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Best Friends Encourage Sobriety After Getting ‘Sick And Tired Of Feeling Sick And Tired’

by : Chloe Rowland on : 18 Nov 2021 13:03
Women Encourage Sobriety After Getting 'Sick And Tired Of Feeling Sick And Tired'@beesober.cic/Instagram

On July 9, 2018, Lisa woke up with the most ‘horrific’ hangover, fed up with how sick, tired and anxious she was feeling. A year later, on June 2, 2019, her best friend Alex thought she’d ‘poisoned’ herself after waking up ‘crawling around on all fours and vomiting’. Both were ‘I’m never drinking again’ moments, except this time Lisa and Alex kept their promise. 

A friend once told me that getting drunk simply borrows happiness from tomorrow, and it’s stuck with me ever since. But despite the stinging truth to the words, I, like many others, have continued to run on the drink-hangover hampster wheel – and I’m not sure why.

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It’s a topic often marred in stigma, misunderstanding and the behind-closed-doors attitude so many complex mental health struggles are frequently met with. But problems with alcohol – whether that be addiction or not – are very real, and many of us might fail to notice it in ourselves.

Drinks at a bar (Unsplash)Unsplash

But, no matter what it is we’re seeking when we drink, there’s a good chance it can’t be found at the bottom of a bottle.

To mark Alcohol Awareness Week, UNILAD spoke to life-long best friends Lisa Elsworth and Alex Walker, who run Bee Sober, an award-winning nonprofit focused on building a community for those choosing to ditch the booze.

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For Lisa and Alex, who both grew up in a pub environment, the journey of setting up Bee Sober was a personal one, with Lisa ditching the drink in 2018, a year before Alex went sober. ‘I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired,’ she told UNILAD.

Lisa is candidly honest when describing her relationship with alcohol. ‘I really didn’t know who I was without alcohol at all. I didn’t have a sort of separate identity from it’, she admitted. ‘Everything – birthday cards, presents, Christmases, social life – everything for me involved alcohol. It really was part of my identity. I just did not know who I was without alcohol. I couldn’t tell you what I liked, pinpoint any hobbies, that was my thing just going out and having a drink.’


While being ‘the first one to the bar and the last one home’ may ring true for a lot of us, for Lisa, the anxiety that accompanied her partying sessions seeped well into the following week.

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She explained:

[After drinking] I wouldn’t even answer my phone for well into the week for fear of it being somebody I met on a night out or spoken to, I just had complete anxiety around what I’d done, what I’d said.

I would do things like delete photos off my phone just so I didn’t have to remember the night and would leave myself little notes on my phone that I hadn’t done anything wrong so I could read back on them because my anxiety would get quite bad.

In July 2018, it all reached tipping point, with Lisa crossing the ‘line’ many of us so often refer to when it comes to drinking. ‘I woke up with a horrific hangover, and I downloaded a book called The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober on audio and listened to it and immediately thought ‘oh my god this person is just like me’, I could relate because it wasn’t written by another alcoholic, just somebody who’d had enough of drinking.’

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Meanwhile, her best friend Alex’s drinking was escalating, following a devastating miscarriage at 12 weeks. ‘I’d never drank through any of my pregnancies – and this is another thing that I think keeps women stuck, because we take huge amounts of time off alcohol – it was another way of telling myself that I didn’t have a problem.

‘So, I stopped drinking for my pregnancy, and then I had a miscarriage and it actually impacted my physical health because I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery, but also my mental health – I developed an anxiety disorder and chronic depression during that period of time, but I hadn’t really recognised it.’

Like many people, Alex used drinking as a way of coping with her mental health, despite it being a vicious cycle. Before, Alex said she could drink ‘one bottle of wine’ on Friday or Saturday, with this increasing to around three. Not only that, but the frequency also ramped up.

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‘The problem was, I would get really bitter and nasty and upset and start going down a spiral every time I had a drink. It would really worsen all the symptoms – I would become extra sad, I would wake up the next day with even more anxiety because alcohol causes anxiety, so all of those things became really, really compounded,’ she explained.

Admitting she ‘was a binge drinker’, Alex says she would drink to the ‘point of blackout’ on the weekend, but felt no need to question it as that’s what everyone else around her was doing. ‘Because I was managing not to drink in the week and going to work and doing all those normal life things, I didn’t think I had a problem at all. I really didn’t think I had a problem.’

Highlighting an all-too-familiar feeling, Alex said she ‘didn’t kind of know there was another way of socialising, I didn’t know there was another way of behaving really. The truth is: I thought I was funny. I thought that my drinking stories, I would glorify them. I was stuck in this idea of what normal was’.


But one morning, it all became too much. Speaking of how she felt in that moment, Alex recalled:

I actually woke up with a hangover from hell – and when I say hangover from hell, I was crawling around on all fours and vomiting, I think I’d literally poisoned myself.

It was another one of those ‘I’m never drinking again’ and I’d had lots of them. But I really was at the point of ‘I’m just so sick of this, I can’t spend another day feeling like this – feeling anxious and feeling sad, so unwell’, so I took a photo of myself, sent it to Lisa and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and she said, ‘Look, just take a little break for thirty days,’ and that was the last time I drank.

Looking back, Alex admits she was always ‘guessing at normal’, especially after growing up living above and working in a pub, where speaking to drunk people was ‘normal’ and playing ‘barmaids’ was just a part of her childhood.

‘That’s really what I feel that my upbringing led to – me guessing at what was normal. I was trying to stay with what I thought was normal which wasn’t necessarily normal at all – it was drinking through stress, drinking to party, drinking to go out. Anything I couldn’t handle, I’d have a drink to handle it.’

Alex’s father – who had gone sober for a decade – sadly passed away of alcohol-related illness. But having a father that was an alcoholic meant Alex stayed ‘stuck’.’He was my kind of benchmark for where I would never allow myself to go. I think about my dad with a load of respect because he actually went sober for the last ten years of his life – he had to do – but I used to just use him as my gauge really’, she told UNILAD.

According to Alcohol Change UK, in England, there are an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers. Only 18% are receiving treatment.

The numbers are stark, but Lisa stressed it’s important to reach people before they get to this point, citing her own experience with losing a family member to alcohol, just like Alex. ‘My step-dad died at 56 through drinking – he was a landlord of a pub so we kind of grew up around it and I think it’s so nice to reach people before they get to that point where they just think ‘oh, I’ve had enough of this now’, and to know that’s it’s not boring, you can do other stuff.’

‘The stigma around drink is massive. I think when people start thinking, ‘Oh, I’m drinking a bit much,’ they’re so worried about being labelled an alcoholic, [but] they don’t ask for help, or they don’t want to tell people they’ve stopped drinking,’ she added.

Choosing a sober lifestyle isn’t easy, however, something both Lisa and Alex openly admit. Lisa, who suffers from social anxiety, sought out a community to help support her sobriety – something the pair stress is integral to success. After responding to an Instagram post, she decided to meet up with other sober people and form Bee Sober Manchester.

Lisa from Bee Sober (@beesober.cic/Instagram)@beesober.cic/Instagram

A year later, when Alex also decided to give up drinking, the pair set up their own podcast, The Sober Experiment, which ‘documented our journey to sobriety’ as well as writing 30 daily emails and videos under the same name to help change people’s mindset around alcohol. Eventually, the friends merged everything together to create Bee Sober as it is today.

But that’s not to say it’s been a plain sailing, as Alex explains, ‘I made the decision on the Sunday to stop and on the Monday morning I was already thinking about alcohol. I was already thinking about my weekend without wine and how I’d deal with it and what I would do instead. So that was the first obstacle. I did have to use sheer willpower for a few weeks to just grit on’, she said, going on to admit she ‘did find that sometimes I didn’t get invited to things and a couple of times I was called boring for not drinking’.

Lisa and Alex (@beesober.cic/Instagram)@beesober.cic/Instagram

Lisa echoed a similar stance, explaining she can often see people’s ‘brain’s tick’ when she tells them she doesn’t drink.

However, it’s clear the positives outweigh the negatives, with Lisa explaining:

Now, I can go out on a Friday and on the Saturday be up, out – I go to the Lake District quite a lot with my boyfriend, we’ve bought a kayak, we go waterfall dipping – we do all these things I would never dreamt of doing.

It’s [being sober] honestly like, you know when you’re a kid before you find drink and you’re excited about being in a forest, it’s like you go back to that.

When you laugh, you really laugh.

Alex noted that being firm with her friends has been key to stopping those inevitable questions about her not drinking. ‘I learned very quickly to just be very, very firm and say, ‘No, I’m not boring, my drinking doesn’t affect you, if you want me to come out because we’re friends, I can be there’. Once you overcome that initial pressure, it becomes very easy. Nobody now asks me to just have one. No one.’

She’s keen to emphasise the importance of community, explaining to UNILAD it’s ‘so important because having people that just get it – like-minded people that just get it – is what really, really helps you to stay sober

‘Making friends is so important when you’re sober because you kind of feel like an outsider and isolated from society. Having friends who really understand that is so important in your success’, she added.

For anyone thinking about going sober, Alex advised to not look at it ‘as a forever thing’, because if you do, ‘it’s too much, it’s too daunting. It’s like climbing Everest when you’ve only ever walked outside’. Instead, see it as an ‘experiment’ by taking 30 days off, and then ‘at the end of 30 days, that is enough for you to make a decision as to whether you feel better or worse without it’.

Ultimately, Alex stressed that ‘if drinking is becoming a problem for you, then that’s enough’.

‘You don’t have to fit that alcoholic stereotype to want to stop drinking’, she said, adding that immersing yourself in books, podcasts and finding a community are all helpful ways to start the journey of ditching the booze.

Bee Sober aims to support those who want to stop drinking by organising meetups and providing a full lifestyle through coaching, counselling, personal training, Facebook groups and its paid monthly membership

If you want to discuss any issues relating to alcohol in confidence, contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110, 9am–8pm weekdays and 11am–4pm weekends for advice and support

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Chloe Rowland

Chloe Rowland is a Junior Sub Editor at UNILAD. She graduated from The University of Salford with a BA Multimedia Journalism degree in 2019 but has continued to use the fact she has a Blue Peter badge as her biggest flex.

Topics: Featured, Addiction, Alcohol, Mental Health

Credits

Alcohol Change UK
  1. Alcohol Change UK

    Alcohol statistics