Last summer, my Facebook profile was filled with images of fun. Festivals, gigs, adventure holidays, days out, time with friends and family, time with my son. Countless selfies showed a beaming, happy Esther, having a HUGE amount of fun.
And I did it all sober.
At festivals and gigs where everyone around me was drinking and taking drugs, I was drinking water. Every day was a new adventure for my son and me. So much so that we had to agree to stop making plans towards the end of the summer, so we could rest between festivals.
There was so much we could do. And because I never had a hangover to keep me on the sofa, we could do them all!
The biggest myth of sobriety
One of the biggest obstacles that keeps people from exploring sobriety is the idea that life is boring without alcohol.
It’s a persistent belief. After all, alcohol is a key factor in most people’s social lives. We go to the pub on a Friday night to catch up with friends. We add booze to all our important events – birthdays, weddings, christenings, funerals, and so on. And we include alcohol in other social events, such as live music, sports, work and….well….. Pretty much everything. Alcohol has become seen as necessary for all the things we enjoy, so it’s no wonder we have come to believe that we need it for enjoyment.
But here’s the sting. Alcohol isn’t helping you enjoy those times. It’s numbing the enjoyment you could feel. Alcohol suppresses your emotional responses. It’s a depressant, it depresses the emotions.
Alcohol doesn’t stop you from being bored. It numbs the boredom. It doesn’t make people, events, or conversations more interesting. It stifles your cognitive functions so you are less discerning.
Ask any of your sober friends and they will tell you. Sobriety is far from boring. It’s not always easy. And being in a room full of drunk friends wishing you could be on the same level as them is hard.
But if you can stay open to the positives of sobriety, you’ll soon see that it’s anything but boring!
Finding the gifts of sobriety
In October 2014, I stopped drinking after 20 years of slowly killing myself. I didn’t know at the time that I was never going to drink again. All I knew is that I was going to “stay sober today”. The idea of forever wasn’t in my head. Giving up drinking wasn’t in my head. It was all about being sober.
Each night, I focused on the positives of staying sober that day. I’d celebrate
- Remembering going to bed, at a sensible time
- Remembering to put my pjyamas on
- Remembering to brush my teeth
- Making it under the covers instead of collapsing on top
- Knowing that I’d remember going to bed when i woke up
And each morning when I woke up, I celebrated
- Remembering going to bed
- Being able to wake up when I wanted
- Not having to try to work out if I did/said/bough/posted anything stupid the night before
- Knowing I hadn’t left empty bottles, and a full ashtray for my kids to find
- My mouth not feeling and tasting like I’d eaten a pub ashtray
- Not starting another day filled with shame and self loathing
These small moments of celebration and positivity kept me wanting to choose sobriety each day.
After 6 weeks, I attended my brother’s wedding, and instead of the red wine that was in endless supply, I chose sobriety. And I was able to be fully present, to take care of my son, to enjoy every moment of this special day. And in the morning I woke up with clear memories, and joy in my heart. No hangover. No regret. No shame that I’d done or said something stupid and spoiled his special day.
Creating a life of fun in sobriety
The beauty of choosing sobriety is that you end up with more, not less, choice about how you find fun and joy.
You can go to things you wouldn’t be able to if you had to rely on public transport to get home.
You can make plans and stick to them.
You don’t have to be tied to ‘Do they have a bar there?’ when deciding if you want to go to an event (I know not everyone feels like this, but many do, I was one!)
So what can you do to find your fun in sobriety?
Reframing the things you enjoy
I started enjoying going to see bands sober a long time before I stopped drinking. After being the designated driver one day and having SUCH a good time without alcohol, I realised that I could enjoy the bands I love much more if I could be fully present in the experience, and remember it the next day. I was able to enjoy every moment of the experience, rather than the drunken blur and snapshot memories I had when drunk.
Many times I chose to drive to gigs so I couldn’t drink, and would always come away happy. My drunk friends usually provided some entertainment on the way home. Sometimes they were annoying. Often they made me glad I was sober.
I never once wished I was the one being driven.
There are a growing number of sober communities popping up on social media and In Real Life. Whatever your interest, you will probably find a group of people doing it sober!
Community is vital in sobriety. If booze is such a common part of our social life, then it’s great to be able to create community and social support that not only tolerates but actively supports sobriety.
Hobbies and interests
You might find that you start to be interested in other activities now that you have taken alcohol out of your life. Sobriety gives us so much time back, so it’s not unusual to see newly sober taking up playing instruments, getting fit, getting crafty, writing and so much more.
It’s really affirming to channel that energy into something that will give you a positive feeling, isn’t it?
Someone in a sober group I am in recently joked that all sober people seem to get into running, hiking or weightlifting.
It’s not that far from the truth.
I think choosing sobriety brings us more into connection with our bodies.
Discovering what feeling a bit healthier feels like can spur us to want to be even healthier. And it’s nice to be able to get up on a Saturday morning and go for a run rather than down 50 coffees and a full English breakfast to try to get rid of the hangover.
Gratitude and positivity
As I mentioned above, a focus on the positives of sobriety helped me reach a point where I didn’t want to drink anymore.
Gratitude and a positive focus can help to keep you in a good frame of mind about your sobriety, where you can focus on the gifts sobriety is giving you, rather than focusing on the lack of alcohol.
When I tried to ‘stop drinking’ I never lasted more than a couple of days. As soon as I chose to focus on sobriety, it became something I actively preferred.
These are just a few ways you can create joy in sobriety. What do you enjoy in your life? How can you enjoy it sober?