Setting an Example

16 Dec

One of my biggest worries when stopping drinking was peer pressure from others. So much of my sober toolkit has been ways of fooling people into thinking I was drinking, to avoid any hassle.

In the past 5 weeks of being sober which has encompassed endless social gatherings, parties and Christmas work do’s, not one person has pressured me to drink.

When people have asked why I’m not drinking, I’ve given a variety of reasons depending on who they are and how well I know them. These have ranged from “I had a heavy weekend so I’m having a night off” (after work drinks in week 1) to “drinking has been making me a bit depressed, to be honest, so I’m taking a break” (my party a few weeks ago) to “I haven’t had a drink for a month or so now and I’m really enjoying it so I’m going to carry on for a while” (work Christmas party).

All of these reasons were met with acceptance and, increasingly, admiration.

I often assume that the people who I observe drinking don’t have a problem like I did, or that alcohol doesn’t affect their lives. But as soon as you offer a genuine reason for not drinking (it was making me feel shit and life is better without it) people start to open up about their own drinking. They say they hate hangovers, and wish they could me more abstemious “like me.”  They say they’re broke and are spending all their cash on booze because of hectic social calendars.

Usually people skirt around the negative facets of drinking through the stories of others, as no-one wants to admit that they have a problem- they’d rather recount anecdotes. I’ve heard stories of people whose friends have given up drinking and say it’s transformed their life, young professionals who have had to have stints in rehab and people with depression who have given up alcohol who have seen dramatic improvements to their mental health.

People tell me these stories, tell me they admire me for making a decision and sticking to it but still coming to events, even 8 hour all-day drinking sessions. They then say they’re definitely doing Dry January, and want me to help them. The fact I haven’t drunk for just 5 short weeks is viewed as some sort of Herculean feat.

People express envy for me, that I can stop drinking with such ease (ha!) and still have so much fun. It seems they think I woke up one day, decided I’d have a break from drinking and just got on with it. What they don’t realise is the amount of self-discipline, self-care, reflection, talking and support from others that has gone into it. The reaching out in crisis moments. The hours upon hours reading sober blogs.

Yes I did have a problem, which was evident in how I drank alone, but on the outside and socially, I looked like a normal drinker. I have no idea what’s going on in the lives of people who are taking baby steps in confronting their relationships with alcohol by admitting to me they’re not happy with it.

The thing about giving up alcohol, whether you’re an alcoholic or not, is that it is HARD. Society wants you to drink, other drinkers pressure you to drink, drinking is the lynchpin of our social activities, and so many people are at a loss for what to do without it. People don’t realise the way they use alcohol to deal with emotional issues, either, and don’t realise the importance of a sober toolkit.

 I’m trying to think of a way to do something to help my peers reflect on their relationship with alcohol- I hugely admire what Hello Sunday Morning has achieved in Australia, and would love to do something, however small, to help my friends and colleagues who have expressed the desire to stop drinking for a while.  

If I didn’t have the support of this online community, I would have slipped up weeks ago, like I did for months when a Day 1 would follow a Day 3 every time. How can we share our brilliant experiences of being sober without scaring people off by talking about drinking problems and alcoholism? I really want to try and make something happen, a seed of an idea is there, but it needs more sober time to grow…

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8 Responses to “Setting an Example”

  1. Iyam Piebald December 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I Think I will use your reasons when telling people no thank you. They are very good. Who can argue with them?
    I don’t really feel pressure if I am out. I rarely go out anymore but if I went for drinks on a friday at supper time I could easily nurse one beer for an hour or two. But, I would be anxious to get home to be alone in front of my fave shows and my cigarettes and a case of beer. When I was doing the Atkins diet 5 years ago I would just say, a glass of water and lemon. easy. Of course after two weeks booze free I started on the rum because THAT is acceptable as a low carb drink. I never felt pressure when offered a toke either. When I was much younger, another story altogether. I did feel the pressure.

  2. momma bee December 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I am on the same page with you on 2 things…. no one really cares why or tries to push a drink on me. There are a few who ask why and I give them the usual, health issues etc. I haven’t felt pressured at all or felt left out. I just came “clean” to 3 good friends and I think that will even help me more. One of those good friends has told me 3x she want to quit too and only last a day or two since I started. She is really amazed with my discipline. I think like you, that me being the first one in my inner circle to quit drinking may lead to a few others to follow. I would love a new team of sober friends if only for a Dry Month or as a permanent thing. However right now I can only focus on me until I feel stronger. I am hoping by late spring my confidence in my sobriety will be a lot stronger!

  3. jenisthesoberist December 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    This post makes me feel so validated. Heck yes, quitting drinking IS hard even if we make it look easy! It is really great to be sober. I think your idea is fantastic…a little more sober time might be just what it needs! 🙂

  4. monkeybegone December 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I love using the “I’m driving” excuse – it’s one of the few perks of living in the burbs (sure I could have caught the train which stops 300m from my house but…).

    • FitFatFood December 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      I wish I had a car! Whatever excuse it takes…. 🙂

  5. carrieonsober December 17, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Yay for January when we won’t feel like the only sober people on the planet! Only two weeks to go!

  6. primrosep December 17, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    I have also wondered what I would say if someone close to me actually pressed me to say how I am doing it, someone who I cared about and wanted to help. I know, worrying about things that haven’t happened yet…. My big problem is that the sober blogs have been my lifesaver but I couldn’t blog here if I thought anyone I know would read them. So I don’t know if I could recommend them to anyone because my first priority has to be my own sobriety. Selfish yes but this is saving my own life and I can’t do it any other way. I think I would probably recommend the Soberista website as I haven’t joined that as at the back of my mind that situation was a possibility and I wanted to leave a me-free zone in the sobersphere if that makes sense. You are very admirable wanting to help others! In the 6 weeks I have been sober no-one has ever asked me for advice on getting sober. An ancient crone such as I 😉 is possibly at a later life stage where social drinking takes place in a different way. It’s more about the 50th birthday parties for me! And if you think younger people can drink, wait till you see what older people who have been hardening their livers for longer can take in 😦 All power to your elbow in whatever you decide!

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