Five things I learnt from being 10 days sober
14th August 2020. It’s coming up to 13 days since my last drink and the day I realised I needed to kick the can and go sober. Whilst lying in bed this morning, I came up with the idea to write about what I’ve learnt so far. Why after 10 days you ask? In the hope that someone out there may be struggling with the first few days, come across my article and it somehow helps them.
1. It’s all about the baby steps
Take one at a time and just get through the first 24 hours. When I woke up that first morning I decided to quit drinking, I was planning the days and months ahead — how I would handle X, Y and Z’s situations. Playing out scenarios in my mind — it is exhausting! Like you would with perhaps your working day, write down your ‘shit list’ of what needs to be done and take the top three priorities and just focus on those.
2. Find a resolution to your triggers
My first day of sobriety I was alone. My partner, who has never drunk alcohol before, was away in Amsterdam and not due back for another 36 hours. I knew immediately I had to talk to people who could level with me. Luchtime was approaching and I’d probably of poured a glass with my lunch to ‘take the edge off’ the existing hangover had I not worked on finding a different path to take.
“Work out when you drink, or what your triggers are, and break the association,” says Joan Harvey, a Clinical Psychologist based at Newcastle University. “Do something different.” — How to spot your triggers, drinkaware.co.uk
I immediately jumped on my laptop and found an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Zoom-based meeting that was taking place in the next 15–20 mins. I jumped on and so began my journey into recovery. AA isn’t for everyone, so do not panic if you feel that it isn’t working for you. There are other options out there. At the time of writing this, I’ve attended four sessions and I am loving every second of them. However, it’s really important to find what’s right for you with a little bit of trial and error.
I had a bit of a stressful day at work today and came home in somewhat of a mood as a result of it. The old me would reach for a bottle of wine and consume most if not all of it that evening. The new me however had already looked up a meeting I could attend online that evening. When I got home, I took a cold shower, ate dinner and jumped onto the meeting. The result? I felt 100 times better afterwards!
3. Start reading / listening to literature dedicated to sobriety
My sister went sober nine months earlier (no, she wasn’t pregnant) and recommended ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray which I absolutely loved and read in less than a week. I then started to search for blogs and social media accounts to follow to help with daily reminders, encouragement and to “meet” likeminded people. As a gay man, I really wanted to find something that I could related to along my journey of sobriety. A quick search on Spotify and I discovered ‘The Sober Gay’ podcast by Dillan Gay (yes, that’s his actual last name) which has been a great listen so far.
Think of this step like when you waddle into the sea and it’s cold. There’s only one solution to acclimatise to the water — by diving in headfirst!
4. Choosing to “Come Out” as sober
As a gay man, I’ve done this plenty of times (okay, so it’s a little obvious in my mannerisms, but honestly, some people were shocked). Now I have to do it all over again. Like with any ‘coming out’, it is your journey so don’t let anyone dictate otherwise how you choose to take this.
The first person I told was B (my partner) when he got back from Amsterdam. A couple of days later we performed the ritual of pouring all the half empty bottles of wine and spirits down the sink – which was strangely exhilarating. The unopened bottles I gave to two of my very lovely friends. This was coming out number two. My third time around I told people at work to ensure that on Friday’s when the alcohol comes out, I was offered a non-alcoholic beer, then eventually my closest friend and a few more friends were told at a later date. There’s no wrong or right way to do this, my journey went the direction it did due to circumstance. It’s also worth pointing out that as a character, I’m generally an open book so therefore have no problem telling a lot of people what’s going on.
To reiterate, you can choose who (or who not) to tell whenever and however you want. You make the rules here. The reason I chose to tell people very early on was for accountability. I needed to eliminate all opportunities where I could hide it and keep up my old habits. Also, the more people who know, the easier it is going in any scenario where alcohol is involved. You’ll be surprised how awesome people are about it.
5. The unprecedented love of other sober-living people, aka your new BFF’s
We all need people close to us who we can lean on for a laugh, cry and mutual support to name a few. Some of us may have a couple of people they consider to be their best or closest friend. Others may have a whole squad of people who all have your back. Regardless of what end of the spectrum you land on, these people are very important to us. The closest person to me, my partner, has never drank alcohol so already had a sober person who I could lean on for support from the get-go. I was very lucky with my circumstances and appreciate that this is a rarity.
Overall, I can probably count the people I could rely on the most on both my hands and these people are family to me. I consider them to be some of the most incredible people, all of whom I am extremely thankful to have in my life. However, when it comes to sobriety they are not like-minded, which is why it is really important to connect with those who are driving in the same lane as you for extra support. For me, I found these people by attending AA. Suddenly, I had gained a whole new gang of confidents — my tribe was growing. Contact details were handed out almost immediately by those practically throwing their love and support at you — it was so surreal and equally somewhat a bit strange in the moment — why were these people giving me their numbers?
In a nutshell, it’s because they have been exactly where I was and you may be standing today. They understand the importance of the love and friendship from your fellow sober brothers and sisters to help you along this new and exciting path. However you do it, make sure you grow your circle with those kind of people, adding in these fantastic new additions to the mix.
In the words of one of the many fabulous queens of drag, Alyssa Edwards “Positivity attracts positivity”, so go out there and make sure you add that all-important ingredient to your newly found life.
To read more on my new journey living sober or to follow me on social media, please visit www.thesobrietysquad.com.