Today I’m celebrating 100 days without alcohol. I can’t quite believe I’ve got here, to be honest. I had so many aborted attempts, so many times of giving up, giving in and resetting to Day 1 I never thought I’d dig in and do it. But I have. And here’s what I’ve learnt:
Never Give Up- no matter how many Day 1s I had, I knew I wanted to give myself the chance to experience life alcohol free. It’s worth every moment of the struggle. It’s bloody hard, some days, but if I’d thrown in the towel I’d just be having to start over again. I want to keep up this sober momentum at all costs.
I felt the benefits almost immediately– Within 2 weeks of being alcohol free, I was feeling SO much better physically. I was sleeping like a baby, I felt generally happier and I had bags of energy.
My hair, skin and nails started shining within a month– I just LOOKED so much better within the first 4-5 weeks. People would tell me how great my skin looked, and having always suffered with rosecea, I was thrilled when it finally died down. One of the most frequent search terms that leads people to my blog is, hilariously, about losing a puffy face when you stop drinking. Well if you’re here looking to stop face puffiness, PUT DOWN THE WINE. My face slimming down has made me look like I’ve lost half a stone. I’m quite slim, but my chipmunk swollen face was making me feel really fat. All it took was removing the alcohol.
Weight loss needs to go out of the window for the first 3 months– this is the bit no-one wants to hear. When I first started this blog, I was all about the weight loss. I knew the sole reason I’d put on weight from previously being super-skinny was drinking and bingeing when drunk, so I thought if I removed the wine and trained for 2 marathons whilst doing it, those pounds would drop off. Not true. I’ve actually gained a few pounds. This is due to an increased sugar intake, and needing to actually start eating dinner in the evening rather than skipping it in favour of wine. Having previously suffered from an eating disorder, I can honestly say my eating is the healthiest and most balanced its ever been. My body is strong from all the marathon training. I’m not 100% happy with how I look, as I know changing up my diet and training will shift some of the extra fat I’m carrying, but that will come in time. I cannot express how difficult it was for me to wrap my head round not losing weight but now I’m in a slightly more stable place with my sobriety, it’s the next thing I’m going to address. I’d rather be sober than skinny.
Put your sobriety before everything else– Before losing weight, before socialising, hell, before your job if needs be. I got signed off work for a week or so in my first few weeks of early sobriety and it was the best gift I could have given myself. I had the chance to take time for myself, get into a sober routine and not run myself ragged by trying to work AND be sober AND marathon train. I’ve adjusted my social life- I still go to most parties and nights out, but I’ve got better at hearing the warning signals in my own head. If I’m in danger of drinking, I just leave. Out the door, sharpish. I’m so much happier with my social life because I choose how long I want to stay at an event, rather than hanging around just to drink or drinking my way through a boring night.
Find a sober ritual- In very early sobriety, I started doing two things before I went to bed. Lighting a ridiculously overpriced but gorgeous scented candle and writing a gratitude list. I found these two simple things so incredibly soothing as I gave myself time to dwell on the gift of a sober day. There’s nothing lovelier than that moment you’re truly happy to be sober and thanks to this ritual, I have that moment nightly.
Treat yourself, but not as a direct reward for being sober– Bear with me on this one, this is just my experience and view, but I think it’s an important one to share. A lot of the sober blogging world quite rightly focuses on treats and thinking as you have one ‘this is my reward for being sober.’ I buy into this, great, treat yourself definitely. BUT what I struggled with was the idea that this was instead of treating myself with wine. Thinking ‘this is my treat for getting sober’ made me think ‘well wine would be a more fun treat.’ Classic wolfie voice madness.
When I shifted the notion of treats ever so slightly over to self care, it was transformative for me. Really, they’re exactly the same thing, saying ‘I value myself and I’m going to give myself this pleasurable experience because I deserve pleasure in my life’, but that very subtle shift in thinking for me. It’s helped me break the association of wine = pleasure and think about how the small pleasures I enjoy daily wouldn’t exist if I was pouring wine into my system.
3 months is at once a lifetime and no time at all- in some senses, 100 days has DRAGGED. I feel like I’ve been sober forever. Battling often, being ecstatic frequently. But I’ve got so so far to go. For me, reaching this target is nice, but in all honesty, I have to learn to live this way forever. I’ve tried moderation, I’ve tried drinking again after a period of abstinence and I’ve found myself right back at where I started. I’ve lost all my sober zen the very second I pick up a drink. What I have is too precious to give up.
It’s hard work– being a grown up and dealing with emotions is HARD. Who knew?! I need to keep working away to learn new ways to cope. As readers of this blog know, I struggle ALOT with being sober, with not jacking it all in. But I’ve stuck with it and I’m feeling a million times better than I did on day 1.
A thought is just a thought– I’ve fantasised about drinking a million times in the past 100 days. I blog here about ‘being close’ to taking a drink. But on reflection, that’s not strictly true. I’ve never actually seriously made any move towards taking a drink. I haven’t had to walk away from a bar where I was about to order or put down a bottle of wine in the supermarket. On the surface, I feel like it’s a constant struggle to stay sober but actually, deep down something has clicked and I know that I’m not in REAL danger. Of course I have to be vigilant. Of course that urge will always be there, but I now know that a thought is not an action, and I keep those niggling ideas that a drink would be just fabulous right now locked up in the confines of my chattering brain.
Try anything once– I thought that AA wasn’t for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I can honestly say it’s been the single biggest factor in getting me sober. I’d been blogging for around a year, tried the 100 Day Challenge innumerable times and never been sober for more than 40 days. The moment I walked into my first AA meeting I knew I was in the right place. This was not a feeling I expected to have. AA has become my anchor. No matter how antsy I get, how quickly my mind is running towards a dark place, if I get myself to a meeting I experience the same relief I got from picking up a drink. As a constant relief-seeker, I feel like I’ve struck gold. I go to around 3 meetings a week, more if I need it, and it’s amazing. I feel a real sense of community, joy, laughter and the wealth of experience in those rooms is incredible. Of course some days people share and I want to walk straight out of there, thinking YOU ARE A PROPER ALCOHOLIC I AM NOT, but mostly, I love it.
Alcoholic is just a word- I believe I am an alcoholic. I couldn’t have said this a few months ago. Because of the stigma surrounding the word, it’s become a dirty thing to say. The friends I’ve told about being in AA have been so shocked at the notion I identify as an alcoholic. But what makes me one, in my eyes is the following: I get caught in a cycle of drinking much more than I want to, once alcohol enters my veins I need more, my drinking increased to dangerous levels, drinking was seriously affecting my mental and physical health yet I could not stop, I maintained a lovely looking life on the outside, knowing alcohol was eroding my inside and the only thing that has got me sober is identifying 100% as an alcoholic. I really like the idea of having an allergy to alcohol. It’s not a moral failure, having a drinking problem, as I once thought. It’s just a socially inconvenient truth I need to get my head round.
Emotional sobriety is the most important thing for me to learn- I didn’t understand, before AA, why I drank. I didn’t understand that the characteristics I’ve battled with my whole life (being over sensitive, over achieving, people pleasing to name just a few) are at the heart of the addictive personality. Before I started seriously drinking 2 years ago, I had other terrible coping behaviours to get me out of my own head. Starving myself. Running obsessively until my legs could no longer support my weight. Now, I’ve got a set of tools to learn how to cope with being me. In all honesty, if tomorrow I was suddenly granted the gift of moderation and could drink normally, I’d still go to AA. What I learn there is basically How to Be a Human Being.
Just get through the day– The key to my sobriety so far has been bargaining with myself that I won’t drink today. It’s age old stuff, the ‘one day at a time’ notion, Belle’s ‘Not Today’ idea, but it works. If I can get myself through one tough day, I’m much more likely to get through the next. I never wake up in the morning feeling worse than I went to bed, and I always wake up feeling a million times better. So grateful for being sober.
So here I am. What next? More of the same, I think. I can see battles ahead, as the initial excitement of getting sober subsides, but I also see great moments of sunshine and light and I cannot wait to see what’s round the corner.