Sobriety and Scuba Diving

I’ve never had a rock bottom, I’ve always had a job, friends, hobbies and been active - so many people wonder, why would I give up alcohol? I started drinking at a young age, this being the norm in my social circle in Hong Kong where I grew up. I felt more confident,  articulate, funnier,  sexier - generally more at ease when I was drinking - so again, why would I want to stop? Guest article by Girls that Scuba moderator Weeze Christina.

My relationship with drinking

Me on a night out pre-sobriety
Me on a night out pre-sobriety

The truth is, it got to a point where not only did it stop being so much fun, I was starting to notice the negative impact a lot more. The desire to drink alcohol - finding a reason to drink - which really was any reason at all - celebrations, commiserations, congratulations – feeling happy, sad, stressed, bored… waiting to drink, became central to everything. But the reality was not a good one. Most nights weren’t super fun nights out. Hazy at best, sometimes making stupid, and potentially dangerous decisions, and at worst I suffered blackouts - with whole chunks of my memory gone, forever.  And the mornings that followed often left me feeling anxious; ‘Who did I text? What did I say?,’ or paranoid; having ‘The Fear’ being a common phrase to describe this. The physical ailments too - headaches, nausea, the shakes - not even taking into account the long term damage done to your liver and nervous system. 

 

So I asked myself, why? Why did I need to drink - and that involved taking a step back, and a long hard look at myself. Ultimately, it seemed I wanted to escape, not to deal with my emotions, not to have to face my self worth and self confidence issues. I thought alcohol made me more confident and creative, but in reality - over the years it had chipped away massively at both these things without me realising, finding it hard to just be myself, socialise without alcohol, and actually spend the time and effort needed to focus on creative passions and professional goals. We are sold this romantic dreamy image of creativity and productivity fuelled by alcohol. In reality it takes hard work, focus & effort to create and produce. 

 

Why I stopped drinking

There is no doubt drinking is a quick and easy short term fix when you want to relax mentally. But longer term, I found this led to more confusion, more procrastination, and more avoidance. Taking alcohol out of the equation is often seen as leading a more restrictive lifestyle, but I’ve found it has given me freedom. I no longer have an emotional attachment to it; ‘wouldn’t this be perfect if only we had a cold beer or glass of wine?’ or 'waiting’ for the fun to start, i.e. when the alcohol arrives. And my bank account has looked a lot healthier and happier - monies previously spent on bottles of wine have now been spent on dive courses, trips and equipment!

 

I wanted to really feel the positive and joyful emotions – the ones that make this world a technicolour place to live in, so much so it could feel a bit overwhelming and exhausting at first. The buzz I get from dancing sober is much stronger than it ever was stumbling drunk across a dance floor. Looking at a sunset without a cocktail is more breathtaking than it ever was with one; and now, I’d never want to change that.

 

Embracing emotions also includes the more difficult ones and working out what to do with them can be hard. Sometimes it’s endorphins I need, sometimes I play music or scribble in my journal, sometimes I’ll call a friend and have a rant - and sometimes, I just sit, and feel a bit shit for a while. Eventually you build up an army of tools for life situations, and know what’s best for you - sometimes these just help enough to get you through the day but other times, they turn a tough situation, into a great positive one.

Drinking and scuba diving

scuba diving and drinking
Me on the Girls that Scuba group trip to Jordan in 2019 - I'm the furthest right.

We all know that drinking is a huge part of diving culture - and one of the biggest challenges is that it seems everyone wants you to drink! ‘Just one’, ‘Just tonight,’ and the ultimate, ‘oh, don’t be boring…!’ Post dive beers are the norm and the ‘snorkel test’ has even become an unofficial part of passing your Dive Master Training!

Has it changed my experience diving, post diving? Yes - positively! I don’t feel the anxiety I used to waking up, I’ve normally had a better nights sleep, and pre-dive excitement is much better without the groggy, fuzzy head; without nausea or a headache. Now that I feel more confident in myself, I find it easier to ask questions and to talk to people when I feel nervous about a dive - these are hugely important in growing your skills as a diver, and also being able to help others.

 

I’m physically stronger because my work outs aren’t about sweating out toxins, but actually strengthening myself. Diving with a hangover (and sometimes still drunk - I mean does 3 hours sleep after a full night partying really negate the amount of alcohol consumed? ) is dangerous. Mentally you are impaired, physically your body is not on form. Many of us have seen people turn up to dive in a state that we think is borderline unsafe, thankfully I have seen dive companies refuse to take clients that appear too intoxicated.

 

I’ve been on week long group diving trips, and liveaboards - with almost everyone else drinking, and I’ve had even more fun than in my drinking days, often being more social throughout the whole day rather than waiting for the booze to kick in post-dive. Of course, it does take time and effort to get used to socialising sober at first, but it’s worth it. You’ll often find many others don’t drink, or very minimally - it’s just they aren’t the people you would normally be talking to if jagerbombs used to be your thing.

 

Your social circles may change - time becomes more precious. It became obvious who was keen to do sober activities with me, or didn’t care whether I drank or not.  Spend time working out what you want to do and what kind of people you want to have around you. The chances are if you spend a lot of time in bars you won’t realise how many others there are out there that don’t drink, or would also be happy to join a booze free activity.

My words of advice

On a group trip with Insider Divers in Palau
On a group trip with Insider Divers in Palau

 If you decide to give up drinking, even for a short time (a month is a great starting length) make sure you work out why you want to do it first! Focus on positive reasons, rather than thinking it a difficult challenge you ‘should’ do. This sets you up for failure, and a pretty miserable month! Yes, it may be difficult and you won’t suddenly feel fabulous - like all good things, it takes time and effort to feel actual progress, and the benefits. There are a lot more sober divers out there than you may think, and so many online resources now - groups, podcasts and blogs (the online blogging community was a huge part of my early sobriety.) If you drink, you haven’t failed - you’ve just drunk. You can start again tomorrow (but try not to do this too many times…).

 

If you want to chat, have any questions, or want some advice, please feel free to message me - I am more than happy to help!


About the author

Weeze, originally from Hong Kong is a GTS moderator and Divemaster. Not only does she love to explore the underwater world, but up top too, especially learning about local cultures and social history whilst seeking out vegan ice cream! A Singer-Songer writer, she also writes about her adventures in her blog Weeze x Christina, as well as sharing photos on her Instagram.