I’ve spent a good chunk of the past year following my curiosity about ditching drinking.
I am sober curious and I’m not alone.
The past few years has seen a big surge in people choosing not to drink. I’ve noticed it increasingly among women, but that could just be down to my particular social media echo chamber. Some women who I really admire (list at the end) are on this journey too and I am keen to properly commit to joining them on this path.
Like many people who are sober or mindful drinkers, I don’t have a drinking problem.
That’s not to say I haven’t had a questionable relationship with alcohol in the past, I really have. In the days of being young and single, living in London, working on magazines I fully bought into the hard-partying culture.
I’ve been to those places where I think I am a more interesting person after a drink. Or that I need a drink to be funny or courageous or to ease social anxiety. I have felt free, empowered, fun, inspired and grown-up with a glass in my hand and cocktails in my belly.
On the flip side I have had crippling anxiety, low self-esteem, self-loathing and utter despair at my behaviour because I have drunk too much the night before. It’s affected relationships, work, my physical and mental health. Not for long, I might add, but it leaves its mark.
No experience happens in isolation and it’s part of who I am today. All that was a long time ago. Since having children I am much more measured than I have ever been. I’m almost at the least likely place to be giving up. And yet…
Moderation in any form for me is uncomfortable. I can be very all or nothing (which was a problem when I drank heavily). I operate better under strict rules and I like things to be quite black and white. That’s part of the reason I am giving up alcohol. I want to see how it feels to not drink at all. To not be polluted in any way. I crave that clarity.
Needing a rule is just one part of the puzzle though.
I gave up this time last year and drank solely on special occasions until Easter, when my son got really ill and I needed some relief from just how freakin’ hard that time was for us. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? Everywhere you look, you see that this is OK. Every TV programme, every film shows us that we celebrate with champagne and we commiserate with whiskey or neat vodka (I’m looking at you EastEnders). It’s good for shock. It’s natural to drink ourselves into oblivion when grieving. A life without wine is no life at all…
But isn’t the opposite actually true?
British society is SO booze-focused. The messages about needing drinks to make life sweeter and to make any occasion better and to make parenting bearable come through so strong.
The parenting one is something I really have an issue with. My kids, while tiring and testing, are not something to be numbed out. They are not the source of all life’s shittest moments. They haven’t ruined me. I don’t need wine to cope with being a parent. In fact, it makes me a much worse mum. Without drinking, I can really enjoy my children, who need my attention and compassion and my patience (which is finite at the best of times).
Because, while I have been (mainly) drinking moderately, I have noticed a few things about me and booze…
It makes me tired, which makes me irritable with the children and cranky with my husband.
A couple of glasses of red on a Friday night disturbs my sleep. Guaranteed.
I don’t often like the taste of wine – I really thought I did, but it’s actually quite rare.
I like the idea of it much more than the effect.
I start to slur really early on into a glass of wine.
Even in moderation, I am numbing myself to the world, to difficult emotions and uncomfortable truths, but also to proper joy.
Even drinking in moderation, I will never achieve my life’s goals and heart’s desires while booze is in my life. That’s a really big thing to realise. I feel like it dulls my motivation and I put things off. The house is a mess, the to-do list is growing, ideas never become reality, I’m forgetful.
This is my story and my path. I’m not saying all mums should give up wine but I do think perhaps it’s worth questioning it all sometimes, especially if you feel it’s not working for you or you’re sober curious too.
Worth a follow for some sober insta inspo, plus a whole lot more to fill up your grid
Toni Jones @ms.toni.jones @mindful_mixers @shelfhelp.club
Holly Whitaker, founder of Hip Sobriety @holly #hipsobriety
Jack Munro, chef @jack_monroe
Clemmie Telford, creative @clemmie_telford
Bryony Gordon, journalist and mental health campaigner @bryonygordon
Ruby Warrington, coined the term sober curious @rubywarrington
Clare Pooley, author of The Sober Diaries @clare_pooley