I love a good success story. One of my favourite programmes used to be ‘A Year To Save My Life’ with Jessie Pavelka. Each programme focused on a morbidly obese person & Jessie coached them back to a better version of themselves over a year. Plus Jessie was hot. Super hot.
What I didn’t know when watching this programme was that in a few years time I was going to need to save myself. That my not so secret bingeing of takeaways & wine & Marlboro Lights, plus meeting the relationshit, plus working in a highly toxic environment, was going to lead me into a year to save my own life. Dramatic but true.
Whilst documenting my progress this year & through the power of Facebook reminders, it appears I flirted with Soberdom far more than I remembered. Yes I did Dry January but I also had other periods across the years when I wearily climbed onto my lonely rickety wagon. I now understand that my relationship with alcohol had been bad since the very first moment it hit my lips. I very rarely ‘had a glass with dinner’ or ‘a quick one down the pub’.
I drank to get hammered. To forget. To stop thinking.
I’ve learnt over this year that lots of us drink to forget. That there is a lot of trauma behind alcohol. That alcohol promises to make things better but actually makes things a whole lot worse. That alcohol is a poisonous demon that damages relationships, careers, friendships, emotions, routine, self worth, looks, lives.
When I started my initial experiment to lay off the sauce for a year, I naively believed it was just a matter of saying no to Sauvignon & yes to Squash. How wrong could I be? Saying no is the tip of a ginormous iceberg packed full of emotions & feelings, just waiting to thaw.
Once the ‘experiment’ had started, it was fairly easy for me not to drink or smoke. I was ill, stressed, run down, fat, tired, sad, finally single and emotionally ruined. Ready. There was no real reason not to begin and I was actually sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
Day 1 began with a hangover. Day 2 began with a trip to the doctors. I’d been away for the weekend & my eczema was the worst it had ever been. I was covered from head to foot, literally scratching myself to pieces. Whilst away, I’d noticed that I’d been given the wrong steroid cream and it wasn’t touching the sides. Scratch, bleed, cream, scab, scratch, repeat. The cycle of eczema alone is enough to drive someone insane.
At the doctors, I broke down, shouting at the doctor I’d seen the week before who has apparently decided (without my permission) to reduce my steroid cream to a lower strength. I yanked my clothes off showing her my poor damaged body saying ‘look! Look what you’ve done’, only she hadn’t really done it. I had.
The doctor was visibly shocked at the state of my skin and at how stressed I was and immediately gave me my normal prescription, apologising profusely. However, she still failed to find out what the real problem was, the underlying cause(s) of why I was really scratching myself to bits. She also never asked about my bad habits which clearly were contributing to the problem. I left the doctors clutching the correct medicine. A temporary fix to a permanent problem.
As if this wasn’t enough, I also had a sore throat. Which turned into a cold. Which turned into an ear infection leaving me deaf. Which turned into flu. Which rendered me bedridden just as I started my new job. My body was actually shutting down on me.
I’d never been so ill. With hindsight, I truly believe that my body was screaming out at me to look after it. Years of abuse had started to take its toll. Isn’t it interesting that we all seem to plough on year after year, expecting no side effects? Well, I got them all. At the same time.
And so my year of sobriety began on 27 November 2016, 5 weeks earlier than planned. Little did I know then, it would be the year that completely changed my life.