book reviews

Book Review | The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

Had you told me in March that I will be reading The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, or any sort of sobriety related literature for that matter, I would have thought you are out of your mind. I’ve always admired people who do not drink, but I’ve never even thought about quitting myself. Until I did.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober – Catherine Gray

Published in 2017, by Hachette
You can order a copy from Amazon, Waterstones

Ever sworn off alcohol for a month and found yourself drinking by the 7th? Think there’s ‘no point’ in just one drink? Welcome! There are millions of us. 64% of Brits want to drink less.

Catherine Gray was stuck in a hellish whirligig of Drink, Make horrible decisions, Hangover, Repeat. She had her fair share of ‘drunk tank’ jail cells and topless-in-a-hot-tub misadventures.

But this book goes beyond the binges and blackouts to deep-dive into uncharted territory: What happens after you quit drinking? This gripping, heart-breaking and witty book takes us down the rabbit-hole of an alternative reality. A life with zero hangovers, through sober weddings, sex, Christmases and breakups.

In The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, Catherine Gray shines a light on society’s drink-pushing and talks to top neuroscientists and psychologists about why we drink, delving into the science behind what it does to our brains and bodies.

Much more than a tale from the netherworld of addicted drinking, this book is about the escape, and why a sober life can be more intoxicating than you ever imagined. Whether you’re a hopelessly devoted drinker, merely sober-curious, or you’ve already ditched the drink, you will love this book.


“You can see that the person shoving a 15th éclair into their face is not having fun. You can tell that the gambler holding their head in their hands at the roulette wheel is not having fun. Why can’t people see that the blackout drunk unable to walk is not having fun? “

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober was an impulse buy. One I will definitely reread over an over. Catherine Gray writes like a friend. Her writing is familiar and witty, but serious at the same time. She makes you think, like really think, what it is that you want from your life.

The book is full of Gray’s personal stories and hard hitting facts. It’s full of literature to continue reading about sobriety and helpful tips and sources should you wish to dive deeper into the sober community. Either to find out more or to get help.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober made me look at myself. Truly look at myself and be honest with myself. I’ve had so many questions as to why I stopped drinking. My responses so far have been:

  1. “I’m trying to cut down on sugar intake, you know rum has sooo much sugar in it”
  2. “I’m on a diet”
  3.  “I just need a bit of a break from drinking because it got boring”

.. but that’s not why I stopped.

Truthfully I stopped drinking because I was scared. It’s something I didn’t admit even to myself until I started this book a few days ago.

I’ve had friends try to lure me back into drinking. Things like “oh come on, one drink won’t do any harm” or “let me pour you a weak one, you don’t even feel there’s alcohol in it” (um, so why can’t I just enjoy my soft drink instead?) etc have been a regular temptation over the past month or so. It’s been tougher than I expected.

So what happened?

I’ve always taken pride in being able to control the frequency and volume of my drinking. Now I’m scared to try another drink because I felt like I was starting to lose that control. Like many, I started to drink more during lockdown that was imposed upon us due to coronavirus mid March. A drink every now and then, until it was a drink pretty much all the time. I woke up in the morning counting down the hours until it would be “socially acceptable” to pour myself a little bit of “fun juice”. The excuse of “it’s five o’clock somewhere” soon wore thin on my boyfriend, but neither of us said anything.

Until it clicked.

Until it clicked for me. The fact I was drinking almost every day. The fact that I could count the days between March and end of June where I hadn’t had at least one drink on two hands. That finally brought it home for me. It didn’t feel normal and it scared me. The fear in me potentially becoming helplessly addicted in the future was strong enough to make me stop. Cold turkey. On the spot.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is an eye opening and truly interesting read. Highly recommend, even if you aren’t thinking about going sober today, tomorrow or ever.

“The question to ask yourself is not:’ Am I an alcoholic?’ Swivel that focus. The question is:’ Would my life be better if I was sober?’ If the answer is yes, then shoot for sober!”

Today I’ve been sober for 73 days straight. Which isn’t a major achievement in the grand scheme of things, but an achievement nevertheless. I am proud to have put myself and my health first. I’ve been saying it hasn’t made a difference, because I wasn’t addicted. (Still not sure if I was/am, but I was definitely headed that way!). I’ve been saying to myself that I wasn’t actually drinking that much. But in reality, it has made a difference and I was drinking enough to feel the way I did. At least enough for it to trigger crippling anxiety the morning after each time I’d had a drink and it started to make me feel really quite unhappy.

I have noticed a bit of a shift in me, I don’t miss a (social) drink. I feel happier. Content. At peace. I’m definitely enjoying seeing my friends and spending quality time with them, talking about things that matter. I enjoy waking up in the morning feeling fully rested, happy and full of energy. (Although the laziness in me has not disappeared.. that may be unrelated!)

I’m planning my future, I’m looking forward to it and I want to do something with it.

All that within the first 73 days. That’s HUGE and I am not ready to give up this feeling. I’m not saying I’ll never ever drink again. But  for now, I am sober. I’m happy and inspired. Life feels better that way.

Kat x


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