Today I had the day off so I purchased a few non-alcoholic beers on my way home from the city. It was only as I sat on the deck drinking one that I realised today marked one and a half years no boozing. The realisation made me notice I’d stopped counting. I no longer think at the start of each month: today is ……….. since I had a drink. Well, except today, obviously. It’s simply become my natural state of being. Hallelujah, time keeping only meant I still thought it was important; that there was possibly a day when it would stop.
I started thinking about what’s changed in the last 18 months, and I can sum it up in ten dot points:
- I care more: Boozing used to be a brilliant excuse to give up. When life threw me lemons, I’d make a trip to the bottle shop. And I wasn’t buying lemonade. Getting my driver’s license is a perfect example. Prior to becoming a non-boozer I might have started driving lessons, but then something might’ve side-tracked me and I would’ve given up. Now I care to see things through.
- I problem solve better: I used to drink away problems, which I can’t say was overly successful. The problems only seemed bigger with a hangover. And then I also had the problem of overcoming booze-induced queasiness (Uber Eats must be dismayed at my now inactive account). These days I tend to work around the problems, not just drown them with a healthy smattering of sav blanc.
- I’m more aware of what I want from life: Since ditching the sauce I have quit a job I didn’t like, and gone part-time at a different job so I could start my masters in writing. I’d thought about doing the masters for quite some time but I couldn’t decide if it was the right decision. A third of the way through, I know it’s the only thing I want to do.
- I’m also more aware of what I don’t want: Don’t get me wrong, I still live in a permanent state of uncertainty about a lot of things, but I’m more certain about what I don’t want my life to be. I can definitely confirm I don’t want to be a 40-something-year-old stumbling from bar to bar, trying to maintain a good level of pie-eyed.
- I still occasionally feel like a drink but significantly less than a year ago: Sometimes, but very rarely now, I still catch myself staring at my partner’s red wine glass and thinking, ‘I could just have a sip of that’, but then rational me kicks me in the butt. It’s the awareness that one sip would probably lead me down the rabbit hole that stops me. Plus, if I was going to slip I really should have better standards than let it be my partner’s cheap red wine.
- Socialising is still fun, it just depends on the company: When you stop boozing you become more selective about who you want to spend your time with. You are more inclined to surround yourself with people who you genuinely care about and make you happy, not just people who share your love of drinking.
- It’s easier to do something 100% than 99%: I heard this in a Ted Talk once, and I instantly thought, hell yes it is. Once you commit to something 100% it leaves your mind free to think about other stuff, you aren’t left in a state of conflict with your own thoughts. You’ve successfully picked a side of the fence.
- People say to me more often: ‘I’ve thought about giving up drinking before’: People regularly say this to me when they find out I no longer drink. Some people even go that inch further and ask how I did it (no great secret, just a lot of reading and rewiring, I’m afraid). I guess the main thing is, we all have to do things in our own time, you can’t force it until you are ready.
- The alcohol-free scene is growing: When I first stopped there was one or two alcohol-free beers on the market, and they tended to be in boutique bottle shops. Now, even the mainstream ones seem to stock three different brands. It does make me think this whole sobriety business is on the move.
- I’m less likely to end up falling out of a tree: I have a dear friend who used to say she worried about me getting drunk because I would think nothing about climbing a tree in a pub’s beer garden, or swinging by my knees from a chin-up bar at a friend’s party, or scaling up to my balcony if I locked myself out. I still occasionally need to scale my balcony because I’ve locked myself out, but I’m a lot more sure-footed now.
So there you have it, there’s been significant changes in the last 18 months, but I guess the main thing that’s changed is me. Drinking has ceased to play a leading role in my life, and luckily enough, so has defining myself by not drinking.