“I thought it would be cool not to drink for a year.” Journalist Sofya Volyanova tells how she refused alcohol and did not return to it during the war
– I first tried alcohol at the age of four, quite by accident. My mother and I were visiting my grandparents. Grandfather then fell ill – and he often treats colds with vodka and pepper. And so he prepared a shot for himself, went to the kitchen, and I rushed around the apartment, out of breath, wanted to drink – and mistakenly took a shot of vodka, thinking that there was water. Everyone thought that I was going to burst into tears, but I just made a “fuh” and rushed on.
In my school years, everything was strict – I studied at a private gymnasium. Of course, everyone got drunk at proms, but there weren’t those who directly lived in isolation. At least in my company. There was a lot of alcohol at the university, but that didn’t seem like a problem to me. When you’re young, you have a good metabolism and you tend to think that this is the stage everyone goes through. But for me, this stage ended at some point.
In 2020, with the onset of the pandemic and the overall worsening of the situation in the world, I started drinking more. Not only the coronavirus has affected. Living in Russia became more and more unsettling. I remember that the search at DOXA really hit me hard. It seemed to get worse and worse. And I really wanted to abstract from this reality.
I had no preferences for alcohol: beer, wine, champagne, cocktails … To get drunk, I didn’t need very much.
– I increasingly began to notice that I was hanging out, that I came to the guys who constantly drink, and that on Fridays someone was going there. It was such a general feeling. At some point, I realized: this is not very normal.
I was aware of the consequences of partying: I didn’t like putting my body through a hangover. And I didn’t like losing control either: yes, I wanted to disconnect from reality, but not to the point where I completely passed out. This was especially frightening. I always had examples in my head that alcoholism is a pretty terrible thing.
Plus, at that time, my husband and I were going to get a dog. And I wanted to be as responsible a “dog mom” as possible. Not hanging out, but being in a pure state of mind all the time.
Back in the second half of 2021, I started writing a text about the sober side of tiktok: about how the guys who coped with addiction to alcohol and substances quit.
With a friend, we agreed that we would support each other and together we would try to drink less. And then I decided, inspired by the experience of bloggers, to go for broke and try not to drink. At first I didn’t set myself any deadlines, then I thought from the bullshit: it would be cool not to drink for a year. Was wondering if it worked or not.
– I installed the Sober application for myself and constantly, every month, I posted: here, I have two, three, four months [трезвости]. This competitive moment helped me not to break. I really wanted to make it to the year.
Recently, meditation, keeping a diary and regular visits to a psychotherapist have helped to stabilize with all the information background related to the war.
I try to watch my body. If I feel that I am strongly pressed by the news, I understand: I need to consume less content. Don’t stuff it into yourself. If you’re bad, then you’re bad. You just need to admit it and try to recover.
I have had some attempts to replace alcohol with another habit. I noticed thanks to tiktok: people who stop drinking are very fond of carbonated lemonades, tonics. For a while I drank soda – mainly tonic, sprite – much more than usual.
I haven’t been beaten by nicotine-free vapes yet. Now I try to smoke less, but just yesterday I bought a new one at the mall. Beginnings [курить] in the summer, when there was a very stressful period and I was terribly tired. Listened to the discography of Britney Spears on repeat and played a detective game on the phone. This saved me.
There is no fear that I will start drinking and not be able to stop. In very dark moments, the thought can even slip through: “Damn, now I would get drunk and not see all the horror and nightmare.”
But at times like this, I realize that this is not an option. I’ll drink now. I feel better. Then I will return to my normal state. After drinking alcohol, a dopamine pit sets in. Why hurt yourself even more? Then I won’t be able to function normally and be useful.
Another important point: I was diagnosed with moderate depression a few months ago. I’m on antidepressants.
Let’s be honest, many people mix antidepressants with alcohol. This is a classic. But in order for the drugs to be effective, I need to not drink alcohol. If I start drinking again now, I will drag myself further into depression. And I really need to heal.
– After I stopped drinking, I stopped talking to a friend with whom we hung out before. But not entirely because of my withdrawal from alcohol.
It seems to me that my sobriety just highlighted some problems that were in the relationship before. Drinking together is one thing, but full-fledged friendship and responsibility is another. Apparently, we just liked hanging out together – it’s not bad, just different. The war began, and it became clear that you want more empathic people who will support you and whom you can support.
— It seems to me that we greatly underestimate addiction as a phenomenon. We often think that alcoholics are those who lie under the bridge, already in an inadequate state. But there are high-functioning alcoholics who drink constantly. At the same time, they work, they have a family, everything seems to be normal for them.
Alcoholics are not always people who get drunk every day. There are different stages of alcoholism. If you can’t imagine how you will survive some stressful moments without alcohol, if you dream of surviving until tomorrow to get drunk from the heart, if you can’t sit in a bar and not drink alcohol, you obviously have problems. In my opinion. I had exactly that. Am I ashamed? Yes, it’s a shame. But I am glad that I noticed the addiction, that I recognized it and that I made the decision to give up alcohol.
It’s hard to fantasize about how my life would change if I started drinking in the last eight months. I could allow myself to drink, for example, a glass of craft beer. And understand that I don’t need it. If you do not drink for a long time and alcohol enters your body, you feel it very strongly. I could try and understand that I don’t like the way I feel.
If I returned to regular use, it would be difficult for me to control my condition. And I would have been diagnosed with depression much earlier, in a more severe form.