wellness

"Alcohol-free beer tastes like beer." 5 things I've learned from being 6 months sober.

Listen to this article being read by Melody Teh, here. 


Recently, I hit the six-month milestone of sobriety.

If I'm honest, I'm not big on tracking the days I've spent sober, because my true goal is for sobriety to just be a part of me, and not something I have to continually keep tabs on.

Watch: Your body, one year without alcohol. Story continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

That being said, six months is a pretty big accomplishment, and so I've taken the opportunity to reflect on what I've learnt over the past months of living alcohol-free.

Here are the things that have stuck out the most:

1. Non-alcoholic beer tastes like beer (non-alcoholic wine does not).

The rise of non-alcoholic alternatives is a heartening step towards normalising not drinking. However, there are some things that no one warns you about when you first start trying them.  

For example, non-alcoholic beers taste extremely close to alcoholic beer. When I ordered one in the first weeks of my sobriety, it was really jarring. It made me panic I was drinking again - I couldn't even finish the drink. Logically, I knew there was no alcohol. But my anxious brain said otherwise. 

I've reached the point now where I can enjoy non-alcoholic beers, but I still wanted to give the heads up. A lot of "quit lit" (sobriety-based literature) and sober influencers say that non-alcoholic beverages helped fill the void in the first few months. Not a lot of them touch on the fact that sometimes they can be anxiety inducing. It's just something to be mindful of.

Another heads up: most non-alcoholic wine tastes like sweet grape juice. I've found one non-alcoholic wine in six months that actually tasted like dry wine and it was at a tiny farmer's market in my local suburb. Seriously, if anyone has any good recommendations, hook a girl up.

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2. Weekends are longer than I thought.

Back in my drinking days, if it was a particularly big Friday or Saturday, the next day comprised sleeping until midday, waking to change location to the couch, then sleeping some more. At some point a pizza or a burger might be involved, but beyond that? Nada. Unsurprisingly, by the time Monday rolled around, it felt like the weekend had flown by and I hadn't done a lot.

In the first six months of sobriety, I have realised that weekends are a lot longer than I thought. I've learnt I can be up at 6.30am with no alarm and I can reach midday having run 12km, showered, had breakfast, written an article, caught up on social media, and gone grocery shopping. I've learnt that I can reach 2pm on a Saturday and realise I've done all my necessary life admin for the weekend and still have so much time stretching ahead of me. 

Of course, some weekends still fly by – feeling like you have more time on the weekend can make you overcompensate and organise all the activities and catch-ups. I'm still learning to balance how I spend the time, but it's something I know I will be able to get a handle on as my sobriety continues.

3. Sometimes you might need a new coping method.

Heartbreakingly, about five months into my sobriety, my beloved cat passed away. My reaction to this in my drinking days would have been to cry into a bottle of wine. Obviously, this wasn't an option anymore.

So, I went shopping.

Retail therapy provided the little serotonin boost I needed to not completely fall apart. Was it a long-term solution? No. Was it the healthiest thing to do? Probably not. But did it get me through the grief? Yeah, it did.

If you follow a lot of sobriety influencers, they'll also talk about the sugar cravings in the beginning. I didn't have these luckily, but if I did, I know that I would have allowed myself to indulge, to a point, in this craving. 

Here's the thing. If alcohol was a big part of your life, the removal of it can leave you reeling for a bit. Sometimes you turn to other things – sugar, shopping – just for something to hold on to. 

As long as you know that these can't be forever fixes, that they too will eventually need to be moderated, I don't think there’s anything wrong in using whatever you need to do to get through those first months of sobriety. Be kind to yourself. 

4. Sobriety won't magically cure all your problems.

If you read a lot of the "quit lit" about sobriety, you'll know that people's lives drastically improve once they removed alcohol. 

And look, yeah, so did mine. I've stopped having frequent panic attacks. My confidence and sense of self-identity has never been stronger. I've never been fitter. I'm smashing life goals.

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But none of these things just magically happened when I got sober.

What actually happened when I got sober, was that I finally had the time and mental space to invest in myself. I put in the work to start achieving things.

Removing alcohol usually removes an obstacle of sorts that might lie in your life path, but the world doesn't turn into sunshine and rainbows after it’s gone.

There is no miracle after sobriety. There's just you, finally without mind and emotion altering substances. But you're pretty damn great, so don't be too worried. You'll realise eventually that you've got what you need improve your life. Just be willing to do the hard work.

Listen: On this episode of The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast, we explore what life is like for a recovering alcoholic. Story continues below.


5. Don't make sobriety your entire personality.

When you first get sober, if you're anything like me, it's likely you'll consume every book, podcast and film related to sobriety. You'll follow a bunch of sober influencers. You'll Google Sober Groups on Facebook and join up. This is fine; at this stage, sobriety is new, big and scary and it’s natural to want to equip yourself with as much information and support as you can.

But after a month or two of this, you reach a point of feeling as if you're reading the same version of the story over and over, and you might realise you've consumed everything about sobriety that you can.

And this – this is where the really cool part comes in. This is where you can start to make sobriety a part of you, but not all of you. You can start to shift the focus away from sobriety and towards yourself.

Sobriety is cool, but it shouldn't be everything. If sobriety becomes your entire personality, well... it's just like you've replaced one numbing technique (alcohol) with another. You still aren't focusing on yourself entirely. You've still got your sights set on something external to validate you.

We are brave and amazing for staying sober. But sober is not all that we are. Make sure you remember that as you continue on your sobriety journey.

For more from Shaeden Berry, you can find her on Instagram @berrywellthanks.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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