Here’s to a happy and sober 2014

Just checking in to wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope Christmas was good? I know I wasn’t the only one facing my first sober Christmas and on the whole I’m pleased to report it went pretty well.

There were a few challenges, as I knew there would be. There was some not-drinking awkwardness on Christmas Day when a relative handed me a glass of champagne. As everyone else raised their glasses and took a long sip I thought “Is this some kind of test? Or have they all just forgotten?” It turned out it was the latter. I didn’t want to make a scene and dithered over what to do for ages. In the end I left my glass untouched but no one seemed to notice.

I had a couple of pangs. I guess this was inevitable, especially as Christmas has always been a time that I’ve associated with drinking a lot and being ‘merry’. On Boxing Day I woke up looking forward to another day of eating and drinking, before remembering that I wouldn’t be drinking. Doh. Later we were eating delicious smoked salmon and I could have murdered a glass of white wine to go with the food. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying theirs.

Fortunately those cravings came and went pretty quickly and waking up the next day without a hangover more than made up for them. I tried not to dwell on the wolfie thoughts whenever I did hear them. In fact that is my new way of dealing with Wolfie. I don’t think about what he has to say until the next day. So far I have never woken up following morning and thought ‘gosh I should have listened to that voice telling me I was missing out by not drinking. I really wish I’d had a drink last night….’

It was great to feel ‘present’ around my family, rather than obsessing over where and when the next drink was coming from. I think I ate less and I was definitely less grumpy. All in all, being sober at Christmas was, well, not a big deal really. And I mean that in a good way. For me, alcohol had been such a huge part of the festive period that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without it. When I tried repeatedly in 2012 to stop drinking one of my big stumbling points had been my birthday and Christmas. I just couldn’t imagine how I could ever have fun or be able to celebrate without alcohol.

I’ve been writing some New Year’s resolutions today and have been rereading last year’s list in the process. I’d totally forgotten about half of them (“be able to do 30 proper press ups by the time I turn 30” – what was I thinking?!) but there’s one I clearly remember writing: “stop drinking home alone”. With hindsight that sounds like a goal made by someone who knew she had a problem but was desperately trying to find a way to carry on drinking. Well, I think I’ve smashed that target. Sure, it took me until April to get round to it, but I had never imagined I’d stop drinking altogether. My alcohol related resolution for this year is to stay sober for the whole of 2014. Bring it on!

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43 thoughts on “Here’s to a happy and sober 2014

  1. Jane December 31, 2013 at 9:54 am Reply

    Fantastic result. Well done you! I only heard Wolfie a couple of times over Christmas and like you, I just completely ignored him. If you refuse to give him a second thought it’s amazing how quickly he goes away. Good luck for 2014. We can do this. This is the first year I’m actually serious about my new year’s resolution.

  2. glenn December 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm Reply

    Being around family who drink remains odd for me. Occasionally I ask myself if they don’y realize I am in the room before reminding myself it isn’t any of them that have had monumentally terrifying run-ins with alcohol. So it goes. Learning to live sober in all environments has been quite a trip.
    Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

  3. carrieonsober December 31, 2013 at 1:40 pm Reply

    Glad you had a good Christmas – sounds like you had fun despite abstaining. Here’s to a sober 2014 and all that it brings with it!
    We’ll have some celebrating to do come the Spring, fingers crossed!
    x x x x

    • soberjournalist January 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm Reply

      I hope so! Hope you had a good Christmas – and happy new year! X

  4. lucy2610 December 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm Reply

    Jane I agree in it being the first new years resolution I’ve actually been serious about! I’m getting on the sober train for the next year too and looking forward to hitting the year mark in September 🙂 Happy New Year to you xx

  5. HighOnHugs January 1, 2014 at 3:13 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Clairey Hugs and commented:
    Here’ to another year sober, clean, and serene in 2014! Wishing you all many grateful 365 days at a times in 2014. If you’re struggling, there are some excellent tools in Maggie’s post to utilize! Happy New Year! I’m high on HUGS!! Love, Clairey

  6. Anonymous January 1, 2014 at 9:42 am Reply

    This Christmas was by far the easiest of holidays in my 7 years of sobriety…I think there will always be an awkwardness for me when I’m around it, though… Happy for you, well done!

  7. Atticwindow January 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm Reply

    I just found your blog because I am, yet again, trying to commit to living sober – and dealing with a heart-pounding hangover from last night. I don’t know yet if I’ll completely abstain from alcohol for the rest of my life (I’m getting married in April and can’t imagine not having some champagne, for example) but I am planning on not having multiple drinks or getting drunk ever again. I think the reason I failed before is because I was part of an alcohol-heavy culture with old friends, but I’m hoping that with a new group and new hobbies, it won’t be hard to commit. Looking forward to reading your blog and I appreciate you writing it! Happy New Year!

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 10:07 am Reply

      How are you getting on? Personally I found moderation doesn’t work. It’s scary to think about never drinking again if you’re not ready to make that commitment… so what about focusing on 90 days? Or 100? It’ll put a bit of distance between you and alcohol and hopefully make all the difference. Good luck.

  8. DonnaE January 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Happy New Year to you too and congrats on a sober Christmas. I have to admit to enjoying the festive period much more than in previous obviously drunk years. I also felt less grumpy and more chilled out. There were a few bad days of cravings, but these passed with lots of help from going onto Soberistas and other sites. It really does help me so much to read other peoples experiences and I look forward to reading about what the New Year brings for you. All the best for 2014!

  9. bmc January 8, 2014 at 5:44 am Reply

    For a safe and sober evening out, I often order soda water with a twist of lime, or soda and cranberry, in a cocktail glass. Seems to stop questions about drinking before they are asked…… And I can stand around holding a glass like everyone else. …… taught me that the best crowd accepts I don’t drink without challenging me. …
    I love your blog, thank you for writing it.

  10. HH January 8, 2014 at 7:10 am Reply

    Just came across your blog — from the BBC News link.

    I worked at Sky News for years, drinking at night in the way you describe. Then I quit the job and the problem worsened. What a waste of life. Thanks for the encouragement — I’ll stay sober today and see where it goes.

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 9:55 am Reply

      “One day at a time” is an AA phrase/cliche but there is a lot of truth in it. I found it very scary and depressing to think about having to be sober forever…aiming for a couple of weeks/months is a good target. It’s do-able and will put a bit of space between you and alcohol. Hope things work out for you.

  11. Paul January 8, 2014 at 9:22 am Reply

    I also found your Blog today via the BBC Link. Just done my 2nd sober Christmas. On Christmas Eve my wife, a drinker, asked my 8 year old what he wanted to leave out with the mince pies for Santa. Without missing a beat he said milk instead of Whisky. Great moment. Woke up at 5am and jumped out of bed like I was 8 again ready to open presents feeling fresh and alive and ready for another great day sober. Sobriety really rocks.

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 9:50 am Reply

      Ah that’s great to hear. Congratulations on your second sober Christmas – I’m glad it went so well. Sobriety really DOES rock!

  12. Roger January 8, 2014 at 10:22 am Reply

    I’m Roger and I’m an alcoholic. Actually, maybe I’m not. The fact is, there is no “official” definition of an alcoholic, so we can’t be sure. And this, like you I suspect, stopped me from feeling at home in AA meetings for many years, which mean I had no support, which meant I carried on drinking. 150-200 units a week, since you ask – but almost completely lacking in any of the other traditional kinds of alcoholic behaviour.

    At some point, I read a bit in AA’s Big Book where Bill W, the founder, like so many people, could not bring himself to get involved with the “God” business – his friend suggested that he choose his own conception of God, which enabled him to feel at home with AA’s program.

    I realised that many of us need our own conception of alcoholism too, to be able to say “I’m Roger and I’m an alcoholic, and mean it, and therefore feel at home in the immensely supporting environment which AA can be.

    My alcoholism means only this:

    1. Sooner or later, with the best will in the world, I will have a drink – unless I am in AA.
    2. When I do drink, I will have very little control over how much I drink, for how long etc, and I will drink too much. I don’t lie, steal, get violent, hide drink, drink in the mornings etc.

    And that’s all there is to it. Hope it helps somebody out there 😉

  13. furtheron January 8, 2014 at 10:33 am Reply

    “only drink red wine and only when eating” – I wrote that resolution on a bit of paper and tucked in my wallet so I would be reminded. Two days later I’m in my usual watering hole (a lager louts paradise pub on a 1960s housing estate) saying to the landlord “Can I have a large red wine and a packet of crisps please”. See needed the crisps to stick to the resolution – he proceed to serve me a lump of some rancid liquid from a box that probably came over from Calais on Noah’s Arc! Awful but I was sticking to that deal… another 2 days later I gave up and was back on the beer…

    (Found you from the article on BBC News – good for you)

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm Reply

      Ah this made me laugh! My resolution to stop drinking home alone led me drinking in cinemas (cos that didn’t count, right?) and once on a park bench late at night. Dangerous and crazy behaviour…

  14. Anonymous January 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm Reply

    Anyone who wants to stop drinking should read Allen Carr’s Easyway to Give Up/Control Alcohol. I read it three years ago and haven’t wanted a drink since.

  15. tonijamesGenerallyFading January 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm Reply

    I found Christmas difficult only in the sense that I felt I could have accidently picked up some alcohol and drunk it. Now it’s been three years, I’m passed the “OMG, I’m not drinking!” stage and it’s starting to be normal. So I feel more relaxed around alcohol instead of being tense. However, I can only say how much more I enjoy Christmas. Before, it was an excuse to get as drunk as I could and have everyone accept it because well, it’s Christmas right? I now feel much more as though I can appreciate my family and friends. It’s so much more about being together, and being healthy.

    I read the article on BBC website about being an alcoholic and I am not the definition of an alcoholic but I was utterly unable to control my drinking once I’d started. It was horrifying to test myself once and to be so out of control, I drank another bottle of wine whilst not wanting to. I decided to get help. I was told, “Don’t just take one day at a time. Take half a day. Take an hour. Take five minutes. After five minutes, ask yourself, “Did I die from not having a drink”? If the answer is “No” then you can go another five minutes”. That’s how I got through. IT does get easier and I hope everyone finds the same amount of relief and enjoyment from not having a drink that I have.

    I was a bit concerned by work, who gave me a bottle of wine for Christmas. Perhaps a bit irresponsible?……

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 4:10 pm Reply

      I also get quite worried about accidentally picking up a drink. I also get quite paranoid in restaurants and rarely order mocktails just in case the bar tender forgets! I don’t know why I’m so worried about it – it’s never happened yet. Pleased to hear Christmas went so well, and as you say, it really does get easier.

  16. KT January 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm Reply

    I have just had my first sober Christmas and New Year (apart from when I was pregnant 5 years ago) since I was a teenager. I quit drinking (again) on 15th November and was so proud to have made a month I celebrated by blowing my brains out with rum. What a moron! Worst thing wasn’t the hangover though, it was the disappointment on my husband’s face. He loves me so much and I screwed up and hurt him even more than I hurt me, and believe me it hurt.

    Anyway, for me the first fortnight is a constant battle, and on Christmas Day boy was I cross that I couldn’t soothe the day with rum for breakfast. I didn’t though, I just got on with it and it was ok, I made it just fine. New Year was fabulous. A quiet evening in front of the fire with World’s Strongest Man on catchup, a simple tasty meal and my new favourite drinks, totally relaxed and genuinely not bothered that they were non-alcoholic. I’ve been saved by Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barratt.

    I’ve read a couple of books that I found helpful: the Allen Carr one that’s been mentioned and also Jason Vale, who was a bit more laid back but has the same message, however both say you shouldn’t look for substitutes because they’ll never be able to satisfy you if you’re addicted to alcohol. Personally I’m finding substitutes really helpful, and right now I really can’t tell the difference. I get thirsty and I like something cold and bitter, so traditional soft drinks don’t really cut it.

    Rochester Ginger from Holland & Barrett has a fiery kick like a spirit and is brilliant in front of the fire on a winter’s night, Sainsbury’s Czech Pilsner is the best beer I’ve found (although I don’t mind Erdinger as a real ale substitute or a cold can of Bavaria 0%); Sainsbury’s (or Eisberg) Rosé is perfectly acceptable cold in a wine glass and Sainsbury’s fizzy white wine is pretty much indistinguishable from cava. I’ve never found a red that’s drinkable, but I’m managing just fine. In pubs I either shove two bottles of Beck’s Blue (horrid but drinkable with food) in a pint glass or drink a pint of lime and soda.

    Like you, I’ve tried moderation and it doesn’t work for me; I only drink to escape. Alcohol is an addictive drug and the addiction manifests itself by making you think it’s the most brilliant thing in the whole world and totally your choice to enjoy it. Until one day you realise you don’t really want to drink because you know it isn’t good for your health and you have to get up in the morning, but you buy it anyway like an automaton because that’s what you do, and then you have to drink it because it’s there, and you still don’t want it, but until you’ve started it, you can’t think about anything else, and after you’ve started you don’t think at all. That isn’t free will, it’s slavery, and I want out.

    Incidentally, my brother gave me a bottle of wine for Christmas. I swapped it for chocolate with my husband. My four year old pinched most of the chocolate. The wine’s still in the cupboard I think. I don’t have to worry about it as it isn’t mine.

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm Reply

      Congratulations on your first sober Christmas and New Year. Thanks for all the suggestions too – I also read the Jason Vale book and really benefited from it.

  17. Anon January 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm Reply

    I’m so glad I discovered your blog! I quit drinking in July and it’s been kind of a lonely journey – my friends all drink, and I don’t have anyone I can talk to about the good and the bad of sobriety. I haven’t really wanted to go to AA – my brother is in that program and it just seems so hard core (the sponsor, the amends, the meetings), but I would definitely like a support group. So finding your blog and finding other people with experiences similar to mine has been really comforting.

    I always thought that there was something a little different about my drinking, but it’s only in the last couple years that I thought I had a problem. I definitely had a problem with control – once I started drinking nothing could make me stop, I always wanted “one more,” and the older I got the more unmanageable it got. I also own my own business, which is great but also really, really stressful, and drinking became the one way that I could de-stress and escape my problems. I finally stopped drinking because I realized that I worked seven days a week, and I didn’t have a day I could waste to being hungover. But once I stopped I realized that I was really dependent on alcohol to manage my stress and “escape myself.” I still crave alcohol, even after six months – I’ll work a really long day, or have a really stressful day, and think “God, I need a drink.” I thought those cravings would be less intense by this time, but there you go.

    I especially enjoyed all your posts about going out sober. I’ve totally been avoiding social situations where everyone has been drinking, because they just put me in a bad mood. The one time I went out to a big drinking event this year I was so, so grumpy – all these people around me were getting wasted and I was standing desperately wanting a drink so I could fit in. Hearing that you can go out and have a good time has been really encouraging – and it’s also been good to hear that other people get antsy when they go to events that revolve around alcohol. I also work all the time, so I really don’t have much time to socialize – I think my sobriety would be a lot harder if I had more time to go out.

    Anyway, I’m babbling. Thanks so much for writing this blog – and here’s to a sober 2014!

    • Roger January 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm Reply

      Please don’t worry about AA – all the meetings are different and, actually, we don’t really have any rules. You don’t HAVE to do Steps, make amends etc, or even have a sponsor. You can just sit at the back and listen – see if anybody says anything you identify with.

      If you find a meeting you like, and keep going, you will make sober friends who can support you and make you feel less abnormal!

      Good luck
      Roger

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm Reply

      Hello and thank you so much for your lovely comment. Congratulations on stopping and doing it on your own! I’m impressed. I started writing this blog because I knew it would keep me accountable – all previous attempts at doing it quietly, on my own failed. Sobriety can be lonely at times and as you’ll have read, I’ve had some great nights out and some rubbish ones too. Have you looked at soberistas.com? It’s quite a good online community. Happy 2014!

  18. Peter January 8, 2014 at 5:26 pm Reply

    I just discovered our blog and will continue to look at it…I wonder if g iving up alcohol for a year is too much of a challenge for some people…I don’t know, just asking…what about giving up alcohol for today…just for today…or as some AA friends I have say…”I am just not drinking today…ODAT…one day at a time…just a thought…

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 7:18 pm Reply

      I think people should try whatever works for them. Personally I have always had big targets: 100 days sober, then sober until my birthday, then Christmas, and now a whole year. It works for me but for others (particularly those in very early recovery) I can imagine that one day at a time is more manageable.

  19. limpingsober January 8, 2014 at 6:11 pm Reply

    Hey, there. Glad to hear you stayed sober through the holidays. I really appreciate your honesty, AND your post’s positive spin. Reading your blog inspired me to start mine.
    I hope you have a great day!

  20. Peter Little January 8, 2014 at 7:04 pm Reply

    Well done, Kate. 1. Don’t take the first drink.
    2. Don’t stare into space.
    3. Eat your sweets.
    4. Polish your shoes.
    5. Keep regular.
    All above take n from AA literature.

    Scots Peter

  21. Frank Li. MR Shankly (@V1vaHate) January 8, 2014 at 7:13 pm Reply

    I had the same battle in 2011 (April – Sept) managed 6 month without a drink. Finally after looking myself in the eye after a heavy night out in July 2012 I stopped. I do not miss drinking. Being ‘present’ is the reward. I think you need to fall off the wagon to get back on it. The only person who can make that changes in the ‘man in the mirror’. Sobriety is easy once you’ve set your mind on it as a life choice.

  22. Martyn West January 8, 2014 at 7:17 pm Reply

    Hi, I gave up the booze 4.5 years ago when I was 48, I find as time goes on the drinking pangs get more frequent but this makes my resolve even stronger. This Christmas was tough but it came and went without any drama. As the saying goes “one day at a time”. Also I drink a lot of mint tea and I found a hobby. November 2009 ( 4 months into my soberness) I took up long distance walking. I’m now 3000 miles into my walk around Britains coast and its an amazing feeling when I’m out there with only my thoughts for company I highly recommend it!

  23. Anonymous January 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm Reply

    Wow, just read your whole blog, backwards. What an amazing journey you are on! I have been doing the Dry January and really understood your comments on moderation which I struggle with. I am a single mum and drink alone and mostly out of boredom. I feel very challenged to review my relationship with alcohol and most certainly have been in denial. I am of the view ‘oh, I am not that bad’ etc etc.. Thank you for your inspiration.

    • soberjournalist January 8, 2014 at 9:08 pm Reply

      It’s so easy to drink out of boredom, I really relate to that. Good luck with dry January. I struggled with that last year (crashed out about a week in) but at least it made me realise I had a problem!

  24. anna_b January 9, 2014 at 12:14 am Reply

    Thank you so much for this blog. Just caught up with it today thanks to the beeb. In a society where being quiet about sobriety is almost mandatory I really appreciated reading your perspective. I stopped drinking about a month ago after Jason vale’s book was recommended to me through a fitness blog I follow. Thank flip, because I can’t imagine another way in which I would have picked up that book, even though it had been clear to me for a while that my relationship with alcohol was not healthy.

    Well done for everything you’ve achieved with the changes you’ve made. Happy 2014.

  25. veronicavalli2013 January 9, 2014 at 3:47 am Reply

    Hi, Thank you for your amazing blog and referencing my blog in a previous post you did on the normalization of abnormal drinking. Could you email me through my contact page. I’d really like to chat with you about a couple of things. Congratulations on staying sober and I just want to let you know it does get better and you will be able to handle all these situations. Best wishes Veronica
    http://veronicavalli.com/contact/

  26. alanb66 January 9, 2014 at 9:06 am Reply

    interesting blog, alcoholism is about habituating i.e. drinking regularly. when working in clinical rersearch we used to monitor the effects of alcohol withdrawal on patients when admitted to hospital. Even a 2 pints a night man suffered withdrawal symptoms , mood temperament and behaviour all changed. If you cannot go a week without some alcohol consumption then your health will have long term risk.

  27. Rare Herb January 9, 2014 at 9:58 am Reply

    Aloha Soberjournalist. Great job through the New Year! Keep it going.

  28. Tony Shelley January 9, 2014 at 10:03 am Reply

    Great blog, my name is Tony and I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober for nearly twenty-five years. Considering what my life was like prior to re-hab and regular AA meetings, I have never missed having a drink. Over the years at different parties, weddings, functions etc. people have often asked why I’m ‘not drinking’. To that I have always replied ‘I’m an alcoholic’. The truth (for me anyway), has always been much easier than a concocted story.

  29. margaretmccole January 9, 2014 at 10:02 pm Reply

    Great stuff on here. More than a few comments strike a chord. I am nine months into my sobriety and loving every minute of it. My life has changed so much since I stopped drinking or perhaps I should say I have changed my life so much, I give so much more to it and by matter of course I get so much back.
    It’s not an easy journey not by any stretch of the imagination and of course the “Bogeyman” as I call him does still come a calling usually when I least expect it. I’m getting wise to him though and every day I get stronger.

    Funnily enough social situations are not too bad for me. I certainly don’t go out as much as I used to but I don’t mind that. I’m not a particularly social person so therefore I would drink to hide my shyness and feelings of social awkwardness.
    Personally, the drinks I miss most are the ones at home. Oh how I would even love the “waiting” for my evening drink. A switch would go in my brain between 3-4pm and I would start to think of that first lovely glass of wine…never stopped at the first though..
    I can’t deny that I loved it though. I loved to drink but somehow somewhere along the line another switch went and I realised that the more I loved to drink the less I liked me.

    I am a better person sober and that is worth fighting any bogeyman for. To look myself in the eye and say I did my best today and I did it sober is priceless. To have something to give and not to be hiding behind a large glass of shiraz is wonderful. To realise suddenly that not everyone actually drinks is eyeopening.

    AA proved an invaluable experience for me and I feel many people would benefit from that experience alcoholic or not.
    This blog that I have only recently found is empowering and comforting.

    • soberjournalist January 10, 2014 at 11:01 am Reply

      “The more I loved to drink the less I liked me” – yes I absolutely know what you mean by that. Great to hear that you’re doing so well and keeping the bogeyman at bay. We must have stopped around the same time? My date is April 6th.

      • margaretmccole January 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm

        My date is April 15. I won’t forget it ever. I didn’t even intend to start on this path on that day, it just happened. I had been texting a pal to say sorry for being so pissed the night before…please note I was happily making my way through a bottle of wine whilst texting apologies! Oh how I laugh now. Any way I made some quip about wishing I could be more like him, be sober (he was on this path already) and he said I could be if I wanted to be, there was help available and he would help too. I totally surprised myself by grabbing onto that chance that was being offered and thankfully haven’t let go.

        Alcoholic or not?, so difficult to box up really. I went to work. I managed my life and so on. I wasn’t reaching for wine in the morning and any other manifestations of alcoholism you can rhyme off. What I was, was drinking too much for me and that in my mind made me an alcoholic. And it was me that I was accountable to. It was me I wanted to fix.

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