At the start of 2018 I decided I was going to quit drinking for good. After around 30 years as a committed binge-drinker (interspersed with a few dry spells) I had very slowly come to the conclusion that alcohol was no longer my friend and it was eroding my self-belief, confidence and happiness. In short, drinking had ceased to be fun. On 2nd January 2018 I tentatively posted a goodbye letter to alcohol on my blog, which outlined the deterioration of my relationship with booze and my fears about quitting. I thought a few friends might take the time to read it but instead it went viral and I received countless messages of support, encouragement and empathy from both friends and strangers alike. It was just the kick-start I needed.
During my first few months of sobriety, I voraciously read ‘quit lit’, (literature about quitting) which successfully toppled alcohol from the pedestal I had placed it on throughout my entire adult life. The books that stood out for me because they completely changed my perception of drinking were: The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley; Kick the Drink… Easily! by Jason Vale; and The Unexpected Joy of being Sober by Catherine Gray.
At the start , I felt very vulnerable as I had been using binge-drinking throughout my adult life as a crutch to bear the weight of uncomfortable feelings and difficult situations and to mask the fact that I didn’t feel good enough, slim enough, clever enough, pretty enough, successful enough… you name it, enough. Socialising without alcohol was awkward to begin with and I observed the partying from the sidelines, which felt alien to someone who had always been right in the thick of it. I thought that maybe I was an introvert and alcohol had simply given me the power to behave otherwise. I didn’t really feel like me.
However, at around 4 months sober, I noticed a huge shift in my mental health. The nasty voices in my head shut up and I began to emerge from a slightly fragile and brittle shell and slowly, slowly I evolved into someone strong, self-assured and courageous. I had had glimpses of that person over the years but alcohol had muted her by welcoming in self-doubt, fear and shame. Gradually I started to realise I was content to be me, I was proud to be me and most importantly, I liked myself. Quitting drinking enabled me to tap into the person that already existed beneath the layers of insecurities and self-loathing, which were continually being added to by alcohol. Alcohol had lied to me and all this time it had in fact been holding me back. After 6 months I no longer missed it at all, being sober had become my new normal.
Of course, being sober hasn’t waved a magic wand and made my problems disappear. Life has still thrown curve balls my way that I have had to tackle and it has been tough dealing with them without my old friend alcohol. Without booze blurring the edges, everything appears in sharp focus and that can be particularly intimidating and scary until you get used to it. However, over time I have found that by facing problems head on without alcohol muddying the water, I have been able to process and resolve them relatively quickly and then move on.
During 2018 I found a confidence I never believed I was capable of feeling and I will happily put myself into situations that previously would have felt totally out of my reach. I am the most positive, happiest and bravest I have been in my entire life. How I feel on the inside has been reflected on the outside and people are constantly commenting on how great I look now. With all the time I have gained through not being hungover, I have reignited old interests and I have filled the past 12 months with sailing, diving, reading, painting, drawing, singing, writing, hiking and swimming. My life is over-flowing with exciting stuff.
Looking back from where I am today I can see how my drinking was like driving a car with the handbrake on. I was slowly making headway through life but destroying the car in the process. Now with the handbrake off I am finally hurtling along, and the possibilities are limitless. There is absolutely nothing that alcohol promised me that sobriety hasn’t actually given me (read this blog which shatters all the illusions I previously had about drinking). I am so excited that I will be entering 2019 with a fresh lime and soda in my hand, as the person I always hoped I could be.
If you want to stop drinking and don’t know how to get started, I have put together a guide on how I successfully managed to quit.
In 2021 Adrienne contributed a chapter to #LivingTheDream: Expat life stripped bare. Grief, loneliness, Brexit, motherhood, identity, belonging, rootlessness, drinking culture and integration are just some of the issues tackled in a series of powerful stories written by nine women on the challenges of expat life. In one of the first books of its kind, these women reveal some of the emotional upheavals and struggles that go hand-in-hand with moving away from their native ‘home’, which have, until now, remained largely untold.