Milestones, meltdowns and much more – a year off alcohol

When I first sat down to write this, I had so many ideas. So many ideas in fact, that I sat for quite a while staring at a blank screen completely clueless on how to start and getting more nervous by the minute. 

And then I put my big-girl pants on, took a breath, and the obvious place to start became, well, obvious … I needed to start at the beginning.

I spent a long time thinking about sobriety before it became my reality. I would secretly read blogs, books, posts, everything and anything I could about other people’s stories. (I did this secretly, because I was too ashamed to admit I had a problem). I was amazed by their strength and in awe of the courage they had. I so admired the guts it took to be open, honest and RAW, saying ‘Hey, this is me, this is where I’m at, yeah, I got some issues but THIS  is what I’m doing about it.’ And I so wanted to be like them. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be brave and I wanted to have the courage to open up and share my story.

And the whisper in my heart became louder … and it said, ‘You can do this too’.

I don’t quite know when my drinking escalated from nothing to ‘something’. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to trace it back, but there was no clear indication I could see, nothing I could look at and go ‘There! That’s where it started to be a problem!!’ 

I knew it was possible for me to continue drinking, and just keep going through the motions. I knew I could keep going like that, and that could be my life. But I knew I wasn’t in control anymore.  I would swear to myself in the morning (feeling terrible from the night before, as usual) that I wouldn’t drink that night, and by evening, there I was, carrying a bottle of wine home from the shop. I never really said I wasn’t drinking, out loud anyway, so there was no one to be accountable to except myself. My friends drank too, so my drinking was never too big a problem for them. Okay, well … perhaps aside from the times I got a little too drunk and became over emotional, crying over something. Or saying something quite rude or arrogant in the special way only the drunk can.

I was f**king terrified, and please excuse the profanity, but it’s the only way I can adequately express how I felt … F-ing Terrified. Terrified of change and terrified to remain the same.

In my first sobriety attempt,  I set myself a 100-day challenge. I’d done a month alcohol free before, so 100 days was long enough for me to feel like I would experience some of the true benefits of sobriety, yet short enough that I could see an end date and feel that I might actually be capable of achieving it. Deep down I knew that I needed longer than 100 days, that the life I really wanted was well past the 100-day mark, but there was no way in hell I could even consider that. Not yet.

 My first sober journey lasted seven months and was going pretty well, until I decided I could try to moderate, again. I’ll be honest, I had missed my life with alcohol, well what I actually missed was the rosy memory. I don’t think it will come as a surprise that moderation was NOT a successful venture. It followed the same line as many other stories I have read. Slowly my drinking crept back to where it had been before, and I knew deep in my heart if I didn’t stop, I would lose everything that I loved dearly, and worst of all I would lose myself.

So, seven months later, I was ready to start a sober journey again. Let me make this very clear. Relapse, a slip, whatever you want to call it, is not a failure. For many people, including me, it is all part of the journey. I learnt a hell of a lot through that experience.  Most importantly I learnt that I wanted to be sober, and I wanted it much, much more than I wanted to drink. This time, I had a better idea of what was ahead, and what I needed to do.  Once I’d had a taste of that sober life, the beauty of it never left me, and so I did everything I could to get it back.

On the note of struggle, let me let you in on a little secret – no matter what you hear and see, a lot of people aren’t doing it easy. They might choose not to share the hard bits, or the ugly bits – and perhaps they do find it easy. And that is perfectly okay too. Because here’s the beautiful thing about sobriety. It’s YOUR thing. Your creation. And whatever it is that works for you is right, there is no wrong way, if it works. Sobriety has uncovered a side of me that had been hidden for so long. And let me tell you, I had NO idea just how strong my desire to change really was. Once I set down this path, I found strength and courage I didn’t know I had, and it helped me to move through the shit days. I found compassion for myself that I had long ago cast aside, and I found love, for myself, from myself. And the days kept passing.

This year has taught me so many things and given me so many gifts that I cannot even begin to describe my gratitude.

I am so grateful for a whole year of mornings hangover free. I no longer need to battle my Mondayitis anxiety induced by a weekend of non-stop drinking. I now get to see the sunrise and the stillness of the morning as a joy, not a test of endurance. I still experience anxiety and depression, but I am now able to go to my doctor, make decisions on what is best for my health at that time … and actually follow through with it.

I am so grateful for my sober friends that I connected with initially through social media.  The first time I sat down with a fellow sobersista, I cried, I talked a million miles an hour, and I no doubt came across as a little kookoo. But as I apologised, she just smiled and said, ‘don’t worry, I’ve been there too’. My sober friends aren’t just ‘sober’ to me. In them I see the courage of warriors. I see the beauty of their struggles and the joy in their accomplishments. And if I need to talk about something, vent about how shit things are that day, or how excited I am to be hitting another sober milestone, I know that they get IT. Because they’re going through it too.

The people I love, that knew me in my old life and are still with me today, are Rock Stars.  Not literally, but what I’m saying is, they’re THAT freakin’ cool. I am so grateful now that I get to truly appreciate and love them as much as they deserve to be. I MAY have been a bit of a handful at times, and that MAY be a total understatement. I was a hot mess and missed out on so many of the little moments that now mean so much to me. These are the people that pour me juice into a fancy glass to celebrate, the ones that cheer me on each step of the way. And the ones who have given me the love and acceptance I so needed, to begin to heal. My heart is so full of love for them, and the best part is, I am now able to tell them that. And these people now get to experience a fully present me, a me who knows and celebrates their worth.

It wasn’t easy for me to admit I had a problem. It wasn’t easy the first time I was honest about my struggle. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you don’t have control. It takes guts. But it doesn’t mean you’re broken. Alcohol is an addictive substance, and addiction is NOT a personal defect. If we drink enough of it, we will get addicted. Simples. I know this now, and I don’t chastise myself for not being able to moderate or drink ‘normally’. I wish I had known it years ago, as it may have reduced the pain and confusion I felt, but I know it now, and that is enough.

Sobriety has been the hardest and most beautiful experience of my life to date. As I write this, I am still learning about who I am, and who I want to be. I’m still learning what it means to care for myself, and I am still learning to manage my mental health. But the most beautiful thing I have uncovered is freedom. Freedom brought about by sharing my journey and my truth. Freedom to live my life without alcohol. 

I used to dream about being the one writing this story and sharing my experience from one year sober … and as I sit here, I realise, it was never about giving anything up, because I have lost nothing. It was about everything I had to gain.

57 Comments

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  • Honest thoughtfull story thank you.

    By mark
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you! I have been, and still am very lucky to have the support of some very special people 🙂

      By Chantal
      |
      October 1, 2020
  • Fantastic courage and amazing story! Well done on all your achievements. I love reading all the books and blog posts to keep me inspired!

    By Ash
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you Ash! I am exactly the same, I love hearing about other people’s journeys, it has really helped me stay on track so far <3

      By Chantal
      |
      October 1, 2020
  • Thank you for sharing your story is powerful and I appreciate how to inform me you let yourself be vulnerable and became courageous.

    By Allison Dillon
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Allison,

      Thank you for your kind words, I feel so grateful that I have had the opportunity to share my story, the good, the bad, and the downright amazing 😉

      By Chantal
      |
      October 1, 2020
  • Wow, you’re amazing. Thats a truly inspirational story. Thanks for sharing!

    By Nat
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Nat,

      Thank you! I’m still feeling overwhelmed with joy that I have been able to share my experience, and your words mean a lot 🙂

      By Chantal
      |
      October 1, 2020
  • Thank you. Your honesty and realistic portrayal of ‘what it is’ is inspiring. I was sober for 11 months and relapsed. Today is my first day back out of rehab. It is so important that we continue to share what sobriety brings back into our lives. The joy we see young children find in life is not alcohol-fuelled, it’s because being aware of the little things is truly awe-inspiring. Such a shame we miss it when we aren’t sober. I struggle every day; but it’s worth the struggle.

    By Sophia
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Sophia,

      Wow, congratulations! It’s so inspiring that you too chose to start again 💕 You’re so right about the struggle… and how much it is worth it. Thank you for your comment, and please don’t forget that there are so many people in the sober community who want to see you succeed… myself included 😘

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Thank you SO much for your story. I identified with nearly all of it. I am now 23 days Alcohol Free (again), and I’m ready to work with myself as much as is needed to be free for the rest of my life. Your words are an inspiration. Thank you again!

    By Wendy
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you for your lovely words Wendy! 24 days now 😉 congratulations!!! I lost count of how many times I tried (or thought of trying) to stop. But what I realised is that this was all part of the journey to get me to where I am today. Sending lots of 💕 You have already achieved so much!

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • This is the most honest expression of the difficult journey from alcoholism to sobriety I have read. Thank for sharing and showing others that the path is there when you choose to walk it. And letting others know that the support is there when you can finally see. Beautiful

    By Sharon
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you Sharon 😊 I’m so happy you enjoyed my post !!! This without doubt has been the hardest thing I have ever done… but I wouldn’t change a thing. My experiences have made me who I am today, and I’m liking myself a whole lot more each day! There are so many support options out there… and the only right one is what works 😊

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Awesome. Well done! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m now 13 months sober and life is sooo much better. I do miss the first few drinks high, but I’ve gained so much more x

    By Jemima
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thanks Jemima!!! It’s amazing just how much better life can be without alcohol 😊 congratulations on your 13 months!!!! ✨🎉

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Beautiful article, thank you.

    By Anne
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you Anne 💕

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Wow, this spoke to my heart. I feel like this is me now starting at the start line, so afraid to step off and equally afraid to remain the same.

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    By zoe fullerton
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Yes, exactly me !! I’m scared of what I will find about myself when the mask is off. Need to face this head on now tho 😅

      By Alison
      |
      October 1, 2020
    • I was TERRIFIED!! I didn’t want to imagine my life without alcohol. I thought I would become a boring person, that I wouldn’t have fun anymore. What I will say is that for me, the opposite was and is true.

      I know the fear, the hope, the whole clusterf**k of emotions I felt.

      What I would like to say is, you’ve already started on your journey, by thinking about it, reading others stories etc. so I think you already have a reason to be really proud of yourself 🥰🎉 I found the Daybreak app SO helpful when I set my quit date. Sending so much love your way… you can do this.

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • There are some important messages here – expecting and dealing with the occasional slip up is one. But there is a warning too about dropping your guard. I’ve given away drinking for 10 months, broken all the old habits around drinking when people come round, at 5.00pm every day, whenever I go went for a meal. And I’ve become very comfortable with this. However, and herein lies the warning, more recently I have allowed myself the occasional drink, usually with people and with only one exception just a matter of 2-3 glasses of wine (a lot different to the 2 bottles of red I could put away per day). But I am starting to anticipate this and fear the drinking frequency will creep up again. Got to regain the discipline. Chantel’s blog has given me that incentive and for this I thank her!!

    By Mike Frost
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you Mike! I used to want to be “normal” and be able to have one or two…. but for me it just never worked. I’m so happy you enjoyed my post 😊 And to hear that you’ve been inspired makes it extra special for me! Thank you 🙏🏻

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Thanks for sharing. I am one year sober today. The bit about needing to manage your mental health is so true. Not drinking has made me realise what a big problem I was covering up… such a year of learning.

    By LadyF
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Congratulations, for one year sober!!! I’m 2 weeks sober and a year sounds like an amazing ‘dream come true’ to me… thank you for your story 😊

      By Alison
      |
      October 1, 2020
    • WOOOOOT 🎉🎉 congratulations LadyF!! It’s such an awesome milestone. I looked forward to it for 12 months 😂

      I understand what you said about mental health. I had NO idea that I had mental health issues until I stopped drinking. But I’m so grateful that I now have the opportunity to learn as much as possible! It’s such a comfort to learn we’re not alone 💕

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Love this post. Thank you s0 much for sharing. Congrats on your accomplishments. Continue to enjoy the journey!

    By Linda
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you Linda!!! I feel so grateful to have been offered the opportunity to share my story, and your lovely words mean a lot 🥰

      By Chantal
      |
      October 2, 2020
  • Well done you are amazing. So true it’s never easy but giving up trying must never be an option. Hats off to you you amazing chickie. 🌹♥️🌹

    By Megan Askar
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • 🥰🥰 thank you! I’m so grateful to have the life I do now, and know that the decision to stop drinking was the best one I’ve ever made x

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Thank you for your honest account – what you describe is my own story (now just past one year AF), and couldn’t agree more about the freedom it gives you. Facing lifes challenges (especially this year….) is just so much better without alcohol!

    By Irene
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Irene 😊 thank you for your comment. It makes my heart smile to know I’ve been able to touch the lives of others, even just a little bit! 💕✨

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • What an inspiring story. Congrats to you. Wish you continued happiness and pride. I never thought I would make it to 17 months alcohol free but here I am. One day at a time!!!! Thank you.

    By Joanne
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thank you!! I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be where I am now… but I’m grateful for the lessons I learned throughout my drinking years. Sure does keep me humble 😉💕

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Well done Chantal, I am so proud of you, your effort & your honesty. You’ve empowered yourself & now share that with others, such a beautiful gift. Well written too. Keep up the daily efforts & maintain that optimistic outlook in everything you do. Hugs. Xxmefo

    By Mell Foster
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Thanks lovely,

      You were there for me throughout my first attempt, and have been such a great friend. Love ya ✨

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • You found love for yourself, from yourself !! I want that so much… I’m 2 weeks sober. Reading this will keep me going. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story of self hope and compassion !! 😊

    By Alison Barley
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Alison 😊

      Congratulations!! Must be nearly 3 weeks now?! Feel free to reach out anytime if you need someone to talk to. The first few weeks can be rough, but I promise you, it really does get easier xxx

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Omg thank you I can relate so much I also was sober for 7 months and thought I could moderate 🤔the romantic idea of white wine I have been on and off now since March I’m a weekend binge drinker hiding bottles and telling lies it’s awful I go to aa but never stick at it I’m still in denial but I want a sober life but still think I’m missing out.

    By Elaine
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Elaine,

      Thank you for your honesty 💕 It can be so awful to feel stuck, I’ve been there and know how much it hurt me. Have you downloaded the Daybreak App? I found so much comfort and wisdom there and it helped me so much. There are many different ways to receive support and assistance. If you feel AA may not be right for you, that’s ok! The only right way to recover is the one that works for you, and sometimes it takes a few tries. Please be gentle with yourself right now. Drinking doesn’t mean you’ve failed, please remember that. If you ever need to chat, please reach out x

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • A lovely heartfelt piece. You are very courageous. I was wondering, (please don’t reply if the answer will make you uncomfortable), did you have to start taking antidepressants? It’s something that isn’t mentioned much on this amazing website. I wonder how many people who quit drinking start taking them? I quit drinking almost five years ago. I very, very occasionally take medication on big social occasions as I feel anxious otherwise. It’s not perfect but my life is a million times better since I stopped drinking. All the best with the future 👍

    By Vince
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Vince 😊

      I worked in conjunction with my doctor to ensure that my depressive symptoms were not due to any imbalances in my system, and had a barrage of tests done throughout. Eventually I did start taking antidepressants, however as I was experiencing some awful side effects I visited a psychiatrist that has changed my medication and I’m responding really well to that. I guess the point I want to make is that it can take some time for your brain to recover from the effects of alcohol abuse, and I strongly support a thorough health plan and testing, with medication as a last resort 😊 As long as what you are doing is right for you, that’s all that matters. Thank you for your comment, and I’m sending lots of support your way for your awesome journey ✨

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Terrified to change, and terrified to remain the same.
    I love and resonate with that quote. You have done an amazing job of bettering yourself. I only hope I can follow your lead. Thanks so much for opening up. 💗

    By Cath
    |
    October 1, 2020
    • Hi Cath 😊

      It was terrifying! I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol, but it has been hands down the best thing I have ever done for myself. We all have our own journey, and if I’ve helped you a tiny bit then I’m so happy. If you haven’t already I’d suggest the Daybreak app. It’s anonymous and is such a supportive community. Feel free to reach out to me if you ever want to chat 💕

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Good on you for going sober because otherwise you would still be having the same conversations with yourself 40 years on. (like me)You are another person who has confirmed for me it is probably easier to go sober rather than try to be moderate like I spend my whole life doing. Great that you can still see your ‘drinking buddies’ but of course in a different light.

    By Deborah
    |
    October 2, 2020
    • Thank you Deborah 💕 I watched my father decline into alcoholism and knew I couldn’t continue down that path. I tried to moderate, but it was so hard! And it left me feeling worse when I failed to stick to my “limit”. Everyone is different, but for me moderation took far more energy than quitting all together. I don’t mind if people drink around me… but only up to about 2 drinks in. Once they start getting drunk I’m out 😂

      All the best on your journey, and thank you so much for your comment 😊

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • I’ve been trying to quit drinking for 7 years (at least) & have finally made it past 5 months. Your story inspires me, thank you!

    By Lisa
    |
    October 2, 2020
    • Hi Lisa 😊 I’m so happy that my story has inspired you. I can’t describe how happy that makes me feel!! Massive congratulations on the 5 months!!!! I found it took me some time to be comfortable in my new sober life… but it just keeps getting better!!!! 🥰

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Chantal, thank you so much for sharing your story. So honest and encouraging. All the best, keep writing, keep communicating, getting support and learning about how best to look after yourself in this crazy world. What an inspirational contribution.

    By Kate
    |
    October 2, 2020
    • Thank you!! I had no idea that I would receive such beautiful comments… and to hear that my words have resonated with others makes it so heartwarming and rewarding ✨

      By Chantal
      |
      October 5, 2020
  • Great read! I am over 100 days and 20 years since I have gone this long. I spend time every week reading different stories to keep myself on track, just keeping it real. Your story sounded similar to mine. Well done and thank you for sharing.

    By Angela
    |
    October 4, 2020
    • Woohoo! The100 day mark is fantastic! Congratulations 😊 I’m so glad my story resonates with you. I too keep reading articles and all sorts of other things, to gain as much knowledge as I can, and also and I love hearing about other people’s experiences 😊

      By Chantal
      |
      October 6, 2020
  • “Terrified to change and terrified to remain the same.”

    Those words really resonate with me. Thank you for sharing.

    By Nattie
    |
    October 5, 2020
    • Thank you Nattie ✨ it was the best way I could think of to describe how I felt. I’m not terrified anymore, I’m proud 💕

      By Chantal
      |
      October 6, 2020
  • Well done girly. Your story is amazing, what you have achieved, so proud of you. x

    By rachel
    |
    October 10, 2020
    • Thanks Rach 😘 So lovely of you to post. I’m sure you know it’s been a long, long road to get to where I am now! 💕💕

      By chantal
      |
      October 22, 2020
  • “F-ing Terrified. Terrified of change and terrified to remain the same.” This is me to a t at the moment. Thank you for sharing – there are aspects I hope I’ll hang onto.

    By Mark
    |
    October 29, 2020
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