Once you get sober you will never have fun again, right? This is one of the main things that discourages someone from seeking help. You might be relieved to know that this is a complete and utter myth. To start with, if drinking has become a problem, then it’s likely that it is no longer fun anymore anyway. We are not immune to this fantasy that alcohol creates a good time, this message is everywhere, but for some of us drinking is in fact the best way to destroy a good time.
We will have activities that we feel terrified to do sober such as getting up on that dance floor, going to weddings, birthdays or on that first date. Initially it can be difficult because like anything new, the unknown, it can be daunting. Sobriety is therefore all about finding out what brings you joy without the use of substances and sometimes without the same people.
Sometimes people, places and things need to be changed, this can be really tough. People are so important. The right people around you, supporting you makes a massive difference. Many people don’t know how to do anything without drinking because everything used to revolve around it. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and gives a false sense of confidence or liquid courage as it’s known. When we think of a world without it, we find it hard to imagine.
I drank socially for many years, I started when I was a teenager. Enjoying parties with school friends, clubbing at weekends with college friends and great times travelling round the world with my closest friend, enjoying drinks and much laughter on nights out. It was never a problem until much later in life. I have some great memories that I will treasure.
I don’t look back and wish I could be that social drinker again, simply because it is something I have accepted a long time ago. I have never met anyone in all these years that has returned to social drinking having become addicted to alcohol so could not say if this was possible or not. I personally would not be trying it out. I would not risk the life I have today for the sake of a drink and I really wouldn’t want to.
Removing alcohol from my life has given me the space to be the person I want to be and always was deep down. Those fun, happy memories of my social drinking days are a far cry from the days in addiction when I had to piece together what happened the night before. I had such huge gaps in my memory it was frightening. On a night out in sobriety, I love that I can tell you where I was, what I ate and what I talked about. I have rebuilt a life that I can remember.
It’s strange to think back to the days that I actually hated the taste of wine. For years I thought it tasted like vinegar, you would never have guessed that by the amount I consumed later down the line. For me though, the thought of giving up was probably harder than actually doing it, the fear of that change. Change is something most of us shy away from.
What would nights out look like with no alcohol? How would I go to a wedding and not be able to drink champagne? The fear of these things come largely from the myth that sober equals boring. When someone gives up smoking, we congratulate them but if someone gives up alcohol, they must be boring. As children we created our own fun but as adults, we tend to look for things outside ourselves for enjoyment.
This fear is just a perception of a situation. You imagine that people around you, drink in hand, must be having the time of their lives. Maybe they are, but it doesn’t mean that without that drink you cannot enjoy yourself just as much, and the bonus is you will actually remember the night before in the morning as well as being hang-over free! Staying true to yourself is definitely more important than trying to keep up with everyone else, and don’t forget nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors.
It’s really important to start replacing the old activities with new ones. There are so many things to do. For example, Ice skating, bowling, paintball, being a tourist in your own city, the Theatre, a concert, taking up a new hobby, comedy shows, cooking, festivals, swimming, dance classes, fabulous restaurants, volunteering and much more. Not one of these things require alcohol. You will find you need to put some effort in to keep things busy and interesting. Variety is the spice of life as they say!
Getting fit really helped me in early recovery. I went from not being able to run for 5 minutes without being exhausted, to running 16k most mornings. Any exercise is imperative for mental health as well as physical. For me, I felt it had a huge impact on my mental health in terms of boosting those happy chemicals (endorphins) and reducing any anxiety.
Some people may not associate exercise with fun, so if that’s you perhaps something like a salsa class or Zumba would be something to consider. In sobriety you will be more available to connect with people in an authentic way. You will be showing more of your real self than you ever did before. You will suddenly have time, time to do so many things, now that your day is not consumed with drinking or thinking about drinking.
Of course, it would be hard for anyone to just sit around trying not to do a certain thing. It took hours spent planning, getting that drink, drinking and then recovering from its effects so, no wonder that when we stop, all those hours suddenly seem to turn into big empty voids of time that need to be filled. The good news is that time can be filled with wonderful things.
It is true to say that getting sober is a serious business but is certainly is not less fun. There is nothing lonelier than being caught up in the spiral of addiction. All it takes is some exploring of what is fun to you now. People sometimes imply that recovery is a continuous long hard slog. I disagree. Yes, you have to work at it by keeping yourself safe and doing what you know is necessary to maintain sobriety. This is about awareness of your feelings, behaviour and situations, not a lifelong battle.
On my journey, sobriety has not been simply about abstaining from alcohol, it has been about rediscovering myself. Peeling back all those false layers. It is really exhilarating to find yourself again after being so very lost. We worry that sobriety will be boring and mundane, that it will be somehow more unbearable than the pain of continuing to self-destruct. What I discovered was that the so-called fun I thought I was having towards the end of my drinking was really just an attempt to run away from everything.
What most people don’t realise is that it all stopped being fun a long time ago. In addiction it is a misconception that using alcohol will someday feel like fun again as it has already become something that must be done just to feel normal, or avoid symptoms of withdrawal. Once I had accepted this it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I was able to embrace the opportunity to change and make that fresh start.
I think it’s important to remember that we restrict ourselves all the time in everyday life without even thinking about it. But what is true deprivation? You are not being deprived of anything as you can choose to drink if you want to. You choose to give up in order to have a better quality of life. So actually, deprivation is continuing to drink and being unable to manage life without it, that is what I would call true deprivation.
I could not imagine not drinking but now drinking is what I can’t imagine doing. It is about what becomes normal to us and this happens in time. It is something that you can’t speed up. You need to allow the new normal to feel normal to you. I bet there are many things in your life that you couldn’t imagine doing in the past but you did do it and now its normal.
An alcohol-free life is not an imprisonment, it is an empowering adventure. Know your reasons for giving up or wanting to give up and keep them very close to you. One of the things that I am most proud of is actually doing what I say I’ll do today in sobriety. I keep my promises, not only to myself but those around me. I don’t let anyone down and that feeling is priceless. This is what is really fun and exciting, the sense that life is about to change for the better. True life is lived when changes occur and there are far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.