Time, as ever, is flying, and in some ways it’s difficult to believe it’s been a month since I got sober. In other ways, it’s felt like a very long month indeed.
Mental health wise I’ve been keeping myself very busy during the day so that I don’t dwell on things too much, and I’ve got lots of things to do in the evening as well that help me to avoid thinking about missing drinking. I’m definitely not having the extreme mood swings that I always had when I was still drinking – things feel a lot more sedate in that respect – but I’m still experiencing generally low mood and depression most days, despite being on my full dose of antidepressants at the moment. The obvious next step is going back to therapy (it’s been tried in the past with mixed results), which I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of years. I’m very nervous about it, which is why I keep putting it off.
Sleep has been the biggest change. I’ve got into a new routine where I’m up early every morning so that I can work a roughly nine-to-five day, and this extends to weekends because my marathon training plan includes runs on both Saturdays and Sundays. I never used to be able to get up for anything unless I had an appointment or work deadline that I absolutely couldn’t miss, but I’m finding that, with my improved sober sleep, once my alarm’s gone I’m able to wake up quite briskly. This new pattern has also meant that I’m falling asleep straight away at nighttime, whereas I used to toss and turn for hours if I hadn’t had a drink and pass out into unrestful drunk sleep if I had.
While it’s nice to be sleeping a lot more efficiently, the dreams that go along with it are mental, and not in a good way just yet. I’m having a lot of vivid nightmares that wake me up in the middle of the night. The strange thing is that I go straight back to sleep. It used to be that when I got woken up by dreams, I wasn’t able to sleep again for several hours.
As for the day-to-day experience of not drinking, it’s mostly been evenings in the house where I’ve had to find alternatives. I’ve tried quite a few, some of which I’ve reviewed already:
Ginger beer, I think, will be my new go-to in the long term. It’s tasty, sweet, and spicy, and it feels special and celebratory without reminding me too much of alcohol (I’ve been finding that some non-alcoholic drinks are not a good idea for me as they set off the mental compulsions and behaviours I always had around actual booze).
I’ve not socialised much in the last month, as January is always quiet once Christmas is over. I went out to a restaurant with Geth, and the large array of non-alcoholic options on the menu was exciting enough that I didn’t feel as though I was missing out (so long as I kept my eyes off other people’s tables!). I also spent a weekend in Lancashire for a family gathering, where there were plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives (and several people doing Dry January), and although it was strange to sit in the bar of the inn where we were staying without having a drink, there were plenty more dry options to try, including more ginger beers.
The Six Nations also started this last weekend. I was a bit worried about it, because the Six Nations used to be synonymous with weekend benders (it’s a lot easier to deal with Scotland getting the wooden spoon YET AGAIN if you’re ten pints down). However, as Geth was just watching the games in the house (we’ve never really developed a rugby drinking cohort in Newcastle), I found it was manageable to pay semi-attention and keep myself busy on my laptop without reminiscing too much about the sweet, sweet crate of cider I always used to get through on rugby days.
The next month will include a few firsts – first gig since going sober (but not my first sober gig, ’cause I did actually go without drinking at the Culture Club gig in November due to having to run a half marathon the next day!), first sober weekend with parents in Newcastle (I hope their hotel bar, where we always spend a lot of time, has ginger beer), first sober visit to the in-laws, and maybe, possibly – if I’m brave enough – first sober club night. We’ll see.
I’ll do another sobriety update in a month’s time!