With over a decade of ever-increasing alcohol consumption behind me, I hesitantly read The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober (buy here), following a bender (that I barely remembered) on my 26th birthday. My drinking career was at its peak and my mind had begun to grapple with the idea that maybe reaching for the Rioja for every celebration/occasion/commiseration had ceased to make me as happy as I once thought.
I was in denial about my drinking but still a little sober-curious. So naturally, the first time I perused her book I had a wine glass in the other hand whilst reading. What I wasn’t expecting was how much her writing would resonate in places.
“Blackouts were commonplace right from the get-go. I thought everyone experienced lost hours of nights out- turns out they don’t. I thought everyone felt jangly-nerved and ill-fitting until they’d had a drink- turns out they don’t.”
The notion of quitting the booze forever scared me senseless, but I hesitantly made a pact with myself not to drink for 100 days.
If I can survive 100 days without letting a drop of booze into my system, then it would prove that I certainly do not have a drink problem. How hard could it be?!
As expected, those first few weeks were utter hell. My mood was all over the place and attending boozy social engagements gave me the jitters. At one week sober, I attended a fancy party at St Paul’s and left after a mere 45 minutes of small talk.
I did everything I could possibly could to stay sober. I changed the nightly glass* (*bottle) of wine for a de-alcoholised equivalent. I swapped the fortnightly jog for a daily run instead. Exercise was paramount to combating cravings, even if it did mean sprinting through the streets of Greenwich at 11pm to keep my mind at ease.
After a fortnight, I began to experience what they describe in sobriety circles as the ‘pink cloud’, where even the most mundane activity felt thrilling. I started having busy weekends again, safe in the knowledge that there wouldn’t be an impending Sunday-morning-hangover.
As I edged closer to my 100 day goal, I realised that I actually didn’t want to stop not drinking. There’s an ever-growing list of sobriety benefits but one of the great advantages for me was just how much cash I’d saved in skin care. I was a lifelong eczema sufferer and for the first time ever I stopped needing prescription medication because my skin just stopped flaring up.
Like a lot of newly-sober people, I immersed myself in a bunch of quit lit along the way and found that reading about other IRL-sober people really comforting. It’s reassuring to be reminded that in a country preoccupied by alcohol, there are others that are foregoing the booze too. Sobriety was the gift that kept on giving.
Surely the pink cloud feeling couldn’t be so bad after all?