Sarah’s story: "I liked myself again after going alcohol-free."

March 2024 | 9 minutes

Navigating an alcohol-free lifestyle isn't easy, but for Sarah it brought her joy and confidence.

I strongly believe lots of people are drinking like I was. That ‘grey area’ drinking that is socially acceptable. It isn’t addiction or dependency but nor is it moderate and occasional. I had no rock bottom, I wasn’t drinking every day, drinking in the morning or drinking in secret. I could have carried on exactly as I was. But I was drinking enough to hold me back from living my life fully. Enough to know I wasn’t being or doing my best.

Life had become a treadmill. My plans, goals and dreams would take one step forward during the week and one step back at the weekend, “I’ll start again on Monday”……and so I was getting nowhere. Drinking opportunities are everywhere, not just the big nights out but the ones you hardly notice. . The easy drinking at home that became habitual during covid. Beers in the garden on a sunny afternoon, wine with the weekend takeaway and family Sunday lunch. I found myself sleepwalking into having a bit too much, a bit too often. It was becoming too big a part of my life.

I’m at an age that it's not just an actual hangover, but also the fog the day after that. I was spending half my week operating at half power. Low level anxiety can’t be bothered today, no energy, sleeping poorly, eating poorly, a bit grumpy, a bit impatient, doing just what I had to do but no more than that. My life was getting smaller for it, and I knew it in my quiet moments.

I decided to get off that treadmill. To see what could be possible if I could keep the ‘Wednesday’ version of myself, consistently. The one that was neither recovering from the last weekend nor starting on the next weekend. My first month alcohol-free was novel and new. But ultimately, I just put my life on hold for a month. I didn’t really go out, I scheduled socialising for the following month when I could drink again. I used a lot of willpower and found myself counting down the days until my ‘normal’ life could resume. I didn’t learn a lot about living without alcohol, but the seed was planted, I felt great! I slept well, I took my make up off every night, I was a much calmer and more present mum with my kids, I had more energy. The changes were mainly physical – I felt much less sluggish and much better rested. But a few months later, I found myself back where I had begun.

My second break was three months. I knew this time that a longer break would really mean I change some habits, and this was where the magic lay. It was long enough that I really had to live my life without drinking. There was no pressing pause on my life this time and I downloaded the Try Dry app. Initially it was easy as I was motivated by all the good things I had experienced before and that I knew would come back again. However, this time the changes ran deeper and as I saw them build that motivated me to continue. This length of time changed ME.

Every social situation taught me something new, every struggle brought joy and confidence on the other side as I learnt to navigate it.

It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it. I formed new habits, took up new hobbies, found new things to do to deal with triggers and cravings. I had much more energy which I channelled into getting fitter and stronger. I ate better. I felt less stressed and reactive and felt so much more in control of my life.

But most importantly, I liked myself again, who I was and how I was living.

A peek behind the curtain over three months alcohol-free showed me the more subtle effects of my drinking and just how much it had been taking from my sense of self.

At this stage, I had no intention of making this permanent but when I returned to drinking, it was not holding the same joy. Trying to drink occasionally was giving me decision making fatigue each week as to which events I would drink at and which I wouldn’t. Life had been simpler without it. The numbers no longer stacked. Any high from drinking was far outweighed by the low of the next day. I became aware of how just two drinks affected me the following day. I kept up all my new hobbies but after a night of drinking I was hoping for the morning yoga class to be over rather than doing it with a spring in my step. I had seen the other side, experienced how good I could feel and how much better I could be and there was no un-seeing that.

It was effortless at this stage to commit to a year, and I have never looked back. It’s now been 19 months and I’ll never say never, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever drink again as I just don’t miss it. I never would have believed that one change could change so much. I wish I knew at the beginning of this journey just how good it would be and have trained as an alcohol-free coach to help others do the same. It has been the most positive change that has enhanced my life, full of wins and gains and not the negative one I expected full of loss and missing out. It's not until I tested the water by removing it that I saw all the ways it was holding me back. It’s given me back the best of myself 7 days a week and I am so proud of the example I set to my kids that alcohol is optional. Off that treadmill, taking a small step forward each week, every week.