I chose to drink. It was rubbish.

(I originally posted this on reddit, but want it recording here as part of my journey.)

I had a drink on Saturday night. I made the active choice to have a drink, rather than caving to cravings or anything like that; it was one of my best friend’s pre-wedding celebrations and as I can’t/won’t drink at the wedding, I decided to toast the couple over the weekend.

I expected to feel really tipsy because I’ve not drunk in 8 months. It didn’t really affect me at all. That scared me: my alcohol tolerance was dangerously high before I stopped drinking and it feels like nothing has changed. I was worried this would make me feel like “OK, one more” and another, and another. (It didn’t, but it easily could have.)

I didn’t feel like it made any difference whatsoever to my ability to have fun or relax. (I am a social/outgoing person and have never needed a drink to act like a fool!)

It didn’t make me enjoy the evening any more than I could or would have.

I did wake up feeling groggy and shaky the following morning. It was very mild, but I felt it. Such a difference from the clarity and peace of mind I’ve grown used to.

I did have strong drinking dreams last night, which deeply upset me.

I gained 3lbs over the weekend. (I’m halfway through a 12 week cut so this is intensely annoying.)

So: only downsides, and no upsides to having had a drink. A deep sense of it having not been worth it. And that makes it sort of worth it: because it’s squashed the niggly doubts I had not-so-long ago about why I’m doing this – making this journey sober – and reinforced every single reason I had for stopping in the first place. It’s killed the “just have one” voices.

I’m writing this because in the early days of stopping, I regularly re-read the desperate plea for help that I wrote [on reddit] when I needed the encouragement to stop. I hope too that in my future sober weeks & months I can come to use this post as a source of strength should I need it.

The state of dry drinking in the UK

As I rapidly approach my 5th month sober I can’t help but reflect on the state of dry (sober) drinking in the UK.

I have a bit of a reputation amongst friends & it goes a little something like this… if I happened to find myself in a cocktail bar with a reasonable selection of cocktails, choice anxiety often meant the only logical conclusion was to purchase one of everything on the menu. I have dropped over £200 in a single transaction to save myself from having to pick a drink.

Luckily (for my friends and my liver) I like to share.

Photo by Helena Yankovska

My sobriety hasn’t ended my social life, far from it. I still visit pubs and clubs and bars. However, I can no longer drop £200 on drinks, though not for lack of trying!

My biggest problem these days isn’t too much choice but the total opposite: for the sober drinker, the choice isn’t “which of these expensive cocktails” but “pepsi or lemonade” and let me tell you, there’s only so many pints of lemonade you can drink on a night out before your stomach feels like it’s going to explode. Even worse, the introduction of the sugar tax means that now many bars are subbing full sugar soft drinks for the diet equivalent rather than put up their prices, and I think diet drinks taste like piss.

I thought that this problem was caused by living in a small rural town, but the bars in the neighbouring town of Shrewsbury have an equally shit sober selection. Further, a recent trek to London (which I anticipated as having a much greater selection) for a friend’s birthday left me just as disappointed. For the first time in my life the only bars I can rely on are Wetherspoons, who at least stock alcohol free Koppaberg, but as I’m anti-Brexit and their founder isn’t, it honestly pains me to support them.

The lack of selection for sober socialites is disappointing, especially as websites like Dry Drinker have a huge range of dry beers, wines and spirits. I don’t expect bars to stock every single thing offered there, but I don’t think it’s a big ask for them to have e.g. one alcohol free cider, one alcohol free beer and — at a push — an alcohol free spirit. Even better, a handful of mocktails (that aren’t just fruit juice) would make me as happy as a pig in shit.

There’s a ton of reasons for people to be sober (it’s not just for semi-crazy hormonal sorts like me) & I’m calling on UK bars and businesses to think of us as we approach the summer. Don’t make me drink lemonade all year, please.