A couple of years ago, I ruined Christmas. It was truly horrific and an experience I never want to repeat.
Tradition had always been to meet up with friends on Christmas Eve, drink to excess from lunchtime & feel like crap on Christmas Day. Christmas Day usually began looking green, gagging over the Bucks Fizz & binge eating sausage rolls.
So, in an attempt to break tradition, I decided to stay in on Christmas Eve & stay sober. I was spending Christmas Day with friends & then Boxing Day with my family.
For the first time in a long time, I woke up hangover free on Christmas Day. It was a revelation! I was actually excited about the food & the wine & the presents & the palava!
The problem with me however, was that if I woke up sober on a special occasion, I was so proud & excited that I generally lost the plot.
The day had started well. My friends & I had made a pact that, as we were spending the following day with family, we’d take it easy. Yes, we’d have a couple of drinks but we’d get home by 8pm, we’d get a good nights sleep, we’d be fine.
We did so well. We got a taxi home by 8pm as planned. Well, my friend’s home. And then the infamous words were uttered ‘come in for a quick one?’.
Instead of telling the taxi driver to drive on, there was no hesitation in me jumping out the cab. What harm would a quick one do? It was only 8pm. I’d stayed in the previous night .. I would be home by 10pm, no harm done. Yeah right.
My friend had her Christmas stash of booze ready. We thought we’d be sensible (oh the irony) and stick to free pouring vodka rather than wine. That would be ‘better for us’ in the long run.
And that was that. I remember nothing. Still to this day I have no idea how long I was there & no one knows how I got home. All I do know is I woke up in my own bed, fully clothed, half an hour before I was getting collected to go to my parents and I was very very sick.
Rather than get dressed up nicely for the day ahead, I could barely have a shower. Bluntly, I was fucked. I literally couldn’t pull anything out of my pathetic empty bag.
When I got to my parents, everyone could see I was struggling. They opened a bottle of Champagne I’d received for my 40th. We’d saved it especially but I was sipping water. I tried to binge eat my way through the sausage rolls but they just made me sick again. We opened presents but all I really wanted to do was die.
I felt like a ticking time bomb. My mum had worked so hard to cook a lovely dinner and I knew that I needed to be in some kind of state to be able to eat it. But things weren’t looking good. I couldn’t keep down water, let alone a roast potato.
Tick tock tick tock
Inwardly, I was willing my body to sort itself out. Please body, just stop vomiting. Food will make you better. Please, come on, just one more time .. I can’t not eat.
But the pressure was too much. And my body was poisoned beyond belief. And dinner time came. And I couldn’t do it.
My mum’s disappointment was overwhelming. If I didn’t eat, she wouldn’t eat either. But my throat was closed and nothing would go in. She scraped my dinner from the expensive dinner plate into a cheap plastic box to take home for later. Christmas was ruined.
I understand people are worried about Christmas. How can you possibly survive without a Bucks Fizz or a glass (2 bottles) of red with dinner or a port or a shot? But my Christmas story is enough to put me off for life.
Stop focusing on what you think you’re missing out on and think about what you’re gaining. A clear head on Christmas morning & money in your pocket to spend on far nicer things than making yourself sick. Enjoy your Christmas dinner for once & stop dreading that you’ll have to do it all again tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Go for a long walk to burn off the excess Quality Street. Be present for your friends & family rather than a drunken corpse in the corner. If nothing else, give it a go! You never know, you might just like it 🎅🏼
This weekend, my friend and I were talking about the good old times, of drunken nights gone by.
For example, when we went to the pub for a ‘quick one’ after work. After putting the world to rights, her with a bottle of Prosecco, me with a bottle of the finest red, we ended up playing Battleships in a dark corner of the pub. To this day, I still have no idea how to play, who won (but pretty sure it wasn’t me!), or if we ever actually finished the game, but we still laugh about how ridiculous it was now.
Or last summer, when I stayed with her in Majorca and we drank homemade Pina Coladas and smoked copious amounts of cigarettes, whilst dancing on the balcony, watching the beautiful sunset, listening to Chicane.
Brilliant memories of brilliant times, clouded for me however, by the dreaded hangover. The Battleships night was a school night, shortly after I’d started a new role at work. The next day was horrific, woken by the alarm that I mistakenly thought was the sandwich van. Yes, I already thought I was at work and hadn’t even made it out of bed yet. I was sick first and then had endure a whole day feeling rubbish, counting the hours until I could get back in bed and die.
The same happened after Pina Colada night. Sick. For hours. We ventured out for a drive and I just remember feeling ill in the back of the car, not knowing what to do with myself, saved only by a Big Mac & a fat coke in Magaluf and a dip in crystal clear waters.
My point is that, whilst I had fantastic times on a high, there was always a low. And my lows had become unbearable. I know some of my friends are starting to mourn the old me, realising it is unlikely she will ever come back but to be honest, I’m glad that I will (hopefully) never hug the porcelain telephone again (**).
I am starting to understand that a sober life is a much more steady life emotionally. It can feel a bit ‘flat’ at times however I think that is a fair trade to be in control and not ill. I dread to think of the damage I have caused to myself over the years and just hope that now, I can repair some of it.
I am not dead. I’m a work in progress, slowly transforming into the new me. Or perhaps I’m actually becoming the real me, not clouded by the deceiving cloak of alcohol; not hiding behind a large Sauvignon. Only time will tell whether I can be ‘just as fun’ without my faithful protector and whether I ever see beyond midnight again!
(**) – calling Jesus on the porcelain telephone’ – the act of clinging to the toilet basin whilst throwing up violently after a heavy night on binge drinking
I’ve been asked several times this week about my story, about why I’ve given up alcohol, about my ‘breaking point’ and about how I gave up.
I’ve touched on my story in some of my earlier blogs .. I’ve always had ‘an addictive personality’. This actually translates into ‘greedy piggy with no off switch’. Like many, I started experimenting with alcohol in my mid teens .. I distinctly remember downing awfulness like White Lightening cider and blue 20/20 and I also distinctly remember being sick the next day. One of my first memories of getting horribly drunk was about aged 16, at a house party and being sick into a bush from a balcony. And I’d had spaghetti for dinner.
In fact, I was nearly always sick the next day. To the extent that it became normalised. Go out, get drunk, come home, pass out. Next day, sick. Then we started drinking before we went out to ‘save pennies’. However, as the tolerance grew, I don’t think we saved any money, we just drank more. And more.
And basically that’s how I spent the next 20 years. In a vicious, self harming scenario of eat, drink, sick, repeat. Like some kind of slow, torturous death.
Alongside this self abuse, I was also getting myself into stupid relationships with men who were in even worse situations than me. They say you attract what you are and from where I am now, I can so see this is true.
The last person I was seeing was a totally damaged soul. I guess you could argue that I was too. And between us, we created more damage than either of us needed or could cope with. And it was this relationship that finally caused me to hit rock bottom. And ‘they’ say that until you hit rock bottom, you can’t start climbing back up. I knew that, for as long as I was drinking, he would continue to be a part of my life. And that had to stop.
So, in autumn last year, I decided I was going to give up alcohol for 2017. The plan was to stop drinking at midnight on 31 December 2016 and restart again on 1 January 2018. I would write a blog as an online diary, to record the highs and lows of an alcohol free life. If I’m honest, I expected far more lows than there has been and kind of imagined it would be a bit of a whinge fest! Luckily it couldn’t be further from this and instead, is one of the best decisions I ever made.
Then, out of the blue I got the opportunity to change my job after 11 years in the same company. Whilst it was the best thing to happen to me, I think subconsciously it stressed me out .. in addition, the ex was still playing me like a pawn in his game and then the flu literally floored me.
As you can see from my ‘before’ photo, I was sad, tired and ill. Drained by life. And so my year started early on 27 November 2016 at approximately 2am. My last drink, a large vodka, was ceremoniously poured down the sink before bed. And that was it. No more.
People ask whether I’m tempted to drink. The simple answer is no. I have too many embarrassing memories to think of that put me off ever picking up a drink again. Do I miss my old life? Of course I do but slowly, the craziness is becoming a distant memory. I do not want to be sad anymore, a pawn in someone else’s awful life. I want to be the Queen in my own life, happy and in control, and you know what, I think I’m well and truly on my way there 🙋🏻🐟