It’s been over six months since I went sober and it’s something I’m frequently asked about. People assume that I must have an iron will not to succumb to the temptation of a delicious, mollifying glass of wine. I guess that’s true to some extent but the reason I quit negates the need for discipline. After a prolonged period of bad mental health, I had limited my alcohol consumption so when I did drink I was able to accurately track it’s effect. I went out in with a friend in January and I drank two glasses of white wine with dinner. I was very anxious for the rest of the week, obsessing about stupid things that happened over a decade ago. After the anxiety subsided, I realised that it just wasn’t worth it. Once I had a clear view of what even moderate drinking did to me, I couldn’t go back. It’s like eating a chocolate éclair when you know you have a wheat and dairy intolerance. The éclair might be delightful, but there’ll be hansom price to pay and the hours of gastric pain will be disproportionate to the fleeting pleasure.
I am a control freak and being at the mercy of my bipolar disorder can be very stressful. Moods that soar and plummet with no significant change of circumstance is not only exhausting but a nuisance. My mental illnesses are really frustrating because they make it difficult to enjoy life but also hinder my ability to work. It’s hard to concentrate while my thoughts are racing at a thousand miles an hour, or I when I can’t muster the energy to work because I’m convinced that everything I do is doomed to failure. Claiming a little agency back is empowering. I still expereince highs and lows, but I’ve deleted a whole mess of problems that come with alcohol. However, I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t hard because it absolutely is. Now it’s summer I yearn for a drink even more than I do in the winter months. Temptation is everywhere; I find it in beer gardens where people are sipping on Aperol spritz in the hazy evening sunshine. It follows me to lunch at the weekend when I watch my friends order chilled rose, the condensation trickling down the glass, making the blushing wine appear all the more refreshing and enticing. It lurks at parties when I itch for the dutch-courage associated with first glass of champagne or gin and tonic. Now I often find myself without a glass in my hand – there’s only so much sparkling elderflower one can consume in an evening. Standing around empty handed makes me feel a little naked and awkward, I never know what to do with my hands. Pockets help; if you’ve recently quit drinking and you’re nervous about going to parties, get a dress with pockets.
I would love to say that I’ve achieved blissful mental clarity and I rise at in the early hours of the morning, meditate for an hour and do yoga while watching the sun rise. But that would be a fib. I’m still the boozehound I always was, just without a cocktail in my hand. My friends have offered not to drink around me but I’d hate to spoil anyone’s fun. That would make me feel even more of a social anomaly. In fact, I want life to carry on as before; I want to go to the same parties and the same bars, just without the crippling anxiety and depression afterwards. There have been periods when my drinking has been very unhealthy, but I have a loving and observant partner who pulled me back from the precipice of full blown addiction. He never told me to stop drinking, but he pointed out that I’d woken up with a hangover for the 4th time in a week. His presence has made me more accountable and self-aware. If I had developed alcoholism I might have to change my habits but as it stands, I can still continue to socialise normally, without things being too difficult. I still dress like I’m going out all the time, my sobriety has not curtailed my tendency to overdress. In fact, I felt more of a need for my style to stay the same as much of my identity was tied up in drinking. My style is a way to assert my identity, with or without a drink. This dress from Lily and Lionel makes me feel like my old self but now I’m sober I’m less likely to topple over in my espadrilles (similar here). Although sobriety is no guarantee that I won’t stack it now and then.
I really miss alcohol, I had a great laugh getting wasted with my mates. Of course sobriety has its advantages, it’s considerably cheaper and the absence of hangovers is quite lovely. But if I had a choice I would still drink regularly and probably get drunk now and then and I would relish every drop. I’m not smug about going sober but I know it was the right choice. It was the most self-loving thing I could have done for myself and it feels good to know that I’m doing all I can to look after my health.