Getting used to being a non-drinker

comedy mic

I went out with a bunch of girlfriends recently. A big group of us hitting the town for dinner and a comedy show. Pretty unusual for me to be out and about in town - let alone on a Wednesday night! - but yes it definitely happened. 

Walking through town I was gobsmacked at all the people getting amongst it in the bars & restaurants along the main strip. I was astounded at how many places were packed full of people boozing and smoking. It was a familiar scene, one that bought back strong memories. I have spent hours and hours sitting in bars drinking. The dim lights. The dusky smells. The inebriation. The camaraderie. I’m a social being but to be fair it was probably mostly about the inebriation. Boy did I love getting boozed.

Until I didn’t.

I wasn’t sad or nostalgic last night watching all the people supping their beers and wines. I didn’t feel left out. I didn’t even feel superior for being out of that stupid alcohol trap. I just felt neutral, like it was something I used to do but don’t any more. 

At our restaurant most of my girlfriends had wine with dinner - one had a cocktail I think. Me and one other ordered sparkling water. There’s always a little moment when I feel slightly self-conscious as discussions are being had around the table about what to drink (“shall we split a bottle of sauvignon?” “I think I’ll have a glass of red”) but I know now that the awkwardness is just in my head and no-one else gives a toss if I’m drinking or not. And it will pass quickly. I just have to hang tough through that brief moment and the rest of the evening usually plays out smoothly.

The comedy show was good but boy there were a lot of jokes about hangovers and drinking. Everyone laughed (“ah yes the three-day hangover!”) and I did too. But I was hyper aware of alcohol being a regular topic amongst the jokes. 

Overall the evening was fun but it really highlighted for me how counter-cultural it is to live sober. Alcohol is deeply intrenched into our worlds. It’s everywhere all the bloody time as evidenced by my simple night out in town (full bars en route to the restaurant, friends all drinking during the meal, comedy show with numerous mentions of booze). To move around this world as a sober person and never touch any alcohol ever is revolutionary.

Frankly I think this makes us sober people all the more brave and amazing. Not only do we have to do a huge amount of inner work when we take alcohol away - getting used to living with raw emotions and un-inebriated brains 24/7 - we also have the mammoth task of re-framing ourselves as sober people in a booze soaked world. 

In my early days as a non-drinker I felt so uncomfortable and odd moving around without my boozy skin. My whole identity had shifted, I felt awkward, conspicuous, foreign - like I’d grown a third eye or something ridiculous. I was a stranger to myself. Who was I without my beloved wines? Was I still chatty and fun? Was I interesting or deathly dull? I didn’t feel chatty, fun or interesting. Mostly I just felt incredibly raw and vulnerable. 

But I hung in there and slowly over time my new non-drinking persona became more comfortable. I got used to being the sober elephant in the room at family gatherings and parties (and started discovering not everyone was getting plastered every time they went out), I got used to the brief awkward moment at the beginning of meals when discussions were being had about what to drink, I got used to being a non-drinker. 

I got comfortable being the real me - authentic me - with no alcohol in the way. 

And so now on the odd occasions when I do go out into town and walk amongst the boozers or sit with my friends as they drink wine I’m no longer that three-eyed monster feeling raw and vulnerable. I’m just me - chatty and fun - with no desire to muck up my newly discovered authenticity. 

And I’m very happy with that.

9 Comments
  1. ClareB 7 months ago

    Loved this I can very much relate! I love to go out with friends for drinks and dinner, do it a lot more these day as the kids are that much older.
    My ritual while getting ready though, is to have a glass or 2 of wine while choosing my outfit and doing my hair and make up. It’s a bad habit, and this weekend will be a test if I can do without it.
    It’s my day 2 and Saturday night will be day 4. I have to make the decision to offer to drive and cancel the uber that is booked. I feel optimistic!

  2. justjo 12 months ago

    I love this post. So relatable!

  3. samanthabushika 12 months ago

    Awesome post! Thank you so much for all of your amazing writing!😁

  4. seanboy2 12 months ago

    I agree it’s ingrained in our culture to the extent the drug has become normalised. Being a drinker never made me windswept and interesting even though I thought it did at the time. AF definitely does as the real me is there plus I can see the inquisitiveness in the drinkers when I order water or better still a tea.

    P.S. Lotta cutting down on carbs is just as bad , everywhere you look there is a cafe or cake shop🙁

  5. Leone 12 months ago

    Thanks – your experience gives me encouragement. I’m just new to this journey and still feeling my way…

  6. Camille 12 months ago

    Yay! To the sober revolutionaries!

  7. Starlight 12 months ago

    Great post Lotta! That minute or two when others are ordering their drinks is always the hardest part for me. Like you say, it passes quickly and no one gives a rip what is in my glass. Glad you had a nice different kind of night out with friends. It is amazing how ubiquitous it is in our culture as well here in the US. Just sickening really. I’m so grateful to have opened my eyes and seen the light.

  8. ShellyOdie 12 months ago

    Great post. I had a similar experience last night. Back in the bad old days, I’d have had a bottle of wine with the hubby (and wanted more) and then a big, ugly fight on the way home, and a terrible headache this morning. Instead, I bounced out of bed and attacked the day! (Bar not set up to properly serve AF people, grrr! Will be sure to have my own sparkling water in the future)

  9. Sobersides 12 months ago

    Great post. Recently went on a 14 day cruise and had no difficulty being AF but the only people who had trouble with it were the stewards who had little idea of any alternatives. Stuck to coke and lemonade. It was easier to drink those than to try and explain what AF meant.

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