On 13 April 2017, I woke up from my slumber,feeling like I’d chewed on Ghandi’s sandal for the last few hours and desperate for a break from the pounding in my head.

Thankfully, the house was silent and I was very much alone. I sat up, steadied myself, and headed for the bathroom, bleary eyed and feeling like death.

Thankfully, the kids had been taken to school earlier by my mum, who innocently thought I was suffering with a stomach bug. Only that wasn’t quite true.

When she’d arrived to collect the boys, she hadn’t been allowed to venture as far as the kitchen and was therefore blissfully unaware of the two empty bottles of Pinot Grigio hanging out together like old friends in the recycling basket, ready to join their clan in the maroon haven of the recycle bin.

As I looked at my bloodshot eyes in the mirror, I thought ‘Why the bloody hell do I keep on doing this to myself?’. Someone I didn’t recognise stared back at me. ‘Where have you gone Nic?’ I asked with a lump in my throat.

I trudged downstairs and poured myself a glass of water. Ironically, a copy of Women’s Health magazine lay on my doormat. I scooped it up and headed straight back to bed where I half-heartedly began to flick through before pausing on an article about ‘a sober revolution’.

Giving up alcohol had always been on my fitness agenda. It was the missing piece of the transformation, only it had never quite happened.

I’d had many, many attempts at giving up the vino and received many, many eye rolls from family and friends… ‘Oh, OK Nic, you’re back on the wagon again are you? Let’s see how long it lasts this time’.

I felt they were right. I felt like I was a failure. I couldn’t stay off the sauce and I couldn’t stay on the wagon. I craved its ability to take me away from everything that was wrong and for it to catapult any good news into something far more amazing. I craved its ability to knock me out and make me forget.

Although I didn’t quite know how to describe it, the truth was I had a problem with alcohol. I was ashamed of what I was, of the person I’d become, and I didn’t have a clue how to get my sorry ass out of the tiresome cycle of drinking.

Every day, I’d wake up, get up, feel hungover and get through work feeling like death.

I’d get home, have a wine to take the edge off and reward myself for making it through the day. See to the boys, get them in bed, finish off the bottle, then open a second. Fall asleep on the sofa, wake up in the early hours, feel numb and disorientated. Stagger to bed. Wake up, get up and so the cycle began again.

Weekends were much heavier. I’d drink two to three bottles of wine, have a couple of gins, and to top it off, have a good few arguments. I’d do Jack shit to prepare for the week ahead and could feel the stress building inside.

My life was a train wreck heading for disaster.

The magazine article mentioned Club Soda, which is a mindful drinking movement (https://joinclubsoda.co.uk). The web address glared at me from the page. I signed up immediately and can’t explain the relief to discover I wasn’t alone. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one in the world attempting to shield my drinking habits from the people around me. I wasn’t alone in trying to keep my life together whilst wrecking it at the same time.

I cried.

I actually wasn’t alone.

I wanted to stop drinking. I knew I had a problem and at last I had people to turn to; people just like me.

I’m now 15 months sober. I guess you could say that this attempt at staying on the wagon has been successful so far but I can’t say it’s been easy and there certainly isn’t any room for complacency.

On a positive note, the relationship with my boys has improved so much. I am no longer an embarrassment to them but instead, I’m someone they are proud of. I’m slowly beginning to see my potential and learning to love the real me. I’m setting myself challenges, discovering who I am, meeting wonderful, like-minded people and re-discovering things that once gave me pleasure before the veil of alcohol shrouded me.

25 years of alcohol abuse means I have 25 years of catching up to do.

Today, I turn 40. A few weeks ago, I set myself a list of challenges to fulfil. Nothing like the good old bucket list but a list of things that just nudge me out of my comfort zone  (like climbing Mount Snowdon when you have a fear of falling from slopes- I know right?) or things that re-ignite an old skill or passion. Things that make me feel alive and make me laugh and teach me something new.

For years and years my path has been navigated for me, expectations bestowed upon me and now, I want to be in control of myself. Every single morning, I feel like She-ra the Princess Of Power when I get out of bed!

Here are my three top tips if you are just starting out on your journey ..

1) Make yourself accountable

This could be joining a support group or telling a close friend or family member. Personally, I log onto Club Soda Facebook page every day and write a little message. I honestly think this has helped me stay focussed.

2) Plan for the day

I always make a plan for every possibility. This may seem a tad extreme but having things to combat cravings and trigger situations are crucial for me. This could be something like planning an exit strategy from an event you are attending or taking your own alcohol free drinks to a party.

3) Using alcohol free products

I know some can find these a trigger but they have been my lifesaver on so many occasions. I always have a selection in the fridge.

Now that I’m sober, I feel that my life is moving in the right direction. I have good days and bad days but accept that is part of life. It’s how I deal with the emotion that life brings that is different. The 13th of April will always be the beginning of the end of my slippery slope of destruction. It is the day I began to realise I’m worthy and deserve to be happy.

It’s the day I chose me ❤️

Written by Nic, edited by Sober Fish

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