What a 'party girl' gained from going sober

Last updated 06:00 24/06/2014

TEETOTALLER: Emily out drinking (left), vs the 'new', sober Emily (right).

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If you told me a year ago that I would go six months sober, I wouldn't have believed you.

Yet, in the end, I didn't even notice the date pass; it slipped by quietly. 

That doesn't mean that being sober hasn't had a profound effect on my life.

Just over nine months ago, I decided I wanted to quit drinking.

It was after another night of heavy drinking on a Friday.

I woke up at 6am with the dry throat, pounding headache and speckled memory.

Admittedly, I don't really understand the concept of moderation and this goes for everything in my life; I'm all in or I'm all out.

I was far from being an alcoholic, but I was a party girl and I loved getting drunk and having a "good time".

But when I really thought about it, I didn't like the way I was drinking and the person I was when I was drinking.

I'd always romanticised the idea of being sober, but never really put myself up for the challenge.

When I woke up on October 21, 2013, I looked in the mirror decided enough was enough.

Socially, it is one the hardest things I've ever had to do.

The first three months were the hardest. I went to Friday night work drinks the following week and quietly sipped an orange juice in the corner. I felt awkward and uncomfortable without my social lubricant.

I stopped going to work drinks, and I started avoiding social occasions that involved alcohol, because no one understood why I wasn't drinking and no-one respected the decision that I made for myself.

The fact I'm not an alcoholic seemed to make other people think they could pressure me into drinking. "Just one drink won't hurt you", was a common phrase.

I made it through the rest of October and November sober, but in December I slipped up. I had exactly three alcoholic beverages.

The first was a glass of Pimm's at a Christmas party, hosted by a friend. I thought one drink won't hurt me, everything in moderation, and that was fine.

It was fine. I didn't drink the whole bottle or get hammered. I had one glass of Pimm's. I exercised self-control. Thinking back, I drank the Pimm's because I like the taste of it; it is one of my preferred drinks.

The second and third drinks I had were at the office Christmas party in mid-December. Upon arrival I saw tables and tables of alcoholic beverages pre-poured, ready and waiting for me.

I had another glass of Pimm's and I decided that would be my one for the evening.

As time wore on, and more and more people starting getting drunk, I felt left out. I wanted that warm happy feeling. I thought that having a drink would make me feel happy. I had a bottle of Steinlager.

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I don't even like beer. It didn't make me feel happy, and it didn't make me feel included.

As I thought about it the next day, I realised I don't need alcohol to have a good time and I don't need to drink crappy beer to be included.

That beer was the last alcoholic beverage I drank. I wish I had chosen something better.

Being sober has had a profound effect on me.

When you quit drinking, you find out exactly how little you actually have in common with some people, and who your real friends are. Sure, it's great to go and get hammered, but when you actually remember the conversations you have with these people, there are not a lot of mutual interests outside of alcohol.

I had never realised how a group of people could bring you down and make you feel bad about yourself. Since leaving those friends in the past, I feel happier than ever before. 

There have been social benefits, and physical ones too.

I have more energy and drive for the future. I can smell things better, my anxiety has decreased, I have better skin, I've lost weight and I have a better mental outlook.

All of these came back to me when I cut drinking out of my life.

Looking back, I think I needed alcohol as a security blanket because I didn't know who I was. I wasn't confident enough and I would worry what people thought of me.

Now when I walk into a room, bar, meeting, party, I don't care what people think of me, because I know who I am, and I don't think I could have discovered that without this journey.

The thing that has surprised me the most is that people still have no respect for someone's choice to be sober.

Someone said to me this week: "I miss old Emily, she used to be fun". That only made me thing about how I don't miss the old Emily at all.

I'm happy, healthy and I don't need society's approval to be sober.

I've gained a world of knowledge and confidence from this experience. I go to bars, parties and drinks events, and I don't need alcohol to fit in.

As F Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby: "It's a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people."

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