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What it feels like to be alcohol free – Sober for 227 days

When “they” ask “what it feels like to be alcohol free”

When people ask  “what it feels like to be alcohol free”. I can immediately answer and say, “You already know. The last word you said says it all.”

FREE.

I am free of the chains.

With my last post, I spoke about being a newbie alcoholic over the festive season. There was a brief guide there, so have a look if it may help. This post is more of an update. On my Instagram (@yvette_hess) I posted the image below.

On this day, I celebrated being sober for 200 days

what it feels like to be alcohol free - sober for 200 days
Watercolour painting- Celebrating getting my life back

So, go deep Yvette- is it really all that?

To be honest, as much as it is free-ing, more and more I find that I was using alcohol to cope. Cope with what?

Motherhood.

Marriage.

Weight gain.

Insecurity.

Empty bank balance.

Career.

Family squabbles.

Anxiety.

Depression.

Mania.

Friends not replying to messages.

Friends replying to messages.

Laundry overflowing.

No milk in the fridge.

I think you get the picture.

How can I cope with no alcohol then?

Some days I really don’t know how the hell I cope. Last year, I befriended Lynne Huysamen from Living with Addiction.

Quick backstory: It was weird to find out online (in a blogger group) that she lived around the corner from where I lived and she even introduced me to another recovering alcoholic in my street! She took me to my first AA meeting in Saldanha. 

I have moved to a new town (Mosselbay) since then, and have yet to go to AA here.

As I said, I don’t know how I am managing. There’s a bottle of Brandy in our glass cabinet and I haven’t touched it. I know it’s there. But it doesn’t bother me. Maybe it is a little weird that I know it’s there.

Here’s what I do drink:

I drink a lot of sparkling water and flavoured tonic waters. I’m cutting down on the latter because of the quinine. But I’ve always liked bitter drinks (beer, Merlot) so it wasn’t a real surprise I gravitated towards them.

I also drink GOOD coffee.

In conversation with Lynne the other day and said that I realized that it wasn’t the alcohol I was addicted to, it was the coping strategy. 

That’s why they say, “one addiction replaces the other.”

I think I’m lucky in that I haven’t noticed a new addiction pop up. Maybe the tonic water thing, but it isn’t like I neeeeed it. You know?

The reality of being sober

That extensive list of things I needed to cope with, has not gone away. And with the stress of moving to a new town, new schools and schedules to manage and even trying to grow a sustainable business- the need to cope, that is the need to drink, has increased.

So why am I sober?

I’ve honestly been keeping myself busy. Busy with things that fuel with me. Dreams. Plans for world domination and all of that.

I am too busy to hang onto a “longing to feel good”. I am too busy actively getting myself excited and inspired. This works for me.

For now anyway.

Any alcoholics in the house who can relate to that longing to feel good? Just let me know in the comments!

Being alcohol free has nothing to do with skipping alcohol

The reality of what it feels like to be alcohol free has nothing to do with not having any alcohol. Nope. That’s just the first step.

The real work happens when you are of “sober mind” and in turn, sober heart.

This means that deep down inside, you need to acknowledge, face and consciously deal with the demons the alcohol hid from you. Here are two examples.

Social anxiety? That red wine sure made me feel relaxed, confident and like I could handle any conversation.

Don’t know how to deal with conflict or family members who make you feel uncomfortable or awkward?

Wine, beer, anything.

Ah, instant confidence! (Just the fact that you feel more “prepared” when you take that first sip is a bell ringing).

And here’s the other trap I fell into:

Oh wow, I had a hard day/ week/ moment- here’s a bottle of merlot.

And please don’t get me wrong. Just because this was my experience, it doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic.

Some people internalize your words when you express your emotions or speak of your experiences. Don’t let that stop you from sharing or working through what you need to. This has nothing to do with them or their reactions.

what it feels like to be alcohol free - Chester quote

Being an alcoholic affects your quality of life

That’s the main point to remember: when you’re addicted to any substance, it affects your life- in a huge way. It affects who you are and turns you into someone that you don’t want to be. It takes away your sense of control.

I drove past a huge advertisement outside my son’s school. They advertised daily wine tastings. And I thought, maybe I should try that. It’s just a tasting.

Two things came to mind:

  1. I’ll go taste every day
  2. I wouldn’t spit- I’d gulp that stuff down!

These truths popped into my mind as soon as I had the thought of going to try the wines. So this is a reminder that I’m aware of how alcohol once affected my life. I drank daily. It was part of my to-do list, to-buy list, to celebrate-with-list.

It was everywhere.

And because I was intoxicated often, or recovering from it (not necessarily a hangover), like an emotional dip, it affected my quality of life and relationships.

I still crave alcohol

Well, I crave being numb.

Numb to pain.

Numb to anxiety.

Not to mention numb to rejection or criticism or self-doubt.

You don’t have to deal with the complexity of reality.

You just have to be, and maybe even shake your booty to the music.

When I crave, I take a step back and think “why am I wanting this so much?”, “what am I trying to avoid?”

And take a sip of sparkling water.

———————————————————

This post was just to update you on my sobriety journey. Many people have asked (inbox of course because being an alcoholic is not something many will admit too) so here’s the answer. My answer.

I’m sober. I’m learning. But I’m happier.

227 days today.

Every day is a milestone!

Yve

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