By Jasmin Griffiths
Over 123 days ago, I was probably hungover, or sat in a pub having what I assumed was fun with people I thought I liked. It’s not until you stop drinking that you realise you’re always just a little bit hungover, like some foggy haze you don’t realise is hanging over your life; not too dissimilar to when I first wore glasses after thinking I didn’t need them, or literally the famous quote (bible story excerpt?) “I was blind but now I see” – although I think that is far more literal and not at all a metaphor in the context.
It’s not that I ever had a problem with my drinking, I don’t think. I drank as much as any regularly depressed twenty-four-year-old who feels like they haven’t achieved as much in their life as they were supposed to, and enjoys a trip to the pub and getting hammered on a Sunday, or Monday, or Thursday, or… Ok, so maybe there was a slight problem with my drinking.
Between the alcohol culture in this country, my self-medicated depression and how bloody boring I think I am, hiding behind a few glasses of wine until the confident booze monster of Drunk Me emerged was an easy way out, and then I could just sort of take the back seat until I woke up the next morning surrounded by absolute D-O-O-M and regret for what I had said to whom, and at what cost. Which of course then leads to more depression and anxiety, so it’s all a vicious circle.
I kissed goodbye to my sweet loves of Sauvignon Blanc.
One morning I decided that enough was enough. I don’t like who I am when I’m drunk more than I don’t like who I am when I’m sober at this point, I was spending an obscene amount of money in the pub, and the hangovers were just getting worse and worse. I kissed goodbye to my sweet loves of Sauvignon Blanc and basically any other wine, beer or spirit, and jumped head first into sobriety.
It’s been a fairly easy and straight-forward ride so far. Working in a music venue that doubles as a nightclub that occasionally hosts horrific student events is a beautiful reminder on those nights of who I don’t want to be anymore. Watching people angrily babble some incoherent string of words to you as you tell them they’re too drunk for another drink, people walking round with a confidence I dream of having whilst simultaneously having sick all down their fronts and possibly encrusted in their hair, and the ghastly make-out sessions that I have to bear witness to, are what I like to think of as an ASMR Positive Affirmations video but IRL and to very loud dance music.
I feel better, I’ve lost weight, I’ve got more money (sort of)… it all seems to be going wonderfully, right? Except, I don’t actually have any friends anymore. Did I anyway is the real question here I suppose. But from seeing someone every day because I’d invite them to the pub, and no one says no to a pint, to spending some very sober, very lonely days is quite a drastic change. It seems like no one knowns how to have fun anymore unless they’re three pints in.
There’s no potential for a good night if there’s no alcohol involved. A vital part of being an adult is apparently being half cut most of the time and no one seems to be questioning it. Hard day? Need a drink. Good day? Deserve a drink. Whatever the question is, the answer seems to be “drink” and I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, and maybe you just think I’m bitter, but we’re all really sodding boring when we’re drunk.
We’re all really sodding boring when we’re drunk.
I know that might come as a shock to you, because it would have been a shock to me too. But when I’m sat in a beer garden and everyone around me is just hammering on about the same suffering thing over and over again for hours, I start to lose the will to live.
Everyone is talking but no one is actually listening anymore, they’re just waiting for their turn to be heard and be loud and vocal and pissed. Nothing of any value is being said, the same sentence is cropping up every sort of forty-eight seconds or so, and by god I might love you but please shut the fudge up.
It’s around this time of realising the people you hang out with are tedious that you might stop getting invited out. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a real thing. I’m telling you this from the bottom of my heart. But FOMO doesn’t even strictly apply to when you’re not at a place. You can be there and be the sober one in the crowd and it’s a bit like everyone else is in on a big joke that you missed the memo on.
Everyone is a bit loose and rosy cheeked, happy probably, but there’s a constant buzzing in the back of your head because you can’t quite get into that same place. A metaphysical block that isn’t allowing you to access the fun-happy zone everyone else is in. But FOMO also applies to when you’re sat in your bed and you check your Instagram stories and all your friends are out and none of them even messaged you to ask you to come along even though you’d spoken to one of them like, two hours ago. But whatever, I don’t even care. I might have even said no, if you had asked. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be.
There was a big change I went through at some point in the last 123 days where I suddenly realised the confidence I had when I was drunk is actually always in me. Maybe not to the same extent, I don’t really think I could do some of the things that ‘drunk confidence’ made me think I could do, but I definitely don’t think I’m an absolute boring egg anymore. Not all the time at least. Anything I could do, I can do sober. I can talk to people I don’t know (possibly more coherently), I can do a gig without needing a shot of tequila, or three, before I go on stage, I’m an interesting person with things to say and I don’t need to be drunk to say them… anymore. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy tonic water, some alcohol-free beer doesn’t just taste like dish water, and there’s a lot more sober people at shows than I thought. I’m not scared of going out in case the temptation to drink is too strong, if it is, I can just go home. There’s nothing lost in not drinking one night.
So that’s how I’m taking it. One day at a time. And it’s working so far. I’ve got an app that tells me how many days I’ve not had a drink for, how many calories, pounds and units of alcohol I’ve saved based on the probably accurate amount of alcohol I told them I drank when I signed up. Someone once sort of sniggered when mentioned I have an app for my sobriety, which really quite hurt if I’m honest. I did used to log in to it every day and obsessively check how I was doing, now it’s sort of once every four or five days just to catch it all up. So, it’s not like I’m reliant on an app to stay sober, it’s just a nice little pick-me-up when I’m feeling a little disheartened about the whole thing. It’s really great apart from the whole ‘how much money has been saved’ part because I can tell you now, that amount of money is not in my bank account so I’ve definitely found something else to spend it on.
Anything I could do, I can do sober.
The friends I’ve kept and new friends I’ve made since I stopped drinking have really helped me along. I’ve had no snide comments like “come on, you can have ONE drink” (which I have definitely done in the past without realising how harmful and insensitive it is, and I’m sorry to those I’ve said it to) and everyone seems genuinely interested in the changes it’s made to my life. I’ve even had a lovely chat with a taxi driver about it who, next time he picked me up a couple of weeks later, said I had inspired him to stop drinking. He made it to four days and then said he couldn’t do more after that, but I admire the attempt he made and I’m thankful that a conversation with me made him think a bit more about his drinking habits. But if you ever find yourself thinking “I wonder if I could stop my casual and social drinking?” then I urge you to give it a go. Even if it’s just one weekend where you go out and don’t drink. You never know what you might learn.