What a trip it has been, this 66 Day Sober Challenge. A roller coaster of emotions, with days of elation followed by days of despair. I started the challenge out of desperation, and ended it empowered.
By my late twenties I started to realise that my drinking was no longer under my control. Since I did most of my drinking alone, and was high-functioning at work, I could get away with it.
But my drinking began to terrify me. I knew I wasn’t in control because I kept breaking the rules I made for myself, often a mere 8 hours after I made them.
7am: I am NOT drinking today. 5pm: Drinking again.
I needed more accountability. I read about the Sober Spring Challenge and decided to commit. I was not (and still am not) comfortable with quitting ‘forever’, but needed something longer than a month.
Other than a Sober October in 2018 that I white-knuckled through, sober stretches of more than 4 days have been very rare in the past 7 years. I have been reading about alcohol misuse, sobriety, addiction, etc extensively in those years. Quit-lit, scientific articles, blogs, podcasts – volumes of it. But only by engaging with these concepts after a significant period alcohol-free have I been able to fully absorb all of the information. Through a sober, clear-headed understanding of the biology of alcohol addiction and the alcohol-centered nature of society, I have for the first time been able to forgive myself for my past actions.
My alcohol-free period has enabled me to plough through a long list of neglected ‘life admin’ – things that often did not require much time or effort, but simply being hangover-free and willing to start. Ticking items off the list has been incredibly rewarding and freeing, and created the momentum to tackle larger issues in my life that required attention.
I have also rediscovered the pleasures of reading for hours, drinking soft drinks or hot chocolate, watching a movie (and remembering it!), buying nice things for myself instead of for my wine rack, sleeping well….
I fell in love again with my adoptive town of Robertson. I spent hours walking through the streets of this beautiful town, appreciating the beauty. I took in a cooking class, went hiking, browsed through pretty things at the Market, even visited gorgeous wine estates!
Since I didn’t lose days to hangovers, I was always up for whatever social event came up, and, ironically, I ended up being more social during the challenge than I normally would’ve been when I was drinking!
I also realised that while I tended to blame certain types of events for me drinking at them (as if I had no control over what I put in my mouth, which is ridiculous), often I was the instigator of alcohol being consumed at them at all: always first to order a drink, always topping up everyone’s glasses or ordering another round. In the last year, when my drinking escalated dramatically, I have become afraid of social events where I knew I was going to be drinking; I couldn’t trust myself to behave responsibly and it terrified me.
There was a time close to the 50-day mark of the challenge when I was frighteningly close to giving up. For almost a full week, I struggled with intense cravings, lack of motivation, and questioning my motives. I was thinking about drinking multiple times a day, and I constantly felt mere moments away from relapsing. But I committed to 66 days – whatever happens – so I pushed through with the help of the wonderful Tribe Sober community, and the Universe rewarded me royally. The rough patch was followed by days of pure joy, pride, and freedom.
The Sober Challenged stretched from 1 September to 5 November. Often during the 66 days I would worry about what I was going to do on 6 November, especially since it fell on a Friday. Would I drink? If so, how much? Will I be able to handle it? Will I do it alone or with someone?
Two weeks before the end of the challenge the answer came in the form of an endurance walking event for charity. Date: 7 November. I wanted to take part, and I knew I had to be sober for it. I entered immediately and prepared myself for the event. I had a blast. Not only did I win the event, but I raised a handsome amount for worthy causes, and had the opportunity to commit myself more closely to a charity that has always been close to my heart. I would never have been able to do this if I still drank.
I have never been comfortable with the commitment to NEVER drink again. In fact, nothing triggers wine cravings as much as the thought that I’d never drink again. And I have started drinking (and, painfully, bingeing on) alcohol again since ending the challenge. But it IS different. After 66 days of experiencing the joys of sobriety, I can no longer drink without the awareness of what it will cost me. I am forever grateful to Tribe Sober for helping me get to this place where, at 33, I finally feel in charge of my own destiny. As is clear from this email, I still have lots of work to do, but I have hope. And this story WILL be continued.
Thank you Janet and Tribe Sober.