12 Lessons From 12 Months of Sobriety
What can you learn from my experience?
Organ failure and suicidal thoughts forced me into sobriety. The lessons I learnt kept me here.
Before these life-changing events occurred, I would have never believed I could go so long without alcohol. Drinking was as vital to me as breathing was. Every day would involve alcohol, from breakfast beers to lunchtime wines. Alcohol was my life, and I believed I was nothing without it. I quickly learnt that this was not the case. Sobriety taught me a lot about life and also about myself.
Here are the most essential lessons from the past 12 months;
1 - No one cares
Giving up alcohol was a drastic change in my life. My mind was telling me that I needed to drink to keep my friends. Soon after announcing my sobriety, I quickly learnt that it wasn't of much interest to the majority. Even when I shared my podcast interview on social media, there was very little feedback.
It's not them who has the drinking problem. So why the hell would they care?
Sobriety is a solo challenge indeed. But it can be made easier if you find support. Those who have experienced the same issues with drinking as you will be a lot more willing to talk and help.
2 - Drinking is boring
I used to believe that going to the pub every weekend was fun. Society led me to think that alcohol is required to have fun. Sober people are labelled as boring. Please tell me how going to the same pub every damn day is fun?
It's not; it's boring, monotonous and a waste of time and money. Sobriety showed me that drinking is not fun; it's boring.
3 - My memory has returned
I started drinking heavily from a very young age, this damaged my brain's ability to create and keep memories.
Mechanisms underlying alcohol-induced memory impairments include disruption of activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that plays a central role in forming new memories.
Over time I became accustomed to forgetting almost everything. My life became a big drunken blur. Most of the best parts of my life are gone forever, and alcohol took those moments away from me. I thought my brain would be permanently damaged.
However, it only took a few months of sobriety for my brain to start repairing itself. Now my short term and long term memory have started functioning a lot better.
4 - Reality sucks
It's been a tough year adjusting to my new reality. Now I can't hide behind the comfort of alcohol. In this time I have learnt how harsh reality can be. Yes, reality sucks, but it's worse when you're a drunken mess.
Your problems will not disappear if you carry on drinking, you cannot escape, no matter how much you drink. Unfortunately, that's not how life works.
In sobriety, I can't hide from my issues. I have to resolve them like an adult. This process has forced me to grow into a better human. I am no longer a drunken coward running from adult responsibilities.
5 - The simple things make me smile
When I was drinking excessively everything in life seemed mundane. This meant that I lived for cheap thrills. Consisting of drugs, sex and drum & bass. This constant need for stimulation meant I needed to take harder drugs, find new partners or listen to heavier music.
I started to think I was broken and would never be happy. But little did I know that this was the causal effect of my excessive drinking.
Now I feel as though the makeup of my brain has changed. I have stopped searching for those massive dopamine crushing experiences. Instead I can now enjoy the minor beautiful aspects of my life, such as my girlfriend's smile, cooking a good meal, the crisp air after it's rained, sleepy Sundays in bed.
I once missed these moments because I was either drunk or hungover.
6 - True friends stay
One of the main reasons I carried on drinking was the fear of losing friends. Years of excessive drinking had convinced me that consuming alcohol was the only way to be "fun". If I quit drinking, all of my friends would suddenly disappear and refuse to speak to me.
I have now realised how ridiculous this is. True friends will stay regardless of my drinking choices. It doesn't matter whether I have a drink in my hand or not.
I have now realised that I do not need alcohol to have fun or be liked.
7 - Counting sober days is pointless
I know what you're thinking. Yes, the title is 12 lessons in 12 months of sobriety. It has been 12 months since I moved to a new country to start a new life, so this is an easy date for me to remember. In the beginning of my sobriety, I would obsessively count the days. This rapidly got boring as I realised it wasn't necessary to count those days; I wasn't missing anything. In fact, my life was better without it. Meaning I didn't need to calculate the days sober. This wouldn't dictate how successful I was in sobriety.
Celebrating length of time in sobriety has become so ingrained in our measurement of its success that I worry we have lost sight of the bigger picture. - Doran Lamb
8 - Sex is better
Sloppy drunk sex is shit. Sober sex is better. That's all I need to say on that topic.
9 - My anxiety has (almost) gone
I used to drink to make myself feel confident. Alcohol would help me (temporarily) get rid of my anxiety. But, I couldn't control how much I drank. So I'd end up blacking out and awakening with the fear, my anxiety had now multiplied. No wonder I needed to drink more to exist.
"Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off"
After a few months of sobriety, I have realised how alcohol actually heightened my anxiety. It has become apparent that I wasn't genuinely anxious, I was just in an uncomfortable situation. Over time I will learn to grow into these situations.
10 - Alcohol doesn't make you happy
A lot of people say that happiness comes from within. I used to think that happiness was found at the bottom of the bottle. After a few months of sobriety, I realised that true happiness does resonate from within. I had never learned this because I was constantly numb. I was either drunk or hungover so never had the opportunity to actually feel.
Sobriety taught me to feel again.
11-Alcohol is expensive
I knew alcohol was a waste of money but carried on drinking it anyway. I was paying to have fun so it didn't matter. This meant I had to work more to fuel my drinking, which meant I was depressed because I hated my job, so I needed to drink. It was a vicious cycle.
In the 12 months that I've lived in Germany, I have been working part-time. This would never have been possible if I was still pissing my money against the wall.
12 - I have become more productive
I always wanted to be more productive. However, it is hard to be productive when I was forever hungover and sleep-deprived.
It feels lovely to awaken with a clear head ready to tackle the day ahead.
With this extra time, I have become more productive and creative. I have slowly realised my passions. With time I will become a better writer, artist, and musician. These passions fill me with joy.
A passion for art is better than a passion for clubbing.
The cherry on top
In these 12 months, I have completely turned my life around. I have started a new career, within which I see a bright future. New friends have entered my life and shown me some fantastic new sober activities (I would 10/10 recommend trying bouldering). I have found an amazingly supportive girlfriend who has helped me through some of the more challenging periods of my sobriety whilst also showing me that life isn't all that bad. I may as well hang around for the ride and enjoy it while I can.
I'm excited to see what happens in the next 12 months and beyond. I'm happy to say I'm alcohol-free and happy with my decision to be that way.