Sober Diaries : Week 1
Beginner’s high; the feeling that I can achieve anything because I avoided the Wednesday glass of wine after a stressful day at work. I’m not even craving alcohol; I feel indestructible. This will be a walk in the park.
|Beginner’s High: Not exclusive to the sober curious non-drinker. See also dieting – that superhuman feeling that fades after a week or the first time you encounter chocolate cake.|
The week I tell several of my friends that I’ve decided to stop drinking for a period longer than seven days. Insert the “OMG’s!!!” “But it’s summer?!” “Why?!” And “You’re Lame”. The following Sunday, said friends will confess that they now also want to have a break from alcohol. Obviously, something has resonated with them enough to stay in their minds for the past few days. I welcome them with open arms and no judgements.
|Fessing Up: Why did it take me a week to tell my friends? Because I was worried I’d slip. I wanted to keep it to myself just in case. I’ve tried before, so I’m used to the teasing, but the fact that they opened up to me about wanting to have a break from drinking? That’s a first. Change is afoot.|
The event I have been dreading the most and can’t put off any longer: the first sober date. I’m used to a glass of wine beforehand, just to settle my nerves, and then at least a bottle during the date itself. This time I tell the bartender to pour a tonic water and make it look like a G&T. When my date arrives, I wuss out. “I can’t have another drink because I have an early start”. I invite my date to have as many drinks as they like – just because I’m not drinking doesn’t mean they don’t have to – but they admit to, “feeling a bit sad drinking alone”. We agree to reschedule for a less convenient time when we can have more drinks, and the evening draws to a close at 8:30pm. A second date never happens.
|Sober Dating: Understandably, this is a huge stumbling block for so many people. Alcohol is definitely a big part of the British dating culture. I know it’s not necessary but it certainly feels that way. Yes, I was tempted to cave. Dating is scary enough and being sober on top is a whole load of terrifying. I was worried they would find me dull. What reassures me? I know deep down I’m anything but dull, and besides, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone that thought not drinking was “lame” or made me a less interesting person.|
The week when all the changes start coming together. By now, my friends have got used to the fact that I don’t drink when I go out. They order me glasses of tonic water and choose bars that serve Real Kombucha rather than consistently asking, “are you sure?”
Their fears that I’ll “turn boring” no longer exist after a couple of 3am finishes where I’m dancing more than anyone else.
A few other positive things; I lose a couple of kilos, I manage to make my Sunday morning workout class, my sleep is the best that it’s ever been, I save A LOT of money and I feel more hydrated and energised than I’ve felt in years. As life suddenly becomes more vibrant, the excruciating dullness of the old social treadmill reveals itself.
As I walk down the streets of Clapham high street at 1am, having dropped my tipsy friends off at Infernos to carry on their night, I pass the hundreds of people inebriated, lying on the floor, wondering where they will go next to carry on their evening (“Infernos or SOUK?”). I wonder: is this it? Is this all life is? A collection of stories of blurry drunken nights and consecutive hangovers? When you take away drinking, and you take away excuses to act out of character, what do you find joy in if not the wild nights with your friends, bonding over mistakes and drunken memories?
But then there are the other things: the deep and honest conversations I have with friends about using nights out as distractions from difficult periods in life; watching the early morning sunrise on my way to the gym; spending more time with true friends who share similar values and benefit my life in hugely positive ways; I feel immense gratitude, more than I could ever imagine, over the smallest things; I’m kinder to myself, the anxiety and negative self-talk decreases week on week; “Change doesn’t happen overnight”, “consistency is key” and Bear Grylls’ “positivity, positivity, positivity” are catch phrases that circulate through my head a lot.
The last thing I realise is that life has inexplicably changed for good. Having initially started this period of sobriety as a 3-month challenge, I know there is no way I can go back to old habits – how could I?
The grass is greener on the other side. It just takes a bit of mowing.
|Socialising for the Sober Curious: When you’re trying to stay off alcohol, going to a bar or a club is the last thing you want to do, right? There’s no right answer to that. For me, it was a bit like saying I’m only eating healthily from now on, so therefore I’ll never go to a restaurant again. It’s not realistic. Sure, it takes a lot more willpower, but I wouldn’t miss dancing to ABBA in cheesy clubs with my friends for anything. I do recognise it’s not for everyone, however.|
Shani Higgs works for Real Kombucha as an account manager in London. Make sure you keep up with Shani’s monthly Sober Curious Diary by signing up for our newsletter.