I’ve been sober now for three and a half years.
But I think, in all honesty, it’s only this summer that I’ve realised what freedom sobriety actually has given me and started to take advantage of it.
When I drank wine every day, I didn’t realise what a tie it was. I looked forward to it, I enjoyed it, I only saw the positives in it.
There wasn’t a night in the last few years before I was sober that I didn’t have a drink. I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t drink. But looking back, I’m not really sure what I was missing out on. I just knew I couldn’t relax properly without my wine.
Of course, as time went on, the pull of the wine was stronger and stronger. I can’t even say when I noticed things had changed, and by the time I did, it was such an ingrained part of my life that I couldn’t go back how things were before.
Every night, I felt I needed to go home to have a drink and relax—because, of course, I’d earned it. In the mornings, I often regretted how much I had drunk, but by the evening I’d forgotten or managed to put that out of my mind, and so the cycle continued.
I saw wine as a way to reward and relax, and instead, it just stressed me out as I tried to decide how I could incorporate a drink each evening. It wasn’t too bad when I was at home, but it stopped me from wanting to go out like other people did because I’d prefer to be at home with wine.
The only place that wasn’t too bad and didn’t cause me too much worry was actually the kids’ primary school. It was a tiny village school, and every event had alcohol, whether it was drinking Pimms and lemonade at the sports day in the field or having a few drinks at the end of term performance in the village church.
One year, they put on Bugsy Malone, transformed the church into a speakeasy, and encouraged everyone to dress up to fit in with the story. It was great fun, but again reassured me that everyone else drank. I just failed to see that unlike me, they didn’t do it every night.
It’s funny how things change. For a long time, I didn’t think they would. But they do, if you stick with it.
As I write this, it’s after 9 p.m. and I’m clear-headed, watching “Toy Story” with the kids and waiting for the food shopping to be delivered later. I don’t have to keep an eye on how much I’m drinking, and I won’t have a hangover. I offered to add some things for my parents to the delivery if they needed it. It’s refreshing not even to have to worry about being able to drive to their house with the shopping late in the evening. I don’t even have to think about it.
In the evenings, I can go out for a walk and enjoy the evening sun. There is no rush to get home, besides the draw of a cup of tea and my book. I don’t always have an ulterior motive for my plans, and if I need to, I can jump in the car at a moment’s notice, without stopping to question whether I am okay to drive first.
It’s a relief to have the freedom to do whatever I want without stopping to think about whether I can because I’ve had a drink. Don’t get me wrong, it’s taken a long time to get here, but it is a lovely place to be: calm, quiet, and not reliant on a substance in order to feel that way.