Those who are close to me know that I’ve been trying to throw in the towel with drinking for a few years. And anyone who’s tried to do this would agree that it’s bloody hard.
I initially tried to become alcohol free in 2015. This also conveniently coincided with me training for my first marathon so I had a good excuse not to drink. I’m an extroverted introvert - I prefer my own space and company, I find most social situations exhausting, I’d rather sit and listen to a conversion than be the conversation starter and so on... Especially when It comes to new people or those I haven’t sussed out yet. On the surface (and when I feel like contributing), I’m chatty, funny and great value to be around. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a rather anxious person - and yes, I get that every human being has some sort of anxiety, but I’ve had quite debilitating melt downs from an early age and have a particular knack for working myself up into a “tizzy” (as my mum calls it) over very small things.
Drinking was my coping mechanism for all the above. Like with most people, a couple of pints/ glasses/ whatever would relax me. I thought I was funny... Make inappropriate jokes, “work a room”, flirt, control a table, give godawful life advice, be the best person on the dance floor, get with someone because I could and I was powerful, wake up in a train toilet almost by the coast covered in my own vomit, various other substances, being inappropriate with clients who were not recripricating, dropping bottles of prosecco on the floor (fag in the other hand), managing to insult my entire close friendship group over WhatsApp as I was jealous of another good friend and I thought “they liked her more than me”, other friendships that have almost been destroyed, arguments with those I love, deliberately causing drama because I was bored.. The blackout moments... You get the picture. These are just some of the highlights. None of this is beautiful... Or clever or fun. None of this is me. And the hangovers, oh my god the hangovers. Days on end of sleep deprivation, panic attacks, an upset stomach, aching muscles, walking out halfway through meetings to be sick. I don’t regret any of this, the lesson I’ve learnt is that it’s not OK. I began to question if it all was really worth it and if this is what adult life is supposed to be like.
According to advertising and marketing messages, apparently this is what adult life is supposed to be like. Just look around you today and count the amount of messages you see that market alcohol. It’s supposed to make us sexy, successful, a reward for a hard day or a work out, a remedy for feeling shit. The living for the weekend mentality. You need this to relax and have fun. Mummy needs a drink. At the end of the day, it’s marketing ethanol. Different flavours of ethanol.
... I digress. My treat for completing a marathon was rehydrating with Prosecco. This was the beginning of a cycle of few months on/ few months off from drinking - with FOMO kicking in at around two months without the booze. The few months off the sauce usually started after I’d done something to deliberately self sabotage. My intentions for drinking was to never just have fun, it was always to make me an enhanced version of myself - To look “cool” in front of other people, or to relax because I’m stressed, or to “power through” a night out because I’m tired. I finally decided enough was enough on November 30th 2017, 100 days ago. Getting to this point has been hard, but something I’m incredibly proud of. When I realised that I DON'T HAVE TO DRINK, I felt like a massive weight had been taken off my shoulders.
As mentioned in previous posts, last year I took the time to press reset and begin to look after myself. And to caveat, it wasn’t because I felt like I’m a bad person or I’m beating myself up - I just can’t be arsed putting something into my body that makes me feel like shit. I’ve had to re-learn (and still learning) how to deal with emotions or feelings of anxiety in other ways. When you haven’t got what is essentially a drug to mask your feelings, you suddenly feel very raw and exposed. Coping mechanisms have of course been yoga and meditation and a lot of it. Running was also a huge release for me, and I found that I’d get the same buzz from all of these things as I would from that first pint of the day. Even simple things like hot baths, good food, tea, still going dancing! Everything I could possibly do to stop myself from giving in… Even if it meant skipping out on things or going home early. I also realised that I don’t have to do things if I don’t want to - so there’s really no need to go into endurance mode on a night out just to please other people. Educating myself on the effects of alcohol and what it does to the body has also been a key one - if anyone’s interested Annie Grace’s “This Naked Mind” is an excellent read.
As mentioned before, how other people have reacted to me not drinking has been a challenge. On one end of the spectrum I’ve had digs where I’ve been told that I’m boring and not fun. People miss the fun, drunk version of me. The other end of the spectrum was the reassurance of “don’t beat yourself up, you should allow yourself to have a treat once in a while”, life’s all about balance etc. Also being made to feel bad or guilty because I’m not drinking, therefore whoever I’m with shouldn’t either, and my choice to have a soda water and fresh lime is putting a downer on whatever situation I’m in. It’s taken time for those around me to respect my decision, and I’m also beginning to learn that it’s something I should no longer have to justify to anyone.
So the positives. Ahhhh the positives. The first is no hangovers, no pranging, no vomiting up my stomach lining for 48 hours. The way I look; so clearer skin, brighter eyes! Being able to sleep all the way through the night. A clear head, having the space to think and not being tired all the bloody time. And the most important one is that I feel like I’ve won so much time back. No more days lost to recovering from the night before. Being able to enjoy an evening without worrying what the fuck I was going to say or do. When I was still at work, it made me so much more productive - which is funny as I was working in an industry where drinking is strongly encouraged. I suddenly want to learn things, grow even more as a person and in short, knocking this habit on the head was the start of me wanting to get so much more out of life.
I know this is a continual process, and not a quick fix. This also isn’t an attack at anyone at all - It’s just my experience. But it’s 100% been one of my brighter ideas and I’m excited about what the next 100, 200, 300 etc days are going to bring.
Here are some wonderful resources if you're looking to throw in the towel as well..
- Hip Sobriety - a wonderful blog from Holly Whitaker, founder of the incredible Hip Sobriety Project.
- A Girl & Tonic - another fabulous blog this time from Laurie Mcallister. There are SO many resources on here!
- One year no beer - broken down into 28, 90, and 365 day challenges and addressing the issue with drinking culture. Have a read, sign up and give it a go!