10 things I've learned since going sober

10 things I've learned since going sober

Going sober was a learning curve in so many ways for me. I knew the obvious health benefits, and expected to see these. However, going sober also brought things I did not expect - most notably changes in my relationships. I have no regrets about my decision to become sober, and have certainly learned a lot about how alcohol can really permeate every aspect of my life.

So, here are 10 things I've learned since binning the booze!

The impact of alcohol on my overall physical health and wellbeing

This isn't surprising, given how alcohol consumption has been linked to several detrimental health issues, including sleep and digestive problems, and a weaker immune system. Since giving up binge drinking, I have more energy, my sleep has been better than ever, the digestive problems I had the day after drinking are no more and my acne cleared up.

I got my Sundays back!

Unsurprisingly, as a 20-something in London, my Saturdays are filled with house parties, bars and clubs - all places filled with alcohol. Since going sober, my Sundays are no longer write-off days. On Sundays after drinking, I used to lie in bed feeling sorry for myself as a dehydrated, tired mess who regretted drinking so much. Now that my Sundays haven't been ruined by the after effects of booze, I've started a beginner pole fitness course every Sunday morning. It's been so fun, I've met some lovely people and I feel fitter and healthier than ever!

I've gained money to invest in myself

Although it was not the main reason, the amount of money that I spent on drinking was a factor in my decision to go sober. I used to look at my bank account and feel horrified that I was spending so much on an activity that did not make me feel good about myself; it felt like such a waste. The money I save from not drinking is pretty significant, and, whilst I have put some in savings, I have also reinvested it in areas of my life that do make me happy, like dance classes, new hobbies and revamping my wardrobe.

My mental heath has significantly improved.

I had several reasons for going sober, but my mental health was one of the greatest. I used alcohol as a crutch for my anxiety, but soon found it made it much worse. My drinking spells included blackouts, and with these came extreme anxiety from my inability to recall things I'd said or done whilst drinking. Now I can go out and remember the whole night, fully able to make memories with my loved ones.

The amount of venues that do alcohol-free drinks.

It is so much more now than five years ago, when I first explored the idea of sobriety. So many bars now have an alcohol-free section in their menu, and many of those that don't can make you an AF alternative if you ask. I've found gin to be the most popular AF spirit in bars. There are also some fab low and no alcohol bars that I love - including Torstigbar and Club Soda, where the bar staff are some of the loveliest I have ever met and are full of great drink recommendations.

How many friends had a similar experience of drinking to me, and were also sober-curious.

This is the one that shocked me the most when I went sober. I was expecting my friends to be supportive, but never anticipated any would come on board with me. To my surprise, a few friends of mine admitted that they felt the same way as me in regards to the impact of alcohol on their physical and mental health, and expressed interest in going sober themselves. One of them is now sober for 2024 and a few others are doing dry months. By openly talking about sobriety, we can shift the conversation away from "getting drunk to have fun" and towards having fun whilst prioritising self-care, making others more comfortable to share their true feelings about drinking.

7-The friends - and relationship - I lost.

Whilst most of my friends, and my current boyfriend, were incredibly supportive of my decision to go sober, this was not the case universally. One of my best friends immediately questioned my decision to stop drinking, saying I was doing it for "the wrong reasons" when I told her that it was for my physical health (for reference, it's none of anyone's business why you stop drinking - all reasons are valid). When I first proposed going sober in 2019, my boyfriend at the time refused to support me, saying he "could never date some who didn't drink" as drinking was such a huge part of his life. Unsurprisingly, that relationship did not last. It was hard to lose those people and not have their support for my decision, but the support network I have around me now is far healthier, and I have never felt better.

8-The university experience has to change.

University is based on getting drunk, with your formative experience there - Freshers' Week - basically being five nights straight of binge drinking. I passed out twice, and dread to think what might have happened, had I not had more sober friends around me to get help. It's also much harder to make your friends, as your friends tend to be people you get drunk and party with, rather than friends you meet through shared interests and general compatibility. Societies were better for this, but I was surprised after realising how many friends from university I only went out drinking/partying with. Since going sober, I still go for cocktails and to parties with my friends, but the lack of emphasis on getting drunk has opened up new activities for us to do together and more wholesome, daytime hangouts, giving me more free evenings to chill. The UK university experience is heavily based on binge drinking and, to release the hold that alcohol has on society today, this has to change.

9-I feel a lot better about my body.

When I first attempted sobriety during the first COVID-19 lockdown, I exercised every day. I saw myself getting stronger and healthier, and developed a deeper love of my body as a result. Fitness was a major reason behind going sober for good as, when I reintroduced alcohol into my life, even in smaller quantities, it was harder to exercise as I felt way too rough. Going sober means I can have a solid exercise routine that I am always up for, not hampered by sleep, digestive problems and the general sluggishness that accompanies drinking.

10-I never want to drink again!

When I first attempted sobriety in 2020, this was due to both a desire to go sober and circumstance - my family don't drink, so there was no alcohol in the house and no resulting opportunity to drink. When I next went sober, at the end of last year, it was after only casually drinking for the better part of three years, thinking I could keep a lid on my drinking habits. Of course, it is very easy for casual drinking to slip into binge drinking, as my nights out later did. After a night out where I felt so disgustingly hungover and declared that I didn't want to drink again, I stopped for good. I - and I am sure many of you - have declared this so many times during a bad hangover, but always drank again. Not me, this time.

That hangover was one too many and, having attempted one spell of sobriety, read, and learned a lot on the topic, and attended several SGS events, I was convinced.

If you can relate to any of this as someone sober-curious, I strongly encourage you to explore at least a short spell of sobriety. You'll learn a lot, you'll feel a lot and, most importantly, you'll prioritise yourself and your own wellbeing. It's hard to make the decision to stop drinking for good, and it took me a few spells of sobriety to finally give up drinking altogether. 

Don't be ashamed to slip-up along the way - any progress is good progress, and just do what feels good for you.

Written by Sarina Kiayani

Sarina works in housing-with-care policy and writes for various publications on politics and popular culture in her spare time. She also runs sarinadoespolitics, a TikTok channel to explain political events simply. Sarina is an outspoken advocate of and low and no alcohol drinks, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @sarinakiayani.

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