Sobriety is a difficult subject for many of us because it’s clouded in shame. Our society not only condones alcohol use, it often seems to actively encourage it.
It’s hard to go a day without seeing some kind of marketing for alcohol and shops and supermarkets are littered with it. From discounts on beer and wine in mammoth amounts to birthday cards, water bottles and tote bags all singing the praises of gin and Prosecco, it’s impossible to avoid.
And as Clare Pooley points out in her Tedx Talk below, those who give up alcohol are not treated with the same support and congratulations as those who give up smoking.
The difference in reactions to addictions
Where people who give up smoking are met with ‘good for you!’ and ‘well done!’, those who give up drinking are met with ‘oh…you don’t just want one? Go on!’ and ‘you’ll be boring now’. Or worst of all, ‘are you an alcoholic then?’.
She points out that nicotine is blamed for a smoking addiction but you are blamed for a drinking addiction.
And we’ve discovered this to be true. When we chose to give up alcohol, we were met with eye rolls and scathing remarks. Other people became defensive, as though our choice to remove alcohol from our lives was somehow a comment on how they chose to lead theirs.
But occasionally, we’d be met with a quiet, ‘oh I don’t drink either actually’. So many people don’t drink for a variety of reasons but never mention it. They say, like Pooley did for a while, ‘oh I’m driving.’
Why? Because giving up alcohol because your relationship with it wasn’t very healthy is seemed as a shameful thing. Even though a huge amount of the British population drink over the maximum weekly guideline. And now that health experts have come out to say there is no safe amount of alcohol, that puts every drinker in the country in a position of drinking too much for good health.
But it’s hard to give up when the whole of society is geared towards it. When your friends beg you to have ‘just one’. When your family say ‘but you’ll still have a glass of Champagne with us right?’
‘When you drink to blur all the edges of life, you blur all the good bits too.’ – Clare Pooley
Taking the shame out of sobriety
Alcohol is an addictive drug that inhibits good sleep, drains you of energy and lowers your inhibitions. It can leave you feeling anxious, hungover and ashamed for whatever you said or did the night before.
It takes you at your best and steals away your ability to focus, to make good decisions and even to walk in a straight line. You are not on top form if you’ve been drinking.
If you choose to drink and don’t feel as though it impacts your life, that’s completely fine. But if you choose to give up? That is a decision filled with bravery that should have no shame attached to it.
‘There is no shame in being sober. Only joy and pride and freedom.’ – Clare Pooley
Giving up alcohol doesn’t mean you had a problem – maybe you did, maybe you didn’t – but it does mean that you’re choosing energy, happiness, better sleep and better physical and mental wellbeing. And what could be possibly be shameful about that?