Day 5: Caution! Living Alcohol-Free Can Be Habit-Forming

woman wearing hoodie spreading her arm near trees with snows

“Drink because you are happy but never because you are miserable.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

I remember when I first decided to go sober for a while.  Like most people it wasn’t a decision I took lightly.  I initially decided to do sober October and I remember the look of incredulity on the faces of my friends and family (well the ones who hadn’t realised that I was actually ill and dying from my alcohol abuse).  To most people I was the party girl, you would always find me last to leave, telling animated stories and then ridiculing myself the next day with tales of how drunk I was and what an amazing time I had.  This was never true, inside was a crippling anxiety that I hid.  One of the most important people in my life (my 10-year-old son) said to me, I don’t think you can do sober October Mum.  You like your wine too much.  Truth be told I didn’t know if I could do it either but I knew I had to try.

It was a bit like jumping off a cliff without a parachute. I hadn’t really given it any thought as to how I was practically going to do this but I just knew that I had to give it a go.  The last drink I had before I went sober was red wine and I remember vividly the indigestion it gave me, I think my body was rebelling and in hindsight it was desperate for a break.  I had been a daily heavy drinker for 35 years.

I had a medical detox and I wouldn’t suggest stopping this level of drinking without one so I had support from day 1.  That first day was actually a relief.  I think that by the time you decide to give it a go to stay sober for a month there’s a weight that lifts and even though it’s the unknown it feels like the right thing to do.

I want to talk about changing habits because for me this has been a revelation.  The first couple of nights I journaled and engaged in some group activities, and I remember laughing out loud for the first time without alcohol in as long as I can remember.  I caught myself and was amazed that for once I was interacting with other people and having fun without alcohol.  Then I remember the way my face began to lose its puffiness and my eyes seemed brighter. Honestly, I was still only about 3 or 4 days sober but I felt lighter.  I started to enjoy the taste of food more and quickly developed other habits — instead of reaching for the wine at 7pm, I would run a hot bath and meditate.  I had never meditated before and I set up a small table in my bedroom with some candles where I said my gratitudes, feeling grateful that I was sober for the first time in forever.  

As I continued with these new habits I began to think less and less about alcohol.  I decided that I would take up a new interest and I bought a cello, spending my sober Saturday nights learning a new song.

I joined an online Philosophy class and also a playwriting class, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these things if I had been habitually drinking and I thought I would take the opportunity to do something different.

I can honestly say that each day I was sober became easier and the less I thought about it.

I remember in the beginning writing out a chart so I could count the days down until the end of the month and see when I could drink again but as I began to tick off the days I almost didn’t want to get to the end.

I ended up doing 6 months sober in total and I genuinely believe that if I can do that then anyone can. It becomes addictive; waking up without guilt or shame is a gift.

If I could give any advice for those first few days (they are the hardest) then I would say plan your day, hour by hour.  Add in things you couldn’t do before.  Maybe go for a drive, take yourself to the theatre, the cinema, or even just go for a cup of tea with your bestie because you wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things if you were drinking and just back yourself.  It will be one of the best things that you ever do, I promise.

By Andrea, MM Member