As we settle into Sober September, a month of new beginnings where so many begin to explore their relationship with alcohol, we are thrilled to bring you the first edition of our ‘Conversations with Changemakers’. Conversations with Changemakers features inspiring individuals leading the way in the non-alcoholic movement, igniting change and building momentum in the sober-curious and alcohol-free community.
These changemakers and thought leaders have chosen to challenge societal norms and pave the way for a more conscious way of living, and in our very first conversation, we meet Olivia Farrelly from @greyareadrinker, who is an alcohol-free coach & mentor, addiction expert, and alcohol-free workshop designer & facilitator.
What is a grey area drinker? According to Olivia, this is a term that describes when a person’s drinking patterns swing between occasional and risky. Grey area drinkers may not drink all the time or every day, but when they do they drink to excess and frequently experience negative consequences as a result. This can make it very difficult to recognize that their drinking has become problematic.
Below, Olivia shares her unique perspective on a variety of topics including her personal journey and what inspired her to change her relationship with alcohol, how her life has changed as a result, and some top tips for success if you’re sober curious and want to learn more.
On Sober September
September feels like the perfect time to invite in change. Summer holidays are over, the evenings are getting shorter and the kids are going back to school. When it comes to inviting in changes, I’ve been there, done that and bought ALL of the t-shirts! But the one change I have made that has provided the most seismic results has been removing alcohol from my life.
My Journey to an Alcohol-Free Life
From the first sip of vodka aged 15, until the last sip of gin aged 37, booze had me. The 22 years in between were a bittersweet tale of love and hate, of joy and despair, of connection and destruction. My relationship with alcohol was akin to the nursery tale of Little Miss Muffet. When it was good, it was very very good, but when it was bad it was absolutely completely and utterly horrific.
I mostly enjoyed alcohol in my teens and twenties. But alcohol began to negatively impact my life in my late twenties and early thirties. The cost of drinking became too high for me to continue. By then it was affecting my mood, my health and my relationship with myself. In the days after drinking, I ruminated in shame, guilt and despair, even if I had had a great time! I often felt like I was brined in shame.
Towards the end, alcohol made me behave in ways that were wholly misaligned with my core values. I valued health, vitality, confidence, self-expression, truth and intuition, all of which I abandoned every time that I drank. By the time I gave it up, I was a mother of two, aged 37 and behaving in ways that were deeply misaligned with who I was on the inside. Something had to give. It was me or alcohol. And I chose Me.
On Saying Goodbye To Alcohol
I had my last drink on the 4 th of July 2018. My husband and I had travelled to Spain for a wedding. Being child-free and abroad for the first time in years gave us permission to go wild. And wild we went! On the day of the actual wedding, I experienced an anxiety and paranoia-soaked hangover like I never had before. I was sure that I would die of a heart attack leaving my two small children motherless. At 1am on the night of the wedding, having drank all day to try and ease the hangover, I handed my husband the gin I was drinking and emphatically declared ‘THIS WILL BE THE LAST DRINK I EVER DRINK’. And it was.
On how my life has changed since giving up alcohol
My life has become so much more enriched since then. The most tangible difference is the distinct lack of shame, regret and guilt. I now go to sleep in peace and I wake up in peace. I feel like a different woman now. Through lots of self-reflection and therapeutic work, the intense feelings of shame have dissolved. I have noticed that my levels of energy, motivation, vitality and zest for life are so much stronger. I have more time – there are now no wasted days being hungover. I am intentional with my life and completely in control of everything. I trust myself implicitly. I have become more spiritual and have a deep sense of purpose in my life. I am more confident and am able to navigate any social setting completely alcohol-free.
I am so passionate about alcohol free living that last year I returned to university to study it! And now I deliver workshops to people who are sober curious and want to explore life without alcohol. Having worked in programme delivery for the past 17 years, developing and delivering this workshop felt like a perfect marriage. During these workshops we cover:
The ideas in this workshop have been in development since I gave up alcohol in 2018. The workshop provides lots of tips, strategies and recommendations that have helped me stay alcohol-free since then. I designed this workshop because it is EXACTLY what I needed to know when I was at the Sober Curious phase. When I gave up alcohol, I needed reassurance that living a life without alcohol was actually possible and this workshop provides just that. The accompanying workbook provides written and oral exercises, journaling prompts, affirmations, visualisation exercises and additional resources.
If you’re sober curious, these 9 tips may help:
- Set Clear Goals: Define why you’re doing this and what you hope to achieve. This will help you stay motivated.
- Plan Ahead: Identify potential triggers and situations where you might be tempted to drink. Plan alternative activities/strategies to deal with these.
- Build a Support System: Share your goal with friends, family or a support group.
- Having people to encourage and hold you accountable makes a difference.
- Stay Busy: Keep yourself occupied with hobbies, exercise, or projects to provide distraction.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice mindfulness techniques to manage stress and cravings. Meditation helped me stay focused and centred.
- Explore Non-Alcoholic Options: Discover a variety of non-alcoholic beverages that you enjoy.
- Educate Yourself: Learn the potential negative effects of alcohol on health/mental health/ sleep.
- Reflect Regularly: Take time to reflect on your journey. Note the positive changes mood, patience, energy levels, sleep quality.
There has never been a better time to explore your relationship with alcohol - there is an abundance of resources at your fingertips, non-alcoholic drinks, apps, QuitLit, Podcasts. Now is the time! Giving-up alcohol has been the best decision I have ever made and is the accomplishment I am most proud of. Maybe it will for you too?Olivia Farrelly
You can find Olivia on Instagram at @greyareadrinker, where she shares her expertise on alcohol, addiction, and abstinence, strategies and insights for those seeking a life without alcohol, and more information on her live workshops.