The Change I Want To See - Changing our relationship with alcohol


I was recently approached by a friend to ask if she could write an article for this blog. When I started this blog I assumed that most people wanted to see similar changes as I. However, the reality and beautiful thing is that we are all passionate about changing different parts of society that are unique to us due to our experiences. This is the change that Amy Roberton wants to see . . .

I last had an alcoholic drink 5 months ago. I’m not an alcoholic in recovery… or am I?

Whatever I am, I can definitely say I’ve had a turbulent relationship with alcohol. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl in many ways, and yes I know that balance is important, but it’s something I’ve struggled to maintain in my life.

I’ve had two long-term relationships with alcoholic boyfriends and I’m from a family which likes a drink. Regular binge drinking has happened most weekends since I was a teenager, but everyone else I know has been doing this too. So what’s my problem?

Upon resettling to the UK last year I returned to my hometown to an unemployed, depressed, heavily drinking brother who was frequently experiencing blackouts. The worst of these being the time he woke up without his MacBook containing lots of his brilliant writing. I knew he was unhappy and needed help and compassion. I was extremely worried that if he didn’t turn his life around at that point, he may never do.

I’d previously given up on encouraging my ex-partners to stop drinking, as I realised that they might never change. I’d had to cut my losses, look after number one, and move on. But this was different. This was my big brother. He is amazing. Highly intelligent, creative, funny, loving and caring and I will never give up on him. I have always been in awe of him, and I always will be.    

I don’t want to talk too much about my brother because this is about my feelings towards my non-drinking. But just so you know, my family was able to get my brother into an awesome rehab centre, and nearly a year later he’s had his ups and downs but he’s in a much better place than he was. The centre teaches new routines, gives residents the tools to live a life of abstinence and delves into the self esteem, confidence, life and mental health issues which may be the underlying cause of addiction. On the day of his graduation from rehab (yes, this is what happens) I listened to the residents and counsellors speak one by one about my brother and how wonderful he was. We were all sat in a circle. I spoke, he spoke and we all wished him the best in his new life of sobriety. There were tears, fears, lots of hugs, lots of hope and lots of love. It was by far the proudest and most emotionally charged experience of my life.

As I said before my own drinking has never been very balanced. I’ve had months of sobriety followed by some serious bouts of binge drinking. I’ve passed out on the cold tiles of a pub toilet cubicle and experienced numerous occasions waking up in a strange place with no recollection of how I got there. Don’t take this the wrong way it’s not all doom and gloom. Apparently I’m absolutely hilarious when I’m drunk. I can be the life and soul of the party and I’ve had some great nights. Unfortunately, more often than not, I’ve had little or no recollection of what’s happened, a horrendous hangover and felt depressed, shameful and full of regret for days.

You see the change I want to see is that I’d love people to drink less. Why do we feel the need to constantly anaesthetise ourselves in the one precious life we have? It seems the social lives of most people I know are very alcohol focused, and this makes the process of becoming a non-drinker quite isolating. I’m constantly asked why I’m not drinking and people generally think it’s a bit weird, but I have the confidence to be social and sober, and I’ve never been one to follow the rules. In fact, I keep hearing that other people would love to do the same but for some reason or other they feel they can’t.

Perhaps they feel that without a drink in their hand they won’t be able to socialise and they’ll miss out on all the fun. Truth be told at times I wonder whether without alcohol I’m actually quite a boring person. In reality, when I’m out and everyone else is drinking, the first few hours are great, but once the booze really kicks in, the conversation gets quite tiresome and I’m ready to leave. Drunk people are not as hilarious as they once seemed. At times I would love to be able to tap into that comical life of the party me whilst sober, but maybe that just isn’t who I am, or maybe I’m at the wrong parties…

I’m writing this as it’s two days since my new boyfriend split up with me. I really liked him. One of the things that I found really attractive about him was that he never drinks, and he’s never been drunk. This is a very strange phenomenon in my world. The end of this relationship came out of the blue and it hit me hard. I rang in sick to work, sobbed in bed for a day and then just got up and got on with life. My first thought was that I’d go out and get drunk, because this is how I’ve previously dealt with emotional pain. But I realise this is not the best way to cope with life. It could be fun - just a few light-hearted drinks whilst moaning about men, or I could wake up with no recollection of the night before, a huge dent in my bank account, a horrible hangover and days of depression and regret. I am not willing to take the risk and have the 1 drink that may lead to 10.

I am sticking to my non-drinking and will see what difference it makes. I am feeling the benefits of a life without alcohol and I can take the full pain of the end of this relationship, pick myself up and move on. I will not get drunk, cry and make regretful phone calls or sleep with strangers. Without alcohol I have more respect for myself, control of my emotions, actions and finances. Most importantly I can remember each day and I’m making positive memories which are leading me to a brighter, more hopeful future.

If you would like to change your relationship with alcohol, cut down your intake, or have a short break from drinking here are a few ideas to encourage and inspire you:

  • Alcohol is very high in calories and cost! I can almost 100% guarantee you that if you stop drinking for a month you will lose weight and save money.
  • If you do go out, set a £10 spending limit for yourself (only take cash and don’t join rounds!)
  • Meet friends in a local independent café for coffee and cake. All those calories saved on booze can be used to eat more baked goods (yippee!)
  • Without hangovers, weekends can be spent sharing productive time with friends or family, perhaps exercising or waking super early and going on a road-trip.
  • To share your thoughts and hear other peoples’ stories, check out the online community - a movement towards a better drinking culture, which supports people to change their relationship with alcohol.

Big thanks to Amy for reaching out and telling her story. While I have a much healthier relationship with alcohol than I used to, when living in London, I can still see areas I can change for the better after reading this. 

Amy's article has inspired me to open up this blog to other peoples stories. If you would like to write a guest post on the change you want to see please get in touch.