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Why I decided to quit alcohol at 23: Layla’s Sobriety Story

Read about how removing alcohol changed this young person's life and lifestyle

How old were you when you decided to quit drinking?

I quit drinking alcohol over two years ago, when I was 23 years old (just hit 800 days!)

I remember it felt like quite an unconventional decision at the time. I barely knew anyone who was (or who even wanted to be) sober in their twenties. So in some ways, I’d definitely say it was testing. 

Before going sober in May 2021, I remember worrying about whether I was making the right decision and/or if people would judge me for it. Society often reinforces the notion that your twenties are synonymous with partying as a ‘rite of passage.’ Binge drinking and partying is what I felt like I was “supposed” to do and enjoy at 23. But I just didn’t enjoy it. I hated the hangovers, the next-day regret, the anxiety. All of it! 

I definitely however, still had moments of FOMO in my early days of sobriety. I would worry about missing out on a glass of red at a family dinner, a cocktail to celebrate a friend’s birthday, an Aperol Spritz on holiday in Europe, a glass of champagne at a wedding, etc. 
I didn’t want to feel left out or like I was missing out on the fun (who does?!). But two years down the track, and I can say with total confidence it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I have 0 regrets. 

What made you decide to quit drinking?

I never experienced a ‘rock bottom’ or one particular night out or hangover that led to my sobriety. Instead, it was a collection of moments. It was an overall feeling – I hated my relationship with alcohol. 

I hated how out of control alcohol made me feel – of my actions, my money, my behaviour, everything! I hated hangovers and rotting away in bed on a Sunday (or with my head down a toilet bowl.) I hated waking up with regrets, crippling anxiety, shame. The memory loss. Rocking up to events on a Sunday morning with a throbbing headache or shaky hands. The unnerving fear that everyone hated me for something I did or said the night before. 

As a girl in her early twenties, alcohol had put me in some really vulnerable situations. From working in bars, travelling, after-work drinks, and clubbing, I felt like I was constantly surrounded by booze. I just didn’t want that for myself anymore. Once I became hyper-aware of how much I despised my relationship with alcohol, it felt like there was no going back. I’ve never second-guessed that decision!

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed since you quit drinking?

Honestly, the last two years have been magic. I feel more in tune with myself than ever before. Healthier, stronger, calmer. I am better at dealing with problems than when I was drinking. I have more energy and clarity. My anxiety has improved tenfold.

One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is my confidence. I feel like, being the introvert I am, I  used to always hide behind alcohol to give me ‘a personality’ and extroverted confidence on a night out. I felt like people wouldn’t like ‘the real me’ behind the blanket of booze. But I’ve found the opposite to be true. I have so much more confidence and appreciation for who I am. I have better conversations with people, and I enjoy myself so much more.

Also, more time. There’s 52 Sundays in a year. That’s like 2 whole months’ worth of time I’ve gained back every year (or four whole months in two years!). Not spending Sundays hungover in bed has added so much more time (and quality) to my life. Sobriety is, truly, the greatest gift I could’ve given myself. 

In the last two years, the alcohol-free market has really blossomed too, which has been so beautiful to see. There were barely any options available in supermarkets or bottle shops when I stopped drinking, except the occasional vinegar-tasting red wine. There are so many amazing options now and it’s so great to have the options available!

What has helped you to stay sober?

Following on from that last point, the rise in alcohol-free beverages has definitely made sobriety easier. Being able to go to an event with mocktails or an alcohol-free wine in hand is such a great feeling. Inclusion with AF drinks really helps to make you feel like you’re not missing out (there’s only so many Coke Zero’s I can drink on a night out!). 

I’ve also found reading to be really helpful! There are so many incredible authors out there writing about sobriety, my favourites being: Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker and The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray. Being able to relate to other women’s experiences helped me to not feel so alone in early days of sobriety. 

I think as well, finding activities/hobbies/interests to replace drinking. Such a big part of my life revolved around alcohol before I went sober: Sunday sessions, after-work drinks, wine nights, etc. So it was important for me to spend time alone, working on myself, to decide what I actually enjoyed doing. Now I spend more time reading books, exercising, travelling, getting massages, and doing things that light me up. This really helped to eliminate the ‘FOMO.’

What advice would you give to someone looking to change their relationship with alcohol?

When I decided to go sober, I felt so alone and like I was the only one who felt this way about alcohol. But once I started talking more about it, I realised a lot of people actually feel the same way about alcohol – they just don’t know what to do about it. 

So I think if you are starting to question your relationship with alcohol, just know you are not alone. Join online sobriety communities, read books, talk to friends or loved ones about it, write down how alcohol is making you feel. Find someone or something that connects to your experience. Community really is so important when it comes to sobriety.

I’ve also found is that people find the idea of going completely sober or giving up alcohol forever really freaking daunting. To that, I would say to learn about sober curiosity. Being sober curious simply means evaluating your relationship with alcohol and being curious about the benefits of sobriety. Be open to trying new things: Alcohol-free alternatives, going a month without alcohol, spending a Saturday night in. You don’t have to label it as being “sober” or making any life-changing decisions. Instead, just learn to be mindful about alcohol and how it’s making you feel.

Cheers to being sober!

Follow Layla’s sobriety journey at @laylajsmith

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