How alcohol sucked the joy out of every area of my life

It is quite simple: my life is better now that I no longer drink alcohol. I’m not here for the discussions over what I’m missing out on now that I am sober or the social connotations that come with it because I know that being sober has only taken away the bad things in my life and given me more good things.

We all know the classic things that are great about no longer drinking alcohol: you have more money, no longer waking up with the fear, not having alcohol fuelled arguments with anyone close by. But I am going to take you through the tiny things that I always focus on and fill me with alcohol-free gratitude everyday.

A list of ways that alcohol made my life less enjoyable:

Not swimming

For background, I love outdoor swimming and this was something I did long before I gave up alcohol. The day that sticks out most in my mind; summer 2020, Helen’s Bay, Northern Ireland. We were hungover but it was a lovely day so we, like many others, set off for the beach. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun was lovely and warm, and the beach was packed with happy people soaking up a rare, nice day in Ireland. Did I go for a swim? Did I shite. I was so hungover that I simply could not face introducing anymore discomfort into my life. The real kicker being that the cold water (yes, it was summer but it was still the Belfast Lough) really would have helped with the hangover.

The result of this being that I’m still annoyed at myself for not going in the water, I felt like I wasted a trip to the beach, and a general feeling that I achieved absolutely nothing that weekend. An overreaction? Perhaps. But I could probably blame the alcohol for that too.

Not enjoying food and drinks

The horrendous irony of wanting to eat everything but enjoying all of it around 70% less than usual. Nothing would ever hit the spot. Toast would become tasteless. Fry-ups ALWAYS made me feel worse (never stopped me eating them). The now bitterness of orange juice brought in an additional layer of sadness.

Being hungover was my excuse for eating crap but it was never, ever, worth it. Now? I just eat whatever the hell I like rather than waiting for the excuse of minor (sometimes major) alcohol withdrawal.

Not climbing hills

On the day in question, I wasn’t fully hungover, but I was feeling a bit off after having red wine the night before. I had planned to climb Ben Vane, a Munro in the Southern Highlands of Scotland. I got up early and hiked to the foot of the mountain. As I stood there, looking up at the 915m peak I was overcome with doubt. My energy was lower than I’d have liked; what if I couldn’t make it to the top, or injured myself in the attempt? The result being that I bottled it. I definitely could have made it to the top, injury free, but the reality is I was looking for any excuse not to exert myself. I did walk some of The Three Lochs Way, racking up a few kilometres, but I still left that day feeling unaccomplished and disappointed in myself. I still haven’t climbed that mountain.

Not feeling general pleasure

Like so many people, I used to look forward to being hungover and, therefore, having an excuse to lie on my sofa or bed and watch films for a whole day. The issue being that the hangover always sapped all the joy out of this non-activity. I’ve already covered the food and drinks not tasting as good which added to this low-level hell, but there was never any real way of being able to sit or lie comfortably, and I was pretty consistent in falling asleep halfway through the film(s). I used to romanticise the idea of dying in front of a chick-flick or a thriller, under a blanket, with a massive pizza. But the reality was that I was just dying. I would struggle to settle on a film, and I didn’t find anything as exciting or funny as I was low-key dead inside.

Now I don’t need an excuse to have a lazy day, I deserve it if I say I do and I enjoy them 1000% more.

Not having baths

In my mid-20’s I found a new true love: baths. A splash of Radox, a few candles, and Stephen Fry reading sweet nothings into my ear is the perfect combination. With a hangover would come with a primal need to experience comfort and so, for me, a bath was the obvious choice. The reality is that I am a fainter; if I have hunger/low energy paired with any other negative sensation (including, but not limited to, hunger, exhaustion, illness, extreme heat, extreme cold) then chances are high that I would pass out. This meant that I would be lucky to make it to 5 minutes in the tub before having to depart the hot water through fear of fainting and thus drowning.

Praise mother nature that I no longer have alcohol robbing me of the ultimate feelings of relaxation!

Not reading books

I read every day, I always know what my next book will be before finishing the last one, and I’m always giving out unsolicited book recommendations. Reading is a huge form of comfort for me so I would naturally be drawn to it when feeling self-inflictedly ill. But I would never make it past a few pages due to either my unavailable attention span or due to falling asleep. All I wanted was to read about how I could make my life better (quitting alcohol clearly was not advised) or to find out who was murdering the wedding guests, and instead I would be in a very broken sleep or staring at the wall.

Why did I continually rob myself of the real and simple pleasures in my life for the night before, a night that I would have enjoyed more if I’d just stayed sober? Who knows. But whatever, I enjoy things more now and I’m smug about it. You should be too.


Written by Ashleigh

Ashleigh is from Ayrshire, Scotland and making moves to live in the Highlands, She has been sober since December 2020 and has since been navigating what it means to have the label ‘sober vegan’. Ashleigh’s biggest passions are being in nature and outdoor activities – this presents itself in swimming in the sea almost every morning when the sun is rising. Early mornings are Ashleigh’s favourite time of day – when all you can hear are the birds talking to each other. Ashleigh loves reading and often has several books on the go at once. But she is also on a journey with her dyslexia – what it means, how it has shaped her and how she can make it work better for her in today’s world. Ashleigh doesn’t have social media anymore but loves to connect with new people. If you have any questions for her or any advice, then email her at

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