This week marks a year since I started working on my relationship with alcohol. Before we launch into it: to confirm, I am not currently sober. I initially went sober for 100 days, and now do periods of sobriety to check in with myself and to confirm that I still feel in control of my drinking. I won’t lie, it feels absolutely unreal writing that down – if you’d told my twenty year-old self that this would be something I would be tackling in two years time, I’d have had my jaw hanging open. I knew I had a complex relationship with alcohol at that point, but I wouldn’t have called it a problem. Only middle aged men with ruddy faces and pot bellies have an alcohol problem, no? And no one in my family is an alcoholic so how could I possibly be?? The attitude I held at that time just illustrates what a long way I’ve come in a year.
Unsurprisingly, alcoholism and problematic drinking doesn’t just affect middle aged men or hardcore sommeliers. According to research performed in 2016, the median age of those in alcohol treatment in the UK is 46, which suggests that there are many more young adults seeking help than one would expect. I’ve met a doctor who said he diagnosed a twelve year-old with alcoholism at one point in his career. It can also affect twenty one year-old women, fresh out of university, starting their dream career and in a happy relationship. So this time last year, this week exactly in fact, I had a massive personal scare that led to a huge upheaval in my life. I realised very quickly that drinking was jeopardising my relationships with friends, family and partners, and the only way to resolve this was to sober up. I made a video about my relationship with alcohol that garnered a lot of attention, and remains one of my most viewed videos to date.
It wont surprise you to hear that I’ve learned a lot this year, about myself and on observations about society as a whole. Most notably: we’re a society built on the sauce. As someone who had depended on it in social situations, quitting sucked. I did, however, quickly discover the benefits; I looked and felt healthier, my willpower was strengthened, I was no longer intimidated by alcohol-filled environments. I got over my breakup faster as I had to process everything head-on. All of the new relationships I embarked on weren’t built on the unsteady foundations of alcohol-fuelled dates and drunk sex. And the greatest blessing: no more hangovers. Honestly, waking up every day clear-headed was wonderful, and I started to wonder how I passed my degree when living in a perpetual hangover. I became a better, more self-aware version of myself, I got my work done faster and better than before and I really loved and appreciated myself. It was a really beautiful period of my life, and sobriety provided peace in all the emotional turmoil.
When I went sober, I made a pact with myself that I would never glorify alcohol on my social profiles again. I recently searched the work “drunk” in my Twitter history and you wouldn’t believe how many hours I spent tweeting as an intoxicated a teenager and how cool I thought it was. I’d mention it so much online, along with making many videos in which I was drunk, that it actually became part of my online persona to be “into” alcohol. If I didn’t manage to upload one week, people would assume I was hungover. Kind of sad, in a way.
When I went sober, it felt like alcohol was everywhere. Kind of like, I’d imagine, when pregnant women start noticing other pregnant women all over the city where they once weren’t. It wasn’t easy, so I wanted, and still try to, provide a space where there isn’t going to be an Instagram of a glass of wine on a Friday night, or where I jokingly tweet about my incapable hungover body without highlighting the relentless anxiety I am feeling the morning after. This once extended to not talking about alcohol at all, even in a sobriety context, but I’ve since realised that it’s important to talk about my experiences. When I initially spoke about my relationship with alcohol online, I received hundreds and hundreds of messages from people who were also struggling and who’s loved ones were afflicted and it confirmed that I couldn’t just stop talking about it entirely. As a twenty-something woman, I could offer the hope that I couldn’t find when I spent hours on Google looking for someone like me who didn’t understand how to handle her relationship with substance abuse.
I’m no spokesperson for sobriety, and I never wanted to be – I still drink, and fundamentally, I’m still working things out for myself. However I still want to help others as best I can; I’m a point of contact for friends and mutuals with alcohol problems and try to guide them to professional and community-based help, I have an open inbox on Tumblr for anyone to vent their concerns and frustrations with their own drinking patterns, I speak publicly about my own experiences and encourage events to provide non-alcoholic options for their guests. It’s all baby steps, but in reality alcohol dependence is best dealt with by taking baby steps. “Just for today” is a mantra of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the most successful programmes for rehabilitation. Take it a day at a time and you will be able to climb the mountain.
Re-evaluating my relationship with alcohol was tough, but confronting it head on is the best thing I’ve done for myself. If you struggle with alcohol, please see the links at the bottom of this post and don’t be afraid to speak about it. A year later, it was still the best decision I’ve ever made.
If you’re looking for help with alcohol or substance abuse, these websites can help:
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