It’s easy to reach for alcohol after a stressful day at work or at home with the kids. Often we use alcohol as a stress reliever and as a way of unwinding and relaxing at the end of a hectic day. The #wineoclock and #gintime hashtags have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Drinking wine once the kids have gone to bed has started to become an acceptable normality and part of daily routine.
Before I go any further I am not labelling everyone that enjoys a pleasant evening drink as an alcoholic. I am telling my story about how it became an issue for me, how that daily drink turned into a much-needed crutch, a must have at the end of the day.
I am being very open and honest about my addiction to alcohol as I am hearing more and more people are using alcohol to reach out, their reward and their stress relief, and I know first hand how it becomes a long term habit that’s so hard to break.
When I mention my addiction to alcohol, most people are surprised about my openness on the subject and have lots of questions for me. One of the many things I am aiming to do is break stereotypes of an alcoholic.
We don’t all conceal their spirits in a paper bag!
I grew up in the ‘ladette era’ and I was proud little me could drink a pint with the lads. I remember my Dad being appalled when I asked him to order me a pint! My parents enjoy a drink and live by the philosophy that you only live once so have some fun! I love my parent’s energy and vibe and still think that my parent’s decision to allow me to drink the odd glass of wine when I was a teenager in the house was the right one.
Many of my friends weren’t allowed booze and hid it from their parents, and they would then walk the streets drunk and in a state of vulnerability. Growing up with alcohol not being a ‘taboo subject’ can have an equally damaging effect, a learnt behaviour that you drink alcohol to celebrate, to have a good time, to down your sorrows.
I had an amazing time in my late teens and early thirties and was the party animal, the loud one the one that would love to make an utter fool of herself. I loved booze and the way it made me slightly wild and lose all my inhibitions. I remember my friend when we were in our mid 20’s suggesting she was going to go sober for a while…I was utterly gobsmacked and didn’t offer any support……with hindsight I could have supported and helped my friend in her decision to ditch the booze. Instead I encouraged her to drink more, after all what was the point of a night out if you didn’t get drunk!
I found out I was pregnant after a boozy holiday with my partner. I stopped drinking as soon as I realised I was pregnant and I then exclusively breast fed choosing to only have the odd small drink very occasionally. It was when Hugo decided to take the bottle at 8 months that my addiction really started. Going that long without alcohol I was ready to party and that summer I spent hours in the sunshine at the beach drinking a few wines and dancing. On the way, back from the beach I got into a habit of popping to the local (4 doors away from our house) on the way home. Then I would pop to the shop to get booze for the house.
I often couldn’t remember going to bed and it wasn’t a surprise if I woke up in the clothes from the previous day. I wasn’t aware I was drinking alcohol too much the learnt behaviour that to enjoy the sunshine meant to have a few beers…but I couldn’t stop at 2.
The weekend drinking alcohol excessively soon spread to weekdays and this soon became a habit. One glass on a weekday led to two and soon the bottle. I was exhausted, living with a non-sleeper despite being 2 years old. I was lonely, drinking to fill boredom and drinking on a weekend just well…. just because that’s what I used to do! I missed my old life, the disco balls and dance floor and so weekends became an alcohol binge at home instead.
The day after a boozy evening I was always full of regret, a very painful headache as well as often sickness. I would always turn up for work and always do fun things with Hugo but I felt exhausted and like total shit! I would then vow never to drink again, of course this lasted until the 4pm ‘hair of the dog’…
One day I decided enough was enough and started to get help.
I began life coaching with close friend and once business partner Mary Meadow and I also had a hypnotherapy session with Sarah Wall from The Fit Mind Trainer. I began to talk more openly about my addiction and was amazed at the number of clients and people I knew who also struggled with having a little too much wine or gin most evenings. After talking about it more and more with my sessions with Mary it became clear to me that I use alcohol to numb my feelings, instead of feeling those negative emotions I choose to drink alcohol and ignore them.
It’s taken me over a year of hard work to kick my nightly habit. It’s been hard and I have failed along the way. But one thing every time I fail is that I try again! I have done several Dry Januarys and Stoptobers in a bid to somehow prove that I don’t have a problem. Yet deep down all I ended up doing is depriving myself whilst not learning how to manage my emotions and feelings.
I took on a challenge to train to enter a fitness bikini competition and one of the reasons I took on this challenge was to help me to stop drinking as you can’t drink whilst trying to get yourself super sculpted right? Wrong! I managed to have many boozy evenings even right up to my show, I often trained in the gym with a hangover! That’s when I knew I really had a problem. I mean why would you do that to yourself? Why would you put yourself in that position where you are feeling tired, dehydrated, lacking in energy…
Depriving myself won’t make the issue go away
It’s like going on a diet or stopping eating chocolate for a week. If you have an emotional attachment to sweet stuff as soon as that week is over the old habits will soon creep back in. I’ve learnt that to deal with the addiction I must learn to think about the reasons I want to reach for alcohol and learn to try and overcome that feeling or just to feel it. When I am sad I think about what else I can do to make me happy, listen to music, dance around the kitchen with my little boy.
When it’s boredom, I have learnt to get off social media and read a book. The book that really helped me and is a short book and an easy read is A Happier Hour by Rebecca Weller. The book I am currently reading is The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine O’Clock: Volume 1 and it’s all about calling time on the ‘Wine o clock’ By Lucy Rocca and Sarah Turner. I also have lots more showers and baths and prepare my next day foods on an evening as well as take myself out of the lounge to bed early. I learnt that changing my environment really helps, the lounge triggers me to want a drink alcohol, it’s that association that I need to break.
I am not sure if I want to live sober. For me now it’s about learning why I drink and taking control of my habit. I have been on a few evenings out where I haven’t drunk alcohol and have had a fantastic time. I’ve woken up without the hangover and felt super proud. However, in the same week I have got shit faced at home and felt awful the next day!
A lot of my friends can’t understand why I can’t just have the one, but sadly I can’t stop at one so I’d rather not have anything. My friends overall have been super supportive, I think the main reason for this is that I have communicated with them, something that Mary suggested I do. That way on a night out they know before we even go if I will be drinking alcohol or not, therefore they don’t feel uncomfortable about not knowing if to ask me if I want a wine or not at the dinner table.
Communication is key as is changing behaviours and environment
Plus, learn from your mistakes, expect to fail. I treat every day as day 1, so instead of thinking I haven’t had a drink for 5 days I re-think it as always being day 1, this helps me at the weekend when I want to reward myself for not drinking all week with a large wine! The same techniques can apply with chocolate, cake, crisps etc.
I do miss the wine glass for sure so I am also trying various non-alcoholic drinks such as a Seedlip Garden 108 Spirit, and am about to try Thomas & Evan No.1 soft drink available from Harvey Nichols. I have just learn that Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits have an area in Harvey Nicks a lovely terrace bar a place to unwind without booze! I am also enjoying a glass of Slimline Tonic with a dash of zero alcohol wine and lots of lemon and lime. It’s actually refreshing and no hangover the following day! Always will miss the glass of large red though.
Since dramatically reducing my alcohol consumption over a period I have better skin, less bloated, less puffiness in the face. More energy and my mood has lifted.
Once again, I am not telling anyone to live sober, it’s your life and there is nothing wrong with a glass of wine a night. I am merely opening up to how my addiction began and how small changes to my mindset are what is really working towards a healthier and happier me. The brain fog is lifting and I am noticing that I can be happy and live a fun life without booze. That saying “you only live once” is very true and because of that I want to live without being dependent on alcohol to lift my mood, make my life seem more interesting and reduce boredom.
Instead of using alcohol to do all this I am finding new ways to entertain myself and I am loving the change in my wellbeing and positive attitude, I have a love/hate relationship with alcohol and breaking the cycle has taken much longer than I thought it would.
I have noticed if I say to people I’m giving up drinking alcohol I get their opinion on why I shouldn’t, that I’m not an alcoholic and that I need to live now and again. So, I am surrounding myself with the people that are supportive. I don’t call this a journey of giving up either, I call it an adventure, the start of more exciting new way of living. I’ve been drinking alcohol for over 20 years and it’s time I found new ways to enjoy myself and cope with my emotions
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