By Tamara Roberts
I stopped drinking in 2011, about 5 years ago after going through one the most life-changing and intense periods of my life. Although I didn’t really have a very unhealthy dynamic with alcohol, I just knew that it didn’t serve me so decided that for someone like me it would be wise to explore the life of sobriety.
When I think about the hardest part of not drinking I sometimes get the feeling of disconnect. ‘Isolated’ is a word that has often come to mind during my sober journey. Sometimes at parties I have experienced the sense of not being able to connect with my friends on the same level, as we are literally rolling on different energy waves, and this has been challenging. Additionally, sometimes those drinking around me feel uncomfortable, self-conscious of themselves and concerned that that I might be judging them. This has been hard for me because I feel this is their insecurity projected onto me. I am not judging them at all. I feel I am a people person and love connecting with others (whether they are drinking or not) and so I find this hard at times.
I choose not to drink not because I think its ‘bad’. I do it because I personally prefer not to. It does not mean I am judging those who choose to. Another difficult element of not drinking has been having a really busy/ stressful week at work and then really wanting to have a drink on a Friday to forget about it all and de-stress. But the mind is powerful and after a while you learn to de-stress your mind in other ways – being out, music, dancing and chatting to people or experiencing new exciting things.
Considering the best part about not drinking – no hangovers, few regrets, remembering the night and a happy liver come to mind! I have discovered a part of me that is able to engage with parties and festivals in an entirely new way, with no experiences being ‘pseudo’ or an altered in any way. It’s almost been like mastering an art, discovering how I like to party and owning it. It’s so incredible being able to party without your mood easily being shifted in a negative way, because there is no substance tampering with it. I feel like I have learnt to own my body and to be able to celebrate life and being young in a way that is conscious and deliberate. I have also connected with many people through the fact that I don’t drink. I have had really wonderful and encouraging responses from people who are curious and want to engage further about it, especially when they see me partying just as hard as everyone else!
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt about myself during the process is that I actually prefer partying without alcohol. I have learnt that I am capable of connecting with myself and others through music and dancing and in very crazy environments on quite a deep level. I have learnt that I can shift and move quite fluidly within the environment I am in and become quite flexible – sometimes even finding myself moving into almost “euphoric” states feeding off the energy that others are creating around me.
I feel it’s important to listen to myself and gauge my energy levels throughout the night. Sometimes I lose energy and find I have to perhaps move dance floors or find other people to dance with for a bit. I try to not put pressure on myself to keep up with everyone else but rather to allow my body to dictate when it’s had enough. When you aren’t drinking it is different, sometimes you can’t keep up or stay awake as late, although I am often able to stay awake later than everyone (thanks to no late night alcohol ‘dips’). The energy around me keeps me going and I want to continue jamming. I do find, however, that going out clubbing in smoky, sweaty spaces and getting beer spilled all over myself while being pushed around in crowds to be more challenging. The way I deal with this is by adopting an attitude of flexibility and fluidity. Of ‘going with the flow. It’s helpful to remember that these places are just like this, and there is no point in trying to fight it, but rather just letting your guard down and trying to enjoy yourself. For the most part, however, I choose to go to places that I really like. Places that play music I love or going to festivals where I can be under the sun and stars and enjoy moving with loads of space!
Recently I have started incorporating small bits of alcohol back and, to be honest, I am not sure how long it will last. I have found it easier to actually not drink at all. People don’t persist that you drink when they know you are sober. When you have one or two drinks, however, then often others don’t understand why you won’t just have one more with them. The first time I had a full glass of wine after years of not drinking, was quite an experience. I actually really enjoyed that little ‘buzz’ I hadn’t felt in so long. But I realized then that all too often we don’t keep it at that – a nice buzz. Instead we tend to overdo it in trying to keep or ‘match’ that buzz, and often end up really drunk. I also feel that being sober has also become part of my identity and being a sober ‘festival-goer’ has become a joy for me. I do feel that I may go back to my passion fruit and water, ginger ale and Tea drinking days soon!
It’s such an individual journey, especially since we all have different reasons for drinking less or not at all, but I would encourage people to own their journey and see it as an adventure to discovering new ways of being within the same spaces and places as others. It may mean just decreasing your alcohol intake a bit and finding that happy buzz where you feel carefree but not out of control. Then keep that buzz. Drink some water and wait a bit before having another drink in the evening, then have another when the buzz wares off. Most importantly listen to yourself and make sure you go to places that play music you like so you can have a good time in atmospheres that you actually enjoy! Don’t force yourself into a mould – if you don’t like clubbing, don’t go to clubs. It’s a simple as that. Find non- alcoholic drinks you like and if you are anything like me make sure you have snacks with you! If you are partying until the early hours of the morning without alcohol you can get pretty hungry.
Also remember each to their own. So when you feel you might begrudge others for drinking just remember it is a choice you have made.
I remind myself it’s not that I can’t drink, I can. I just choose not to. I see it as making choices that are good for me and my body. Most importantly in doing so I acknowledge that I am good enough, right now, just as I am.
All-in-all I can definitely recommend trying to drink less if it’s what you want, or cutting out alcohol completely for periods of time and exploring the new life that emerges from this. I call it my ‘Lotus Life’ – a life that grows out of something murky and dark at times, but eventually develops a stem that grow upwards, reaching for the light. The stem then transforms into this beautiful flower (opportunity for new life) that rests on the surface of the water, elegantly, comfortably and presenting a whole new perspective.
[Cover photo: Equinox Festival. Photo credit: Michelle Smit]