Monday, 11 December 2017

My *mostly* Sober October.

This year my month of September ended, and my October began, in Berlin. As we travelled back from the airport together, my gorgeous friend Maddie (who put me up and took care of me for the duration of my stay yet again but this time for 5 days, what a babe) and I talked about anything and everything – what my stay was going to be like, if there was anything in particular I wanted to do while I was there, the latest goss reported from our ex-workplace... Oh, and how did I feel about red wine, as there was some in the flat they weren’t going to have if I was interested?

This led to chat about drinking plans while I was there. I admitted that I can feel slightly self-conscious when visiting Germany as I am not a big fan of craft beer – or any kind of beer, really. My usual poisons are whisky, gin and the occasional red wine. I did go through a fruity cider phase at uni, but that ended after a few too many windy hangovers and a little too much bloat in the belly and chub in the face, to be honest. And anyway, my drinking preferences wouldn’t matter after a few days of this trip, because I’d decided to do the Sober October thing…


(I just love how ominous this image is?!!)

I don’t know what it was that inspired me to do it. I just saw the posters alongside the escalators on the tube in London one day – 
Surprise your friends – Go Sober for October!!
It caught my attention and stayed in my head for the rest of the day. To be honest I didn’t want to raise money doing it, which was actually the whole idea behind the Macmillan Cancer Support ‘Go Sober for October’ campaign, oops, but I thought it might be a worthwhile personal challenge, of sorts.

I was wondering how to mention this to Maddie as we made plans for my stay, but then she surprised me by saying casually ‘I’m actually planning on doing that thing, y’know, stopping drinking for October.’ And just like that, we were a team!
It was so nice to have a friend to do it with me, if only for my last 2 days in Berlin. 

We went out with Maddie’s pals on Sunday 1st October to Brewdog bar, and both of us happily ordered water (and vegan pizza, obvs) then sat and chatted for a couple of hours while everyone else drank their craft beers and G&Ts. It was a lovely night actually, despite the lack of booze. It made me feel confident about the month to come.

Everyone I told about this has reacted pretty much the same way: ‘Oh, but…you don’t actually drink that much?!’ Which is true, I don’t. I very rarely go ‘out-out’ any more, even just to the pub with a few friends. I tend to opt for the teetotal night in with my laptop/book/TV and an early bedtime. However, when I do drink, I drink quite a lot. Maybe because I still have the ‘go hard or go home’ mentality I had at uni, despite it being 6 years since I was a Fresher. It’s quite a ‘poor post-grad’ way of thinking, really – like, it’s only worth the money and the effort if you’re going to get sloshed. God, I’m so mature and economically-minded…

I did Sober October purely to see if I could. And a little bit to see if it made any difference to my life.

I never expected to lose weight – and I didn’t – because I mostly drink spirits and while they’re arguably less sensible and terribly unhealthy, they’re also the least calorific. I did wonder if I’d feel any clearer in the head (ha) or generally lighter in mood (haha), and I hoped I’d maybe be more comfortable in social environments (meh). I knew it would be, well, not hard but strange going out with friends in the evenings and not having a drink – but then, so often I’ll go out with friends and not fancy anything, but I order something anyway just to feel less awkward and like I’m ‘joining in’. I also worried that not drinking would make others notice, and maybe feel guilty themselves. But 1. others’ feelings are not my responsibility (so said my therapist, many times) and 2. Does it matter if they notice? If they question me? I’d only ever have to explain that it’s a little challenge I’d set myself, and surely they’d understand.

Now, the title of this post is ‘My *Mostly* Sober October’ because yeah, there were a couple of occasions when I didn’t stick to it. But that’s fine. I didn’t put any pressure on myself either way, and I didn’t let others affect my decision making. (Dear lord, I sound like a recovering addict talking to kids in a school assembly?!)
What was strange though was that on the 2 occasions I drank, the alcohol didn’t ‘take’. I had expected it to be that much more effective on me after almost 3 weeks of sobriety, but no. I had a free glass of white wine at the local art gallery’s exclusive preview event (la di daaa, darling), and afterwards went out with the lovely Sophia who’s currently over from Barcelona – and that’s definitely cause for drinks – and had several shots of whisky. I felt nothing. Got home at 11:30pm, drank some water, brushed my teeth, read for a while, then slept soundly.

The second time I drank was at a poetry slam event in town. I was in a lovely mood – rare for me, these days – and treated myself to some Maker’s Mark with ginger. Didn’t even blush. No buzzes, either. I do get that sometimes though; I’ll have a medium glass of wine one night and get quite piddled, then the next I’ll drink buckets of gin and it won’t even register. Does anyone else get that? 

I wish I could say the Sober October challenge taught me a lot, but really…it didn’t. Well, I think it hammered home the fact that I never need to drink to have a good time, or to feel included/on par with everyone else. It is possible to have a lovely night out in town with others, stone cold sober. Who knew?

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Did anyone else try the Sober October challenge? Or maybe Stoptober?
And if you did...any interesting results? Or do you think it's all nonsense?
Comment below or tweet me with any/all opinions, if you wish.
Prost!

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