Selective Sobriety

Katherine explains how implementing this strategy has impacted her life and steered her away from the 'grey drinking zone'.

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I initially decided to give up drinking alcohol as part of a charity fundraiser. I realised I had to do something pretty spectacular to get maximum attention and support from my peer group; so, I made the decision to give up alcohol for a year - Dry365.

I did 365 days of sobriety and posted every day online for the year. The blog (via Instagram) covered information about the cause I was supporting as well as my musings on the year.  

The impact of the Dry365 was incredible. As regard the charity perspective, awareness and funds were raised for The Brain Tumour Charity - friends and connections were made all over the world. On a personal level, the change was seismic, life-changing even and I continue to feel the positive ripples to this day.  

Before the Dry365 I did drink to excess on occasion -but not every day and certainly not to the extent that I (or anyone else) thought I needed help.  I think the term for this is "grey area drinking".

Grey area drinking, the space between the extremes of "rock bottom" and every-now-and-again drinking: a grey area that many, many people find an impossible space to occupy. (The Temper)

Having completed 365 of sobriety, I now practice what I label "selective sobriety". I take time out from drinking -usually for a minimum of three weeks. As I know that I need to protect my sobriety, I plan around these weeks.  I realise that I need to respect being dry just as I would commit to eating well or making healthy choices.  

During dry spells I've noticed that nothing bad has happened. In fact, the whole selective sobriety experience has been massively positive. Aesthetically speaking, I look better and I am told I am 'fresher', I have far more energy and I feel much more engaged with life and as my self-confidence and belief has grown, my anxiety has decreased. I also now embrace JOMO (joy of missing out) over FOMO (fear of missing out) -nothing beats the feeling of waking up on a Saturday morning after an unbroken sober Friday night's sleep.

My view is that drinking alcohol, alcohol dependency, functioning alcoholic and alcoholism (or whatever other labels are given) is often progressive in nature. It has, over time, become increasingly socially acceptable to self-medicate with alcohol and people often slide into it without realising. By electing to step out of the "drinky mix" for a bit in pursuit of clear-headedness, I've found I can keep this in check.  

As time moves forward I have an overriding sense of improved perspective which, combined with the rationality of sobriety, makes life a much easier ball game to play.  Quid pro quo I now drink much less and much less frequently. 

So the pros and cons as I've found them..

Pros

  • Sleep
  • Appearance
  • Engagement
  • Clear headedness / rationality / perspective
  • Energy
  • Confidence
  • Self esteem
  • Peace of mind
  • Save money
  • More time

Cons

  • Some parties feel like a drag
  • Friends miss the "fun" me
  • I have developed a sense of guilt when I do drink about what I am doing to my body -after all, it is linked to various illnesses including cancer

If you fancy having a go, then I hope my top tips will help make the transition easier. It feels like a big step but I've found a few strategies really helped:

  • Engage - look up some of the blogs and Instagram accounts that promote this choice.  There is a growing movement of people who have selected to become AF - for a myriad of reasons. 
  • Read sober-lit - The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is just brilliant.
  • Accountability - link sober sessions to something -try Dry January, Sober October or set your own goal like fundraising or a run event.
  • Time - use a day counter to track time and use the time to do something fabulous.
  • Awareness -be aware of your triggers.
  • Alternatives - have a special glass that you use for drinks, try drinking out of that when you "crave" alcohol - do what helps you.  I found non-alcoholic beer was great and that drinking tonic was just as delicious as a G&T.
  • Celebrate - be proud of your choice (but not preachy!).  Rest assured that many celebrities are now sober out of choice and society's perception is shifting. There's a growing number of people who have embraced selective sobriety and it should be celebrated rather than looked on with cynicism.

In closing, I find the term "alcoholic" unhelpful. We all know that alcohol is an addictive substance which affects reasoning and decision making - therefore, in my view, to be able to moderate an addictive substance is a superpower.  As I'm not superhuman(!), I find selective sobriety a helpful way to keep my alcohol intake in check and not slip back into the grey zone or worse.

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Katherine

Disclaimer: Here at Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions, we understand that you're the expert on your own life and body, and it's each to their own. Opinions are solely the views of the author, not Bright Horizons and are there to inform, help provoke thought and reflection on life dilemmas that often naturally have no right or wrong.