‘Truthful, modern and real’ – Stylist
‘Brave, witty and brilliantly written’ – Marie Claire
‘Hilarious, sharp, spitfire writing’ – Sacha Z. Scoblic, Senior Editor at The Atlantic
The appealing pitch of Gray’s book is that sober life is not just good for you, it’s actually better fun, too….She writes about her addiction with admirable honesty, and in a tone that is light, bubbly and remarkably rarely annoying.’ – The Guardian
I have been sober since September 2013. Before that date, I had worked my way up to an average of seven bottles of wine a week, or 70 units, a life-endangering amount of alcohol. I was only taking one or two days off from drinking a week. Yet, very few people around me, aside from immediate family and my best friend, knew I was addicted.
I drank too much, yes. They often had to peel me off the floor or pour me into taxis, yes. But I still didn’t fit into their cliched stereotype of someone with a ‘problem’. Close friends even tried to talk me out of quitting, and back into attempting moderation.
Getting sober was fiendishly difficult at first. I thought I would never have fun again. I thought my life would be forevermore grey, dreary and glum. I thought I would never be able to go to a party, go on a date, or dance in public ever again. Turns out that that I was able to do all of those things, once I adjusted. What was once hard, became exquisitely beautiful, and over time, brought a delicious sense of freedom.
When I was sizing up sobriety as my future, I loved hearing about drinking misadventures because I related strongly, but I also had an insatiable curiosity about what sober life was really like, how sober people dealt with things like parties, gigs, dating, a job loss, a heartbreak. I couldn’t find that in any book to a degree that satisfied me. I wanted to know why I should go through the effort of quitting drinking. People kept telling me my life would be better, but not exactly how, or why. They remained frustratingly vague.
Two-thirds of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is about what comes after the quitting. After the day one. Which is what people who are drinking too much really want to know. ‘What will life be like if I quit? How will I cope with anxiety, with New Years Eve, with a first kiss? Why will it be worth the gargantuan lifestyle change?’
The book is a tri-brid of self-help, a report and a memoir. It’s for the sober-curious, as well as the trying-to-be-sober and the already-sober. It’s for people who want to quit drinking for six months to save for a house deposit and clear up their skin, as well as those who want to quit for good. It’s rich with inspirational takeaway tips, shocking stats, illuminating science, never-read-before insights from experts, convincing research as to why sobriety is better, and diary excerpts from my life drinking vs. my life sober.
I’m a bona fide recovering alcoholic, for sure, and I’m comfortable with that label, but the reader doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to identify as an ‘alcoholic’ to quit drinking or try an extended sober sabbatical. You don’t have to be physically addicted to want to emancipate yourself, or go 80 per cent alcohol-free. New thinking around dependent drinking say that it’s not a black/white realm of ‘normal’ drinkers and ‘alcoholics.’ It’s a spectrum. I was a 9 on that spectrum, but people don’t have to go through the hell of ticking through 6,7 and 8 before they bail. They don’t even have to go through 3, 4 or 5, in fact.
We need to change how we view sobriety. It needs a re-brand. It’s not something you only get to do if you descended to drinking in the morning. It’s something anyone can choose, at any time. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober sends readers out into the world feeling like being teetotal is a privilege, a prize to be won, and a joyful lifestyle choice; rather than a cross to bear, a failure, or a loss.
This book is aimed at anyone who drinks. Those who are like ‘huh, that’s weird, I find it really difficult to take even a week off drinking, what’s up with that?’ It’s a game-changing book for those who wonder about an alcohol-free life, or who struggle to maintain one. Lighting the way beyond the first week of white-knuckling, into the later thick-and-fast sober rewards.
Because being sober truly is a totally unexpected joy.
PS. The book is also available in audio version, read by me. It was hugely fun to record and I learnt how to say a lot of tricksy words I had only ever written before (like schadenfreude, striatum and inuit), so please do check it out.