I feel a lot more in control and which has boosted my self- esteem and confidence. I have learnt to treat myself with more care and to look after myself.
My relationship with alcohol has always been a rocky one. If I am honest with myself, before going alcohol-free I was binge drinking on and off since I was a teenager. I also suffer with anxiety, so at times the two mixed together has been explosive to say the least.
I’ve had breaks from alcohol before; a few sober January’s and then tried to moderate after but always slipped back into old habits. Like many people during the first lockdown I found myself drinking quite often. I live alone so it was through boredom mainly. I managed an alcohol-free stint of 36 days during the first lockdown and felt really good from it.
I discovered OYNB through Instagram. I started following Suzanna Shaw who I had seen on tv talking about her battles with depression and was really touched by her story and her honesty. So I began to follow the group and follow people’s stories. I was really inspired.
The run up to Christmas last year (2020) was incredibly hard. I found myself consistently drinking 3-4 nights a week. I would reason it out with ‘well I only had a couple yesterday’. Then by the time it got to the weekend that felt like a green card. Work was hard and then I had to isolate over Christmas. My anxiety levels were through the roof. I had really bad tension headaches and to be honest I was very down.
A turning point
Then by Boxing Day something changed. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I wanted better for myself. So I stopped. My intention was to start sober January early. I spoke to my doctor who prescribed me a low dose of medication to help with my anxiety. It turned out to be a game changer for me. This reinforced my decision not to drink.
So I just continued one day at a time. Slowly one month turned into 2 and so on. The further I went along the less I wanted to drink. So after the first few months I decided to go public with my friends and family and commit to being alcohol-free longer term. I celebrated my 40th birthday in May and stayed sober. My colleagues even bought me alcohol-free alternatives alongside other gifts and made it very special for me.
My family have been very supportive. I have seen the effects of alcohol coupled with mental health problems within my own family and that has further added to my decision not to drink. After a few months I decided I wanted to be in contact with other alcohol-free people so I signed up to OYNB.
My experience going alcohol-free
I never expected to ever complete 365 days AF. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I would ever stop drinking I may have laughed. I just started out wanting to do the best for myself, to feel better and to change things. I do have occasional days wondering if I am missing out but the benefits far outweigh how I would feel if I drank again. The OYNB community really helps to remind me of this.
I think the impact to my mental health has been amazing. My anxiety levels are generally really low and I am much better at recognising when I am getting tired and need to rest. I’m a lot calmer and don’t turn to alcohol as a coping strategy any more. My skin is really clear. I did start running and found that I wasn’t getting pains in my knees and back that I would previously and could run further.
I feel a lot more in control and which has boosted my self- esteem and confidence. I have learnt to treat myself with more care and to look after myself. Friends have said they have seen a real difference in me and that feels amazing. Friends have said they have seen a real difference in me and that feels amazing. Also I practise Aikido (a defensive martial art) which I’ve been doing for 5 and half years. My practise has improved massively due to my new found clarity and calmness. I am also training to become an instructor in this which I’m really excited about. I think the gains for me have been things I’ve noticed over time but I believe some more of the real big benefits are yet to come.
The OYNB support
Being part of a supportive community where there is no judgement is really valuable and being able to see other people’s stories is really inspiring. It also makes you realise if others can do it so can you.
My mindset towards alcohol has changed completely. I do drink AF alternatives and that has been really useful in my journey to being alcohol-free. If I were drinking a few beers before, I would drink them all and want more, with AF beers I will have one maybe two maximum and that’s enough. Then I’m reaching for the kettle!
I love how many alternatives are available now. It’s nice to feel that I can still take part in that aspect of my life just alcohol-free and generally just at the weekends. I really don’t miss drinking alcohol and all of the negative emotions that come with it at all. My next goal is to get on top of my health in regards to exercise and eating.
I would definitely recommend OYNB to friends as I think it’s a really supportive and transformative community.