In 2 months it will be 4 years since I stopped drinking alcohol – 4 years!!!
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised.
I am writing this article because many people ask me Why I stopped drinking, How I did it and How I manage my life without alcohol. So instead of shouting my answer over loud music at another party, I thought I’d write about it, so anyone interested could simply read this.
The 1st question people ask is often WHY? So I’ll answer this first, going back in time, so I can explain my relationship with alcohol.
When I was 18 I moved from Marseille to London to study. As a university student I was quickly introduced to the binge drinking culture. I remember being shocked when I first saw other young women hopelessly drunk in the street. Some of them were barefoot, lost, alone, throwing up on the side of the road. It seemed so acceptable amongst the other university students but it didn’t seem right to me.
Yet, 3 years into university, I was partaking in the drinking games and getting drunker than I said wanted to. Peer pressure felt real and I found myself willing to play along so I could be accepted and have friends. And I did. I don’t regret any of those drunken nights. I had fun – I think… but one time I woke up as the club security were knocking on the toilet door. I had gotten so drunk that I had fallen asleep on the bathroom floor. All my friends had left, thinking I had left, and fortunately my bag was found intact under a table.
I presume this kind of episode will sound familiar to many readers. In the UK at least, most people I know have numerous anecdotes like this one, which normalises them. Yet I still think it’s sad that so many young people poison their body until it is forced to expel the alcohol, one way or another.
That episode was not enough to put me off from drinking. It became a funny story I was kind of proud to share. I was ‘one of them’. I continued drinking and regretting it the next day for some time. When I started working in a corporate environment I found myself going to the Pub on Friday night and hoping there was something non alcoholic I could drink, but the peer pressure I’d felt at university was still present in my work environment. I thought it was easier to order a cider than to explain why I didn’t want to drink.
Then, one day in December I heard of a challenge called ‘Dry January’. The only rule was simple: No alcohol for the month of January. So I decided to do it. I was doing great, but 24 days into the challenge I was invited to an engagement party and broke my commitment to myself. I drank one too many cocktails and brushed it off saying it didn’t really matter anyway. It did, but I wasn’t ready to take responsibility.
The following year I committed to Dry January again and this time I completed the 31 days, I even lasted a couple of weeks more but on Valentine’s Day I felt compelled to share a bottle of wine with my boyfriend at the time. It was one of the ways we connected, eating and drinking wine – what would happen if I stopped drinking?! – I wasn’t willing to find out.
This leads me to answer HOW?
The following year I decided to take part in a 40 day program that my Yoga studio offered. The participants were invited to quit coffee, dairy, sugar, gluten, meat and alcohol of course as well meditating, practicing yoga, journaling and reading daily.
Doing this with a group of people was great because we could socialise together without having to justify why we were not consuming all of the above and we could support and encourage each other through the process. During the 40 days I started my 6 month yoga teacher training and decided that I wouldn’t drink alcohol until after my teacher training was finished. My training required a lot of practice, reading and learning and with a full time job I didn’t have time for much more.
I thought I’d enjoy a drink after my training + I didn’t like the thought of being T-TOTAL. I’d met people who didn’t drink before I stopped myself and I thought they were extreme. So I tried having a glass of wine which I left after 3 sips, I tried a cocktail which I shared with everyone around me and even had a shot of tequila on a different occasion which made me feel terrible, so I decided I wouldn’t drink until I wanted to.
Not drinking was easy, it still is, I don’t miss it, never have. What I found most challenging was some people’s reactions. Some asked if I was pregnant, if I had become muslim, or if I was sick. Sometimes I’d explain, I simply didn’t feel like it, but not everyone accepted my answer as satisfactory. A couple of friends tried to sneak alcohol into my drinks and others stopped inviting me to party. I was surprised, but I felt good, I was being true to myself, so if I had to lose ‘a friend’ or 2 in the process it was ok. I also noticed that I was saving money, more money than I could have imagined since I never considered myself as a heavy drinker. And I stopped eating terribly on Sunday mornings because I wasn’t hangover like I had been in the past.
Almost 4 years later, all my friends know I don’t drink and respect my choice. And whenever I meet someone who disagrees of my sobriety, I simply choose not to invest much energy in that exchange. I don’t tell people not to drink so I don’t expect people to tell me I should drink 🙂 I don’t even say I’ll never drink again. I think any hard rules are ‘dangerous’. I am free to do whatever I want and if one day I want to drink again, then I will. But for now, I feel happy and healthy without alcohol in my life and I would gladly encourage anyone who is thinking about it to try spending 1 month without alcohol to see how their life changes.
If I could share any tips to anyone trying to give up I’d say:
- If at 1st you don’t succeed… Try, try and TRY again!
- Trust that you can and you will.
- Tell the people you love why you are doing this, they are more likely to support you and less likely to want to tempt you.
I hope this article is of interest, perhaps even inspiration to some of you reading. If you have any questions, please feel free to write to me and I’d be happy to talk about this.
Sending love and light to everyone