Joe's story: Good times are good times, especially when you’re sober

Joe | November 2022 | 8 minutes

Joe drank regularly at social events, including watching the World Cup. But he is now eight months alcohol-free.

A few years ago, the thought of watching the World Cup, celebrating my birthday and enjoying the festive period without a drop of alcohol was unimaginable. For so long these things had been intrinsically linked to drinking in my mind. But not this year. Today marks eight months sober.

Over the past eight months, I have proved to myself and others that it is possible to do literally any kind of social event completely sober.

At first, I was terrified of a big night out with friends sober. But it gets easier and easier and then just becomes normal. What I’ve realised more than anything is that good times are good, fun times are fun, and bad events are bad with or without alcohol. Watching your team come from behind to win 3-2 is a great day out regardless of if you’re drunk or sober. Attending a funeral is still horrible, regardless of if you’ve had a drink or not, and believe it or not; your best friend’s wedding is still the best day ever, even without the alcohol.

This year, as the World Cup kicks off and social calendars fill up with festive events and Christmas parties, I am reminded how I usually feel at this time of year. A diary packed with work parties, festivities and sporting events used to give me a strange mix of excitement, fear and nervousness.

I’m normally excited to spend time with friends and be out of the house, but I fear what would happen when I inevitably have a few too many drinks and whether it would just be ‘a bit bad’ or ‘really bad’. The nervousness was from my hundreds, maybe thousands, of failed attempts at moderation. Going home after 4-5 pints was always the objective, but the number of times I stuck to that objective was about as rare as an England football World Cup victory.

This year is different.

Earlier this year I called time on drinking. I’d been trying and failing to moderate for so long and I knew cutting back or trying to drink less just wasn’t going to work. For me, it was easier to stop altogether.

This year, I still have a packed calendar with more social events than ever, but I’m looking forward to no longer having those feelings of fear or helplessness. I know for a fact that I won’t wake up with fear and anxiety as I try to recall what happened the night before, or what embarrassing escapades I might need to apologise for. Or, more likely, try and ignore and suppress the memory of.

I continue to rack up more and more sober experiences. Real experiences that I feel in the moment and remember afterwards (rather than numbed in the moment and hazy afterwards). Every time I go out and have a great time, I prove to myself that alcohol isn’t needed at these events to have fun.

But I can promise you that you’re not alone if you’re scared about this time of year, scared you’ll struggle to moderate and worry you will drink too much over the coming months.

I can also promise that having one less hungover morning and one less night black-out drunk this festive period will be good for you. The statistics show that when people reduce their alcohol intake (even by just a little), their risk of harm from alcohol decreases.

My final promise, and I speak from experience, is that there’s so much good content out there to help cut back, re-evaluate your relationship with booze or take time off the drink.

What I can’t promise is that England Men’s Football Team will do any better in Qatar than they did in Russia, Brazil or South Africa….