This week is Alcohol Awareness Week. There’s plenty of information out there about the risks and dangers associated with alcohol so I won’t churn out the same information. I’m going to tell you what it’s like to be teetotal and sober.
For anyone that knows me well enough, they tend to be surprised when I tell them I haven’t had a drink for 6 years now. Not a single drop. Before that I didn’t have a drinking problem nor would I say it was an issue for me. But I did like a social drink. I was never even a drink at home person. Unlike many mothers I see on Facebook describing their need for a glass of wine in the evening. That was never me. But as I got older, alcohol stopped agreeing with me and the hangovers got worse. I also found I just didn’t enjoy a drink anymore.
And then I had to live through the devastating and horrific effects of other people’s alcoholism. That’s plural by the way. Suddenly having a drink was the last thing on earth I wanted to do. I just couldn’t understand how or why anyone who had been through the same thing could continue to drink. I’ll spare you the gory details but I’ve sat at someone’s bedside while they are hooked up to machines suffering a long and painful death. And I’ve had a sudden knock at the door when the police come to tell you someone has died in tragic circumstances.
Looking back, until you have experienced alcoholism and had to deal with an alcoholics death, you can’t understand just what the demon drink can do to a person. Unfortunately, now looking at society through sober eyes I can see just how alcohol dependent many people are. And they don’t even realise it.
Stopping drinking wasn’t a particularly conscious decision I made. It just sort of happened. The effects of others alcohol abuse had hit me square in the face like a ton of bricks and in the aftermath, having a drink, like many suggested to me I should do, just didn’t seem the appropriate thing to do. Like, why on earth would I turn to the very thing that was the root cause of turning my life upside down and causing years and years of issues? I didn’t really see anyone’s logic there.
A few weeks turned into a few months and before I knew it I was 6 months down the line and not wanting, needing or craving a drink. It just didn’t bother me. I also noticed an improvement in my own health and a greater level of clarity. The expression of having a clear head now made sense to me. For the first time in, well probably forever, I could see things in a much clearer light. It was this clarity that gave me the kick up the arse to up my game and change my life.
Would I have done any of that whilst still enjoying a social drink? Probably not actually. When I look at those around me who still revolve their lives around going to the pub at the weekend or drinking a bottle of wine a night in front of the tv, I can see how their judgement is impaired, probably by alcohol.
Let’s Be Clear
How many times have you had a really good idea, like the best idea in the world, after a few wines? And then the day after wondered what the hell you were thinking? You know what I’m on about. But many people now are relying on alcohol to get through everyday events. Hectic day at work – pour a glass of wine. Kids playing up – have the rest of the bottle. Courage to engage in actual conversation in a real-world social situation – get the shots in. Eat your dinner – pour another glass. Nipping for a quick pint on the way home from work. It becomes a habit and a pattern starts to form.
Many people are fully functioning alcoholics without realising they have a problem. They get by every day so long as they have their few pints, glasses of wine etc. Problems occur when something effects that habit. Sudden life changes, crisis, can throw enormous pressure on someone, and their coping mechanism is to have a drink. This can quickly spiral into a bigger problem that is very complex to deal with. Alcoholism is a serious addiction and it’s never that straightforward as someone just stopping drinking. Once the habits are formed they are extremely difficult to break. This can lead to depression, serious health issues and ultimately an early death. Read my previous post about dealing with grief and you get the picture.
What’s Your Issue?
Even though we are well aware of all the issues around alcohol, I’m always amazed by peoples reactions to my sober status. It’s usually a sort of shock, amazement, bewilderment reaction from those that can’t understand why I don’t want a drink. Like I’m in the wrong. I’m then made to feel like I should explain that I don’t have a drinking problem or I’m not a recovering alcoholic. I just don’t drink anymore. And given that it’s my choice, my body, my brain cells, I’m quite happy with my choice. So why does it offend you?
The other side to this is people stop inviting you out. Suddenly it’s deemed that I can’t be invited to the pub or an event because I don’t drink. Like these places don’t serve soft drinks. Or people don’t see the benefit in having a sober designated driver. You’re classed as boring or no fun because you’re sober. Ironically, I’ve done more, experienced more, had more fun, travelled the world and done more for my daughter in the past 4 years than ever before. I go to nice places and remember them. I go on holiday and don’t waste half of it with a hangover. I’ve changed my life. For the better.
I’m not saying I’m against drinking or that I’ll never drink again. Maybe one day I will. But at the moment, it doesn’t bother me. People’s negative reactions to me not drinking do bother me. But their own drinking doesn’t bother me. It’s their personal choice after all. And I get to be the sober person that remembers the conversation the next day.
But having experienced the very worst that alcohol can do to a person, it’s just not something I’d want to be part of my life.
As a parent, I never want my daughter to experience what I had to go through. From seeing a loved one in pain and suffering and knowing it could have been prevented. All the times in my childhood that revolved around someone having to have a drink. To seeing someone drive themselves to such depths of despair in their need for a drink. Having the police knock on your day. It was all preventable. I cannot change the past but I can create a better future.
What’s your alcohol intake? Are you a very large glass of wine in the evening person? Or can you take it or leave it? Are you willing to give Dry January a go? I can honestly say that if someone had told me 7 years ago that I’d be approaching going through my birthday, Christmas and New Year without drinking I’d probably have laughed. But then 7 years ago I didn’t expect to have to go through 2013.
Do you feel like you may have a problem or know someone that has? Get help. Speak to your doctor or visit the Alcohol Concern website for details of help and support available. Just get help.
*All the images used in this post are non-alcoholic drinks