As a child, I was very lucky. My parents worked hard to give me every opportunity to find something I enjoyed. Disco dancing in sparkly silver shoes on a Saturday morning; outdoor tennis lessons in the warm summer sunshine; badminton, piano lessons, Brownies, swimming and a very brief stint at the local Air Training Corps. (Full disclosure: I had bugger-all interest in planes but a crush on some hot young thing in a uniform.)
But nothing really stuck. I didn’t like sport because I wasn’t any good at it. I wasn’t very musical and I certainly didn’t like the mechanics of planes. I liked swimming but not to the extent I wanted to do it permanently, and while I loved the dancing, it was more about the shoes and pretending I was Cheryl Baker from Bucks Fizz, instead of trying to become the next Ginger Rogers.
But then I found alcohol.
Drinking was probably the first real activity that got me engaged. It was social, it required no physical activity and it made me feel like who I wanted to be, unlike all those activities that required unattractive gym knickers or some kind of weird racquet.
I liked nothing better than an all-dayer in the pub or downing bottles of wine as the sun set at the beach. I lived for Friday night (but not so much for Saturday morning), and even listed drinking as a hobby on my online dating profile, along with yoga (which I tried half-heartedly once) and reading. I mean, everyone loves reading, right?
My drinking hobby was all-consuming, leaving little desire or inclination for anything else. In short, drinking alcohol literally became my life.
It’s difficult to do a 6am boot camp with a stonking hangover. It’s not easy or pleasant to do a five-mile walk when you’re hanging. It’s hard to summon any kind of enthusiasm to do anything when you don’t want to be any further than ten feet away from your bathroom in case you’re gonna vomit. Again.
When I finally became sober, one of the first things that became very apparent was just how much time alcohol and excruciating hangovers had taken from me. By removing alcohol from the equation, I was now left with an enormous gaping hole to fill.
In the early days, after your body has started to adjust to the new sober you and you begin to sleep like you were intended to, you find yourself going to bed at a decent hour and waking before the birds start singing. This means you have many more hours and you need to find out just who you really are in order to fill them.
From the outset, writing was my saviour. It was always my intention to document my sobriety and weight-loss journey, but it soon became apparent that writing was so much more than that. Writing became my therapy, my pastime, my hobby, my voice, my comfort, my life.
It’s incredible how a proper night’s sleep can rejuvenate you, and so I started walking long distances before work in an attempt to expend some of that extra energy. While walking, I listened to podcasts and audio books, and soon found that it was an activity I enjoyed immensely. Yes… me… enjoying exercise… whoever would’ve thought it?! Time to update my dating profile perhaps?!
Through my writing, my walking and my beautiful restorative sleep, my brain started to fizz with hundreds of ideas. I wrote a short story which was published in an actual real-life book, I submitted articles which featured on online forums, I designed and produced sober greeting cards and products, and I went on my first solo, sober holiday to Thailand. It was like something had been unleashed inside me when I stopped drowning my creativity with bottle after bottle of expensive New Zealand Sauvignon.
I’m not the only one whose inner creator was awoken by sobriety; it’s had a profound creative effect on many sober people I’ve met over the last couple of years. There are those who paint or draw, knit or crochet. Some have written books, started businesses, done stand-up comedy or invented alcohol-free drinks. Others I’ve met have completed insane international feats of athleticism, found love and even had miracle babies because they chose to stop drinking alcohol.
Contrary to popular belief, we were not born just to drink alcohol and die. Think about what you enjoyed doing before the tsunami of alcohol swept your hobbies and interests away. Nurture what you’re good at and spend time doing what you really love, rather than wasting precious time looking for the answer at the bottom of a bottle.