One year sober seemed like a milestone I never would have dreamed of hitting, let alone wanting to hit and marking as a cause for celebration. Katie of the pre-pandemic world could genuinely not imagine seven days, and that’s generous, without a drink. Now, with one consecutive year off the sauce, a spattering of Dry Januarys and ‘I’m just having three months off’ under my belt, I can lay no claims to being an expert, however I have learnt a lot during this time without booze.
Originally, most of my friends didn’t believe I would stick to it. There’s probably nothing groundbreaking for me to add to this part of my sober story, as my experience rings true to what so many other sober writers, such as Millie Gooch and Catherine Gray, have shared about their fledgling attempts at sobriety.
A brief picture for those of you less acquainted with so called ‘quit lit’: despite being the friend who was always up for another glass of wine, then cancelling plans the next day because I could barely lift my head off the pillow, countless apology texts to friends fretting about my bad behaviour and generally claiming I would rather die than ride out the hangover – then doing it all again next Friday. I understandably wasn’t taken seriously when I said I wanted to do Dry January (imagine if I’d told everyone I’d actually end up doing a whole year…).
Katie doesn’t drink
However, after I was still going strong for a few solid months, I noticed that the ‘what are you drinking tonight?’s changed to ‘are you drinking tonight?’s to eventually ‘Katie’s not drinking’s and sometimes even ‘Katie doesn’t drink’ (which I have to admit still catches me off guard). It came as a relief, and definitely a surprise, that my friends and family have been as supportive as they have, meaning I now never have to explain myself or come armed with witty quips to avert any raised eyebrows when I just want to enjoy my Sunday roast.
There have of course been a few adjustments that have happened within friendships. A close friend candidly told me she really wishes that I would still share a bottle of wine with her and my boyfriend also expressed similar sentiment; a moment on holiday when he couldn’t help but think ‘I wish we could just get smashed together tonight’. Sometimes people miss drunk Katie (whilst some definitely do not – sorry Mum!). I guess she was their drinking partner in crime and I occasionally mourn that part of her too.
At the beginning of my journey, expressions of disappointment from loved ones at the absence of a glass of wine in my hand would’ve almost definitely helped me to find a loophole in order to have a drink, as what those near and dear to me think always has a greater impact than a random bloke in the pub.
Now I’m past the stage of remotely considering bailing to peer pressure (your mate’s cousin’s brother is going to need to be more charming than calling me boring to get me to even come near a sticky glass of white wine in a ‘Spoons), something I noticed in the build up to my one year sober anniversary was that the only one putting judgement on myself for not drinking was in fact, me.
When friends jumped in to save me from any unwanted questioning, explaining ‘Katie doesn’t drink anymore’, I found myself responding with things like ‘Watch this space’ or ‘TBC’, wink wink nudge nudge. Why was I doing this?
One year of not drinking
I still don’t know for sure whether I’ll be boozeless all my life, but marking one year of not drinking really made me reflect on not only what I have gained but also what I have left behind.
Where other people have adjusted to spending time with me without a bottle of wine sat between us, I myself hadn’t actually contemplated what this meant long term, both for relationships and myself. The thought of forever seems daunting – not necessarily the prospect that I will never consume an alcoholic beverage again, but that being sober, I now want different things to the version of myself when I was drinking – and that this is going to influence my life.
The nagging feeling in my stomach on Friday nights that I ‘should’ be going to a club, or when it gets to midnight at a party and I’m ready to go home, that it’s a bit boring to leave so early. That I’d rather stay in bed on a Saturday morning and devour my book than go to a bottomless brunch. Especially coming to the conclusion that now I don’t drink, I can’t bear to spend every waking moment of my free time filled with socialising. And finally understanding it’s okay to say no to plans when you just don’t want to go, even if there is a little spot in your Google calendar that is free!
I feel like I may have lost the spontaneous, sieve-mouthed and somewhat endearingly hot mess part of myself but this has made way for someone who is on the way to being a lot more sure of herself and not only able to, but willing to set boundaries.
Rediscovering parts of myself that have always been there
I’m also starting to recognise that maybe this newly sober person isn’t actually that ‘new’ at all. I’m rediscovering parts of myself that have always been there, but got lost in a wave of booze and boys. Now that the tide has changed, it’s revealed the more focused and studious person who existed as a teenager; who instead of drinking to run away from reality, used to hide herself in fiction – the latter seemingly a much healthier coping mechanism.
It’s notable to mention that my sober journey began at the start of 2019. Not only have I grown-up a bit – I was 24 when I would say I started to become ‘sober curious’ – but due to Covid, many of my fellow Londoner’s, including me, have slowed down our pace of life. Although studies indicate that drinking at home has increased during the pandemic, anecdotally many of my peers have less social plans nowadays, lots expressing relief they’re not running around like a headless chickens any more bouncing from work to the gym to dinner, to drinks, just using their homes as places to crash and order takeaways to.
I’ve got my time back
Working from home has also had a big influence on drinking patterns for me, as swifties at the end of a long day at the office are no more due to the pandemic (let’s be honest, most of which turned into anything but a swift drink, rolling home on the last train with a 99p McDonalds burger from the saver menu). Although some people definitely miss the social aspect of office life and a cheeky after work bev, for me, it’s the opposite. I feel like I’ve got my time back, allowing me to do the things I actually enjoy rather than spending time jostling for a pint in a crammed city boozer, only to then drag myself through the next day with a very specific type of cheap wine hangover.
As to how things will pan out in the future, all I know is that I hope my willpower continues, as waking up without a hangover for an entire 12 months beats any booze buzz that I’ve experienced so far. I’m happy to lose the bottle of wine (or three…) as I think my curiosity about what I can achieve without a drink in my hand is greater than my need to convince myself I should be drinking to make the most of my twenties or succumbing to FOMO. One thing’s for sure, I never get FOMO of my friends’ morning afters…
Written by Katie Randall
Katie Randall is 26, lives in London and works in the charity sector. She’s been sober since New Year’s Day 2021 and now fills the time she would have spent being hungover with various activities including writing, trapeze and exploring an evergrowing list of restaurants around the city. When she’s not hanging upside down or eating you can find her on Twitter @katiearandall95