empty blue indoor swimming pool at a spa

Why stopping drinking was the best thing I ever did

I spent the day yesterday at a health spa with some old friends and I enjoyed EVERY single moment of it.

Being sober, I'm no longer contending with hangovers, anxiety, panic and paranoia so I'm free to have fun and enjoy the moment. I had such a good time at this spa and I'm still smiling and tingling with the loveliness of it all. It's like I've discovered that there's a whole new way to live life and I'm revelling in it! It's really cemented the fact that stopping drinking was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Everything about the day was brilliant - I even enjoyed the two hour drive there, stuck in traffic inching along. I had the radio on, I got to relax, I got to feel the wind in my hair (I had the roof down) and I got excited about seeing my friends. I kept grinning in anticipation (you know those secret grins that you notice spreading across your face before you start worrying if anyone saw you manically grinning to yourself).

We all enjoyed a healthy breakfast together while we caught up with lots of laughs. I enjoyed the luxury and history of the surroundings - it's an old old building, very Victorian (I love a wood-panelled wall and an old library) and I enjoyed the sense of calm, serenity and peace that the spa had worked hard to create. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing my friends, re-living old memories and laughing with each other.

We all went off and did separate things: I got red and sweaty doing an “Urban HIIT” workout in the Gym where I was the only person making grunting noises and putting my all into it, one friend did a Pilates class and one friend sat in the sun in the beautiful gardens before we all met up for a delicious lunch overlooking the pool. There was something quite therapeutic about watching the gentle movement of the water and people swimming up and down the blue of it – it was mesmerising. The conversation shifted into plans for the future and we all become animated and inspired by one another.

After lunch we sat by the pool, chatted and swam, did an “old lady” aqua fit class with an extremely fit (ahem 😉) young instructor who was probably the only reason we were doing it, laughed at how stupid we felt and then chatted some more before we all went our separate ways and went home.

I even enjoyed the drive home... it was warm enough for the roof to stay down, the evening sun was slowly sinking into a pink and orange sky, the air still warm on my skin and the radio playing some great tunes and me singing along and laughing. 

I was looking forward to the rare event of getting home and having dinner prepared and ready for me. I ate cauliflower cheese and sausages with my partner while relaxing and getting opinionated on the Strictly Come Dancing contestants. Then a nice, early night and I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning.

Of course not every day is as good as this – this was a special day because I was meeting up with old friends and it was all a massive treat. The point I want to make is that I was only able to enjoy every single minute of it because I wasn’t hungover. I had had similar days out occasionally when I was drinking and they all played out very differently.

In my drinking days there would have been a long-lasting panic/anxiety attack on the drive to the spa – I would have brought it on myself by worrying about having one. I might have had similar conversations with my friends but the smiling and conversing would have been hiding the panic and self-consciousness underneath. I would have been feeling like a fraud. I would have been self-conscious about stale alcohol on my breath. I wouldn’t have been 100% engaging in the moment or 100% connecting with my friends because I would have been concentrating on appearing normal and appearing to enjoy myself. Inwardly, I would have been counting the hours till I could get home and “properly” relax and enjoy a drink. I would have been putting a lot of energy into surviving the day rather than revelling in it. I would have watched other people enviously and wished I could be like them and not have this "problem".

I would have wasted all that golden opportunity to connect and enjoy. I would have been going through the motions but not been really present.

The best part of the day would have been the afternoon when my hangover might have been improving and I’d be relaxing more because I knew I was over halfway through the day and would soon be heading home to safety, relief and alcohol. 

The difference between experiences like this when drinking and when sober is like the difference between watching a film on an old, small, grainy black and white TV with a poor aerial connection and watching the same film on a large, brand new, crystal clear TV screen in full HD. 

And, the one single thing that’s responsible for this improvement in my experience of life, events, relationships and days out like this is the fact I stopped drinking.

That one thing I changed in my life has been the catalyst for so many other things changing.

It didn’t happen overnight – it took a year or so after stopping drinking before I’d learnt how to deal with anxiety and panic and another few months before anxiety and panic were no longer a thing to deal with at all. And, for a few months after I got sober, I had the worst bout of anxiety attacks I’d ever had – they were debilitating and I honestly thought I was going “mad” and my life was going to be horrible for evermore. My unconscious mind was throwing its toys out the pram because it didn’t know how to cope with things without alcohol to resort to. But, I kept the faith that things would get better and they did. I kept my eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I can honestly say my life is infinitely better without alcohol than it was with. No contest.

Whatever your mind is telling you about how awful living life sober might be, or how you can’t do it or how you’ll never be able to have fun without it, you can ignore it. It’s just that part of you that’s scared because it doesn’t know yet that stopping drinking and living life alcohol-free IS possible and liberating and will quite likely be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. You need to convince that part of you by doing it and discovering it.

Keep faith with your future and you can make it happen 😊 

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