It’s a question I get asked often: ‘why did you stop drinking?’.
I used to be fascinated (and incredulous) when I met someone who didn’t drink. I imagined that they most likely had a medical problem, or were on some medication that prevented them from drinking. Yes, there must be an outside, uncontrollable reason why they couldn’t drink alcohol. Because of course, if this reason was removed, they’d surely be happily partaking.
I couldn’t comprehend that some people had made the decision themselves not to drink. Admittedly, I didn’t come across that many abstainers in my circles, so it was like meeting a rare freak if I did!
So, when people ask me ‘why did you stop drinking?’, I know that they think something must have happened to me, or it’s a temporary, self-imposed, embargo. Or probably they think I’m just a rare freak….
But no, it was a conscious and very well thought out choice on my part. I chose to stop drinking because I knew in my heart, that me-plus-alcohol was always a less good version of myself. Hangovers also made me feel extremely guilty; my health is something I invest in a lot, and being a nutritional therapist didn’t exactly marry up well to drinking copious amounts of alcohol. There are other reasons too, which are less easy to explain, but these are the main two.
Despite knowing these bare facts – alcohol made me feel extremely ill and turned me into a drunk bore – the social conditioning that means alcohol is the norm in our society, along with the undisputable fact that alcohol is extremely addictive, made it very difficult to give up. I had never considered sobriety as a lifestyle because I had assumed that it basically meant I would never be able to enjoy myself again. That seems mad to me now, but I remember the feeling quite strongly. Everything I did that was remotely considered as ‘nice’, involved alcohol. Imagine going out for a meal without wine? Lunacy! Or meeting up with old friends without having a drink? Beyond awful! But it wasn’t just the social occasions that required alcohol; it was the glass of wine (or more) each evening as a reward for finishing the day.
But as soon as I realised, that actually, it was possible to enjoy myself without alcohol, the mist cleared and I could see how I’d been caught in the alcohol trap. Do humans really need to ingest a depressant, neurotoxin to lower their inhibitions so that they can have a nice time? Or do we already have what it takes to have fun with friends, or enjoy food? And I know that some people have extremely hard lives, but the crazy thing is that alcohol actually worsens stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue, so using it as a reward at the end of the day, is actually not a reward at all. Yet, we are conditioned to believe it’s a civilised way of winding down. But these are the things I know now, which I didn’t know before.
I’ve learnt a lot about myself on my alcohol-free journey, and I continue to do so. And the more I learn, the more I love my alcohol-free life.