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The diary of a sober sister: Just keep swimming

Michelle O'Connell shares snippets of her sober adventure

September 2021

I love the sound of the sea, I love its changing colours and its power, but I have never been that interested in swimming in it. So no one was more surprised than me when, on 19th September, I decided to give it a go. I waded in, and it felt ok. This wasn’t too bad at all - why hadn’t I tried this before?

I went down to Bouley Bay most days in the balmy September weather, and as I bobbed about, I started to understand why so many people do this. Still, the Autumn was fast approaching, and the days were getting shorter, and I knew if I was to continue, I needed to connect.


The swimming community is magnificent. Each time I toddled down that slip, I started to see the same faces. We nod and smile. Sometimes we chat. I find it bizarre that I am having a conversation about the merits of Dry Robes whilst I shiver on the slip, and it feels wonderful. People are nice. Swimming, I have started to realise, makes me happy. I continued to swim on through, but it’s getting colder, and I can‘t rely on hoping to see others to keep me company.


Cue my Swimmy Swampy Sisters.

Then, there was Sarah. I haven’t seen her since 1984, but here she was, a ray of sunshine whose swimming story had started at the same time as mine. After that first swim together, we were soon joined by Jo, Cezza and Alex. We meet. We swim. We laugh. I have found my tribe.

September 2022

We have swum throughout the whole year, and it’s not going to stop. We meet each morning and motivate each other through the darkest and bleakest weather and the most glorious sunrises alike; it’s all a joy. Thank you, girls.

Quitting the booze has given me swimming. Stopping has given me the space for something much, much more rewarding. It’s given me time. The buzz that being out in nature gives me far outweighs the hit that a glass of wine used to. On that first sunny Sunday morning, as I walked into the sea, I knew I had found my thing. I knew in that instant that I would do this. Always.

You can read more of Michelle's diary in the next issue of Manner.


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