Hearth and home: Redefining relationships with loved ones once you’ve ditched alcohol

Steph Trafford | June 2023 | 9 minutes

For week twelve of Sober Spring. Community Champion, Stephanie Trafford, catches up with us on redefining parental and other important relationships when taking a longer break from alcohol.

1. How did you notice relationships change when you decided to stop drinking?

My children know I am far more dependable now I don’t drink. I keep to my promises rather than having duvet days due to being hungover. We have more money to go on day trips out as I’m not spending it on binge drinking at the weekends. My children, particularly my eldest, are so much more relaxed as they were aware of the trouble I was getting in because of my drinking.  

My relationships with other members of my family are also so much stronger. I am finally becoming the daughter, granddaughter, niece, goddaughter they all knew I had the potential to be. I enjoy spending time with my family now, rather than worrying about facing them, full of embarrassment and shame after an episode of binging. 

Relationships with my friends are as authentic and as strong as they ever could be.
They are enjoying have ‘sober Steph’ full time, rather than just seeing glimpses of her, they aren't worried about where my drunken behaviours will take me anymore, and I can relax knowing I am waking up from a night out will a full recollection of what's happened, and knowing I’ve not offended anyone!

2. How have your family and friends reacted to the changes you’ve made? Has it always been positive? How did you get through any difficult moments? 

My family and friends are very proud of me and remind me of that regularly. Initially some people did think I was putting too much pressure on myself, and that I was too young to say that I would never drink alcohol again. As more time has gone on, and the more I am achieving, those people have realised that there is no place for alcohol in my life anymore. I have inspired a family member, who has drunk heavily for the past thirty years, to stop drinking. Our relationships are so much stronger, and although as a family we haven’t presented any difficult moments related to alcohol yet, I feel I am able to talk far more openly about anything that is bothering me, and this is largely related to the awareness of alcohol my family have gained throughout my journey.

3. Is there an activity you enjoy doing more with your loved ones now you’re more in control of your drinking?  

There isn't a specific activity, although in general for me, it is about being so much more present in every situation and appreciating all the memories we are making. I’m so much more dependable now I’m alcohol free and it is so empowering to know I can now offer the same physical and mental support to my family that they have offered me over the years. My weekends with my children are so much longer and more fulfilling, as a family we are experiencing so many new things, that would just not be possible if I was still drinking as I’d be nursing a hangover all weekend.

4. When you decided to stop drinking, tell us about a specific example where you felt you were turning over a new leaf in your life or starting something new? 

I felt like I had really turned over a new leaf when I began to identify what my true hobbies were. All I’d ever know was to get drunk at the weekends, now I find myself climbing mountains, attending the gym daily, flying the UK’s fastest zip wire, wild swimming, the list goes on. It became apparent that many of these activities were mechanisms for coping, rather than reaching for a drink. I have learnt that meditating or going for a walk is a much more positive, healthy and safe way of improving my mood therefore feeling like I had really turned over a new leaf in my life was learning how to manage my mental health without alcohol being involved.

5. At what point did you feel like you were truly ‘owning’ your sober life? Please tell us more about that.

January 2023 was a pinnacle point in me feeling, (and continue to feel), like I am truly owning my sober life. From this date I have founded a support group for other sober and sober curious ladies based in Manchester. I truly believe that the turning point for me addressing my relationship with alcohol was when I realised, I wasn’t alone in how my drinking was making me feel and behave and started connecting with other people who had shared experiences. The message I want to spread is that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Isolation and feeling that you are the minority is, in my opinion, one of the biggest barriers to people addressing their relationship with alcohol and then seeking help. Going against society’s norms can feel almost impossible, but through my support group and sharing my story, I feel like we are making small ripples in the ocean of society’s perception of drinking and our relationship with it. The biggest part of me owning my sober life is showing and teaching my children that asking for help is one of the most empowering things an individual can do, and it should never be shied away from.