By Adrienne Walder (Club Soda Member since January 2018)
Last Autumn I was feeling worryingly low, yet I couldn’t pinpoint why. From the outside, my life appeared pretty rosy. I was living in Hong Kong with my lovely husband, I was surrounded by great friends and had an active social life. I was working in a stress-free job that I enjoyed and I was getting the opportunity to explore Asia. However, on the inside, I felt anxious, fearful, incapable and overwhelmed with self-loathing and shame. Throughout my adult life I had used binge-drinking as a crutch to bear the weight of uncomfortable feelings and difficult situations, however, I was slowly waking up to the fact that this was simply making me feel even worse about myself.
After a particularly drunken weekend, I was bulldozed by self-hatred and moving into a very negative space. It was apparent that drastic action was required. I decided I would stop drinking until Christmas. At the time, I didn’t feel robust enough to deflect the potential barrage of abuse and haranguing of ‘don’t be so boring’, ‘can’t you just have one’, which I had been guilty of inflicting on friends in the past, so I told them I was on a pre-Christmas health and fitness regime. This worked well and I successfully stopped drinking for seven and a half weeks and in that time I noticed many dramatic changes. The most notable being that my mental health took a U-turn – my anxiety, anger and negativity were replaced with contentment and positivity. In addition, my energy levels increased, I started sleeping really well, my face started to glow, and I lost 5kgs.
However, December arrived with the usual onslaught of Christmas party invitations and the temptation of festive boozing proved too much and I picked up the bottle again.
I was astounded at how quickly I fell back into my binge-drinking ways and the speed at which I was able to undo all the good of the previous weeks. After a booze-infused Christmas break with family and friends in England, I felt bloated, depressed and disgusted with myself and I resolved to make alcohol-free living a permanent fixture in my life. On the plane back to Hong Kong on 31st December 2017 I had my last ever alcoholic drink and on 2nd January 2018, I posted a goodbye letter to alcohol on my blog. I thought a few friends might take the time to read it but instead, it went viral and I received countless messages of support, encouragement, and empathy from both friends and strangers. It was just the kick-start I needed.
Over the past ten months, my life has transformed beyond recognition. The constant negative chitter chatter in my head, which had repressed me for as long as I can remember, was silenced and replaced with self-respect and pride. I am the most positive, confident, happiest and bravest I have been in my entire life. How I feel on the inside has been reflected on the outside and people are constantly commenting on how great I look now. With all the time I have gained through not being hungover, I have reignited old interests and I have filled these ten months with sailing, diving, reading, painting, drawing, singing, writing and swimming. My life is brimming.
Of course, being sober hasn’t waved a magic wand and made my problems disappear. Life has still thrown curve balls my way that I have had to tackle and it has been tough dealing with them without my old friend alcohol. Without booze blurring the edges, everything appears in sharp focus and that can be particularly intimidating and scary until you get used to it. However, over time I have found that problems can be resolved more effectively without alcohol muddying the water.
For me, the reasons why I have successfully stayed alcohol-free over the past ten months is down to the following:
1) I changed my perception of alcohol
During my first few months of sobriety, I voraciously read ‘quit lit’, which successfully toppled alcohol from the pedestal I had placed it on throughout my entire adult life. The books that stood out for me were: The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley; Kick the Drink… Easily! by Jason Vale; This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol by Annie Grace; and The Unexpected Joy of being Sober by Catherine Gray.
2) I have been determined to succeed
I was very clear about why I wanted to make this change and throughout I have kept focused on the end goal. During this year, if I’ve felt even the tiniest temptation to have a drink, I have reminded myself just how rubbish I used to feel and just how fabulous I feel now.
3) I have been positive
I have never once seen stopping drinking as a sacrifice, instead, I have looked at it as something that will enhance my life immeasurably. In addition, I have been very mindful of the language I use. For example, I don’t think or say out loud sentences like – “I’m going to try to stop drinking” or “I probably won’t drink” – I’ve unwaveringly stuck to assertive language like – I’m not going to drink” and “I don’t drink”. Words matter and the words we choose can either lift us up or drag us down.
4) I have been prepared
Knowing that I was potentially going to come up against resistance from friends, I was very open about the fact that I was stopping drinking and my reasons why from day one. This has meant I haven’t had to repeatedly justify my choice to not drink and come up with new excuses. Also, I found it easiest to keep a fairly low profile during the first couple of months of getting sober so I was away from temptation, and nowadays I always make sure I have an escape plan up my sleeve if things get tough.
5) I have been patient
The old adage goes ‘good things come to those who wait’ and over the course of this year I can vouch for the fact that this is undeniably true. Every step of the way I have noticed, and continue to notice, little positive changes in me and the way I am leading my life. Four months into sobriety, I wrote a blog about the physical changes I had experienced, and six months in I blogged about my top ten achievements during that time. None of these would have been possible without remaining patient.
Looking back from where I am today, I can see how my drinking was like driving a car with the handbrake on. I was slowly making headway through life but destroying the car in the process. Now with the handbrake off, I am finally hurtling along and the possibilities are limitless.
If you want to stop drinking and don’t know how to get started, I have put together a guide on how I successfully managed to quit.
Adrienne is a British woman who has been living and working in Hong Kong for the past five years with her husband. She writes a blog (http://dreamscheming.blogspot.com) that has been documenting her journey to sobriety which started on 1st January 2018.