No Hangover Club: Amy Armstrong
Bad Amy was a very social drinker who had lost her off switch. I was by no means an everyday drinker, but when I did drink (mainly on the weekends) I went HARD and FAST. My blackouts were getting worse and happening quicker (sometimes only 2-3 drinks in I could have memory loss). I had tried moderating with the support of a counsellor over recent years but the more effort I put into cutting back, the harder it was. I was drinking to be social, I was drinking to deal with stress. What I didn’t know was that how I was drinking was counter to both of those things really. I wasn’t engaged socially because really I wasn’t there. And the hangxiety was just creating more stress. I have a wonderful fulfilling life, great job, amazing family, incredible group of friends. But I was blind to the fact that I was missing out on getting the most out of my life. I was trading it off for the next glass of wine.
I think the biggest misconception is that sobriety is boring or that you are going to miss out. Before I did the 30 day Alcohol Experiment, that’s what my biggest fear was too. I couldn’t see how my social life would stay vibrant. My husband was initially very reserved about me stopping (even though he hated how much I drank) because he has seen in the past how resentful I got about having to stop and how withdrawn I became. But once I delved deeper and understood that I could have my cake and eat it too, I have never looked back. If anything I have become MORE social. I can drive to any event. I am not avoiding people because of the shame of having done something while blacked out. I am not guilty all the time and feeling obliged to stay in and “behave”. I am not constantly distracted by when the next glass is coming, or “where is that waiter, my glass is empty”. I am also more confident now I have thrown away my boozy security blanket. I am present and engaged! Also I think the idea of white knuckling it through sobriety and relying on willpower to get you through is never going to work. There needs to be a much deeper look at what, why, when etc. There are so many resources to support you through this.
Smug? Only a little. I certainly don’t have FOMO. My most common line of thinking when socialising with drinkers is being able to reflect on where “Drunk Amy” would be at. Out at dinner I can easily track how many drinks I would be ahead of everyone else. Part of the work I have dived into in the alcohol-free space is taste testing products, searching for the best alcohol-free options. Its also advocating for more acceptance of alcohol-free options in hospitality venues. Now before heading out I check ahead. What does the drinks list looks like? If it’s slim pickings (I can’t hack a juicy mocktail or soda water) then I am asking the venue about bringing my own alcohol free wine and paying corkage. I think I have about a 50% success rate. But there have also been opportunities to educate venues within those conversations. I love to promote venues that “get it” and have options for us non-drinkers (the drivers, the pregnant ladies, the medicated, the sober). Having a nice bottle of alcohol-free wine with a meal is a real treat!
I am lucky in that I have an a amazing supportive group of people around me and I have not once felt the pressure to drink. I think that says more about the fact that everyone could see that this was the right thing to do than anything else! I do see that is situation is the exception though.
I think it’s just a matter of time. Going in to social situations prepared certainly helps. A 4 pack of Monday Distillery's tucked under your arm arriving at a party raises no eyebrows. If anything I have found that people are really keen to talk about drinking less. It’s clearly on a LOT of people’s minds because I get a lot of questions! The more socialising sober you do, the better you get!
Don’t be scared. I was scared. But you can have your cake and eat it too. You can go to the amazing dinner and have an amazing time…and then drive home…and not forget any of it. It takes practise, but if you can see that alcohol plays no positive role in your life, it will be easier. The saying that helped me most at the start is “The goal isn’t to be sober. The goal is to love yourself so much that you don’t need to drink”. Light that boozy security blanket on FIRE and go armed with amazing alcohol-free drinks.
Find Amy on Instagram here!