Day 221: People in the Sober World often talk about Sober Shaming and the anxiety that comes with it. I can’t say I’ve experienced that myself. Yet. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been so transparent about my reasons for knocking booze on the head or I’ve just been around the right social environments / crowds but for me, all I’ve experienced is either a supportive response or no response. Those who acknowledge it will ask why I don’t drink or if they already know why, will congratulate and praise me. In most of these cases the person will also admit they’d like to cut down / give up. In fact 80% of adults surveyed in the UK admitted they’d like to reduce their alcohol intake.
Those that don’t acknowledge it are the people who clearly don’t care and why should they? Why should it matter if I’m in a pub or restaurant drinking a non-alcoholic bottle of beer or a glass of water? it has no bearing on their life!
Since going sober and the easing of lockdown / restrictions I’ve been to a weekend stag doo, a day at the cricket, a family meal out, football matches, a music gig and a wedding (day/night guest). For somebody who has suffered badly with social anxiety since early 2020 that ain’t bad going is it?! In every one of the above social events I would have previously drank (probably to excess) and not really cared about the social aspect of it. The drink blurs everything. It would make me feel 10 foot tall and I’d have a swagger. I thought I was a King but I was probably an annoying prick. I’m proud that I’ve got through all of those ‘milestones’ mentioned above despite at the time or the immediate aftermath of the event feeling vulnerable, anxious and/or low.
I go on a family holiday on Monday. Our first since June 2020 when I was still drinking (and boozing to excess). I remember taking loads of drink to the lodge last year and every day and night I was having a good glug. Often having ‘extra’ measures of whisky or bottles of beer when the wife wasn’t in sight of me.
This will be my first time in five visits to this same holiday destination with my family where alcohol hasn’t been a big part of my planning / vacation strategy. I’ve got a feeling it will be my best visit yet. I’ll take some non-alcoholic beers and some bottles of ginger beer. I’ll pack a few bottles of wine for the wife. When we eat out I’ll confidently order a soft drink. My wife can enjoy a Malbec if she wants and it’ll have no bearing on me at all. I’m over it.
So anyways, back to this sober shaming shite that I keep reading about in books about recovery and sobriety. If anybody does receive negative or judgemental comments about being alcohol free just remember that it says more about that person than you. I guarantee that person will still drink alcohol and probably have their own insecurities. I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for people to question why you gave up because “you weren’t an alcoholic”.
Ok, so what do you define as an alcoholic? Somebody on a park bench with a bottle of cheap cider and in need of a bath? Somebody who wakes up and pours vodka on their cornflakes?
Because my definition of an ‘alcoholic’ is somebody who thinks about alcohol all of the time. Somebody who uses alcohol to self-medicate their anxiety. Somebody who can’t stop once they start. I’m sure the ‘professionals’ in this field would dispute my view on it and say that I’m describing something else but basically what I described there was me. If I felt anxious I had a glug of whisky. Even if it was 10:30am. I might not have another drop until 7pm but that morning hit took the edge off whilst my antidepressants ‘kicked in’ (in my own head anyways).
I would always be thinking about what alcohol we had in the house. Always thinking about the next time I’d have free reign to have a ‘good drink’. I would never know when to stop. If I drove to the football and only had a pint I’d be thinking more about getting home and having another drink than the match I had paid to watch. If I wasn’t driving at the football or music gig I’d be clock watching and counting down to the interval when it would be ‘acceptable’ to go and get a top up. I was alcohol dependent. If that’s not an ‘alcoholic’ I dunno what is. Alcohol lead to fall outs with my wife. Alcohol lead to fights on nights out. Alcohol lead to a night in the cells. Alcohol lead to me ending up in hospital unconscious on more than one occasion. Alcohol involved me losing phones, money, jackets and a lot of respect from others. Alcohol lead to heightened anxiety. Alcohol lead to deeper depression. Alcohol made me question if I wanted to live anymore.
That’s why I don’t drink.
But I don’t NEED to explain that to anybody. I choose to share it because I want to. People need to know that you can work full time, regularly go out running and ‘function’ as a husband and father but still be an alcoholic. Or whatever you define as what I described above.
So NO, I can’t “just have one”. No I won’t “just stick to having a drink with the wife”. No, I can’t just knock whisky on the head but stick to beer.
So for those who have been ‘sober shamed’ out there… the person in front of you has the problem. Not you. You are amazing.
You get one life. You should live it the way you want to live it. If that involves drinking alcohol good for you. I have no opinion. I’ve lived both sides of the fence and I know which I prefer. That’s what matters to me.