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Teetotal or not teetotal? That is the question.

Updated: Feb 11

One of the first questions I, and I should imagine, many people ask themselves when first venturing down a Sober Curious path is “Do I have to give up booze forever?” It might even be the very question that led you to this post? So it saddens me that as a firm fan of sober curious living I can’t give you an answer and that’s because, just like the journey that led you down this path of enquiry in the first place – it’s just not that simple. Unlike those who choose (or need) to go into complete abstinence there is often no clear line in the sand for those that choose to live a sober curious life.

First and foremost to acknowledge before we go any further is that if you feel alcohol dependency is severely damaging your life, or even that you might be heading in that direction then sober curious is NOT the route for you and you should of instead seek proper professional guidance from people who are trained in ways to help you.

However for the most part reader, you’re likely akin to the thousands of other people who have been searching for information on sober curious living for the last few years and have slowly come to the realisation that whilst it may not be ruining your life alcohol certainly isn’t making it any better.


Bathtub time-machine

Let’s rewind. I don’t know how old you are but will assume you’re of an age where you have at least some fond memories of booze filled evenings to look back on. Like me you probably find yourself reminiscing back to yester-year with a warm hearted smile as you remember the time you and your best friend found yourselves drunk in a bathtub (fully clothed I might add), in a house party, laughing hysterically at your failed attempts to lever yourself out of said tub while questioning who’s crazy idea it was in the first place and beckoning other friends forward with more cheap prosecco and just one more shot (and that was all before we headed out to the club).

Do I regret nights like that? Not at all. I had a wonderful time (for the most part) and made friends and memories that have lasted me a lifetime (again, for the most part). But was it all good? Definitely not. And while the downs in your youth always felt like they were worth the ups, as time has gone on and age has made it clear to me that she’s in charge and that she will no longer allow the good to outweigh the bad it has become clear that a re-evaluation is needed.

The too loud music. Not having anywhere to sit. The cold. The ball-ache of missing the tube/waiting for a bus/not finding a cab. And the big one: The hangovers. Once upon a time all of these seemed like the acceptable price to pay for a great night out, but as the recovery time increases and the bank balance decreases one must wonder – what does alcohol bring to my life? And is it worth it?

Does older mean wiser?

At 43 with 2 small children and a mortgage, gone are the days of bathtub frivolity and 4am club nights but still my friends and I have been known to put away many bottles of wine over the pretence of a meal, and while the seating arrangements might have bettered, I still found myself with too small a bank balance and too long a hang-over and so I began to realise that for me: less is more.

Over the last few years it became apparent that it was a lot easier to deal with the unwanted 6am small person wake-ups when I wasn’t hanging out of my arse from the night before. And it wasn’t just the night before, oh no. Apparently, I went from having no hangovers in my 20s to now having either a) epic ultramarathon-esque vomiting sessions (24-hours being a personal best) or b) 3-day sufferings in which I could literally string my husband and children up from the rafters simply for talking to me. This was no way to live. For any of us.

Don’t get me wrong. I could still function, and all the needs of house and home were met, but I just wasn’t happy while I did it. And then the strangest thing began to happen. I have spent most of my adult life working in hospitality: cocktail bars, pubs, restaurants, all of these I have called home and been more than comfortable sampling their every wares. I knew what drinks I liked for what nights out, I could mix a mean cocktail and had drinking-stamina to put the most seasoned drinkers to shame. Hospitality in fact has one of the highest prevalence’s of alcohol consumption (unsurprisingly) and I am sure I personally contributed mightily to that statistic, but as time went on, I began to really (and surprisingly) dislike the taste of alcohol.

I went from loving Old Fashioneds (a drink largely comprising of straight up bourbon stirred over ice) to barely being able to stomach the taste of a vodka and coke. But yet I persevered. I continued to drink despite not enjoying it and not enjoying the aftereffects.

It wasn’t just my mood that was the issue, it was my motivation. I had very little drive to do anything much. Despite being passionate about the myriad benefits of exercise there was very little physical movement outside of the necessary, and whatever bursts of enthusiasm I had for going for a run or doing a workout were short lived as I had another night out to attend and the cycle began all over again.

Now some of you reading this may be thinking to yourself: ‘Well if you disliked it all so much then why keep doing it?’ But as you’re here on your own journey of sober curiosity I’ll assume that’s meant in a totally non-judgmental way as what you really mean is: ‘Shit, that’s what I keep doing – how do I stop, and do I have to stop completely?’ (See I bet you were wondering when I’d get back to that bit).

Change takes time

It took time for me. Time, and trial and error. I have lost count of the number of times I have told myself ‘That’s it, I’m never drinking again’ or ‘Ok girl, no more booze during the week’ only to totally overdo it on the weekend and end up just as demotivated the following week anyway.

Every time I would ‘cut back’ or ‘take a break’ or try a ‘detox’ I’d stumble, I’d fall, but then, I would get back up and try again.

At first, I was disheartened, thinking to myself that I’d have to start again or that I just couldn’t do it but soon a pattern started to emerge. I realised that the times between stumbles and falls would get longer and longer. That the desire to have that after-you-put-the-kids-bed glass or 3 of wine began to dwindle from a bottle to a glass to eventually none. That’s it! I’d done it! I cracked it! I don’t drink anymore! Whoop whoop! Oh, wait a minute, it’s Sid’s birthday party / date night / a catch up with old friends (delete as applicable), and I’m back at square one.

Except, I wasn’t. it’s taken me a while to realise this but it’s that kind of all-or-nothing thinking that for me was the crux of feeling as if I’d failed and was going to be stuck in these cycles forever, but life just isn’t that black and white.

For me I’ve come to realise that alcohol has been so ingrained in my life for so long that it is deeply entwined with a lot of the experiences I have, and it will never be gone from my life. Afterall although I am happily pootling along in my sober curious ways, the people closest to me all still drink on a regular (read daily) basis, including my husband. So how does that work?

Well I’m lucky, as despite still loving a drink himself my other half has been very sympathetic to my journey of self-realisation and is fully supportive of me not drinking, but I’m still surrounded by booze in the house or when out for dinner with my best friend (who still works in hospitality and is a big fan of a beverage or three).

So what do I do? I’m honest with them. I’ve told them that drinking doesn’t make me happy anymore, that I no longer see the point nor feel the need to down 4 margaritas in one hour and, importantly, that I have no desire to stop them from doing whatever it is they choose for themselves.

NEVER is a very big five-letter word

And yes, on occasion, I do say yes to a drink. But you know what, it’s my choice. It’s a conscious decision, not an automatic habit, and most happily of all for me, it’s a choice I can also walk away from. Allowing myself the freedom to accept that I may sometimes want to raise a glass on a special occasion or join a friend in a cheers allows me the space to choose not to do it.

NEVER is a very big five letter word. There are very few times in life that we make commitments that are set to last us a lifetime (marriage, parenting and tattoos are the only ones that spring to mind) and the aching pressure of this bind is what ultimately leads to the spiral of disappointment (I’m never drinking again -> Ok just one -> I can’t believe I caved -> oh well I might as well keep going -> oh my aching head -> I’m never drinking again). Instead making a choice to allow yourself the space to err, the space to choose and the space to give yourself a break empowers your ability to walk away and make the choices that are truly best for you.

For me I know setting a goal has really helped and my goal is never to have a hangover again – I really don’t like them.

So, does being sober curious mean you have to be tee-total? For me, no. But that’s my journey, my story and my choice. The one thing I know for certain is that you must work out what is right for you and make your own choices.

In her book ‘Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol” Warrington describes sober curious living as making the choice to drink as much or as little as you want as often as you want which for some could be none and never. What is it for you?




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