This is something I get asked about, a lot. Because I talk about being in 12 step recovery and not drinking, most people (understandably) assume that I’m an alcoholic and in AA. Which I’m not - I'm in the sister fellowship called Al Anon (for family and friends of alcoholics) but I did decide to stop drinking 5 years ago, aged 30. I didn’t suddenly stop one day, it was a gradual realisation that a sober life was right for me. So why and how did I come to that decision and what is it like not to drink…..especially as a mum of a toddler?
I definitely drank dysfunctionally in my teenage and early 20’s - drinking to get drunk, doing things when drunk that I wasn’t proud of and feeling terrible the next day, mentally and physically.
Once I started on my inner-journey at 23, through recovery, therapy, yoga and meditation I carried on drinking although I definitely became more conscious about how and when I was using alcohol, but I was in my mid 20’s and I didn’t want to stop altogether - I was having too much fun and if I’m honest, I didn’t feel secure enough in myself to be the sober one amongst a gang of prosecco drinking friends.
So what changed? Well, the first thing was the physical and mental torture that were hangovers! I got really bad hangovers, even from one or two drinks and felt so sick the next day. But far worse was the mental hangovers - at this point in my life I was feeling good, happy, connected to myself and the world around me. Being hungover felt like going to back to the pain of my past - feeling anxious, insecure, less than, disconnected. I started to ask myself if a few glasses of wine was worth it?
I was learning how to tune into and listen to my instinct and open myself up to guidance from life and I found when I drunk (even one glass) I couldn't do that anymore. It felt like drinking was blocking me from accessing my best self, who for the first time in my life I was starting to like and trust.
But one of the main reasons I was still having the odd glass of wine, if I’m honest, was to fit in. To be able to share in the giddy joy of the first glass of prosecco or sit with a friend to share a bottle. I wasn’t sure what my social life or friendships would look like if I was the one nursing a water all night.
The inner work I had been doing at this time, particularly with yoga and meditation has really shifted this for me. I was feeling more and more secure in myself, confident in my own choices, trusting that friendships are far deeper than who drinks and who doesn’t. So I slowly started being the sober one on night’s out and guess what? It was totally fine. It was odd at first but now I can honestly say I love being sober on a night out, dancing the night away with bags of energy and not a hint of fear for what the morning might bring.
I thought I might miss the buzz of the first drink, the connection of bonding with a new pal over a bottle, the thrill of the first rose of the summer, but I really don’t. Not drinking gives me so much more than drinking ever did.
One of the main benefits of not drinking (apart from the massive cost savings, hello new clothes….) is time. I’ve always had a love for reading and now I’m able to read about a book a week, because I’ve got the time and energy to. My friendships have deepened too, some of the drinking based friendships have definitely changed, but my heart-level friendships are stronger than ever before, and when I go out with a friend, I’m present, able to really listen, available and I’m pretty sure I’m a better friend because of it.
I had two years of being sober before I had Jessie, but I was interested to see how it would feel to cope with the challenges of parenting without the crutch of a glass of wine to ease the tension at the end of the day. I’ve found that challenging as it is, I’ve found other ways to relax, let go and calm down that feel more nourishing to me; an online yoga class, a guided meditation, a long bath. I feel that instant calm wash over me, just as I did with a glass of wine, but with the added benefit of feeling more, not less connected to myself. I was surprised when I became a mum, how strong the media-narrative is around motherhood and drinking and as a sober mum that didn’t resonate with me at all, in fact one of the reasons I started Motherkind was to be a different voice for anyone who felt the ‘wineoclock’ rhetoric didn’t resonate as a solution for the intensity of parenting.
I’m not anti-drinking at all, but for me not drinking as been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel happier, more productive, more secure and I’m deeply proud of myself for making this decision because it feels right for me right now. Who knows what will happen in the future, but my sober life is so bloody rewarding, I can’t see myself swapping it for a glass of anything any time soon.
Do you drink? Not drink? Want to stop drinking? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.