Personal growth

Staying Sober in the Time of Corona

Content Note (Trigger Warning): This post talks about alcohol abuse and toxic relationships.

Before I talk about why and how I’ve stayed sober throughout lockdown (and before), I want to say that what I’m sharing here is what I wish I’d heard when I was heavily dependent on alcohol. Hearing someone else’s experience would’ve been incredibly helpful. Whatever your relationship is with alcohol, I don’t judge you. So, if what I share hits a little bit too close to home, there are brilliant professional resources out there that can give you help and support.

I’m writing this now because I’ve been seeing memes like “oh we’re in lockdown let’s have a drink at 10AM!” And it’s time that we talk about this. Alcohol is a drug. That’s a fact, don’t @ me.

Right – here we go.

What I used to be like

It’s been nearly 3 years since I made the decision to stop drinking the way I did. From the ages of 22 to 24, I would drink a minimum of two drinks every weekday, and about five on a weekend. If you tacked on a bottomless brunch on the weekend… well.

Two drinks may not seem like much, but considering I was known as the ‘One Shot Wonder’…

My drinking history ‘officially’ started at university. Until this point, I hadn’t seen anyone drink, not family nor my friends back home. I skipped my own Freshers, but quickly realised drinking was the way to fit in. By the time second year swung round, I was more than happy to get involved and relive the Freshers I never had.

I stopped temporarily in third year because of endometriosis. However, going into my corporate job with my first paycheck meant I was tapping my contactless card to my heart’s delight at the All Bar One in Canary Wharf every Thursday and Friday evening.

I remember shockingly little about those few years. Partly from my brain trying to forget the relationship I was in at the time, but also because alcohol affects your brain function. I remember glimpses:

  • Being so drunk I couldn’t stand up straight but had to find my way home by myself. Thinking I was incredibly polite because I opened the door of my Uber to chunder outside so I wouldn’t have to pay the £50 surcharge for cleaning. The driver told me he was giving me a 5 star rating for being so considerate, but that might have been in my head…
  • Sitting and crying at the front door at 3am because I couldn’t get inside, but realising hours later that I was on the wrong street and that wasn’t my front door
  • Being so drunk at family dinners I got in arguments with everyone, over everything.

Compound this with the fact that I was in a relationship where I was told I couldn’t leave because “who else would want me?”. Wait was that him speaking or the alcohol speaking? 

So, I turned to the other for self soothing. Soon I was having alcohol whenever I could, a little sip near lunch, a few drinks at lunch, then straight to the bar after work. And when I wasn’t drinking, I was desperate to.

Soon I was having alcohol whenever I could: a sip near lunch, a few drinks at lunch, then straight to the bar after work. When I wasn’t drinking, I was desperate to.

How I stopped

After the most horrendous flight, I finally got to Bali for what was meant to be a blissful save-the-relationship holiday. I decided to stay sober in an effort to make amends. With no alcohol – it was the clearest mind I had in a really long time. What I realised on that trip was that I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him. So, I broke up with him when the plane landed back in the UK. More importantly, I had realized I didn’t want that relationship with alcohol anymore either.

So I phased it out, first limiting myself to drinking only on weekends. Then it became no drinking on dates, then no drinking at social events. Eventually, I only drank when it was a special occasion (my birthday!).

Learning how to say no was the hardest, because saying yes is much easier with peer pressure. Saying yes to one meant saying yes to more because I didn’t have the tools yet to stop after one.

Learning how to say no was the hardest. Saying yes to one [drink] meant saying yes to more because I didn’t have the tools yet to stop after one.

So, what now?

I still find bars and pubs hard to enter sometimes, because I can feel that urge rise in my chest. I get scared that I’ll go back into my previous drinking habits. Because I’m the type that goes big or goes home, so now I normally go home instead.

I feel a lot more in control of my emotions but also my bowels (ahem).

I have better methods of self soothing when I am upset.

I have the strength and energy to walk away from relationships that don’t serve me.

I have more money to pay off my debt.

I am happier.

I’m still not completely honest with most people about why I don’t drink anymore, especially work. And that means it’s really hard to manage because they go ‘Why don’t you just have one?‘ or ‘You’re no fun.’ or ‘Are you pregnant?‘. And that’s a wholly inappropriate response altogether. But that’s a whole other conversation.

I’ve made many decisions in my life and stopping to drink was one of the best. If you want to read more, @milliegooch and @sobergirlsociety have some really useful resources, including a Quit Lit highlight. And if you do decide you want to give getting sober a go, I wish you luck and strength, and I’m always here with a non-alcoholic bevvie and we’ll drink to that.

– xoxo, Q 🚫🍷🥃🍻

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