12 Months Without Alcohol: 12 Things I’ve Learnt

I celebrated my 1 year ‘soberversary’ this weekend and it felt amazing! It has been scary, awesome, impossible, enlightening, limitless, emboldening, celebratory and nuts! So, here are 12 things I have learnt in 12 months without alcohol. I could have done 50 things but I don’t wanna rinse it! 🙂

1. My relationships have been tested and strengthened

The best people in my life have got what I am doing and have loved me no matter what. And some of them are huge party animals! They have reassured me that I am free to ‘do me’ and that has been wonderful. As the saying goes, ‘those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter’. My incredible husband, my gorgeous mates and my family have all been super supportive.

HOWEVER, just because they support me it doesn’t mean they have found it easy. A group dynamic certainly shifts when one person quits alcohol. It’s undeniably different, especially if you have always partied hard together.

While I have had to make the biggest adjustment, my friends have also had to do some fancy footwork. They have had to accommodate my decision to go alcohol free and they have done so with love and humour, even though it’s been bloody inconvenient! I hope you have similarly beautiful people in your life!

2. A lot of people have a problem with alcohol

It’s amazing how many of us couldn’t go a week without alcohol. It’s even more amazing how many people drink every night. A bottle and a half of wine a week is the maximum advised by the NHS (and this figure was pretty much made up by the drinks industry). The World Health Organisation says that no amount of alcohol is risk free and yet we continue blindly to poison ourselves both physically and mentally. I was that blind drinker.

3. If you think life is too short to deny yourself alcohol then you’ve missed the point!

Life is too short to miss through hangovers and drunken conversations you’ll only half recall. Even the painful process of quitting and coming to terms with the dark parts of myself that I had numbed for so long has been life giving. If you think that you are enhancing your life experience with alcohol then I’m afraid you have massively missed the point.

As Florence Welch said, in a recent article for Vogue:

“It is an act of rebellion to remain present, to go against society’s desire for you to numb yourself, to look away. But we must not look away.”

4. People have forgotten what moderation means

I used to think that moderation meant not drinking on a Monday and Tuesday! Deep down I knew I was lying to myself but it’s only now I don’t drink at all I can see what moderation actually means. It’s only drinking when you really have reason to: a party, a nice meal out, an actual celebration, not just ‘yay, it’s Friday!’

If I could do moderation I would. I wish I could go back and undo the years of building up my tolerance and my addiction and just drink responsibly. Alcohol should be a treat, not a part of your routine.

5. I don’t need alcohol to have fun

This was my mantra in the first couple of months and I was faking it to make it. But now it’s true. If the company is good then I can have fun. On Saturday I invited a group of lovely ladies to my house for a celebratory tea party. Some of us drank tea, elderflower presse and Seedlip, while others had wine and Prosecco. I don’t think it made much difference to anyone either way. It was the conversation, the jokes and the delicious scones that made the event.

Tea party to celebrate 12 months without alcohol
It was a traditional tea party but with plenty of booze for those that wanted it.

Sometimes, however, you just know that no amount of alcohol will fix it. Poor company, feeling tired, bright lights and bad music will all have me clock watching. Where previously I would have drunk my way to a good time, now I know it’s not me, it’s the crap party.

6. I DO need alcohol to stay out beyond 1am

There comes a point in the night of a non-drinker when everything has been said and all the fun has been had. For the drinkers however, things can just keep being said, again…and again…. more emphatically and a little louder. At this point I need to get home. I once read that nothing good ever happens after 2am. For me, it’s closer to 1.

There are some events that I don’t want to go to at all, like festivals and all night parties, because I know what an endurance test they will be. I let myself say thanks but no thanks and don’t force myself into those difficult spaces. What’s the point? There’s no medal at the end of the night, although if there was I may change my mind! 🙂

7. I miss alcohol

I do miss alcohol! It would be dishonest to say otherwise. But I miss it like I miss smoking and yet I would never go back to smoking again. The good cigarettes were great but after years of quitting and relapsing I have finally learnt that the 15 shitty, cough inducing, stinky cigarettes I HAVE to have in order to enjoy that 1 that I WANT to have just aren’t worth my health.

Same goes for alcohol. A glass of red with a gorgeous meal on the rooftop of a London club with my hubby would be a beautiful thing. But am I prepared to throw my sobriety away for that moment? What do you think?

8. Alcohol made me puffy

I am not doing great on the healthy eating front at the moment (I have just been to Italy and Croatia on holiday – pasta, pizza, bread, ice cream). But on the whole I am in much better shape since I stopped drinking. Alcohol made me put on weight and it’s a puffy, watery, chubbiness, which I hate. For someone with a round face, puffiness is not a good look.

9. I am not the extrovert I thought I was

I used to go to the opening of an envelope if wine was involved and this made me super sociable. Actually, what I have discovered is that I like my own company just as much as I like hanging out with my mates.

Being alone with my thoughts is a very rare thing so when I get the chance to sit and write, do a puzzle, yoga or just watch Love Island with my kids (don’t judge us), I grab it! I can be a little too much of a hermit at times but I am happier with that than needing to drown out the silence with the noise of partying.

10. My children prefer me without alcohol

Well, my oldest (16) isn’t bothered either way although he is fully supportive of my not drinking. But the younger one (13) says he’s so pleased I don’t drink and he hopes I never drink again. It’s odd because it never came up before but when I quit he realised that he was far happier with the new me. Thank goodness. Imagine if they preferred me drunk!

11. I am so much more productive

The simple fact of no hangovers means I have loads more time and energy. I started writing at 7.30 this morning and I love that I can do that now. As a drinker, I was rarely on the go until about 10am. I was always tired and often wondered if I was anaemic… *Eye roll emoji.

12. Alcohol made me way less creative

Here’s one of the biggest lies alcohol tells us – “I will feed your creativity!” Rubbish! It will feed your self belief but only momentarily before it snatches it back the following morning and with it your perseverance and recollection.

I had actually started to think that my best ideas were behind me and I was all dried up. Since quitting I have discovered new levels of creativity in my music and writing and it feels fantastic!

Sober curious? Try it!

If you would like to see what living without alcohol is like then you need to do this one simple thing – don’t drink any alcohol today. That’s it. Just don’t drink anything between now and bedtime. Then tomorrow repeat the same step and just see how many days you can do.

It has been the best thing I have ever done and I can say that with no doubts in my mind and complete confidence in my decision. I am so pleased to be saying all this with a year under my belt but I got here by just committing to one day at a time. If I can do it……..