I grew up with parents that loved to drink – big parties and regular drinking at home. They weren’t happy drinkers but drank nonetheless and drink was always around – it was very much a normalised part of life and as I got older, I was encouraged to drink.
I embraced this with gusto! I loved to drink and fast became a social party animal. My entire social life was based around drinking – pre drinks, parties, pub. I worked in the City and there were endless opportunities to drink.
I was always a happy drinker. I didn’t drink spirits, I had a vast friendship group, I happily held onto my jobs, I had a great boyfriend (now husband), exercised, basically ticked all of boxes that I thought was a happy balanced life.
As I got into my twenties – I found a love of wine. I preferred this to beer – less bloating and more chic! I built up a tolerance to be able to get through a couple of bottles but also then found that my reactions to alcohol changed – I was never really sick but now once I had drunk far too much – I just fell asleep. This was hugely entertaining for others but really started to worry me – this then started my cycle of trying to cut down, starting again, questioning – this went on for years.
I had 4 children in my thirties and had good breaks from alcohol but this didn’t stop my thirst to return to it. I now had a shiny new social life with other new parents – yet another very normalised avenue to drink. I was one of the big drinkers in these circles – and very conscious of those that didn’t drink or drank in moderation looking negatively at me. I suppose this made me question my lifestyle – but then there were so many people that would encourage it and so the cycle continued.
As my children grew up they clocked my drinking – they actually started taking the piss out of me! Mimicking me falling asleep – recounting what I had said and done. I still held down a job, did loads of charity work, functioned as mother, socialised – and there is that word – I functioned.
Was I happy? I thought so.
Did I often feel rubbish, hung over, disappointed in myself?
In my forties I did several bouts of sober October or a break in the New Year. I had periods when I super analysed my behaviour. I had periods of massive worry about my health and the impact that my behaviour could be having on my children. I felt that whilst I was functioning, I was no longer excelling and my life was a constant fog.
I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic – I didn’t drink in the morning but I did drink pretty much every day.
Then I realised that my drinking must be reaching a new level – I started drinking during the day out a cup….a cup???
Did I really think I could hide away the red wine in a cup?
I realised now that something had to change.
I celebrated my 50th and decided that this was to be my decade of change. I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to myself and my children. I spent a couple of months thinking about the rest of my life and who I wanted to be. 2 months after my birthday I said to my partner that I was going to give up. We went around the houses talking about taking a break but I was clear that this just didn’t work for me.
I set a date – the day after my daughter's birthday - and this would be the first day of the rest of my life.
I signed up for a 90 day challenge for accountability and immersed myself in quit lit. Annie
Grace, Clare Pooley, Catherine Gray – I couldn’t get enough of it. I upped my fitness and set a goal to lose weight. Cassie Ridley contacted me about Alcohol Free Essex and I joined up with this new local group. I was surrounded by like minded people, all trying to improve their lives.
All of a sudden I had completed the 90 days – I was fitter, happier, more present, a better parent – so many positives. The 90 day challenge became 365 and I found my new normal.
Fast forward to today.
Today is my 2 year anniversary and I can honestly say I will never return to alcohol.
I still see the downfalls of drinking – my partner still drinks. I see it in my children – my eldest is 21 and she drinks – at times, a lot. She is wracked with anxiety when she drinks but here is the BIG difference – I am here for her – I am the positive role model, I am the non-patronising parent who has been there and left.
I am living proof that you can normalise being alcohol free and thrive.
I am so proud of myself.
I shout my sobriety from the roof tops. If you are starting out – keep going.
The big milestones aren’t easy – but you will get there with determination and lots of support.
The curve balls will keep coming – they never go away but hold on to and keep close that your “in the moment feeling” – it isn’t marred by or enhanced by alcohol – it is all yours.
It is your new life, your new you and the new norm.