This week’s guest blog is by Kate – a sober millenial.
I was 24 when I considered life without alcohol. I had taken up some well overdue therapy to untangle a lifetime supply of anxiety and depression. It took about 10 emotional sessions to get to a stable place and once I understood my triggers, I started to become aware of the impact that alcohol was having on my mental health.
For about a year since therapy, I noticed that my hangovers were getting really bad, almost crippling. After a night out, I’d wake up and hide away in my room, too anxious to leave the house, crying in bed watching the world go by from my window. I’d spend most of the day in a pit, unable to find the energy to shower, eat or hold down water. I was mentally exhausted from all the voices going off in my head over and over again. I would just watch films all day and spend endless hours scrolling through my phone, bitterly comparing myself to everything on social media wondering why everyone else had it so much better than me. I took myself to some very dark places and genuinely felt like the world owed me something.
The hangovers also started to affect various aspects of my life. I had massive FOMO and would agree to attend every event. I’d attend the first social, get annihilated and then bail on at least 90% of the initial events that I’d committed to. By the end of it I’d beat myself up for days for being such a crap friend. I was constantly fatigued and fed up at work. I used any excuse not to step out of my comfort zone but was constantly aggy that my life felt like Groundhog Day. I would make ‘lazy transactions’ ubering to work on a Monday morning because I was too anxious to get on cramped train during rush hour. I’d forget my lunch and felt ropey enough to feel like I needed to treat myself to a £10 lunch. I’d forget my tampons at home and spend ANOTHER £4 on things that I didn’t actually need to buy with the money I didn’t have.
Life’s little mess ups kept mounting up over time in all different forms and because of the negative headspace I put myself in, I used this as ammo to self-sabotage.
I was terrified, and in some ways devastated to learn that alcohol was slowly destroying my mental wellbeing. Without realising it I had built my whole life around boozing and partying with my friends. It was all I’d ever known since I was 16. And to learn that alcohol had a negative impact on my life, I felt completely lost.
I had a cheeky google from time to time in an attempt to find people who had gone down the alcohol -free route. I found a few people in America but nobody particularly based in London around my age. For a while I massively doubted myself and thought I was just being classic Kate, overthinking everything because nobody else around me was questioning their relationship with alcohol.
I carried on with life with this alternative lifestyle at the back of my mind. When December came around, despite partying every other night, I was completely miserable and couldn’t wait for it all to be over. By Christmas Eve I was physically sick of alcohol. I literally took a couple sips of a G&T that evening and was throwing up before going to bed. Finally on New Years Eve I had a big night out and went really hard on Tequila. I ended the night vomiting in my new handbag trying to dodge an Uber fine, woke up on New Years Day drunk and sobbed into my pillow yet again.
New Year’s Day came and despite how hungover I felt and using those classic words ‘I’ll never drink again’, this time I actually meant it. I just knew if I carried on living like this, depression and anxiety would eventually get the better of me and I wasn’t going to be around much longer.
In the first couple of weeks of sobriety I LOVED it and basically declared to everyone that I’d quit drinking. I felt so healthy and it was such a relief to know I didn’t have the fear of a hangover peering over my shoulder. I even surprised myself when I had my first sober night out with my mates and had the best time ever!
I did, however, have a slight blip in the 3rd week of January. Me and a few colleagues had been awarded a dinner together from work. When it came to ordering the drinks, one of my colleagues insisted that we have red wine for the table. At this point I was at a bit of a crossroads with alcohol and thought maybe I could handle it now, I feel great. But the other side of me was just saying FFS Kate, not this again.
I caved into a heavy amount of interrogation and peer pressure that evening and had a couple of sips of wine and knew instantly I regretted it.
The next day various people from work asked how the meal went and in particular, if I’d had a drink. I said yes but only a couple of sips due to a bit peer pressure. The next thing I knew, the colleague who had peer pressured me to drink had shared his version of events telling everyone I drank a few glasses and joked that he knew he’d crack me.
I was fuming. Not only was I annoyed that this person exaggerated what had happened (for his own personal gain), but more that I had let someone’s opinions get the better of me and had a drink in the first place. That’s when I knew it was time to stop telling people about quitting booze. I clearly didn’t feel strong enough to deal with the peer pressure and I quickly learnt that it wasn’t anyone’s business other than my own.
Whenever people asked about my sobriety I’d quietly let them know how I was getting on. But it wasn’t until 3 months in, when I really felt all the benefits that I was confident enough to deal with people’s comments.
Now I’m just over 2 years sober and couldn’t imagine my life any other way. Life is so much easier to manage, and it feels like I’m back to reality again.
It’s crazy to think that for a generation who speak so openly about mental health, we are such binge drinkers and have never taken a step back to think maybe there might be a link between our mental health and our relationship with alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant and we need to take this more seriously.
It’s even more crazy to know that there is such a thing as peer pressure when you’re adulting in your mid-20’s and beyond.
From learning both of these things I now realise that mental health should never be at the risk of peer pressure. Support and community are important factors that we need to embrace in our lives.
So this year I have teamed up with my new sober friend Scott (@theboywhodranktoo) to create The Sober Millennials. An inclusive community where we will be hosting sober events for anyone who wants to socialise in a judgement free zone with zero peer pressure for some good old sober fun. If this sounds like something that would tickle your fancy check us out on Instagram @thesobermillennials and we’ll keep you posted on our first event.
You do you babes.
**Find Kate’s own page at @mentalitymanaged