It’s been twenty months since I pulled the plug on alcohol and that was something I never thought I would say.
Yet still, I have so much to reflect on, to look back on and answer the inevitable question that crops up time and time again… why did I feel I needed to quit drinking totally? If other people have it all figured out, how did I get it so wrong?
I think the problem with my drinking really came into it’s own after the kids arrived, despite my ghastly ability to hold a drink for most of my adult (and teenage) life, because back in those days, the only one my drink was hurting was me. (Well, for the most part, aside from the people I offended, hacked off or just plain found me too much).
Transitioning into motherhood was , for me as it is for many women, always going to be hard. Somewhat selfish in my ‘have it all twenties’, this was an overnight face plant in the floor of realising that someone else comes before you every single time.
Of course that is what I signed up for, and I wanted it badly. I was ready for it and I was up for the challenge of being the best Mum I could. But I learnt quickly that the down time from Mum duties came with a drink in my hand – a fast track route to feeling like the old me, to take the edge off the crappy day, or to reward myself for all my great parenting.
Like loads and LOADS of us do, I used alcohol as a way to alleviate the stresses and strains of life with a young family. Those undeniable shoulder dropping glugs of wine which made me zone out into a more relaxed state and lose touch a little with the intense emotions of having to be fully in control. That sensation became a prop and one that I came too reliant on as a pick me up, a calm me down. I’d promise myself on a Monday that I wouldn’t drink until Friday, but by Wednesday I’d be declaring myself over any promises and in need of a drink to chill out. I could stop at one. I could wait until the kids were in bed. I could definitely take it or leave it sometimes, but that dependency on a chemical to take me to a different mental space was strong.
Drinking wasn’t all about blissfully slipping away on the sofa in my PJs and dressing gown five nights out of seven though. The truth was that the opportunity to stick on a pair of heels, let down the scruffy mum bun and hit the tiles with friends, or Dad Muddling Through, was like reconnecting with the me of the past. The one before kids and that struggle with my own identity played out in a craving to be in those highly social situations, a tendency to drink more than I intended to thanks to a nerve induced thirst and a fast track to oblivion and the dance floor, care free.
The hangovers were bad, as was my tolerance to alcohol altogether. But despite this, I had accepted a long time ago that this is just what I did, what people did, and never stopped to question this destructive behaviour.
In a really messed up way, I truly believed alcohol was a type of self care.
(1)The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.”autonomy in self-care and insulin administration”
(2) the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”Source: wikipedia
The sad thing is, that I did not realise that drinking to alleviate anxiety was adding to my anxiety. That drinking to boost my confidence was killing any ability to feel confident. That believing ‘drunk me’ was my identity, when in fact alcohol had masked my true identity for years. So much so that I had no real clue what or who the real me, raw and unaltered, really was in a social situation.
There was no major drama that brought things to a head. Just a slow build up of avoidable situations, of crippling hangovers, of lethargy for the same broken record. The groundhog day of a heavy head and an inability to bounce out of bed on a Saturday morning, and the predictable inevitability that the days following any social event would be a total write off.
At thirty seven years of age, with two young girls looking up at me, this was not the person I wanted to be. Not for them, not for us and not for me.
I wanted to show them that the answers to their problems cannot be solved at the bottom of a huge glass of white wine, that dancing can only be enjoyed when you are too pissed to really remember it, and that confidence comes from within, not from shots at the bar. And the only way I could really show them that, was by walking the walk ahead of them and showing them the way.
I used to say that I wasn’t sure if I could commit to this forever, but having done the hard work, there is no doubt in my mind I will never go back.
This isn’t about berating others for their choices, nor is it a smug statement – giving up drinking is bloody hard going in a world that constantly tells you to fill up your glass and knock it back.
But in a time when we are proud to be women supporting women, to be championing each other to respect ourselves and our bodies, there has to be some voices representing the other side of the wine o’clock story; of the ‘gin and on it’ generation
What was inconceivable then has become my truth. The answer does not lie in the bottom of a bottle, the only thing I ever found there was the problem.
Read more on my sober journey….