Moving away from the fear of missing out to the joy of finding out, Susannah shares her experience of exploring an alcohol-free lifestyle.
I grew up in a family who would rarely have dinner without wine, and from my early teens that was what I expected – and felt entitled to. Going without, during pregnancies and the occasional Dry January, was miserable and a challenge. All about the missing out and no upside.
However, after around 50 years of dedicated regular wine consumption, I find myself in the seventh month of an exploration of sobriety – and enjoying it! How did that happen?
For me, it was a matter of re-framing. Instead of feeling like I was “going without” I considered it as an opportunity to “find out.” I set myself 3 months to explore, without any pressure or pre-judgement, what my life might be like without alcohol.
Here’s what I did:
- A quick calculation of how much money I’d been spending on wine provided an immediate motivation (after the initial shock) and I thought about ways I could spend that budget on things that supported my health and wellbeing. I also identified a piece of jewellery that I would buy myself at the end of the experiment if I stuck it out.
- I thought about what I got from drinking and how else I could achieve that. I realised that for me, a glass of wine – or two – marked the end of the working day and the start of “my time” so I looked for something that I wouldn’t be drinking during the day.
Initially I tried sparkling water and a slice of lime in a fancy glass and with a straw. Then I shopped around for zero alcohol beers and wines, of which there seems to be an increasing range coming to market right now. For me the wines were undrinkable but luckily my favourite pub drink (the famous black and cream slow-pour Irish stout) has recently been released as a 0% version and is very popular.
And what I learned:
- I had so much more energy, particularly in the evenings. And if one of the family needed a lift or my daughter needed me to pop round to help out with the grandchildren I could just jump in the car knowing I was safe and legal to drive.
- I didn’t have to think about whether to have a drink or not – or how much to try and limit myself to. It felt like freedom.
- I was able to process stress in real time. I had been dealing with the deterioration of my mother’s health for several years, and I realised that I had used a glass of wine as a soother, to push down anxiety and my reactions to the impossibility of my situation. Without the crutch of alcohol, I had to face each piece of bad news face on, and although not pleasant it did mean that I was truly present, which helped minimise the build-up of negative emotions.
The positives so outweighed the negatives for me that 3 months turned into 7 and I don’t currently see myself going back, although it’s also ok if I do. The key for me is that I’ve reframed my attitude to alcohol: I’m curious and not judgemental, and clear with myself about my behaviour. I've done with the FOMO – I’m not missing out – I am enjoying the JOFO, the Joy of Finding Out.
I undertook OYNB’s 90 day challenge as my first action. They have videos, facebook groups and an e-book which are all very useful. For me, within the first month I didn’t need them anymore – which shows how effective it was!