Without the social lubrication of her usual prosecco, writer Lauren McCurry found her relationships changed significantly, and for the better. She also found herself feeling very lonely.
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Myriad reasons led me there; declining sleep, super-declining mental health, a handful of overly-strained relationships with loved ones, and a deep yearning to awaken in the morning with but a shred of joy.
Getting sober significantly eased the presence of most of these maladies, and the basic process of eliminating alcohol from my at-home (and Covid-induced lockdown) routine was bizarrely easy.
I swapped my nightly knock-off Campari for a glass of Non. In the evening I sipped herbal tea instead of a glass of red. For social Zoom gatherings, I happily cheers-ed a can of Sobah towards the screen – my pixelated friends seemingly none the wiser.
For me, the hardest chapter of sobriety was returning to the world of face-to-face socialising and reconnecting with my loved ones without the tantalising lubricant of alcohol.
Of course, it’s been proven that drinking profoundly alters an individual’s mood, behaviour, and neuropsychological functioning.
For many people – including my anxiety-riddled and clinically-depressed self – alcohol consumption is a tall glass of extrovertism that allows for immediate (and often unsafe) passage to a louder, more confident, more extravagant self.
A self I simply did not know how to locate or even begin to replicate without my hand on a stiff drink.
Upon re-entering society as a sober person, I was abruptly made aware that my relationship with alcohol had been even more sinister than I had realised.
What came to the surface – particularly on the first night I sat down at a bar with a friend almost unable to speak – was that my previous (and very routine) drinking behaviours had been to simply hand over the keys of my autonomy to my schooner entirely and ride through the night on the back of my intoxicated self without a single mindful thought, moral aspiration, or semblance of reality.
I would laugh, scream, command and swoon, but I was never truly there.
We can all attest that drinking alcohol encompasses both stimulating and sedating effects. I am here to share that getting and staying sober is the same.
If anything, the experience of removing alcohol from your world is and will remain to be, sobering.
And, if I’m being honest – infinitely lonely.
But, if you’re considering a more gentle relationship with booze or wish to eliminate it from your life completely, here are a few things to expect that may evolve in your social life, and beyond.
When I was drinking, at least 70% of my social interactions would take place in the presence of alcohol. Now, I seek different settings to socialise that make me feel comfortable and often, feel more wholesome.
Walks in nature, gallery visits, and long soaks at the bathhouse have replaced wine bars and beer gardens; and sourly confessional dialogues that would have probably been forgotten anyway.
Sober individuals remain the anomaly in most social situations and your friends will want to know why you’re choosing to abstain.
What you choose to share with them is totally at your discretion, but take good care of yourself and trust your boundaries. If they don’t respect your decision to look after yourself, it might be worth reconsidering the relationship.
Staying out late is hard when you’re sober.
The absence of endorphins (and I guess, sugar) is palpable, and often by 10 or 11 pm, I am yawning into my Lemon Lime and Bitters.
Instead of feeling extreme FOMO after pulling the plug, I’ve learned to embrace the heavenly feeling of retiring home early to take a warm shower, wash my face with care, apply all my serums and potions and get into fresh clean pajamas.
Whether you’re freshly sober or a seasoned soda water sipper, temptation lurks behind every barstool, natural wine list, and artisanal breadbasket.
Stay strong by holding tight to a tangible idea of why you’re not drinking. Mine is always to centre on the feeling of waking up in the morning without a headache and anxiety, and to be a kinder and more creative individual.
And, 12-months later, I’m pleased to report it still works.