I thought about participating in the Go Sober for October Challenge only for a few days before I took the plunge and signed myself up. It’s alcohol awareness week next week so I’m kicking off the week with my own experience of quitting the booze.

Being a substance misuse worker, I know all the risks and consequences of drinking. I know about addiction, problematic use and binge drinking. Do I still drink? Yes. Why? Because I like it and I am in control of it. Alcohol is not in control of me.


Binge Drinking


I’m a binge drinker so no alcohol at all in the week but at weekends I like to have a few drinks. Of course, there are many, many problems that can be associated with binge drinking. Drinkaware are a brilliant resource for alcohol and they say that “the definition used by the Office of National Statistics for binge drinking is having over 8 units in a single session for men and over 6 units per women.” We should also not exceed 14 units a week. Units depends on a lot of things like the strength or ABV% of alcohol, the volume of the drink (we need to take into consideration measures also when drinking at home!) Have a look at this video about units. It may surprise you!

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in my life when too much partying has taken it’s toll, but some people, like me, are aware of these times and can knock it on the head for a while to get healthy again. Some people can’t and this is when we need to look at the problems surrounding it and help those individuals.


Why Go Sober for October?


I always wondered what it would be like if my alcohol breaks were not so meticulously timed around a quiet month where we have no events! I also wondered what it must be like for someone recovering from substance use to have to continue the relationships with people with whom their activities have often included alcohol.

So, I signed up for Go Sober for October on the month of my 40th birthday. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a client in recovery and see what it was like. I wanted to see if I could enjoy my planned activities without alcohol being involved. I experienced this during pregnancy and breastfeeding but I wasn’t that keen on watching other people get drunk when I was sober. It just was not fun. I’m sure it’s not fun for someone in recovery either.

Having children took away the planned hangovers, lazing around watching TV together, snoozing off the effects of the booze and generally enjoying the experience. It’s just not an option anymore to have heavy nights out as our parenting capacity is affected the day after. Our children aren’t going anywhere. They’re still up at 6.30am the next day, despite seventeen attempts at hiding under the pillow, they’re still there waiting to be entertained. I’m not sure whether it’s okay to take one, two or even three days to recover from a weekly or even a 6 monthly event for our health alone, let alone the look on their little faces when they want to play.


What did I want to know?


The questions I was asking myself were:

  1. Can I have an equally good time doing activities without alcohol?
  2. I’m tired all the time. Is it because my sleep is of a lesser quality at the weekend?
  3. Is alcohol at weekends stopping me losing a few pounds?
  4. Could I go sober permanently?
  5. What might it be like for someone in recovery to be around other people drinking?

It was time to practice what I preach.




  1. Can I have an equally good time doing activities without alcohol?

I went on a night out with friends and had a great time. Everyone else was drinking and I drove some of us into Manchester. We did Breakout Manchester so we met in a bar and then everyone went to a bar after. Although I enjoyed chatting earlier on and loved Breakout, I went home before the second bar visit having had a lovely evening. I also went to gig which I have never done without having a few drinks. It was amazing! In the top 5 actually. I would definitely go sober again.  We went on holiday to Paris. This was my first ever time not drinking while on holiday. We went to Montmartre on our last day and this was the only day I really wanted a glass of wine throughout the whole month, as people were sitting outside the bistros having leisurely lunches. Then I remembered we wouldn’t be able to do that anyway with the children so quickly snapped out of it! We did lots of brilliant things instead, including Eurodisney and I loved it.

  1. I’m tired all the time. Is it because my sleep is of a lesser quality at the weekend?

I think, being a parent of two small children, I am just tired full stop. I didn’t feel any less tired by the end of the month but we had a lot on! Maybe if I was a more regular drinker I’d have felt a difference in this.

  1. Is alcohol at weekends stopping me losing a few pounds?

I’ve hovered around the same weight for most of this year. I wondered if my craving for my daughters Aldi monster munch after a glass of wine was the cause of this. What actually happened was that I ate more sugar so I replaced the alcohol with that. I wonder how many people in recovery do a similar thing? I felt I just wanted a ‘treat’. Isn’t it strange that our food and drink based treats are so bad for us!?At the end of the month, I had put two pounds on but, that was after a holiday to Eurodisney and living off carbs and snacks while we were there. Plus a wonderful afternoon tea made by my best friend on my birthday. Normally, after a holiday I put a lot more than that on, so I think the lack of alcohol really did make a difference despite the bad food.

  1. Could I go sober permanently?

I could, but I’m not going to. I feel that alcohol enhances the good times I have and as long as it stays that way, I’m going to keep it that way. If it ever starts causing me problems then I would reconsider this choice. I know i can have a good time without it. My activities aren’t planned around drinking so I’m happy with that.

  1. What might it be like for someone in recovery to be around other people drinking?

Extremely difficult. The reactions from my friends varied from “There’s no point coming out on your birthday because you’re not drinking” to “I can’t believe you’re doing this on your birthday!”. If I was in recovery, I would avoid going anywhere that is based around drinking. Bars, pubs and clubs would be off my list. If I don’t enjoy watching everyone else get drunk, I can’t imagine it would be a place for them either. There are so many other things to do!

Thanks to my horrified, yet supportive friends, as they helped me raise £300 for Macmillan!


How do we help someone in recovery?


Alcohol is so entrenched in our society that it’s still hard to avoid. Everyone’s recovery journey is different so one person might be okay with others drinking around them, but someone else may not. This will also depend on how long a person has been in recovery and what their triggers for drinking are. So, how can we help as friends or family members?

  1. Don’t exclude someone who has stopped drinking from events.
  2. Ask them if they are okay around alcohol or not.
  3. Plan activities that don’t involve drinking.
  4. Be yourselves around them and don’t act weirdly. Stay considerate.
  5. Ask them about their triggers. They may not want to tell you this but as a friend or family member, it will be useful to know.
  6. While someone is in recovery, don’t drink at home in front of them. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you be alright with sitting in a room with everyone else drinking? What might it be like for you if you had problems with alcohol?

The above also applies to people we know who have problems with alcohol. They may not have admitted it themselves, but it is unfair to drink around people for our own benefit when we know they need to stop.


I can help

If you are living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use, I can help you.

For a safe space to share your situation, go to my closed group, Vesta Confidential, where family members living with a substance user support each other and get lots of information and advice from me.

My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype  and an online group therapeutic programme.

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Take Care.

See you next week,


Victoria x