OK. My choice of featured image for this post: the numbers on a running track. Go figure…
It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Maybe not. Let me explain…
It won’t have escaped your attention that lots (and, erm, lots) of people define their being clean/ sober as a period of time. A date. A number.
You can’t go on Instagram without being bombarded with self-congratulatory memes and “whoop whoops”. And this is okay. It is, really.
But what lies behind the numbers? A period of positive recovery? Or a period of time, achingly slow, painful, terrifyingly lonely and cold?
You see, for this humble author, the most important thing is the quality of that recovery. The vibrancy of that sobriety. Not just the time elapsed.
With that in mind, today we’re sharing an article by the venerable Clare Pooley who, after “celebrating” 1000 days of sobriety wrote about how things had changed – for the better. The way she felt, the way she experienced life – the stark realities of sober living.
Oh… the running track… I had hoped you’d forgotten.
It’s simple: Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.
(That’s me, David, nine plus months, not counting. Not!)
Clare – thanks for sharing with us, you’re an inspiration!
Clare Pooley (aka SoberMummy) is a middle-aged, over-educated, overprivileged, (formerly) overweight Mum of three (her words, not ours!) who had a long love affair with high priced, good quality wine until she realised that the relationship was going nowhere but downhill, so she showed it the door and started blogging to take her mind off her broken heart…. After 8 months of living the sober high life, Clare was diagnosed with breast cancer. She kicked that one into touch too!
WHAT I’VE LEARNED AFTER 1000 DAYS ALCOHOL FREE.
December 7th, 2017 by Clare Pooley
It’s been more than one thousand days since I had a glass of wine.
I didn’t have a dramatic rock bottom moment one thousand days ago. I didn’t wake up in a gutter, or in someone else’s bed, or crash the car when drunk. Thank goodness.
It was more like the painfully slow break up of a serious relationship. Like having to face up to the fact that the man I’d turned to whenever I was in trouble, whenever I wanted to have fun, whenever I wanted to just chill, was no good for me any more.
I had to leave him. Throw him out. Pour him down the sink.
By this point, I was drinking a bottle of wine a day, more at weekends. As a result, I was overweight, miserable and stuck in a rut.
Again, it wasn’t dramatic drinking. I rarely appeared drunk, or got into trouble. Rather worryingly, a bottle of wine disappeared rather easily….
This was not my first attempt at dealing with my alcohol problem, obviously. I’d spent weeks, months, years even, looking for an alternative, trying endless ways of cutting down, of ‘moderating.’
But it was all exhausting. And every attempt (much like trying to crash diet) ended, eventually, in failure. Back to where I started, if not more so.
So, finally I realised that there was no alternative but to pack it in altogether.
That prospect was, frankly, terrifying. But I resigned myself to the fact that my party days were over and that from now on I had to be a good girl. I knew I would feel proud of myself, but – obviously – I wasn’t going to have any fun any more. Life, as I’d known it, was over.
But here’s what I’ve discovered one thousand days later:
Life, as I knew it, was over. But the new life I’ve discovered is WAY BETTER, better in a myriad of different ways.
First off, there was all the physical stuff.
Stopping drinking changed the way I look. Some changes came immediately – like losing the puffy face and the bloodshot eyes, some took longer, like losing all the excess weight.
Within the first year without booze I’d lost two stone (28 pounds), and I’ve remained consistently at my ideal weight ever since, without any effort.
Also, I may be one thousand days older, but I actually look younger. I have better skin, clearer eyes, bouncier hair and oodles more energy.
Next time you’re at a party, check out the most fresh-faced person in the room, not the one with the fake, waxy, botoxed face, but the one with the natural looking glow. I bet they’re not drinking booze.
When you drink, you lose your ability to listen to your body. You can’t tell when you’re genuinely hungry and need to eat, or when you’re just craving carbs because you’re hungover. When your body is dehydrated and is trying to tell you you’re thirsty, you drink alcohol – a diuretic.
Now, I eat when I’m hungry, and rehydrate when I’m thirsty. Simples.
And one of the biggest physical changes is being able to sleep.
I was a terrible insomniac for years. I blamed stress. I used to fall asleep, no problem, but I’d wake up at about 3am, tossing and turning, and be totally unable to get back to sleep until just before the alarm went off.
Lack of sleep affects everything. It makes it difficult to function at your best short term, and, longer term, has a huge impact on your mental and physical health.
Now, I sleep like a baby. And I’m a morning person! Who knew? I bounce out of bed like the Duracell bunny, all ready to take on the day.
But quitting alcohol hasn’t just changed me physically.
When I was drinking, my moods were all over the place. I’d veer from euphoric to depressed, then back again, regularly.
Now I’m zen. Ok, perhaps not completely zen – I can still be a nutter from time to time, but everything is relative.
I used to feel anxious much of the time. I thought that alcohol helped, that it dampened down the anxiety. It was only once I quit that I realised it was the alcohol that was causing the anxiety in the first place. My medicine was actually my poison.
But the biggest change of all, the one that rolls out gradually over the months and years after you quit, is what’s happened to my life.
You see, I drank to take the edges off life, to blur all the hard bits. What I hadn’t realised is that I was blurring all the good bits too.
When I stopped drinking, I had to learn to deal with everything life threw at me raw. Initially it was a terrible shock. It was hard.
But, once I got used to it, once I showed myself what I could do and how naturally brave I am, I felt like a SUPERHERO. I realised that I could conquer anything.
Not only did I find my superpower, but I rediscovered all the energy and enthusiasm for life that I had when I was much younger, before all the self-medication numbed it all.
And, without the booze anaethetising my brain constantly, my synapses started firing and I re-discovered creative abilities that I’d thought I’d just grown out of.
My horizons have broadened and my life has just expanded. It feels like a brand new start.
My not drinking has changed my relationships with other people too. I’m a much better mother, a better wife and a better friend.
Admittedly, some of my friends have taken it rather hard, mainly the ones that drink the most themselves. I’m still often asked when I’m going to ‘fall off the waggon’ and join in again.
But the truth is, I don’t need to. Because I’ve discovered that parties can be just as much fun without the booze – more so, because you can remember them.
A bad party is still a bad party, drunk or sober, and spending hours at a party which is only about drinking when you don’t drink is a little boring. But the result of that is that I’ve become way more inventive about the ways in which I socialise.
I meet friends for long, rambling walks with dogs. I go to the theatre and concerts. I’ve bought back party games to dinner and lunch parties, and involve the children as well. I do galleries and exhibitions, trips and outings.
I’ve discovered that socialising is about shared experiences, varied experiences, not just getting pissed together, and that’s deepened and strengthened my relationships as well as making life much richer and more interesting.
Plus, I’ve got more money to spend on all that stuff, now I’m not spending it all on expensive vino.
So if you’re thinking about quitting booze, or you’ve recently quit and you’re still scared that it’s going to completely change your life…
….it will. It will change everything. But for the better.
About the author.
Clare Pooley (aka SoberMummy) is a middle-aged, over-educated, overprivileged, (formerly) overweight Mum of three who had a long love affair with high priced, good quality wine until she realised that the relationship was going nowhere but downhill, so she showed it the door and started blogging to take her mind off her broken heart…. After 8 months of living the sober high life, Clare was diagnosed with breast cancer. She kicked that one into touch too. To read Clare’s story, and for lots of help and advice on going sober in a world where everyone drinks, buy The Sober Diaries. Available in hardback, e-book and audiobook from Amazon.
You can get hold of her book here: