WHEN MY DRINKING NO LONGER MADE ANY SENSE

HEALTH, MENTAL HEALTH, MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

This one really struck a chord with me after I stopped drinking three years (three years!) ago. Veronica Valli eloquently puts into words exactly how I felt around alcohol and the anxiety I suffered as a result. I know it’s a very personal choice to make, but it’s one that really does bring me empowerment and total joy.

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  • My relationship with alcohol no longer made sense when it started costing me more than money.

  • It cost me my dignity, integrity, and self-worth. And I didn’t even drink every day. I drank like everyone else did.

  • I was a binge drinker and I thought it was normal. It was the ’90s and I was a feminist. Drinking like the boys. I lived in London, it was Britpop. Everyone drank.

  • I believed alcohol was the best way to have fun and belong. I wanted to belong more than anything. I thought drinking was the golden ticket into an exciting life, where the action was. That’s what I saw around me.

  • But the hangovers were bloody awful. Sundays were always spent in bed. I would always throw up. Everyone told me the hangovers and aftermath were “worth it.”

  • The worst thing was the anxiety. I was anxious all the time, and alcohol offered such sweet relief. When I was drinking, it was the only time I felt comfortable in my own skin. The rest of the time I was just trying to run away from myself.

  • But wherever you go, there you are.

  • Sometimes it was fun, sometimes I had some great nights out. Even though my hangovers were bad and I spent too much money, I enjoyed myself for a bit. Sometimes.

  • The return on investment wasn’t great, to be honest.

  • I kept thinking it’s my fault, that I need to find a way to manage it better. I tried everything I could think of. Not drinking spirits. Not drinking red wine. Not mixing my drinks. Only drinking on the weekend. Not drinking alone. Hair of the dog when really hungover. Lining my stomach.

  •  Everyone else seemed to manage their drink. Why couldn’t I?

  • I knew there was something wrong with me. I thought I had a rare mental health problem that no one else had. I saw a lot of professionals about my anxiety. No one asked me about my drinking, and I probably wouldn’t have been honest if they had.

  • I have felt uncomfortable in my own skin ever since I can remember. Drinking was the solution, until it wasn’t. I had always felt a bit separate and alone. Like standing on the other side of a glass screen watching the world just get on with it.

  • The loneliness of being me was unbearable, so I had a lot of meaningless sex with men who didn’t deserve me.

  • I couldn’t find anything to fix me. And I tried lots of things. Moving house, moving countries, different jobs, different men. This thing, that thing. Lots of self-help books. Nothing worked. Relief was just temporary.

  •  When I turned 27, I realised that alcohol is the problem and I have to stop drinking. Forever. Like the rest of my life. It felt like the worst thing ever.

  • I know my life is over and I’m never going to have fun again. Or go dancing, or have friends, or do any of the stuff that makes life worth it.

  •  Or get laid, for that matter. Sober sex? I couldn’t bear the embarrassment.

  • But if it meant the anxiety would finally go away then I would resign myself to it.  I wasn’t happy about never drinking again. I accepted that it was the trade-off for better mental health. But I knew my life was going to be dull, gray and boring.

  • I stop.

  • It’s boring.

  • I look at all my peers going out and having fun and I know I can never do that again. Why can they go out and get wasted and feel fine and I can’t?

  • A year goes by and my anxiety is so much better, and I begin to feel a bit more hopeful.

  •  I realise that up until this point I have been sleepwalking through my life. There was no plan. The plan was to go out this weekend and party and have enough money to do it. I haven’t been paying attention. Now I feel awake.

  • I go to some sober support meeting and slowly discover how completely unoriginal I am. I thought I was the only person in the world who felt this way. Apparently not.

  • After what feels like an eternity of staying in, I venture out. I feel like a newborn foal on wobbly legs.

  •  I go dancing with some sober friends and it’s really weird to be in a bar with everyone drinking and us sipping on Diet Coke and tentatively throwing shapes on the dance floor. We leave at midnight as that’s when it gets messy.

  • I go back to college and I learn things. Mostly about myself. All the pieces of me begin to make sense.

  • I realise alcohol took up a lot of my bandwidth. I spent a lot of time thinking about drinking, thinking about not drinking, drinking, and recovering from drinking. It was like a full-time job on top of my full-time job. I just didn’t have time and energy for much else.

  • I don’t feel like I want to hide away anymore, and I start going out more. Some of my friends drink and some don’t. We go to gigs and clubs and take trips and I do all of it sober.

  • My drinking friends look at me as if I have two heads. “You don’t drink?” they ask. “Not ever?” No, I reply, it doesn’t agree with me. They look at me with pity while they knock back shots.

  • I discovered that drunk people are really boring. They repeat themselves a lot and don’t make sense and think they are hilarious when they’re not. They just do the same thing over and over. I can’t believe this used to be me.

  • I get really busy with life. With all the opportunities that are opening up now, I am awake.

  • I go to see a band with some friends. My friends are from New Zealand and don’t get to see many live bands so they are super pumped. We have tickets near the front. They miss half the songs because the line for beer is so long and then they need the loo. A lot.

  • I look at them with pity. They have no idea that they don’t have to drink.

  • I always thought that alcohol = fun and sober = boring and that was a fact. It isn’t. It’s a perception.

  • After three years of sobriety I finally get laid (woohoo!) and it is so much better and real than being drunk.

  • By this point I realise everything is better sober. I am doing all the things anyone my age (30) would do. I’m an extrovert. I like going out and meeting people. I like having fun. I like dancing. I like live music. I like all the things, and there are so many more things to do than I ever realised. And I do them, all these new things.

  • None of it is weird. It’s my new normal.

  • When I get married, half the congregation is sober and we say the serenity prayer as part of the service.

  • When I have my first child I’m 10 years sober and ready to finally be less selfish.

  • At 40 I decide I want another one and even though I know that it’s unlikely, I want to try.

  • My second son is born when I’m 42 and I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

  • Anxiety feels like a distant memory. I am on solid ground now. I feel comfortable in my own skin and I feel like I fit in. I feel part of the world. I can’t tell you when it happened — it sort of crept up on me, and one day I realised everything had changed, that an emotional rearrangement had taken place. And it is the most priceless gift I’ve ever been given.

  • My work is helping people get sober. Taking their hands and leading them into the light. Their biggest stumbling block, like it was for me, is the belief that you will miss out if you stop drinking. And although their drinking is causing all sorts of consequences they don’t want, and they can’t define exactly what it is they think they will miss out on, they doggedly persist for a while in trying to manage it. They do that even though their relationship with alcohol clearly makes no sense.

  • Perception is everything. And even though I didn’t drink every day and I was never physically addicted to alcohol — I could stop for a week here and there — I can now see how small my life was based on that belief system.

  • It just never entered my head that you didn’t have to drink alcohol. Drinking is what adults did. It never occurred to me that not drinking was an option. But it is, and more and more people are doing it.

  • I see everything differently now. My life has expanded in ways I would not have believed 22 years ago. It’s not just the outside things (career, family), it’s the inside things (how I feel about myself). What I have is priceless. I shudder to think how my life would have turned out if I had kept trying to manage alcohol.

  • None of it was by accident. It started when I stopped drinking. But that was really only the first step. The gift of sobriety is it nudges you (it’s a hefty nudge) into really looking at yourself. And it was that work I did myself that enabled me to transform my life. I am so grateful I got that nudge, otherwise I never would have done that work and gotten this life.

  • There is nothing special or different about me. If alcohol doesn’t make sense for you either, know there is a whole other life you could have.

** Veronica’s book Soberful: Uncover a Sustainable,Fulfilling Life Free of Alcohol is out now and her website is Soberful.com

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HELPFUL RESOURCES:

Drink Aware: drinkaware.co.uk

NHS – alcohol support: nhs.uk

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FANCY SOME MORE?

–  READ Eleanor Ryan’s list My Experience As A Child Of An Alcoholic which raises some important questions about drinking in our society.

–  READ my list Me? I Don’t Drink Anymore which was written three years ago, two months after I last had a drink. 

–  READ ‘Hang-Xiety’ AKA Alcohol Induced Anxiety by Gail Buckley who very openly shares exactly how drinking left her feeling.

–  READ To My Alcoholic Father, Who Died While I Was Giving Birth a letter in list form by Megan Ace about experiencing the highs and lows of life colliding.

–  LISTEN to Millie Gooch talk Sobriety on But Why? podcast as she looks at the booze culture in the UK and explains why she decided to give up alcohol.

–  LISTEN to the episode Spiking on But Why? podcast as Mair Howells explores drink spiking and demands action against it.

 

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OR HOW ABOUT WRITING A LIST?

Find submission guidelines here. All writers and topics are welcome.

 

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** ‘But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ But why don’t I feel happy all the time?’ and ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now and also on audiobook.**

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1 Comment

  • Reply Charlotte Cooper May 30, 2022 at 5:05 pm

    Love this list. I’m 1 Year alcohol free today and it’s been the best decision ever

  • Leave a Reply to Charlotte Cooper Cancel Reply