After a particularly blurry New Year’s Day, Chloe Walker, 28, came to the realisation that her relationship with alcohol had become toxic. Turning her Dry January into a dry year, she’s now tempted to make it a permanent lifestyle choice. Here’s why
One thing you should know about me - I love a challenge. I am extremely competitive. Second thing is, I was not an alcoholic. But when I woke up on January 1st 2017, with no recollection of how I made it to my bed, what had happened or what was said, something inside me snapped, and I knew I had to make a change.
I was never the type of girl who would drink everyday. I wouldn’t open a bottle of wine after a hard day’s work or just enjoy the odd glass. That wasn’t my style. No, I was the girl who would drink to get completely blind crazy drunk. The one who would sneak a few shots at the bar when I was going to the toilet, and one on the way back without anyone knowing. The one who thought she could drink a lot more than she could actually handle and who had a selection of different personalities she would take on when in that state – not always the type I’d like to be friends with. I was the one who could never say no.
I used alcohol in many ways; one was to boost my confidence, another to help me get the guys I wanted. I used it to cover up my feelings so I didn’t have to deal with them sober, but mainly I used it to have fun. I enjoyed the feeling of being drunk and not being in control. For me, it was complete escapism from the world and myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had many, many good times when drinking alcohol and I have a lot of outrageous tales to tell and funny stories to share which is all thanks to booze (most of the stuff I wouldn’t have dared done if I’d been sober!). However, the bad memories outweigh the good and after one too many regrets and dented relationships, New Year’s Eve 2016 was the scene of my final tequila shot. I decided to not just do Dry January , but to embark on a dry 2017 instead. Remember - I love a challenge. Especially a personal one. Therefore 12 months ago, I drank my very last drink at the bar and had my very last epic hangover.
2017 was the year I went completely cold turkey and broke up with booze. It was terrifying, emotional and completely out of my comfort zone. Until it became my new norm and turned out to be the most liberating journey of self-acceptance I’ve embarked on. Here’s what I learned from my year of sobriety, its ups and downs and the greatest things I gained.
1. I became more accepting of my feelings
Removing alcohol from my life made me connect with my emotions more. It was like taking off the rose-tinted beer goggles. It made me more accepting about what I was feeling - sadness, anger, happiness, disappointment, anxiousness...I became more open to all of them and embraced whatever was being thrown at me. I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel everything and I shouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed.
2. I got my weekends back
No more hangovers! Without feeling sick or replaying any cringe-worthy moments from the night before (that would make me never want to show my face in public again), I was able to be much more productive. There have been times however, where my friends were too hungover to do anything or stick to a brunch date, so I ended up enjoying my avocado on toast alone until they made an appearance.
3. I became fitter than I’ve ever been
A strange sort of reconnection seems to happen between your head and your body when you no longer use your legs as just a way to hold yourself up at a bar. In the past, I would have a big boozy session, be too hungover to exercise and eat everything in sight to make myself feel better again which would hinder my results. However with more time on my hands, I was able to explore different forms of exercise and ended up setting myself a goal of running a 10K by the end of the year. I started training for it and to my surprise, discovered a new love of running. I’ve managed to lose 12 pounds over the year and I feel stronger in both my body and my mind, fitter, leaner and a hell of a lot happier.
4. I learned that vulnerability can be empowering
I used to get ridiculously drunk and send text messages to people telling them things I couldn’t when I was sober and then the next day blame it on the booze. Everyone is probably cringing at this because they’ve either done it or know someone who has. Now if I want to say something or I want to tell someone how I feel, I will. It is a pretty vulnerable situation to put yourself in but also empowering. I now don't have those ‘What if’ or ‘Wish I’d said’ flashbacks that can haunt you. I feel so much better as I never feel like I’m lying to myself or others any more.
I stopped being the girl who only had confidence with a few tequilas down her
5. I felt back in control
My mindset shifted and I started living each day for me. I found being truly in control of my body, feelings and actions was empowering and having the choice to be a completely honest version of myself was liberating. I felt back in control of my life and realised I could say no and not feel bad about it.
6. I became braver
I stopped being the girl who only had confidence with a few tequilas down her. You start being more fearless and I became so much more open to trying new things with my free time without the lubrication of booze to ease the ride. Running, training for races, indoor climbing, trampolining, hiking, Pilates, travelling alone, being spontaneous (quick trips to Germany included), meeting new people both in friendly and romantic ways...I’ve pushed myself to experience new things and test my limits and confidence.
7. I drank more of the good stuff
I drank a lot more water everyday and if I was out with friends, I ended up drinking even more which was great for my health, energy levels, hair, eyes, skin, you name it. In the beginning, a lot of people commented that I was really boring which used to really get me down. I felt that I had to remove myself from situations just to avoid the pressure. I soon realised though that those who supported me were my true friends and those who didn’t, weren’t.
8. I saved a lot of money
Oh, the money I saved! No more dropping £50 or more on a night out twice a month. Instead, I was able to use that money for other things that I enjoy and if I wanted that dress or piece of cake (usually the latter), then I’d have it (or a weekend trip away, or two…).
9. I became more confident
This has been one of the biggest ones for me. My confidence. No longer do I need my alcohol fix to help me get what I want or to have fun. I have built my confidence up over the year to be unafraid of being the person I want to be and feel so much happier in my own skin.
10. My social life changed...and I had to adapt
Socialising probably took the biggest hit. At the start, I wasn't really going out just to avoid temptation (I live in Madrid and drinking out in Terrazas in the Spanish sun just goes hand in hand with a caña or tinto de verano, or if you saw me before 2017, a fishbowl of gin!). But after a year, I’ve stopped being ashamed of my lifestyle choice. My social life wasn’t as exciting, granted. However, I still joined in with daytime activities with friends, evening dinners and even the occasional pre-drinks or first few bars during a night out. After that though when everyone would start getting drunk, I would call it a night and leave so I could be up the next day for my morning run. True, it definitely looks boring and it did sometimes feel like I was missing out. Missing out on the laughs, the tears and the endless supply of stories...and making them too!
All in all though: it’s been a year of positives
It’s been an eye-opening year of new experiences, discovery and getting to know the real me. It’s been tough at times with weddings, celebrations, Christmas parties and lonely brunches, but the overall feeling of better health has made me consider it as a permanent lifestyle choice. I prefer myself like this and don't want to go back to the way I was before. I am enjoying my life and am fully committed to feeling and experiencing every aspect of it. I am now a stronger, honest and more confident and emotionally accepting version of myself and I want to keep growing and owning it. I feel liberated, free and so much happier.
I don’t know where I’m going or what will happen next, but I do know that it won't be boring. And alcohol, I don’t need you to help me.