The end of Sober Spring: A note on your newfound alcohol-freedom

Catherine Gray and Laurie McAllister | June 2019 | 8 minutes

Congratulations, you've reached the end of Sober Spring! In this blog, Catherine Gray and Laurie McAllister share a final word on the three-month alcohol-sabbatical.

Laurie

The first three months of being alcohol-free were, for me, the most challenging. Learning to navigate the world sober, when for so long I had been exploring it with my trusty sidekick Pinot Grigio, was bound to be a bumpy ride. This time was also filled with brilliant moments and I was incredibly proud of myself (as I hope you are too), but it took me three months to start to feel that true sense of freedom (which I hope you feel too).

I hope that, through the Instagram community, Sober Socials and Facebook group, you have found friends who you can now rely on to lift you up. And that you have learnt that you can lift yourself up, without the jack of booze. You have that power. And talking of power, I hope you have experienced some of the superpowers that sobriety can give you.

More energy, more sleep, improved relationships & finances; all powers I discovered I had when I took an extended break. And it only gets better.

Towards the end of my first three months, I realised that I didn’t need this cleverly marketed ‘fun juice’ to be the best version of myself, or to socialise. With time comes more opportunities to find out who you really are without drinking.

If you’re going to carry on, a summer of sober weddings, hen/stag dos, festivals and parties, awaits you. While you may initially fear these events (I know I did), I think they become much more meaningful when you get to experience them without the foggy booze-veil. And you’ll get the added bonus of remembering every single precious moment. We only get to live once, so why wouldn’t we want to remember it all?!

Being sober is not the imprisonment I worried about, the cage of fear I expected, but is in fact (for me), the key to unlocking a life filled with joy.

In my first 90 days, I also discovered the power of consistency. Not drinking to improve my performance was something I never really thought about before, but I realised that not drinking makes me better at everything.

I can’t be the only one who made grand plans for a weekend - yoga, big walks with the dogs, time with family and finally start writing my book - only to see my good intentions washed away with the third glass of wine on a Friday night. When I removed the booze, I was miraculously able to stick to my plans of yoga three times a week, my relationships improved and the morning-after blues and anxiety disappeared. It turns out I’m not lazy after all; I was just hungover.

Being sober is not the imprisonment I worried about, the cage of fear I expected, but is in fact (for me), the key to unlocking a life filled with joy.”

Catherine

“Firstly, let us say a thunderous thank you to the thousands of you that have taken part in this year’s Sober Spring, which myself and Laurie ran in partnership with the wonderful Alcohol Change UK.

Not all of you will have gotten through the 93 days intact, which is in fact, very normal. When you are trying to bed in any new habit, whether it’s vegetarianism, daily meditation, or not smoking, there are inevitably days where you snap back into the old way, the way you’ve been doing things for one, two, even three + decades. Your brain inevitably tries to take you by the hand down the embedded neural pathway, the ingrained habit, and it takes effort to stay on the brand-new neural pathway you are building.

But if / when you did drink during Sober Spring, it’s likely that given you’re still here, reading this, that it served merely as a ‘convincer’ that you wanted to continue trying to make not-drinking (rather than drinking) your default. And that, my friends, requires grit, self-awareness, patience and guts.

Rather than judging people for the seven times they stumbled, we applaud people for the eight times they got back up. ‘Failing’ should be renamed ‘learning’. Every trip contains a valuable lesson, on how not to trip next time on the same path.

‘Failing’ should be renamed ‘learning’. Every trip contains a valuable lesson, on how not to trip next time on the same path.

If you plan to go back to drinking, to trying out moderation, then I am rooting for you and totally understand why. But if you find that the planned ‘one or two drinks and stop’ is still the rarity rather than the norm, you hopefully now know that having none can actually be easier than having one, sometimes. The alcohol-free life will always be here as an alternative for you.

If you’re planning on carrying on as a teetotaller, I’m guessing it’s because you’ve found that you feel happier, healthier, even wealthier without it. You have much to look forward to, as being alcohol-free gets easier and easier, the longer you do it. I started out with three months off back in 2013, and I haven’t drank since.

Either way, whichever path you choose now, you’ve done a commendable thing, in standing up to peer pressure (beer pressure?) and detaching from our nation’s favourite pastime. I know about that twist of discomfort when your friends are doing a round of shots, that squirm you have holding a tumbler of water instead of a flute during a champagne toast, and the fear of that question ‘why aren’t you drinking?’

I know. I see you, I see your courage, and I am so proud of you.”