Monday, 7 June 2021

Gaining control over alcohol: What is sober curiosity and is it for me?



Going sober or cutting down on your alcohol intake can feel intimidating, lonely, a host of emotions but Life Coach Jadie White is here to remind you, it's your life and your choice.

When I got asked to write about my experiences with sobriety, initial anxieties came up worrying what people would think and I almost felt like an imposter because my choice to not drink majorly stems from a health perspective, regardless, I feel this topic deserves to be honoured and it almost needs to be spoken about as Summer is soon approaching because this could be just the permission slip needed to become conscious about what really aligns with you.

After a considerable amount of time locked in the house a lot of us made promises to ourselves about our post-lockdown habits and resolutions, however, over a month in and we’re finding ourselves slipping back into the same routines as before like no time had even passed. With the rise of social gatherings, comes the expectation to drink. Even if, secretly, you don’t want to…

The conversation that has been on the rise is around sober curiosity. This basically means, "to choose to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation, and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.” 

If you find yourself waking up the morning after with severe anxiety or dread about the night before, wondering what life would actually be like without alcohol, and wondering if you in fact NEED it to overcome social anxiety births the blunt honest question of “do I actually want to drink or do I just feel like I have to?” If this is a thought that arises far too common in your mind but it’s combatted with the fear of going cold turkey, then sober curiosity might be the safe in-between space you need to truly explore your drinking behaviours. 

Then the inevitable fears roll in... “How am I going to have fun without it?,” “I hate hangovers but I will feel left out if I don’t drink,” “What if everyone thinks I’m boring?,” “How will I get over my social anxiety without drinking?”. 

Trust me, these are just a few of the thoughts I’ve been faced with over the past two years but pause. First things first, ask yourself, “Why do you want to explore stopping drinking?” getting curious about your intentions/reasons will remind you of your truth and everyone's reason is unique. And then secondly, “What am I the most afraid of if I do stop?”

After deciding to go sober myself in 2019, generally due to health reasons but also I dreaded the person I was whilst drunk. 

When the initial fun started to wear off, all of my shadow insecurities would rise resulting in me doing/saying things I didn’t mean to fill this insecurity that needed validating, only ending up hurting others and me being left with this bottomless pit of guilt until the next time I decided to drink.

It became a thing I “had” to do as opposed to something I wanted to do. So moving to Australia presented itself as my green card to choose a different pathway for myself, a new identity, to re-introduce myself as someone who didn’t drink and let me just say, I have experienced my fair share of struggles. 

Re-identifying myself in social situations, conflict with my partners drinking behaviours and even the scripted conversation of answering why I don’t drink. However, the knowledge that I am staying true to myself and my values overrides all of the social challenges I have faced over the past two years. I don’t restrict myself by saying I will never drink again however I empower myself with every decision I get to make if I want to drink or not. (I have probably chosen to drink twice in the past 2 years). I truly believe in conscious drinking and it’s asking yourself, am I in control of the alcohol or is the alcohol in control of me right now? 

 

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I interviewed a good friend, Samantha, who celebrated her 1-year sober anniversary on June 1st, to explore her journey transitioning and what she has learnt about herself moving into a sober lifestyle. 

What made you decide you wanted to go sober?

The decision to go sober came a few months into the first lockdown in 2020. 

I had previously been an assistant manager of a night club and when that lifestyle came to a halt, everything paused. Whilst my life was busy, I hadn't realised the extent of my drink and drug consumption. 

My mental health took a turn for the worse and I ended up in a bad place. I had relied on alcohol and other substances for so long and I began to see how much it was affecting my life. Another reason I chose to go sober is that I lost my mum to alcohol addiction in 2019. I saw how much it can hurt you. I think a lot of people don't see how harmful addiction is but I saw it and I made the decision to not risk following the same path. 

What is the most common response you face when you tell people you are not drinking anymore?

The first question is always why. That can be hard because the reasons are really personal, sometimes I don't want to share those. People were quick to tell me I didn't have a problem so ask why would I quit booze. I think that people have an idea of what addiction looks like and because I didn't fit that, they were confused. I'm lucky to have the support of my partner, who is also sober.

What is the most noticeable change you have identified in yourself now sober?

The biggest change is in my attitude towards myself. I’m much more productive, I have better relationships with my family and it’s enabled me to focus more on my career. 

I'm grateful to have had help from many different services which means that my attitude isn't just because of sobriety but I do feel more in control now. I'd love to say that sobriety solved a lot for me but in truth, it's hard work sometimes. 

It's not a magic solution to being more productive or healthy. I had to learn to handle situations that I would've usually run from. But I am generally a lot happier and much braver now. 

What alternatives do you use as substitutes to alcohol?

I love all the options of non-alcoholic drinks so I usually drink those if I'm in a social situation or tonic water. 

What advice would you give to people who are sober curious?  

I would say... Stop caring what other people think about you trying out sobriety. If people are genuine, they will respect you for your choices and support you in them. 

Being more conscious about alcohol isn't a bad thing. Also, enjoy not having a hangover! 


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There seems to be a divide between those who drink and those who don’t and as someone who chooses not to drink, I definitely feel the segregation. However, there gets to be another way. 

If you fear the commitment of going totally sober but you want to explore other ways of consciously drinking, that is totally an option too. There are no rules on how you choose to live your life. It requires a lot of honesty with yourself and choosing to make empowered decisions every day about what does/does not align with you and the person you want to show up as. 

VavaViolet's Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Sophie Blackman, also made the decision at the very start of the first lockdown in March 2020 to gain control over her alcohol consumption: 

"I genuinely was on the path of developing a very bad habit in regards to drinking and lockdown worked in my favour to show me the error of my ways. It gave me a chance to avoid situations where I felt pressured by myself to join my friends out drinking every weekend. It made me realise I actually much prefer spending my weekends sober and instead get extra excited at occasions where I do drink because I know I'm doing it for fun and not to fill any voids or boredom. It's about finding other things you like, take on some more hobbies, make friends with people who want to do other things on the weekend, step out of those comfort zones!"

When catching up with another friend I used to party with at Uni, she spoke to me about her experiences deciding to go recently sober with her partner:

“I used to love the party scene, constantly wanted to have a big one on the weekends but there was no balance. I would always feel so shit and 90% of the time wake up with anxiety. I didn’t realise how much I used alcohol for self-confidence. 

"I’m so happy with how content I feel with not drinking, it’s literally the best. Most weekends, I still go out and see friends but I just end up leaving earlier, so not much has changed, I just can’t last as long. I’m more present in my life which has resulted in me becoming a better person/friend/partner, I love it!”

If you have also taken a similar life choice for yourself, we would love to hear all the ways it has changed your life @VavaVioletMag.

And if you are curious about this topic and want to find out more, you can email Samantha Long - samantha.mv.long@gmail.com who is also in the process of building an app to support those on a sober-curious journey so stay tuned for that! 

Remember, you get to choose what works for you. Know, that the more decisions you choose to make from an empowered, authentic place, the safer your highest self will feel to emerge out of the shadows. 



Written by VavaViolet's columnist and Life Coach, Jadie White.


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