ME? I DON’T DRINK ANY MORE

BY CLEMMIE TELFORD, MENTAL HEALTH, MUST READ, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, USEFUL

This one has been a little while in the making. It’s been 2 months since I last had a drink. What begun as ‘dipping my toe in’ to see how it felt has become more life altering and ultimately more positive than I could have expected.

  • I have been contemplating going sober for a long time.

  • Historically my relationship with alcohol has been mixed.

  • At its worst (my twenties) I’d suffered  memory loss every time I went out.

  • It didn’t worry me. I just assumed that’s what happened to everyone?

  • When I drunk I poured it down my throat. It didn’t feel abusive. More wild and fun.

  • My party trick  was getting my tits out for a laugh. Which to be fair, did always provoke a reaction.

  • Then I found a career where drinking was part of the culture. Advertising is all about the ‘work hard /play hard thang’. I loved it.

  • Outlandish behaviour went into the early years of my career. I kept a ‘slag-bag’ in my draw at work complete with a tooth brush, mascara and spare pair of knickers. Not incase I pulled, just in case the party turned into the next day.

  •  At some point I met Ben and he liked to get drunk and play the fool as much as I did. We’d go out for dinner and have 2 bottles of wine. We were living with mates in London, falling in love and having the best time.

  • I was never sick on a night out.  Hangovers were minimal. We were also blessed with having very few responsibilities.

  • Boozing was just something we did. A lot.

  • Then there was a fateful day I’ve since named ’Black Sunday’. A bunch of mates came over for a roast: we must have got through 20+ bottles of wine.

  • End result was me falling down the stairs in front of everyone wearing just my thong (one of those tiny weeny ones we wore in the 00s which were essentially just a piece of string).

  • Waking up the next morning I KNEW something had to change.

  • I sat at my desk wanting the world to swallow me up. The sense of self loathing was so palatable that I thought it was written all over myself. Particularly awful when you work in an open plan office and it was MONDAY. Gahhhh.

  • From there some thing begun to shift, slowly. I was /less outragous in my consumption of booze. But still drinking most days.

  • Although  ‘Beer fears’ were now norm after any night out. I could, thankfully  shake them off pretty easily.

  • However, around that time my generalised sense of anxiety (non- hangover related type) began to dominate my daily life: manifesting in experiencing panic attacks on my commute to work and generally struggling with a low lying sense of doom. 

  • I put it down to a series of big life events going on at the time. Which undoubtedly had an impact. But with the benefit of hindsight  I can’t help but think my lifestyle/love of rum and ginger ale was a contributing factor.

  • I eventually sort medical help. A CBT course was transformative. It gave me the tools to make anxiety ‘a part of my life’, rather than something that dominated it.

  • BUT as well CBT marking a change in my headspace.  I also got pregnant.  Which meant not drinking for the first time in my adult life.

  • I found abstaining easier than I thought. In the beginning I found the thought repulsive and then later on if I wanted a glass of champagne I had one.  That normally satisfied the urge.

  • Since then I have spent the last 6 years fairly dry.  I’ve been either pregnant, or breastfeeding or dealing a baby/kids who don’t sleep. All good reasons to stay relatively sober.

  • Notably, though I’ve certainly been hormonal and we have come up against some challenging times, my mental health has been reasonably good.

  • But now I find myself in a different chapter.

  • A chapter in which I had been looking forward to . A chapter where I would be free share a glass of vino (or 3) with friends again. Not to mention knock-back a strong G&T on a Friday night.

  • But getting back in the saddle/off the wagon hasn’t been as dreamy as I expected.

  • Overtime I developed a coping mechanism: whereby I would leave any party at 10.30pm.  That way I a) didn’t have time to do anything too regretful. B) could almost definitely sleep-off any impending hangover and therefore tactically avoid the Beer Fears.

  • But that quirky safety blanket that promised to protect me from hangover (or hangixety hell) snowballed into a near obsession.

  • I begun thinking about how I would get home before I even went out!!

  • Then this May I met mates on a Friday. We started in the afternoon which suited me because I realised I could conceivably be home by 9.30!!

  •  But even as I got the train home the dreaded sense of paranoia set in.

  • I was sober enough to know I hadn’t been out of control, yet I tossed and turned that night feeling regretful and insecure. Had I said things I hadn’t meant? Or spoken about myself too much? Or come across a terrible person?

  • As I write this I know it’s madness. In reality I had had a great night on a sunny evening with pals. Nothings at all to feel negative about but my anxiety was determined to ruin things.

  • And what’s more most of the crew I was with  went out BIG  (a 5 am number). Although they felt ropey the next day they were able to revel in the fun of the experience. Something I could NEVER do.

  • Something clicked. It became abundantly clear how linked alcohol and my mental health were.

  • That’s not all. The universe was clearly was on side too…

  • I found myself having several significant conversations with proudly sober people all within a short space of time.

  •  Millie Gooch of @sobergirlsociety was a guest on Honestly Podcast.

  • And I met @sober_dave_today at Bryony Gordon’s * book launch. (*Plus Bryony documenting her own recovery journey online, which has been totally inspiring).

  • Both Millie & Dave spoke in a way that made sense to me.

  • Also, as part of her own journey with alcohol, Charlotte Jacklin mentioned an app called “I AM SOBER.”

  • I wanted to make this official. So I logged onto the app and begun a journey of being sober.

  • I told Ben what I was doing. But apart from that kept it low key.

  • The first few days were a none event as I wasn’t a daily drinker.

  • I could have been fooled into thinking it would be easy.

  • Then came the first Friday night. No way to relax.

  • First work event. And one which involved public speaking. Far more daunting without a prosecco to steady the nerves.

  • First dinner out with friends. I was honest and said my mental health wasn’t up to it (true and easier than saying I was newly sober).

  • Soon I reframed the ‘challenges’ as ‘milestones’: revelling in the joy I felt the morning-after being free of anxiety.

  • Week 3: a big one. A week’s holiday with friends and their kids. I was nervous about how they’d judge me. I shouldn’t have been.  They were understanding. And other than the odd niggly craving for Aperoel I can hand-on-heart say I still had an epic holiday.

  • Soon I was a month in. All the time feeling more certain this was what I wanted.

  • Now 2 months down the line and have got more confident in telling people.

  • (FYI – I worried sobriety would make me stick out like a sore thumb in any social situation, the reality is of course that people are largely focus on themselves, especially after a few drinks. And couldn’t careless whether there is in vodka in your lime and soda of not.)

  • There have been very few wobbles. 

  • Most of them don’t stem from saying no to alcohol.

  • It’s the realisation of the enormity of the journey. 

  • Reading an article by Brene Brown  on being 23 years sober helped, as did reaching out to the Sober Community online (you know who you are). Each of them helped me feel excited rather than daunted by where I was at.

  •  I have just finished  ‘Sober Curious’ by Ruby Warrington and wish I had found it sooner. She articulates a lot of my musing so succinctly.

  • You see, you don’t realise how much we punctuate life with booze: good bits, bad bits, stressful bits, the transition for day to evening. All of them marked with a fittingly intoxicating beverage.

  • Not to mention, how we (or more specifically I) used alcohol to help mange tricky emotions: stress, loss of identity after become a Mum, or a confidence  boost when feeling shy or overwhelmed in social situations.

  • And though of course it helped with the feeling in the short term, it’s the emotional equivalent of shape-wear – it might appear to hide the bits you don’t like: but in the end it just spills out elsewhere.

  • The negative feels reemerge the morning-after with vengeance.

  • Going forward, not having a shorthand to cope with life’s less comfortable moments isn’t easy.

  • Neither is not having he quick access to ‘fun’.

  • But the rewards genuinely are plentiful.

  • I wasn’t a very heavy drinker before, so I have been blown away by quite how different I feel. 

  • My energy levels are off the hook.

  • My skin and eyes are brighter.

  • I sleeping like a teenager. I’ve heard it described as orgasmic sleep, which I find a bit icky. There’s is no denying its the most restorative sleep I’ve had in years.

  • I love waking up clearheaded.

  • I love never missing exercise.

  • But mainly I love being really really present.

  • And here’s something I wasn’t expecting.

  • I’ve  found other people getting relaxed and giddy is contagious. You take on their energy.

  • And the clincher…

  • The Special Moments: an evening of laughter on holiday or a Sunday lunch with all the family. They aren’t ‘less’ without booze, they become ‘more’ without. Because the ‘sparkly’ feeling has come from you rather than from alcohol.

  •  Plus you can remember every moment of it too. It’s like life in sharp focus. When all along I thought it was a hazy version I wanted.

  •  I am all too aware that this could sound preachy.

  • To be clear I am by no means judging those who drink.

  • This is about me.

  • I have a few Vegan friends who don’t mention it to avoid making it a ‘thing’. I totally get it. 

  • I don’t want to be type cast as ‘Sober Clemmie’.  So my plan is to continue to make it a ‘non thing’ on the outside.

  • But, in truth, on inside it’s a BIG thing. It’s a HUGE thing.

  • I am high-fiveing myself on a daily basis. Feel blessed with a new sense of positivity.

  • Perhaps the novelty will wear of.

  • Perhaps all of this merely comes from the relief of finally having the confidence to do something I have been contemplating for a long time.

  • Will I drink again? If I want to. And If I did it wouldn’t be a failure. At all.

  • Do I miss it? Not enough to forego all the benefit.

  • Is it forever? Who knows. 

  • But for now I choose not to.

  • What ever happens long term, in this moment  I feel happy and excited and can say without a shadow of a doubt:

  • CHOOSING NOT TO DRINK IS PROBABLY THE BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MYSELF AND MY WELLBEING.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Helen Workman July 12, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    This is brilliant!! Well done you for taking a stand for your own well-being rather than carrying on as you always have because that’s what people expect. I stopped drinking completely for a while and now have the very occasional glass of wine but I generally avoid it. For exactly the same reasons. I feel mentally so much stronger for steering clear of it. After a night of drinking (even just two or three glasses) I was feeling low for days afterwards. I could barely function. I don’t miss that at all. Sounds like you’re adopting a brilliant attitude of just seeing how it goes. Know that you’re not alone! Xx

  • Reply Laura July 12, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    I listened to the podcast you did and it really struck a chord with me, for years I have considered it but always thoight I wont be fun enough without a drink. It’s feels like such a big step but the more and more people I follow that don’t drink the more inspired I feel to give it a go myself so thank you x

  • Reply Lizzie July 12, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Amazing 😉 A lot of what you said resonated with me ❤️

  • Reply Jessica July 13, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    This resonates completely with me. I am now over six months sober and it has been the best decision. I am just starting out running my own business and my mindset is sharp AF due to not drinking. It muddled my thinking and brought on major hang-xiety and that was what made me quit.
    The night I poured my last drink down the drain I remember saying to my husband: “I think this might very well be one of the best decisions of my life.” In addition to the book you mentioned above, I also recommend Catherine Grey’s “The unexpected joy of being sober”.

  • Reply Sara July 13, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Well done clemmie. I managed a whole year sober. It has reset my ‘alcohol clock’. I no longer drink to relax but actually even though I do have a drink or two. It doesn’t feel that much better.

    • Reply SoberSquid July 14, 2019 at 7:27 am

      Clemmie, I feel I could have written this article myself! Firstly congratulations🥳 but you already know you have done an amazing thing for yourself and and your little peeps. So massive high 5! I have drank alcohol solidly since the age of 14 I am now 38. I have had several periods of sobriety in my life but nothing as long as I have now and that’s including 2 pregnancies. The Main reason for stopping, THE FEAR👾. The crippling paranoia anxiety and feeling of guilt and loathing, that I assumed everyone got, but apparently not. Let’s not forgot the blackouts ⬛️ before smartphones there was no evidence and no clue of the events of the night before, so maybe it was easier. But now the dread that overcomes me just thinking about looking at my phone, “You were fine” “You were Hilarious” “ you sprayed all those men in the urinal with that fire extinguisher it was mental!” “You were pissed but that’s the point” all sounds great, but what’s the point if you can’t remember it? There is so much to say here but trying to keep it short 😂 It has taken me 24 years to realise how almost all of my mental health issues were directly related to alcohol. I cannot begin to express how much I love drinking I love wine. I love Gin. I love cocktails. I love beer. I love champagne. I love it all. So it hasn’t been easy and people don’t help you in sobriety they make fun of you, they make you the odd one out and the pooper at the party. It’s mostly about them, no one wants to drink alone. And it’s nerve racking living life’s events without tightly gripping that glass security blanket . But it gets easier and it actually gets to be fun when you realise that you enjoy being sober not repeating yourself and waking up without regret. Not wasting 3/4 of the day hiding and enjoying the simple and free things the world has to offer. And knowing all my serotonin has come from pure efforts. 😊 I will never say never but for now I know this is the best present I have ever given myself. So when you next see me at the bar don’t give that screwed up face “really” face when I choose my soft drink or say “oh go on have one with me” please just respect my decision and my mind and soul 🙏🏻 #5months5dayssoberandcounting #happysoul

  • Reply Laura Kill July 14, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Awesome post. I’ve also been considering this myself. One of my best friends who was a notorious “party girl” read ‘The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober’ and has never looked back – she’s been sober over a year now. I too, like you, am having the conversations more and more and feeling inspired to do it but also worry I won’t be fun anymore and that I’ll actually find drunk people so annoying that I’ll become a boring recluse! Thanks for sharing x

  • Reply Brigid July 14, 2019 at 7:19 am

    Congratulations. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been sober for 5 years now and I’d truly transformed my life. Alcohol was my hiding place. It was my self destruct button. Now I am sober, I am learning who I truly am, learning to love myself and learning to face those demons I once tried to drown.

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