“Don’t be ruled by your past. Don’t be crippled by the past. Let the past be the past and focus on what is ahead. Remember however that if you neglect the most essential lessons of the past, you shall walk into the future with one leg.”
– Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
It’s the end of January, and if you’ve made it this far, then you should be so proud of yourself. Not drinking in a world where everyone does, confronting deeply ingrained habits and dealing with the mental and physical impact of abstaining from an addictive drug is hard. You, my friend, are a superhero.
So, before we go any further, take a few minutes, or hours, to give yourself a huge pat on the back. Treat yourself to something special with some of the cash you’ve saved, or eat a giant slice of cake, since you’ve banked a huge number of calories too.
Then, please, spend some time having a really good think. You have a decision coming up, which could be the most important and life-changing decision you ever make.
First off, think about all the amazing things that have happened in the last few weeks without booze. Write ‘em down. Is your face less puffy? Are your eyes whiter? Is your skin clearer? Are you sleeping better? Have you lost weight? Are you less anxious and stressed than usual? Have you had fewer arguments with your family? Did you manage to watch to the end of every movie you’ve started this month? And the mornings! What was it like waking up every morning brimming with energy, and with no regrets?
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking okay, there were SOME benefits, but it was really HARD, and I’m not sure I liked it AT ALL. I hear you. So, list the downsides too. Did you get terrible headaches? Find it difficult to get to sleep initially? Did you have awful cravings? Did you find yourself becoming obsessed by the idea of having another drink, and counting down all the days until the end of January? Did you feel ill at ease socially, and unable to relax and enjoy yourself?
Now, ask yourself this: How is it that we see alcohol as so harmless, when quitting it for just a few weeks can have such a monumental effect, both positively and negatively, on our mental and physical wellbeing?
The truth it, that there is no other change you can make (with the exception of quitting other addictive drugs like heroin or nicotine), that will have such a huge impact on all aspects of your life than giving up alcohol.
Here’s why: Alcohol is an addictive drug. It’s also a toxin and a carcinogen. Alcohol affects every part of our body, from our livers to our brains, our digestive systems, our skin, the whole shebang. That’s why Dryuary is a challenge. It’s not like quitting bananas for a month. The 2010 Nutt Report into the comparative harms of narcotics to the individual found that alcohol was the fourth most dangerous, after heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth. More harmful than nicotine, cannabis, MDMA, LSD and speed.
So, here’s the decision your facing right now. What do you do next?
You, my friend, have done the hardest part. The first month of quitting booze is by far the most difficult. However, you haven’t got to the really good bit yet. Most people find that the really miraculous benefits of going sober start to kick in after around 100 days, and they keep on coming. I found that by the end of one year sober I’d lost nearly thirty pounds in weight. My insomnia and anxiety had completely gone. I felt more optimistic, energetic and brave than I’d been for decades. I paid off my overdraft. And I became a way better mum, partner and friend. I also changed my whole life, turned my passion into my career and rediscovered my self-respect.
Not bad, given that I only changed one little thing.
You see, what I discovered is that when you drink to blur all the difficult things in life, you blur all the good bits too.
I know the idea of quitting alcohol for good is scary. Hell, I was terrified. But if you take just one day at a time, and keep on going, miracles will happen.
Perhaps you’re not ready for that yet. Maybe you’re thinking I learned a lot from that month, and now I’m going to start drinking again, but I’m going to be sensible now, and drink moderately.
And that’s good too! If you can manage to keep a lid on your drinking, and stick to the recommended guidelines, then it’s not going to do you too much damage, and Moderation Management can help.
Just bear in mind that not everyone can. I am very much an all-or-nothing type of person. I find moderating anything really hard – be it love, friendship, chips or chocolate. I find it way easier to have none at all than ‘just a little bit.’ I have never, ever seen the point of ‘one glass of wine.’ Moderating for me was exhausting and soul destroying. I felt like an utter failure. Quitting totally, however, was a liberation. I was free.
So, if you try to drink moderately as you go into February, but you find it impossible and quickly end up back where you were, then you are not alone. Don’t feel bad. Don’t beat yourself up. Alcohol is a drug. It is designed to make you want more and more and more. If you find moderating really tough, you will probably find going sober way easier.
The choice, my friends, is yours.
Whatever you decide to do, please make sure you do this: Remember that alcohol is not your friend – it is a toxin and a drug, and you need to approach it with caution. It is certainly possible to enjoy a relationship with alcohol, but only if you make damn sure it’s on your terms. With that in mind, whenever you come across anyone who has made the monumental and brave decision to go sober then, please, congratulate them. Tell them they are a superhero, because they are. The most difficult thing about quitting booze is other people’s reactions. We can start to change that NOW. All of us.
And, next time you’re at a party and someone turns down a drink, don’t grill them about their motives. You know now how difficult that can be for the newly sober, and how hard it can be to say “no.” Just give them a high five. Or a hug.
Congratulations and a happy and healthy New Year to you all!
Post Submitted By: Clare Pooley (aka SoberMummy)
Clare Pooley is the author of the book The Sober Diaries and the blog Mummy was a Secret Drinker. You can find her TEDx talk on Making Sober Less Shameful on YouTube.