After countless nights spent on the bathroom floor, clinging to the toilet, leaving parties early because she ‘couldn’t handle it’, Amber decided she’d had enough of drinking. It always ended the same way. Now, she’s been sober for one whole year and never felt better. Read Amber’s story…
This is Amber. She’s the Social Media and Digital Manager at Caleño, and on the 9th February, 2020, Amber made the decision to stop drinking alcohol. “After countless nights spent on the bathroom floor, clinging to the toilet, vomiting on the side of the road, and being taken home early from parties, I finally decided enough was enough. I wasn’t just hurting myself, I was ruining everyone else’s nights too.” But Amber’s problem wasn’t that she was drinking too much, her body just really doesn’t like alcohol. A glass of wine would leave her feeling tipsy, one more and she could find herself overcome by nausea. Yet, throughout much of her late teens and early twenties, she forced herself to drink; to be like everyone else, to fit in.
One year later, giving up alcohol was the best decision Amber ever made…
Why did you decide to stop drinking alcohol?
Alcohol just doesn’t agree with me. Even the smallest amount can make me sick. Believe me, I tried for years to drink, thinking these outrageous hangovers were just part of the game. Turns out they’re not… I’ve never been diagnosed but being half Filipina am pretty sure I am ADLH2-deficient or have ‘Asian Flush’, as many people call it. Long story short, it’s all to do with how enzymes in the body break down alcohol. In my case, they don’t work as efficiently, so it lingers in my system for longer. Hello one drink Amber.
How many times a week were you drinking?
University was a pretty boozy affair. I guess I drank more out of wanting to fit in and peer pressure. Throughout my mid twenties I began only drinking on special occasions, birthdays, Christmas etc. My family aren’t big drinkers so it was quite easy to avoid it when I wasn’t out with friends.
Have you had any really bad experiences with alcohol?
How long do you have? Most of them end with me hugging a toilet or with a friend holding my hair back on the side of the road while I vomit. The main catalyst in my decision to go sober was at my friend’s birthday at the beginning of 2020. We were in Brighton, we’d had a lovely meal and after two drinks I felt so unwell I had to go home. Another evening ruined because of me – It’s so sad it’s almost funny. I literally just cannot drink.
What was the hardest part about giving up alcohol?
Probably the social experience that comes with drinking. Especially when you’re with friends for a meal and have a nice bottle of wine to compliment it. It’s not that I don’t like alcohol, it doesn’t like me. I do still get the cravings for a glass of wine or gin & tonic but I just don’t know how it will react with me. Giving up alcohol just as the the pandemic hit has actually been a blessing in disguise, it’s been a lot easier to avoid social situations where drinking is ‘the norm’, but I hope that because I’ve made it this far it will be a lot easier to stay strong when we are allowed to socialise again.
What’s been the best thing about giving up alcohol?
No more toilet hugging, two-day lasting horrific hangovers. My mind is so much clearer and I’ve found new hobbies. I started wild swimming in October last year. No wetsuits, just me, my swimming buddy and the fresh (and very, very cold) open water.
How do you keep yourself strong in moments of weakness?
I remind myself how far I have come. What I have achieved. I don’t want to slip into old habits. I also remind myself that I could be doing serious damage to my body.
Do you feel any pressure when you’re with friends to drink?
What going sober has taught me is that I was the one putting pressure on myself. All these years, the pressure to drink, the fear of being an outsider if I didn’t, that was all me. When I told my friends I wasn’t going to drink anymore they were incredibly supportive – they knew how bad it was. They would buy me alcohol alternatives to help me feel included at social events and it really helped.
What was the easiest part about giving up alcohol?
The alternatives and the community. Knowing there are so many other alcohol alternatives out there has really helped. It’s an area that’s growing fast and I love that I can be part of a company that’s helping people make a difference to their lives.
I joined Caleño just after I decided to go sober and it was incredibly eye-opening. I’ve found an entire new community. I get to speak to so many different people, some who just want a more mindful drinking experience, others who have been sober for years. I no longer feel like the odd one out.
Low alcohol versus no alcohol, what’s your view?
Everyone’s journey is different, so if drinking a lower percentage works for one person then that’s great. I personally wouldn’t drink anything above 0.5% (that’s the same as you’d find in sourdough or a piece of fruit – don’t worry you’re not consuming alcohol unknowingly, it’s a naturally occurring alcohol). I am worried that too many ‘low alcohol’ drinks will add up and I will feel ill again – I have a real anxiety about being that unwell again from drinking.
A lot of people use alcohol to relax, what do you do to relax?
A hot bath with Epsom salts, bubbles and a good book or podcast.
What’s your favourite non-alcohol drink?
Caleño Light & Zesty with tonic. It’s simple to make and delicious.
As a treat, I’ll have the Caleño Dark & Spicy, topped with ginger beer and loads of fresh lime.
How often do you have a non-alcoholic drink now?
Twice a week, maybe more…
What would your advice be to someone who’s thinking about giving up alcohol?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Although the sobriety community is great, there is a lot of pressure there to live up to the ‘sober status’ at times. Go with what works the best and for you. Some people don’t like alternatives as it makes them crave alcohol, others just want to be more mindful when they drink, and that’s Ok, we’re all different. But my biggest advice is to be open with your friends and family about it, and be proud. You may find a lot of the pressure is coming from you.
Oh, and get boozeless drinks trolly, it’s a total game changer.
How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?
I will be cooking a nice meal for me and the husband (he’s a chef though – pressure!!) and of course, a Caleño cocktail or two!