me, it’s that I’ve been ever-so-slightly living by the ‘what’s the point’ mentality? If I can’t drink, then why bother? I’m not proud of it, but here we are. I’ve finished two books in two weeks, started knitting again and am fitter than I’ve been in a while.

Being sober has its perks.

Particularly where the bod’s concerned, if I’m honest. Not just because I’m probably halving my calorie intake by cutting the drink out, but because I just have more time to exercise. Between the actual ability to go to evening spinning classes because I’m not in the pub, I often end up with an excess energy to use the next morning as well.

I’m sleeping better too; although I’ve always been a ‘good’ sleeper, I’m not a restful one. I grind my teeth and wake up early, particularly if I’ve indulged of boozing (the SUGAR!!).

So there you have it, I’m knitting, I’m sleeping and I’m getting fit.

I’m so fucking boring.

But, let’s be honest, that has nothing to do with the fact that I am ‘sober’ and it has everything to do with the fact that I never really learned how not-to-drink.

I know this is 100% the talk of someone with a drink problem and I don’t want it to come across like this because I CLEARLY DO NOT HAVE A DRINK PROBLEM, but I’m British, a Londoner no less, I really suit G&Ts and alcohol has always been a big part of my life.

It is not normal not to drink though, that’s just the truth of it.

Drinking is fun and it’s normal and it’s forced on us by everyone.

Despite the fact that more millennials are opting for life as sober-citizens than ever before, whether for financial reasons or health ones, the scales still heavily weigh on the side of chardonnay.

With Christmas coming up, I very much hope that my stomach will fix itself and I can resume my roll as the Prosecco-guzzler (a nickname I gave myself and that I don’t think will stick) but if it doesn’t, I need to become okay with being sober.

Because actually, not drinking has many, many perks and if it weren’t for the stigma and the fact that Diet Coke is deemed utterly boring in any pub within the M25 (we hardly drive here, we have no excuse), it would be FINE. It would be fun, in fact, to spend a night out with all my pals and then be able to wake up the next morning fresh faced and fabulous and ready for an early morning’s spinning class.

This may well be the wishful thinking of a gal that has spent one too many mornings feeling fabulous and I’m sure if you asked me to write it again in December, it will sound entirely different and stink a bit of patron. But, hey, it’s the here and now that counts right?

Not drinking is what you make it and just because us Brits are complete delinquents from an early age, doesn’t mean that being sober from time to time can’t be fun. Particularly when your pals embark on the 2am hysteria and all you have to do is watch.

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