Kerri Ough - a work in progress...

500 Days Sober

What started as a New Year’s Resolution to go sober for January 2017 has lasted far longer than I ever expected, and today, May 15th, 2018 marks 500 days sober.

Why did I stop drinking?

  • As I’ve said before, I have never been a big drinker, but it started creeping into my daily life in a way I didn’t plan and in a way I didn’t even notice while I was grieving my mother’s death. What had started as a rare treat with a great meal, became a daily habit that left me feeling blue, tired, and not really understanding why I was doing it. So I quit last January to figure out what was going on and I have never looked back.
  • In the time since I quit drinking, my band toured the UK, Germany, Australia, and parts of the US and Canada; we wrote, recorded and released a new album while keeping on top of the books, the grant writing and direction of our career; I’ve travelled to Morocco, spent countless days with friends and family, and attended concerts and events with strangers and friends. What I’m trying to say is, it’s been a big year of creative projects, business projects, travel and family commitments and in the midst of it all, through stress and celebration, I remained booze-free.

Unexpected Moments Along the Way

  • Right after I posted about being 100 days sober, we headed out on tour in northern Ontario. On our second gig of that tour, the promoter, after tending to Caroline and Sue, came over to me separately and asked if I wanted anything other than the soda water requested on our rider. He told me he had read my blog and respected my wishes to stay booze free. I was touched that he had taken the time to read my words and that he acknowledged my choice to stay booze free without making a big deal of it.
  • Throughout the year I have received probably 40 private messages from friends and strangers sharing their own struggles with drinking – some musicians, some not – all who have long associated having a pint of beer with a show, or a hot summer day on a patio or as just being part of “what you do” when you’re out. They weren’t asking for advice, but simply sharing their story, and we both left those conversations and emails feeling bolstered by each others’ desire to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and to stick with something that makes us feel better.

Choices I Made About When and Where to Share This Story

  • We toured Germany for 3 weeks last October and most nights an offering of wine, beer or shots would appear in front of us, unsolicited. I have decided that not everybody needs to hear about my sober journey, so there are times when I accept the drinks with a smile and either don’t drink it, or I cruise around the room holding it, to stop anyone else from asking me if I want a drink, and so I can eventually find a place far away from the offerer to put down the drink. I’m not uncomfortable being sober, not at all, but I recognize culturally to snub the host at a pub in Germany might be more harmful than my desire to pronounce my sobriety to a room of strangers who are out for a good time. Maybe next time, it’ll be part of the stage banter and I’ll have a chance to encourage those people to buy a record if they want to show me kindness and leave the pint of beer to someone who wants it.
  • I was invited to be a guest on my friend Bob LeDrew’s podcast this year. The show is about a moment or moments in your life where something happened to propel a shift or change in your life. Bob was right there, hosting my band at his house during the early days of me quitting drinking and sugar. He was curious about it back in March 2017, and a year later we hopped on the phone for a couple of hours to talk about it. It was an honour to be asked, and it gave me a chance to try to articulate why I put myself through these seemingly strange challenges.

My Friends and Family and Their Support 

  • While I spare some strangers from hearing about this journey, those close to me hear about it at every landmark. Every holiday I spend booze free, every 100 days spent sober (and highly caffeinated), how it makes me feel, how I feel I’ve changed, how I recognize I’ve changed – and I thank them for not rolling their eyes at me.
  • I’ve also had a lot of conversations with people about addictions this year – the whole gamut of addictions: drinking, drugs, eating, video games, shopping, iPhone usage and why we think we do it.  I don’t think any of these things are inherently evil, not even drinking. I see some people unwinding with a glass of wine at the end of a day and there are no fallout effects for them the next day, or week, or in life – so why should they change that habit?
  • Even for me, drinking wasn’t my big evil, sugar was, and as of today I am four months (121 days) sugar-free. No chocolate bars, no baked treats, no scones, no muffins, no croissants. And for me, this has been even more eye-opening that ditching booze. Sugar is in everything and it’s everywhere. And in my job, traveling around the world, usually without a kitchen to make my own meals, I’m at the mercy of restaurants chefs, or I’m eating food prepared by our concert hosts. You would be surprised at the commotion requesting a dinner without sugar has brought up in some people. I had one host in Australia who didn’t give a shit that I wasn’t drinking, but toiled and struggled to think of what she could serve me that wouldn’t have sugar in it! It was wild. I told her (and this is information is on our rider) it’s not that she needs to focus on the sugar-free part but that I eat vegetables, protein and salads and am more than happy with those simple options. It’s simple to me anyway. She was definitely thrown into uncomfortable territory. Incidentally, the meal she served was amazing and I worked around the salads that had sugar in them and it was one of the best meals of that tour!

The Benefits of 500 Days Sober

  •  I have saved a LOT of money not drinking.
  • My skin looks better today at 38 years old than it did at 30. A 25-year old who cut my hair last week balked at my age and I’m assuming it’s because of my youthful glow, not because I behave like I’m ten.
  • A combination of not drinking and cutting out sugar this year is keeping me trim. I see it in my face, and I feel it in my waistline. This is all good and happiness-inducing on its own, but the further gains from that reduced weight are that I am A BOSS at pushups now and I can carry my body weight across the monkey bars like I did when I was little, and I can run faster and farther than ever before. Even if I don’t run for three weeks, it takes no time to pick it back up. This makes me feel strong and capable, and therefore makes me do more things out of my comfort zone, and push myself not only physically, but musically, mentally, writing-ally (that’s a word right?) and to be a better sister, friend, wife, auntie and daughter.
  • Simply put: I feel fucking great. I don’t know what else to tell you. I feel fantastic.
  • I haven’t been ostracized. Some relationships have changed, where I would once go drinking with friends, now we have breakfasts or dinners together. Or we work on a project together, or watch a show or go for a hike. As far as I can tell I haven’t lost any friends by eliminating drinking. I have good friends. I know I am a lucky woman.

Final Words (…For Now)

This all started while I was grieving my mother’s death and coping with an old back injury that caused severe nerve pain. In my lowest moments, I wondered if this was it for me – maybe I’d never feel whole again and maybe I’d never walk properly again. In those dark months I knew I didn’t want to feel that way for the rest of my life. And if there was anything I could do to improve my mental and physical health – anything – I needed to get serious about it and really give it my all.

I might not be your drinking buddy, but I will be your hiking buddy. I won’t be pairing that glass of wine with that amazing meal, but I do want that amazing meal and a glass of water. I probably won’t be eating a birthday cake or Christmas squares, but I’ll get to the party and run around with your kids and be a good host and party goer. I’m doing alright. I hope you are too.

Thanks for reading,

Kerri

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