It was easy for me to make the decision. I’d been making it every weekend for most of my adult life, whilst throwing up for the millionth time or wandering around in a fog. I was going to give up drinking.
The hard bit was actually seeing it through. We are all guilty, the sober ones or the drinking ones, of uttering the phrase ‘I’m never drinking again’ time and again, but it’s the actual going through with the statement, that’s the hard bit.
When I think back over the years, there were many warning signs that alcohol was just not good for me. There was the sickness, the memory loss, the inability to stop once I’d started, the nights that turned into mornings, the sheer volume I could consume. All normalised because ‘that’s what we do’.
The decision to actually quit was cemented by the destruction of the relationshit. I knew that for as long as I was drinking, I would keep returning for more heartache and that I was the only one with the power to break the cycle. For as long as I let him back in, he would keep coming. I had also started seeing more articles about quitting (coincidence?) and the urge to be sober started to outweigh the urge to be hammered.
So I created the plan. The aim was to give up at midnight on New Years Eve 2016. This gave me roughly 2 months to get my head around the idea, to get the wheels in motion for the blog and, well, get as much booze in me as physically possible before I gave up.
The reality is that the relationshit sent me pretty crazy well before the Christmas period began, I started a new job and then got struck down with flu. I’m not religious but it did feel like something out there was definitely making the decision for me.
The deed was done. My last sip was on 27 November 2016, at approximately 2am. Vodka. Large. Shudder. I’d been drinking all day so the hangover the next day was pretty grim. Little did I know it was my final one or how much my life would change from that day onwards.
Month 1 was tough. It was the festive season but I was determined. I had ruined a previous Christmas by getting so drunk and not being unable to keep down water, let alone turkey & all the trimmings. I wanted to be present and I wanted to be clean.
In month 2, I started Slimming World and so the weight started coming off and the butterfly started emerging. The blog was also becoming popular and taking my mind away from any temptation. I also had a whole army of Dry January warriors so I didn’t feel quite so alone in my quest.
In month 3, many Dry January warriors had jumped off my wagon with a vengeance. But my determination was peaking. The weight was falling off, I had lots of support from various online forums and from my faithful followers who had not abandoned my cause.
Month 4, and I celebrated 100 days. Life was starting to feel more normal. It was like I’d got a new pair of glasses, everything started to feel brighter and clearer. People were also getting used to me, believing I was serious in my alcohol free journey.
Now, I’m hurtling towards month 5. It still seems kind of unreal. Alcohol has been such a massive part of my life and it’s been hard to unravel those ties, to break down the association with something I thought was my crutch but actually was my silent killer.
It has, without doubt, been the best thing I have ever done for myself and I’m so pleased that I took action when I did. I urge anyone who wants to give up to do it today. It’s not easy but it is more than worth it. If you have the will, you can find the power. Promise.
Have you ever?
Got up in the morning and tried to do your routine backwards? Or tried strange food combinations? Or landed in a foreign country with no idea where to go? Or worn something all day and just felt ‘wrong’?
This is what it is like to become sober. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Discarding the trusty old comfort blanket of booze.
Initially, it feels like there is definitely something missing. Something big. There is a gaping hole in your soul .. an intense internal nagging .. something is very wrong. You are not complete without it. The nagging is there, day and night, even in situations like work where alcohol never featured. It’s the little tiny voice, highly irritating, reminding you of what you think you need.
In fact, the truth is you are actually whole without it and that alcohol is the master of deceit. You can survive without it. You just have to learn how and part of that is breaking habits and riding the triggers like waves.
It never ceases to amaze me how habitual we really are. How a song on the radio can flood the mind with memories from 20 years ago or how a smell can remind you of something you hadn’t thought of since you were small. Or how a situation can really make you want a drink.
Last week, the sun came out. Wow, that was a trigger! Combine that with a full moon and we all went slightly crazy!
I was dreaming of a large glass of chilled rose wine. Why??? Why on Earth is that all I can think about because the sun came out? Why not BBQ food or watching the sun go down or getting a tan? Well, those things did creep in but the first thought was most definitely alcohol. Why do we romanticise it so much? Why do we have to celebrate every little thing with the poison?!
Fast forward a week and I survived. I didn’t succumb. In fact, I haven’t given the blush a second thought. The sun has risen and set every day and I haven’t felt the need. I am learning how to live and enjoy life without washing it down with a glass or two of poison. I thought this weekend would be hard but as my thought patterns are adjusting and the habit is gradually being broken, the tiny voice was actually inaudible. Or perhaps I just chose not to listen.
Marketing. It’s big business. Every minute of every day, someone somewhere is trying to sell us something. Whether it’s a face cream to make us young again or a liquid potion that promises to makes us thin, we love it, always willing to give it a go, to splash the cash for a miracle.
Just imagine there was a product on the market that was guaranteed to make you live longer. Would you want to try it? It was promising to reduce your living costs considerably, to rejuvenate not just your skin but your entire body and your quality of life would improve drastically. Would you give it a go?
When you used the product, you became a much better person, stronger and happier, and people around you marvelled at the person you had become. It made you sleep properly and make better food choices. Your productivity in daily life increased massively and you were happy again. Would you try it for a trial period?
What if I told you that this product was already out there but not being marketed to the same extent as the poison that destroys it. That the poison makes far more money than the actual miracle product itself.
What if I told you the product was sobriety.
I wish I’d known many years ago how great sober life is. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret all those awesomely crazy moments I had but I do wish I spent less money on poisoning myself, on making myself fat and unhealthy.
Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of pounds on alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy food. Those marketing gurus certainly got their money’s worth out of me. It was a viscious cycle of eat, binge drink, smoke, repeat. I then spent thousands combatting the badness on exercise classes, Fat Clubs and hangover cures. What a waste (rolls eyes).
I wish there had been more marketing telling me about the other side, of what life could be like if I wasn’t making myself sick. But would I have listened? It’s just not cool (yet) to promote healthy living without a Prosecco in hand is it?
I don’t believe in regretting the past. I can’t change it and for the most part, it’s been great. I’m glad I’ve cracked the code for the future, that I’ve removed the one component that was affected everything in my daily life. I will continue to promote sobriety as it really is the best product on the market and hope that one day, it will be promoted more publicly than the alcohol itself.
I’m so glad I’m not young. By young, I mean a teenager or a twenty-something (tweenager?) in the grip of social media craziness.
I’m glad I didn’t have a mobile or a tablet when I was growing up .. I know my mum is glad I didn’t either! I’m glad there was no cyber bullying or Snapchat and that I wasn’t photographed or filmed whilst under the influence, only to be blackmailed later for the footage to remain undisclosed.
Don’t get me wrong, social media has been amazing in so many ways and I’m not sure I could live without it easily. But I do worry about the things people capture on camera these days and how the images can be used as weapons. I was so shocked a few weeks ago to see a girl passed out in a shop and be told that some boys had been filming her in that state for their own gain. She’s probably still unaware of being filmed to this day and yet the images could be halfway round the world by now.
I was listening to a podcast at the weekend and they were talking about an idea to use video footage to shame someone into giving up drinking ie. someone would film me, with my consent, whilst drinking all night long and then I would have to watch the footage back. I must admit, my stomach turned when I thought of some of the times I had been drunk and the crazy things that happened. I imagined capturing that then watching it back, and I agree, it would probably be enough to put me off for life!
The crazy thing about alcohol is that it makes you feel invincible even when you’re wobbling around like a weeble and your make up is streaming down your face. It makes you think you’re interesting when actually you’re boring the pants off someone. It makes you unaware of what is going on around you and I’m sure we’ve all been caught in ‘that photo’ which would really be better burning on a bonfire!
The great thing about being sober is being present all the time. I love remembering all of the conversations I’ve had and not odd bits and pieces before the Sauvignon set in and the shots started flowing. I love being able to look at photos the day after the night before and not be worried about what the camera had captured. I’m glad I don’t need to worry about watching myself on video falling over or dancing like a muppet or chatting to some random, thinking I’m Gods (dishevelled) gift. In fact, I’m glad to be sober and old(ish).
Before soberdom, ‘loving yourself’ always seemed a bit of a weird concept to me. People say, ‘you can’t expect someone else to love you if you don’t love yourself’ but I used to think that loving yourself seemed a bit, well, up your own arse.
‘Oh look at her over there, she really lurves herself’.
I have friends who saw the sober light of day a lot faster than I did. It was all about responding to your inner child and buying organic and ‘loving yourself’. I was inwardly incredulous. Really? Inner child? Really? Buying organic? Really? If I’m honest, it wasn’t really inspiring me to gravitate to the other side. Instead I kept drowning her.
But now, slowly, without the fog of alcohol and the black cloud of the relationshit, I can finally understand what the hell my friends were talking about.
Instead of ‘learning to love myself’ or ‘practicing self love’ (because that just sounds well dodge), I’m going to call it learning to care for myself. I can now see how much I was damaging myself through smoking, drinking and eating shite, and I don’t just mean physically. Why, as an intelligent person, I couldn’t see this before, God only knows. But hey, the light is now burning bright, shining straight into my retinas.
I have found a new admiration for my poor old damaged body and mind. By nurturing from the outside, the inside is starting to heal. I’m starting to appreciate that I look far better without poison pulsating through my veins, and that I feel much better too. I’m learning that I’m not as repulsive as I’ve felt in recent years and that unpickled, my brain is actually far more productive than I ever thought possible.
I am actually buying organic. Yes, me. Incredulous, cynical little old me. I’m covered in only the finest natural products. I’m bloody eating hemp (I know!) and showering in Dead Sea minerals. I can’t quite believe it myself. But it’s doing the trick.
I feel bad for the little pickled me inside but slowly, she is drying out. She knows I’m starting to nurture her and listen to her and for the first time in probably 3 decades, I am actually trying to look after her. She is definitely not crying as much as she used to and that’s a good start. We just need to work on the amount of Elderflower and chocolate ice cream she’s demanding but for now, while she’s unpickling, she can have what she wants. After all, I’ve got years of making up to do.