I’m two years sober! Well, 737 days at the time of writing this. Two years ago, even stringing a couple of days without a drink was a struggle. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of abstaining from something I’d inadvertently built my life around.
Not everyone’s recovery is linear and I feel like I could have written a book about the last two years. Instead, I’ll share with you 24 great things about my sobriety. One for each month that I haven’t had a drink. Here we go, from April 2018 onwards..
My skin clears up.
As a lifelong eczema sufferer, this is a biggie. Within that first month my face got less red and blotchy and the red skin around my chest/arms and back vanishes. I stop wearing makeup to work.
I realise alcohol doesn’t help stressful situations.
Not long before I quit drinking, I was asked to deliver a huge presentation to an entire faculty of a big university. I’ve done public speaking for years, but would drink during the periods of preparation “to help me write a more creative presentation” and drink immediately after each delivery. At the end of the first month without booze, I jumped on a train and journey 200km+ away to the university. I deliver the presentation. I’m stressed and all I can think is “wouldn’t it make things easier if I had a drink?” I choose to not drink. Which results in me feeling sharper during the presentation and the gruelling Q&A.
I become more self-assured. I stop taking shit from people.
In summer 2018 I’m away for work with a colleague that I don’t particularly like*. He asks me why I’m not drinking. I joke that I’m pregnant, just to shut him up. He knows I’m lying but every single night he keeps pestering me about it, he wants to know. On day three of the trip I tell him to piss off.
*FYI- all of my co-workers are fantastic. Just not that one.
I can run.
In July 2018, I represented UN Women at the Westminster 10k. I was part of Dame Kelly Holmes’s team: it was amazing. In July 2018 I did my first ever parkrun (it took me some time to build up the courage- I’d been registered for a month before I actually participated)
I lose excess weight.
I wasn’t intending to lose weight. Despite eating chocolate at every opportunity, I lost a stone within 6 months of not drinking. I suppose it puts into perspective how many calories were in the bottles of wine I was “happily” drinking. I was only a size 12 but had developed a “wine belly” that seemed to vanish without much effort.
On that note- I eat more during sobriety than I did as a drinker. I was one of those people that would rather she got her calories from the cocktails, rather than dinner. I would always opt for salads so I could drink more when dining out.
I become comfortable with my body in public- September 2018.
Now THIS is a biggie. Even though I’ve been fencing for a few years so am not exactly unfit, I despise getting changed in public. I would never use a public changing room and would cram myself into a toilet cubicle. Anyway so I’m fencing in Barcelona and there isn’t a cubicle in the changing room. So I get undressed, surrounded by a bunch of women. And it actually feels okay! It was also around this time that I did my first ever 5k without stopping for a breather.
I have better nights out than when I was drinking.
During that time in Barcelona, I go clubbing with my friend and stay out until 5am. We danced all night, had fun and I didn’t care that I was surrounded by booze all night.
I’m a nicer person.
Sure, I’ve stopped taking shit from people. But on the whole I’m a far better person. I don’t embarrass myself or get argumentative at parties. By November 2019, I’d attended a number of weddings sober and my boyfriend proposed to me this month. We’d been together for years before this but I was a bit of a complete dick to him whenever I’d been on the bottle. Which was nearly every night. I listen to people when socialising because my focus is no longer on where the next drink is coming from.
This was meant to say “I read more” but in fact, I barely read any books as a drinker. I used that old excuse of “not having enough time”. I didn’t have the attention span to read books so would use my commute to mindlessly scroll through my phone. Not anymore! I have reverted to my childhood love of books and it’s one of my favourite things. I joined a library and am even a member of an actual book club.*Beams proudly*
My finances are in better shape than ever.
As an average, I was spending at least £60+ each week on alcohol. Over time, that adds up. I also had a huge debt of thousands that I owed to the HMRC. When I stopped drinking, my bank statements finally levelled out. It took several months to do this- I convinced myself “I wasn’t good at money” so would never open a payslip, let alone a letter about tax.
I love being outside now.
As a drinker, most of your time drinking time is spent indoors. In the drinking days, I used go on annual countryside minibreak with my friends. My friends are great but I found the country walks a bore and would be continually counting down the minutes until we reached the pub. When I stopped drinking, I began to appreciate nature. Like whoa, aren’t flowers and trees bloody incredible?! Being outdoors is fantastic*
*Not right now though. COVID-19 pandemic and all that…
12. I LOVE MYSELF
Whoa that was tough to write. But it’s true. It’s often remarked that being sober is about building a life that you aren’t trying to escape from. I enjoy being in my own company now. In March 2019 I was based in Australia for work and had a free weekend so I took an impromptu, spur of the moment trip to the Blue Mountains. There’s no Wi-Fi so I’m completely cut off from the world and IT’S FANTASTIC. I read lots, drink kombucha and immerse myself in “the bush”. I spend a few hundred dollars on an abseiling course then throw myself off one of the mountains.
13. I learn to openly talk about not drinking. And it feels GOOD.
In April 2019 I’m a year sober. I’m based in Glasgow for work, on my own. I choose to dine out at a local supper club. I was here last year too, for that first week of not drinking so it feels poignant to be back. Anyway, I’m at this supper club and I turn down the free wine. I’m talking with a guy at the restaurant and he remarks at my choice for not drinking- “Are you a teetotaller?” I’d never been asked this before so I say yes and we discuss booze for a while and he even admits he’d like to attempt a stint at sobriety himself.
14. I’m more productive.
Possibly because I’m not perpetually hangover and because it’s easier to focus. But it’s so easy do get shit done now.
15. I’m calmer.
In June 2019 I passed my first flying lesson. I wasn’t riddled with anxiety before quitting booze, but I’m so much more chillaxed. I rarely get anxious, don’t get shaky hands and keep my cool in stressful situations even more than I previously did. I’ve worn a Fitbit for years and one of the first things I noticed about abandoning booze was that my RHR (resting heart rate) returned to state of normal. It’s dropped by around 13 BPM (beats per minute).
My friendships are better.
Most of my friends still drink and that’s fine. But by not drinking I quickly separated the ones who I only ventured to the pub with, with the ones who truly matter. One of my old drinking buddies (who I used to drink with all over London) now instigates weekend bike riding, nights out at the cinema and trips to museums in-between. Despite having a friendship that was founded on booze, not once has he encouraged me to have a drink. During the times where I felt “I was gagging for booze” he was there for me, pouring a bottle of the nearest alcohol-free bevvie. What a gem.
17. I have deeper connections than I ever did as a drinker.
I joined Instagram in Autumn 2019. Until then, my sobriety journey had been a solo one. Apart from treating The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober like a bible (I carried it everywhere). I didn’t seek help from AA, my GP or any recovery group. But since coming online, I’ve created some pretty deep relationships with some Insta-pals.
As for my drinking pals, my friendships with them are more solid, truthful and happier than ever. I am especially grateful for my colleague E. who has been an absolute rock of a friend.
18. I sleep better.
Some sober people claim to sleep more than they did as a drinker. I’m still averaging seven hours so that doesn’t apply to me but I am waking up feeling refreshed, rather than rotten. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night anymore gasping of thirst. It’s also easier to drift off at night
19. I love exercise now.
Teenage Vikki would purposely forget her shorts and football socks*, in a desperate bid to escape weekly PE in high school. In October 2019 I ran my first marathon.
*In British state schools kids are forced to wear hideous PE kits.
20. Sobriety makes the impossible, possible.
I’m training for a triathlon at the moment. I had written off this dream back in 2017 because I couldn’t run, swim or ride a bike. Since quitting I have:
-Taken swimming lessons. I had a phobia of being in the deep end of a pool and I’m completely over it now.
-Rode a bike. On a road. In London.
-Ran 1000+ miles over the course of the last two years (I keep a weekly running diary)
21. I’m honest.
With myself and others. This also ties in with the “not taking shit from people thing” but as a drinker, I found myself hiding away at times. In 2012 I got blackout drunk and slept with a man who was not my boyfriend. I came clean to him but I was riddled with guilt for years. I never even told my best friends. Trying to mask your lies and insecurities is exhausting. I admit when I’m vulnerable and speak my mind these days. The BBC interviewed me about that drunken escapade and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that I’d been holding in for the previous seven years.
22. My eyes are brighter, I feel healthier.
Aside from having a clearer complexion, I look and feel better. My eyes are brighter, my hair feels better and my nails are stronger. It wasn’t until I was 3 months sober that I got my first manicure- before then, I’d avoided salons because I was paranoid that I stank of booze.
23. I want to better myself.
Not just through sobriety- academically, financially and personally too. I recently changed career, enrolled onto a bunch of very expensive academic courses and joined a public speaking network.
24. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.