"I don’t drink": Making a change I never thought possible

Emily | November 2018 | 7 minutes

Life and soul of the party, avid gig-goer and bar-hopper; I was the last person you would expect to quit drinking. But by the age of 30, I had a love/hate relationship with alcohol.

"I realised I had been binge drinking with gusto on and off (OK, mostly on) for over a decade, so I decided it was time to have a more balanced relationship with booze.

"While I know moderation is a great strategy for some, over the next several months my own attempts to ‘moderate’ were, quite frankly, exhausting. I was always thinking about drinking – or drinking less – and frequently ‘failing’ to achieve my own constantly shifting goals (from the ‘night off’ to the ‘three drink rule’).

"A brief flirtation with sobriety in the form of Dry July last summer was perhaps the first time that I began to seriously entertain the possibility of stopping. However, I quickly returned to my old ways and found myself in the exhausting ‘trying to moderate and never managing it’ headspace again.

"Then one evening in February 2018 I just… stopped.

"It has been a steady and quiet journey, watching the days add up and feeling my mindset shift from ‘I’m not drinking at the moment’ to ‘I don’t drink’ (alongside a parallel shift in how my friends and family see me). Is it difficult? Sometimes. Does it get easier? Absolutely. Has it been worth it? For me, yes. I’m not preachy about it (that would be hypocritical) and I am absolutely not suggesting that everyone should ditch the drink, but I know it’s been the right choice for me. I’ve seen changes in my overall health and wellbeing and I feel closer to many of my friends and family. I still enjoy socialising in pubs and going to gigs, so in a strange way nothing has changed, yet everything has changed.

"It has been a steady and quiet journey, watching the days add up and feeling my mindset shift from ‘I’m not drinking at the moment’ to ‘I don’t drink’. Is it difficult? Sometimes. Does it get easier? Absolutely."

"Sobriety may seem like a stark or extreme choice, but I actually find it so much easier than trying to moderate, as now I feel like I have a simple, clear and consistent position on this subject (this has also I think made things much easier for my friends and family). Basically, I’ve made one big decision rather than having to make loads of little decisions every time I socialise. To speak to the theme of Alcohol Awareness Week, it also feels like a – positive – change in who I am, not just a change in what I do.

"The notion of ‘change’ also resonates more widely with the work that I am doing as a sociologist researching alcohol and gender. My previous research has highlighted the role drinking plays for women in maintaining friendships and also in being ‘feminine’. But what are the implications of this for women who don’t drink? I am not alone or special; across the UK people are changing their relationship with alcohol, seeking to drink more mindfully or quitting completely. I’m starting a new research project to explore the experiences of other women who decided to call time on drinking, exploring the ‘stories’ they tell about their journeys to sobriety.

"I hope that in sharing my own experiences and those of other women who decide to quit we can work towards challenging the dominant culture of intoxication. Telling different ‘stories’ that do not position drinking as expected, normalised and practically compulsory strikes me as a good place to start."