There’s no doubt my drinking increased when the Pandemic started. Whether on a friends’ Zoom chat, sitting in the garden enjoying the lovely weather we had or at the end of a home-schooling day; alcohol was my lockdown bestie.
But no one was sober right?!
There we all were, hunkering down in our homes and struggling to comprehend the latest guidelines. Survival felt a tad bit easier when slightly hazy. This numbing of reality was my saviour whilst I was also going through divorce proceedings and living in a house with my soon-to-be ex. Not a situation I would wish upon my arch enemy – not that I have one!
Yet as the Pandemic stretched on, so did my drinking. But this seemed common and totally fine. There’s were endless Memes about it on social media and I’d chat with other women who were all doing the same.
It was hardly surprising was it! Come on, what would you expect us to do?
You hear about people having some epiphany when they realise that their relationship with alcohol is no longer healthy. You know those stories where they have a major blackout, wake up hundreds of miles away from home or in the bed with an absolute stranger and realise it’s time to sort their shit out.
That wasn’t me. In fact, on the surface of it I was smashing through life.
In the first year of the Pandemic I’d not only kept our MTW community going, it had grown. I’d also got through the divorce and moved house. As for home-schooling, I’ll call it a win we survived!
Yet I also began to get some niggles about my drinking. You know the kind of feeling that you don’t say aloud but know deep down inside that something isn’t right? Talk also began within the MTW community about having a month’s sober break. A few women were trying it and I found myself intrigued yet also horrified at the thought.
If you think about taking a break from alcohol, do you feel the same?
Finding the right support
The fact I couldn’t imagine not drinking for a month made me realise I really needed to try it. Yet I knew I needed more than to simply say I wouldn’t drink. My half-hearted attempts at cutting down were testimony to that. You know those weeks where you say you’re not going to drink until the weekend but then it feels totally justified to crack open the vino on a school night?!
You may know already that I’m all about being coached and inspired by other women. If not, well I do and this situation was no exception! I needed to find women who’d also explored their relationship with alcohol and could give me support and guidance as to what to do next. Why be alone, feeling lost and quite shameful when instead I could be in a community of like-minded women?
Through recommendations from friends who were exploring their relationship with alcohol, I started reading Rosamund Dean’s Mindful Drinking and Catherine Gray Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. I can’t praise them enough for their honest, non-judgemental, and realistic perspectives on alcohol. Definitely worth checking out.
In person I found other women through MTW and my friends’ network who didn’t drink alcohol and were happy to chat to me about their experiences and give me support. I was honestly surprised at how many women drank no or little alcohol – I thought everyone was drinking as much as me!
Then online I searched for communities where sober curious women – a term I was to become familiar with – came together. The Sober Girl Society & Not So Secretly Sober were some of my favourites; though I admit to being a lurker in there as I felt new to the game and nervous.
Finding the right time and target
This was all happening in early March 2021 and it was to be my birthday a few weeks later. I really didn’t fancy doing that newly sober, who would?! So I set myself a date just after my birthday weekend and decided the next fortnight I wouldn’t worry about my drinking and just get on with it.
It was the equivalent of smashing through boxes of Celebrations at Christmas in the knowledge that come January you were starting a new exercise programme.
With the date set though I also needed a target for how long I’d try not to drink so I decided on Rosamund Dean’s 28-day break and downloaded the free NHS Drink Free Days App to help me track. The first step in the App is to input your alcohol for the past week – it calculated I’d had nearly 3 times the recommended 14 units and apparently drank more than 90% of women my age.
A sobering realisation …
Finding the right drink
I started the alcohol break believing I needed to replace my go-to friends of prosecco, wine and G&T with non-alcoholic versions. I was like a Master Sommelier trying and rating them! On hindsight it was a vain attempt to distract myself from the reality that I wasn’t drinking and was also time consuming and costly.
Still I was determined not to be sat of an evening with a glass of Vimto feeling like I was a kid again so I did settle on some non-alcoholic drinks. To my surprise, my favourite in the end to my surprise was Fever Tree tonics as they do some lovely flavours and look pretty in a grown-up glass!
My biggest surprise in starting the break was in finding myself. Now before you close down this page and think “what the feck is she on about” – give me a minute. Please!
I’m not talking about some spiritual awakening. I’m talking about when the alcohol disappears and with it the slight blurring of life and the crap that it’s throwing at you; you have to sit and come to terms with how you’re feeling rather than drown it at the bottom of a glass.
In some ways this was quite liberating when you realise you don’t need alcohol to have fun – shock horror! In others it was uncomfortable as I realised that whilst powering my way through lockdown and the divorce, I’d masked and not dealt with the emotional carnage it had caused.
This sober realisation whilst knocking me for six, also made me realise if I didn’t want to go back to where I started on this alcohol journey then I’d need to get some more support. Yes you guessed it, it did take the form of another woman! This time a therapist whom I’m still having sessions with today.
Counting the sober days
As the days started to mount up, so did my confidence and belief that I could do this. My initial 28 days went by quicker than I expected, so I extended it to 60, then to 100, then 6 months. At the time of writing this I’m exactly 365 days sober! Yes I click on the App every day and count it as a win.
I still get asked when I’ll start drinking alcohol again. My answer is always the same – when I find a reason to. Right now I think clearer, sleep better, feel healthier, am more active and happier without it.
If that reason comes then I’ll have a drink. But I know deep down inside where those niggles about my drinking used to sit, that it’s likely never to arrive.
Finding your support
If you too are considering or on a similar journey, then know there is no need for you to do it alone. Unless of course you want to.
The communities and resources I’ve talked about here are ones I personally found helpful but there’s a whole world of support out there for sober-curious women. I’d encourage you to seek them out and find ones you feel comfortable with as you’ll get the most out of them.
I was so lucky to have the listening ear and guidance of women who were further ahead in their sober journey to me. My DMs are always open so reach out if you’d like – to pay it forward to other women would be my pleasure.
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