I’m a teacher, but here’s what sobriety taught me

I’m a teacher, but here’s what sobriety taught me

The school bell goes and as the pupils dissipate from my classroom, leaving behind the smell of Eau de Teenager, I sit down and sigh. Another day done and thankfully, it’s Friday. For many teachers around the country, there will only be one thought – ‘I need a drink’. But here is where we differ…

My job is challenging for a whole myriad of reasons - excessive workload, aggravated parents and departmental reports… to name a few! It seems the idea that teachers work hard and party hard is very common and although that used to be me, since making the choice to go sober, I’ve been able to manage these problems much more effectively.

My first work Christmas party (pre-sobriety) I made a deal with myself - as long as I wasn’t the drunkest there, nobody would remember what I said or did. The party was hosted at a bar by my placement school and I soon realised that the rumours about teachers relishing in letting their hair down were true. I’ll never forget the sight of a teacher standing on a table, singing along to Come On Eileen. I kept a steady hold on the amount I had to drink that night because I knew that if I let it slip, I’d be doing far worse than dancing on a table.

I had always been a binge-drinker (usually drinking my recommended weekly units in one night a week). But when it came to work, I liked to keep my drinking habits separate – and for good reason! When drinking, my behaviour could get out of hand, often totally out of character to the point where it would have made the singing teachers actions look tame.

The day after the Christmas party, I woke up to flashbacks of the head of department, a near enough stranger, patting my back as I cried over a boy. Despite the obvious cringe factor, I figured that since this was the worst thing I had done (as far as I could remember), the night had otherwise been a success.

Not long after, things in my life started to change. In August 2021 I made my first proper attempt at sobriety, which lasted for over a month. My reasons for doing it were there, but I wasn’t fully committed yet. In January 2022, I made my second, more serious, attempt at quitting the booze and this time, it finally stuck.

For the most part, my colleagues were supportive when I told them I was quitting drinking. There was the odd few who did question me about my choice to go sober, but it seemed to be out of genuine interest or a lack of understanding. I was often asked how I would cope at events like parties or weddings. At first, I didn’t know but now, over a year into my sobriety, I can safely answer ‘very well thank you!’. There is truly no better feeling than waking up fresh after a work party, knowing that I definitely didn’t cry over a boy.

Since quitting drinking, I have started Sober Gals Wales, a community group for sober or sober-curious women in Wales. I’ve even had colleagues share posts on Instagram and ask me how the latest meet-ups went. One of my colleagues has been so inspired by my journey, she has begun to cut down her own alcohol intake and it’s been incredible to chat to her on a Monday morning and hear about her joyful sober weekends!

Of course, not everyone wants to live a sober life and sometimes it can feel lonely when staffroom talk turns to red wine chat but as I sit at my desk, pondering over reports, I know that I no longer have the time or energy for drinking. Alcohol did not serve me and I know I wouldn’t be able to do my job to the best of my ability if I still drank in the same way. So to my fellow teachers, I hope you can forgive me for not joining in the usual ‘I need a drink’ conversation - I promise you I’m not judging, but I’ve learned the lesson that I’m better off without.
Written by Emily Power

Emily is the founder of Sober Gals Wales – you can follow the community here.

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1 comment

As a teacher myself I fully understand the demands and can’t agree more that there really is not time for drinking, hangovers became all consuming and took up my whole weekend and I never felt ready for the week ahead by Monday. Fridays are now spent with a soda lime down the pub with my colleagues so I get the wind down but can leave once they become rowdy. Waking up hangover free never gets old!!

Flame Goldsworthy

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