While we’re all grumbling about how long this winter has dragged on, and how the summer feels FOREVER ago, I’m quietly celebrating just how long ago August was, because it’s been an extraordinary six months since I decided to embark on a personal experiment of a life alcohol free.
I realise this may make me sound like a recovering ‘raving alcoholic’, but one of the most important parts of this journey is realising that my drinking was what I considered normal to moderate; the odd glass of wine at home, with a meal, at a family event or on a social occasion.
I’m a Mum of two with a barely there social life. Partial to a glass of wine to mark the end of the week, a night off from Mum duties or to celebrate a wedding, birthday or to accompany a nice bit of food.
The reasons I therefore decided to call time on my drinking was because I realised alcohol had become a habitual ritual; an assumption that seemed to define good times, relaxing, celebrating and socialising. Yet the other side of the story is that my tolerance to alcohol was deteriorating, making me feel drunker quicker, prone to black out and really really ill for days after a hearty drinking session. In truth, the negatives were beginning to outweigh the positives and I realised I wanted to get off the rollercoaster for a while.
The long and short is that after the reccommended 100 day break, I felt so remarkably better, I knew there was only one way to move forward.
I’ve come such a long way since the early days of feeling incredibly awkward about ordering an alcohol free drink at the bar. I’ve navigated Christmas sans Baileys and I’ve been working my way through the alcohol free alternatives range with gusto. I’ve gone from meticulously planning my ‘not drinking’ blurb to relaxing into a totally authentic conversational approach to being Tee Total. And the change has happened so subtly I have barely noticed the transition.
I’m constantly asked if this is going to be FOREVER, and I always answer ‘I don’t know’, because I don’t. Forever is a long time and a big commitment, and frankly, I don’t think I need to make any great claims. I can’t say I won’t ever accept a champagne toast, or a mulled wine at Christmas because the truth is, I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m not planning to drink again anytime soon, because the evidence speaks for itself.
Since quitting booze, my physical health has seen a real change. I’ve lost in the region of 17 pounds and strangely* shifted that extra inch or two around my middle which has always been present since my late teens.
*it’s not that strange really is it?
Don’t get me wrong I’m far from a washboard belly, or a six pack, but it’s pretty amazing how I have achieved something I didn’t think was actually possible because I had always assumed the wobbly tummy was ‘my frame’.
I’ve been sleeping like a baby, every night (kids permitting), apart from the occasional early mornings in which I’ve hopped out of bed and seized the day – the only down side being ready for bed at about nine o’clock! The first weeks and months alcohol free saw the biggest shift in sleep quality and it’s easy to have taken it for granted in more recent months, but the change was huge and definitely noticeable. Despite the early mornings, I feel far from tired and have so much more energy to get up and at it.
I’ve reignited a passion for exercise; In 2019 I’ve been back on the running and have noticed a real difference in my fitness, stamina and ability. I get my kicks from running outdoors watching the trees changing between seasons, the birds flying overhead and the dogs being walked as I run by. All that’s missing is a dog of my own to run alongsde me! (One day, maybe).
I also took up a beginners Yoga regime DVD which I was given as a Christmas present in the new year. I’m totally hooked, having found it hugely beneficial to my tone, flexibility and also as a space to breathe and relax.
I’ve actually craved exercise on the occasions I’ve had to skip a workout over a few days and have found reading to be a far more effective means of relaxing than a glass of Sauv Blanc and falling asleep on the sofa. Who knew.
Strangely, I’ve also noticed an improvement to my digestive health (TMI!) and have found the constant battle of being constipated and bloated has totally disappeared. I’ve also discovered that my hair loss since having the girls seems to have eased right off, and my baby hair is actually growing to a noticeable three inch (six months?) point which makes me wonder if the slow but constant alcohol consumption was partly to play?
Contrary to my worries early on that not drinking would make me quiet, dull and BORING I’ve completely made peace with who I am. Life has far fewer extreme highs and lows and I love the consistent steady ground somewhere in the middle. I’ve realised my strengths and weaknesses on my own merits and accepted that I don’t need a social prop; I like my inhibitions just where they are.
In the first couple of months, without my beer coat of arms I did realise that there is more going on than meets the eye. Learning about myself in my rawest form did reveal some demons and social anxieties which needed a little work. So, with some amazing advice I did seek out some therapy which worked wonders in helping me understand how the pathway of my life has impacted the way I process events and interactions on a daily basis. I’d highly recommend anyone giving up alcohol to make time to have time to think things through and iron out the creases which perhaps alcohol masked over the years.
As a confident and fairly extrovert person, I’m realising I’m not actually someone who needs that EXTRA dose of confidence to socialise, and I’m relearning how to be fab company without the alcohol blurring the edges.
In fact, heading out sober has oddly been more appealing than ever, knowing I’ll be able to listen, navigate and laugh all the way through the evening, knowing when to talk and when to button it, and snuggle myself up in bed safe and warm at the end of the night, without a hangover to ruin the next day(s).
I’ve headed up to London alone, (even in the snow), walked into a room full of strangers and I’ve driven all over the place late at night – dropping friends home safe and sound and loving my ability to be independent and responsible.
I’ve been practicing meditation on and off, a gratitude diary, which as well as the exercise and healthy eating has left me feeling on top form, in fact, better than I have felt in years.
In the last six months I have taken a life that was already pretty wonderful and embraced it to a new level. I have taken away the one thing I always associated with fun, joy and good times, and realised that without it is all of the fun, joy and good times.
I’m running a marathon for an incredible charity, I worked all Christmas, I got a new job in the new year returning to my parked career, I’m writing a book and I’m taking control of all the things in life that make my family and I happy.
I haven’t had a hangover for half a year. And that deserves a paragraph of it’s own.
This past weekend I cooked a roast beef at home for nine and I didn’t feel at all stressed (even in the last 30 minutes, you know, when it all comes together) and remarkably, I never even once thought about the full bodied red that was missing from my hand. I also had a bloody lovely day.
I no longer hide my alcohol free drink in a wine glass – I ask for an alcohol free drink in a wine glass, because I like a grown up goblet and that’s just fine. I no longer shy away from the subject, because I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m passionate about what a difference it’s made to my life. That said, I am not the booze police and I will always offer guests to my home a pretty fab G&T or have the wine on chill. You’re drinking doesn’t make me uncomfortable, and equally I hope my not drinking isn’t a thorn in your side. I’m happy to share my story, put it out there then move on to having a grand old time.
I have found a new respect for my physical and mental health and I have zero regrets. In fact I am even turning down alcohol in my dreams. #TrueStory
This life is panning out so much better for me, and I can’t imagine my future any other way.