Life without alcohol: three years sober

Three years in, I have settled into sobriety a lot more. I no longer read books about it or do much frequenting of the support communities I used to follow online. It’s been a long time since I had nightmares about accidental drinking. I know what all my go-to booze alternatives are on the rare occasion I find myself in drinking establishments, and in celebratory circumstances (I had a lot of Nosecco and similar over Christmas but I usually prefer to stick to Fanta Zero in the evenings).

I have learnt to handle stress without drinking, although there have been times recently where I feel my mental health is being impacted by the lack of an ‘off switch’ and I am still trying to work out what the replacement ‘off switch’ could be. I am mostly able to look at alcohol and think ‘I don’t have that’ (similarly to not eating meat), rather than ‘I wish I could…’. On the whole, I do not think I am at high risk of drinking again, though of course I know I can’t be complacent about it.

Importantly, I don’t want to drink again. I am, thankfully, starting to forget what it felt like to be in a near-constant state of cumulative hangover, but I know my life is much better now. There’s no reason to go back.

(No picture today. I have run out of ‘thoughtful scenery pictures to illustrate blog posts about sobriety’.)

Booze Alternative: Fever Tree Sicilian Lemonade

I’ve tried a few Fever Tree drinks over the last couple of years, mainly various forms of ginger beer and ginger ale. This Sicilian Lemonade was something a bit different.

Fever Tree Sicilian Lemonade
Fever Tree Sicilian Lemonade.

It’s a lovely, sweet drink and very refreshing! I need to start looking out for it again now that I’m gradually poking my nose back into pubs.

Booze Alternative: Freixenet 0.0% Alcohol Free Sparkling Rosé

This is my favourite booze alternative of the last two and a bit years of sobriety. It’s an absolute go-to…

Freixenet 0.0% Alcohol Free Sparkling Rosé
Freixenet 0.0% Alcohol Free Sparkling Rosé.

…and in recent weeks Asda have stopped selling it, so I can’t get it regularly anymore! Oh well.

It doesn’t taste quite like alcoholic fizzy, but that’s what I like about it (it means it’s not triggering). Instead, it’s got a distinctive taste all of its own – perfect sweetness, very refreshing. I hope I find another local source for it soon.

Booze Alternative: Fre Alcohol-Removed White Zinfandel Rosé

Another light summer alternative.

Fre Alcohol-Removed White Zinfandel Rosé
Fre Alcohol-Removed White Zinfandel Rosé.

I was a bit nervous about drinking something that tastes like wine (sparkling wine is different, because I only ever had a glass or two to toast something when I was a drinker, whereas regular still wine was generally a fairly dangerous thing for me to drink). While it did taste lovely, and very light and refreshing, it felt a bit too close to the real thing for comfort. I’m okay with using alcohol-free red wine for cooking and so on, but for actual drinking I’ll stick to the fizzy stuff.

Booze Alternative: Belle & Co Sparkling Rosé

I first tried this alcohol-free sparkling rosé last summer, but it’s become a regular buy recently as it’s always in stock at the big Asda where we do our weekly shop.

Belle & Co Sparkling Rosé
Belle & Co Sparkling Rosé.

I’ve tried a few non-alcoholic rosés, but this one really stands out because the rosy taste is very strong. It’s also quite light so another good summer option.

Not to be confused with the similarly-named leggings company!

I also regularly drink the white version, which I’ll review next time.

Booze Alternative: M&S Alcohol-Free Bucks Fizz

This is another alcohol-free option that I picked up to try last summer. In my drinking days Bucks Fizz was a Christmas drink in my eyes, but I think it’s important to break those kinds of habits and attitudes in sobriety (it is taking a LONG time to get used to the fact that I can drink ‘special’ alcohol-free drinks at times when I wouldn’t have drunk the alcoholic equivalents, e.g. while working, but I’m going to keep working on that). I actually think this alcohol-free version works better as a summer drink, because it’s nice and light.

M&S Alcohol-Free Bucks Fizz
M&S Alcohol-Free Bucks Fizz.

It was very tasty (and also felt quite celebratory according to my notes, though I can’t remember what I was celebrating), but I think the next time I feel like Bucks Fizz it’d be nicer to make my own with one of my favourite alcohol-free sparkling wines. Maybe a project for summer 2021.

Booze Alternative: Fizzero Zero Alcohol Sparkling White

This sparkling alcohol-free drink was one of a selection I picked up at M&S last summer.

Fizzero Zero Alcohol Sparkling White
Fizzero Zero Alcohol Sparkling White.

It doesn’t have quite as much of a ‘fake booze’ taste as other zero alcohol sparkling wines I’ve tried, and so it feels lighter. It has an interesting grape-y medium taste, which is very pleasant.

I’ve not been in the local M&S Food for a while, but this one is well worth picking up again.

Life without alcohol: two years sober

They say the second year of sobriety is a lot more stable than the first. I found this to be true in 2020, even though the world outside was anything but stable.

Christmas coffee mug

I’ve mentioned this a lot, but I cannot reiterate enough how essential my sobriety turned out to be during the pandemic and how lucky I feel that I quit when I did. If I’d still been drinking, I would have seen lockdown as an excuse for what would basically have been a year-long housebound bender. The ‘joke’ memes about day drinking to cope with the situation have been everywhere on social media since last March, and I know I would have taken that attitude as encouragement and come to believe that I ‘needed’ alcohol in order to get through the pandemic. However, I’d been sober for a year when it all kicked off, and I’m grateful to be able to say that I stayed sober in 2020 and I’m still sober now.

I’ve not read as much quit lit this last year (in fact, I’m not sure I’ve read any), largely because I have settled into my sober routine and know the tips and strategies that are working for me. In terms of support, a particular Facebook group and a sobriety thread on a favourite forum have continued to be incredibly helpful.

It’s been a long time since I tried any new booze alternatives, as all of my liquid intake has taken place in my own home this last year and so I just stick to my usual favourites. There are still a few from a long time ago that I haven’t yet logged, however, so I will do a few posts about those in the next few months.

I’m a little apprehensive about the return to normality that we all expect and hope to happen later this year. Lack of socialising has, in many ways, made staying sober a lot easier for me as I’m not spending time around alcohol, other than the quiet couple of beers that Geth has on a weekend night. However, I do feel stable and resolved, so I just need to be careful when things start to open up again.

In general, I feel a lot more positive about today’s soberversary than I did a year ago. I remember it feeling like a bit of an anticlimax, whereas today I just feel sort of quiet and happy about it.

I hope that this time next year, my sense of peace will have continued to grow.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Abba – ‘Thank You For The Music’
Ollie Wride – ‘Back To Life’
Eddi Reader – ‘Auld Lang Syne’
The Beatles – ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’
Traditional – ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’
Cast of The Muppet Christmas Carol – ‘Scrooge’

Three years blogging… and a reflection on some accidental New Year Resolutions

For years, I didn’t start new habits at New Year – or if I did, they never stuck for very long. However, for the last four years in a row, I have chosen something to focus on every year and have stuck with it. My life is a lot better as a result, and so I’m hoping I’ll be able to stick to my main 2021 goal too.

At the start of 2017, I started going to Slimming World. The accountability of the group setting enabled me to lose the five stone that I’d been trying to lose for nearly a decade, and though I’ve not managed to stay at target during the pandemic, I only have a stone to lose again this next year (which is a lot easier than five!). Life at a healthy weight is immeasurably more physically comfortable and something that I will never take for granted. Once Christmas eating is done, I’ll be back on the light meals again – I’m following a calorie-based approach rather than SW now, but I’ll always be thankful for the motivation it gave me.

At the start of 2018, I started this blog. It was always my aim to blog every day and so sometimes, especially during the empty year of 2020, blogging has felt like a bit of a chore. However, the habit of getting my words out into the world has given me confidence to do so in other ways, such as reading at poetry nights and publishing text adventure games. I love having the blog as it just feels so much more ‘mine’ than social media pages.

At the start of 2019, I got sober. I’ve mentioned this before but I feel so, so incredibly grateful that I managed to do this (and get the first difficult year of sobriety out of the way) *before* the pandemic hit – I really believe that things would have gone nowhere good if I’d still been drinking in 2020. It’s still not easy, but life is so much more stable than it was two years ago, and that has been so important over the last few months.

And at the start of 2020, after four and a half years of more sporadic running, I started a daily run streak. The start of a new decade seemed like a good time to do it, and I just wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Again, this was incredibly well-timed in terms of the pandemic, as I discussed yesterday. Whatever life throws at me, and however long it takes for races to come back, I’ll always have my run streak to keep me motivated.

On to 2021, then, and this year the main focus will be to get my house in order (literally). I already made a good start by spending a few weeks in November/December sorting out all the junk that I’d been hoarding upstairs since we moved in, but there’s a lot more to do, and a lot of daily habits that I need to instil. One of the major negative factors for my mental health is that I constantly feel that my house is dirty and untidy, and so I can never fully relax. Making time for my house projects this year, and keeping on top of the upkeep, will hopefully allow me to feel a lot better.

On a personal level, I’m feeling quite hopeful today. Not for 2021 as a whole, but for one day at a time, which is how I’ve managed all my other big life changes over the last few years.

I’m excited about tomorrow.

Lancashire hotpot
Another day, another New Year recipe I made myself for the first time. Lancashire hotpot is all about the crust, and it came out just right.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Deacon Blue – ‘Queen Of The New Year’
Tears For Fears – ‘Shout’
Abba – ‘Happy New Year’
Traditional – ‘The Blaydon Races’
Beach Boys – ‘Sloop John B’