Quitting alcohol saved my mental health
Sobriety, without a doubt, has been the best decision of my life. I decided to stop drinking because my life was in complete chaos and my mental health was on the decline. And I can honestly say that going sober saved my sanity.
I started drinking at a young age and was impressed from the get-go with the warm, fuzzy feeling and the confidence alcohol gave me. It allowed me to deal with anything from a bad day to a breakup, to giving me the Dutch courage to enter social situations. It was how I dealt with my emotions. Feeling happy? Let’s celebrate with Champagne. Feeling low? No worries – have a glass of Chardonnay (unoaked of course).
It is something that is ingrained by society and not questioned. We are constantly bombarded with marketing that says alcohol makes our lives more fun, more glamorous and more successful. I am told my weekend will be more fun if I drink (drink responsibility though) and that rosé will help me connect better with my girlfriends.
The positives of drinking are displayed everywhere but it is so subtle and so clever that we probably don’t even notice these messages seeping into our subconscious.
It is no surprise then with these messages and my own love of the good stuff that, when I started to question my own drinking, I felt conflicted and confused. How can it be something that is so widely accepted by society? Something that is portrayed so positively? And that something that everyone around me is doing is making me feel so bad? It felt inconceivable that I could adopt sobriety, and live my life without alcohol.
The vicious cycle
I had started a cycle from the age of 25 of stopping and starting with drinking. It was a pattern that dominated my life because every time I didn’t drink, I felt so good about myself and my life became more positive and anything seemed possible! The moment I started drinking it didn’t take long for the downward spiral to start.
The negative thoughts, feeling unmotivated and not liking myself once again. I remember vividly expressing my thoughts to my friend one very hungover Saturday morning telling him ‘I think I’m going to not drink anymore’ and his reaction was ‘you can’t give up drinking, you just need to try and moderate’ (which by the way I think is totally possible to do, it just wasn’t something that I could do).
I started on my moderation journey and tried every trick in the book. ‘I will only drink at weekends’, ‘I will only drink once a week’, ‘I will only drink on special occasions’, ‘ I will only drink Champagne’. As an all-or-nothing type of gal, I can assure you these restrictions only seemed to reinforce my unhappiness around my drinking – as each time I didn’t stick to my own rules would result in me feeling like a failure. My mental health started to deteriorate and my drinking became more regular. I constantly felt anxious and depressed and my life was lived inebriated or hungover, and each time I had gone out I wished that I hadn’t and would wake up with a regret. It became clear that the only way forward was to embark on a life of sobriety. But how?
My life felt chaotic and I knew I had to stop drinking, so after a particularly heavy night I decided I was done with my dear friend alcohol and I was going to seek sobriety. My first stop was going to speak to someone (don’t ever feel ashamed to do this if you feel you need to). By having weekly accountability to someone and to start questioning why I was drinking really helped me to understand myself and the reasons I was engaging in such negative behaviours.
I started reading Quit Lit which really helped me to relate to other people’s stories and see how others started their sober journeys. It allowed me to see how this could be a long term choice – because accepting this was going to be for the foreseeable future was something I found difficult to comprehend.
I started listening to relevant podcasts and this helped me as it really gave an insight into the different reasons why others stopped drinking and allowed me to feel less alone in my journey. These would be something I would listen to on the train to work in the morning and would fill my brain with positive insights and help feed my subconscious with positive messages of sobriety.
I started a side hustle called Sober & Social where I decided I wanted to create a community through sober events to help empower others on their sobriety journey, and prove we didn’t have to compromise on our social lives because we were no longer drinking. This gave the accountability, connection and community I needed to keep me on track.
I made a whole new group of sober friends through both my own events and turning up to other people’s sober events, as well as connecting with others through my Instagram. I started to exercise more and eat better which made me feel good and, piece by piece, moment by moment, my mind went from muddled to mindful.
Feeling the benefits of sobriety
My mental health improved and instead of waking up and dreading my morning, I woke up with a spring in my step looking forward to the day ahead. My feelings of anxiousness were virtually non-existent and instead of worrying about life I started to embrace it.
I became more aware of myself and found myself becoming a more loving and kinder human being. I wanted the best for myself and started to look at the other areas of my life to see what else I could improve. I had more energy and felt more motivated.
I took responsibility for my actions and, instead of blaming external factors, started to look internally. I felt more confident in myself and realised I can still have fun in social situations, that I actually enjoy dancing and listening to house music and that it wasn’t alcohol that gave me that fuzzy feeling. It was the atmosphere, the energy and the company that made me feel warm inside.
My skin was better, my hair looked shinier, I lost weight and I slept better. My fears that my life would be boring, or I wouldn’t be able to socialise without alcohol simply weren’t true. I was becoming the best version of myself and living my life on my own terms. My life had stopped spiralling and I was more in control and finally, I went from chaos to calm.
Deciding to go sober gave me my self-respect, my self-love and sanity back and, for me, that’s worth staying on the wagon for.
Emily Syphas is a sobriety + self-love coach the founder of Sober & Social – a community which offers events and support for those wanting to lead an alcohol-free lifestyle. Emily is on a mission to help people lead a more positive, impactful and empowered life. Follow Sober & Social on Instagram