What happens when an illness stops you drinking? How catching covid led me to sober curiosity

What happens when an illness stops you drinking? How catching covid led me to sober curiosity

Since catching Covid in January 2022, I have barely drunk alcohol due to extreme tiredness and achiness the next day. Before catching Covid, I loved to drink most weekends and found it helped my confidence to have a drink before a party. I am lucky to have never struggled with any addictions so when I realised the newfound impacts of alcohol on my energy levels, I was gutted. 

Fast forward to now, over a year on, and I could not be happier with the way I spend my free time! I have suspected PoTS (Postural tachycardia syndrome – nervous system disorder) which I am awaiting tests for. It means I can get tired quicker than others and have to be careful not to raise my heart rate too much. On paper, I have been missing out. No drinking when at parties, when clubbing, at Christmas, on birthdays and in other social settings has been a real shock to adjust to. However, it has actually led me to question what I most enjoy and has actually helped me to have more fun!

Time has been stretched

Before catching Covid, I burnt the candle at both ends. Although I cringed at the saying, ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’, it was definitely my philosophy. Looking back now, I think that to work so hard and party so much was too much. Now that going sober has helped me to feel less burnt out, I have more mental capacity to do the things I enjoy. 

For me, going sober means time really has been stretched.

Closer friendships and confidence 

When you go sober, a lot of people talk about losing friendships. Although I was hopeful this wouldn’t happen to me, I have experienced a fizzling out of some of my friendships which relied most heavily on drinking games and drunken laughter. Does this mean I am sad about this impact of sobriety? Definitely not! 

Avoiding ‘a bevvy’ has actually made the friendships worth keeping prevail and become stronger than ever. Whereas before, we would drink in places where we could barely hear each other and forget most of our conversations the next day, we now get more space to really talk and catch up with one another. 

I also feared I may not be as confident entering social settings without a drink, especially when meeting new people. In reality, I have surprised myself and felt totally empowered! 

Trying new things together, chatting more 1:1 and sharing memorable experiences has brought more life to my connections with my friends. I have been pleasantly surprised by how supportive most of my friends have been and just how much there is to do in Plymouth now I don’t drink!

My tips for you

So how can you cope if you have any sort of illness or allergy that means you can’t drink often or at all anymore? Or how can you experiment with sobriety a little more often? If you’re sober curious like me, I have some tips for you!

1. Set your boundaries clearly with others and yourself: If you don’t want to drink, you don’t have to! 

2. Be patient with yourself: It will take a bit of time to get used to finding new sources of fun and excitement. 

3. Research local events in your area: There are so many events on the Visit Plymouth website which are often free or very cheap such as the ‘Ekki Hugsa 360° – Dome Experience’ I went to in the summer. This was fun, free and found on the ‘What’s On’ section of the website.

4. Look on the websites for your local museums as these often have free events you can go to and learn about something new (mine’s called the Box and they do all sorts including small music shows!)

5. Don’t be afraid to leave early: I don’t know about you but my social battery has always been a lot lower when I don’t drink. This is totally okay and you should stay for as little or as long as you like!

6. If you can afford it, why not head to the theatre? Seeing shows here can be a less drink-filled option than concerts and can feel like more of a special occasion than the cinema. I booked to see the panto this year with two of my best friends and took my nan to a show back in March. These have been two of the highlights of my year, yet I don’t think I would’ve booked either without my sobriety!

The future 

I can’t say for sure that I’ll never drink again, as this depends on my suspected PoTS and how my body feels. However, what I do know is that my relationship with alcohol is forever changed and I now think critically about why it is so normalised to get drunk so regularly when there are this many varied, exciting things to try and experience instead. I now think alcohol was a bit of a time and money vacuum in my life and that losing it has made room for much more enjoyment. I hope that anyone feeling sober-curious or questioning whether they want to drink as much alcohol feels some comfort or empowerment in how happy my journey has made me and how much I believe in you to find alternative forms of fun too! I hope it provides you with the confidence, strengthened friendships, time stretching and joy that it brings me and I look forward to reading everyone else’s tips and tricks!

It turns out, I am actually grateful to drink so little but enjoy so much. 

Written by Harriet Marks

Harriet Marks is a PhD student and teacher who loves cozy cafés, boardgames and dancing to music alone in the kitchen! She loves giraffes, is a stereotypical Virgo and has seen ‘New Girl’ an embarrassing number of times. 

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