I decided to stop drinking at the beginning of the year. It was a decision I’d been hurtling towards after what seemed a crazy few years. When we moved to the country from London, I’d envisaged an idyllic life of home-baking and gardening, more time to spend with our five children – but it didn’t work out like that. The new set of friends we made in Somerset partied much harder than our friends in the capital. It was a struggle to keep up. Dinner parties that went on until 5 in the morning, weekends spent at festivals, holidays in Ibiza. All this while trying to juggle a career and a family.

I didn’t think twice about going to work on two hours sleep, burning the candle at both ends. I thought I was superwoman. But then the cracks began to appear. I’m a freelance journalist and one of my jobs involves reading the news on the radio. One morning after driving to London from Somerset for a 5am start, I fired the wrong bit of audio during my bulletin – instead of a victim of the Grenfell fire tragedy I played a football manager. I was mortified. When I came off air, my boss asked me what had gone wrong. He looked angry. I felt my chest began to tighten, I couldn’t breathe. I was having a full-blown panic attack in the middle of the newsroom. It was terrifying – and embarrassing. They sent me home after that. I felt horrible. I was making mistakes because I was tired and hungover.

I started suffering from terrible insomnia. Some nights I would lie awake for hours, staring at the ceiling, and the more I worried about not getting enough sleep, the more sleep seemed to escape me.

Wine seemed to take the edge off. When I found myself becoming anxious, I self-medicated with alcohol – I was drinking more than I ever had before.

At the beginning of the year after another booze-filled Christmas, a seemingly endless round of parties, I looked in the mirror and I didn’t like what I saw. I had put on weight, I was miserable, filled with self-loathing. I decided to try Dry January. It wasn’t particularly hard because a lot of my friends were doing the same – no one was going for drinks after work, there were no parties to go to.

Miraculously after just a few weeks, I felt great. People were telling me how good my skin looked, how much brighter my eyes were. I was starting to lose weight, my sleep pattern had improved. So when January came to an end, I decided to keep going.

The first big test was a birthday party in February. How would I cope going somewhere where there would be copious amounts of alcohol? I mean, if you were on a diet, you wouldn’t hang out in McDonald’s, would you? And what would people say about my not drinking? Would I come across as a kill joy? As it turned out, I was fine. I drank non-alcoholic cocktails all night and once I had got over the initial anxiety about needing a drink to break the ice and cope with a room full of people, I had a lovely time. Normally I would have partied until dawn, but just after midnight when the atmosphere was becoming increasingly raucous and the girl I was talking to was repeating herself and slurring, I decided it was time to go home.

The best part was waking up on Saturday morning without a hangover. I could remember all the conversations I’d had the night before, I had a productive weekend ahead of me, I wasn’t going to crawl back under the duvet feeling sick. I felt proud of myself.

The realisation dawned that I don’t need alcohol to enjoy people’s company. Gradually my patterns of behaviour have changed. Instead of meeting a girlfriend for a drink, I now meet them for a coffee or a dog walk.

The health benefits have been astonishing. I have lost over a stone in weight and my mood has dramatically improved. I no longer walk around with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. A combination of no alcohol (which is a depressant) and light exercise really seems to lift the spirits. My husband and children say that I’m much nicer to be around, I’m not snapping at them as much, I’m feeling more mindful.

But April presented a new challenge. After a long, hard winter, the sun finally came out. There was an invitation to another party – this time a birthday lunch at a local restaurant with some of my favourite people. For some reason, I associate summer with sitting outside in the sun, drinking rose and getting mildly tipsy. What could be nicer?

That day was hard. I hadn’t seen any of these friends since Christmas, it was a lovely boozy lunch, I was very, very tempted to have a glass of wine. But I didn’t. And you know why? Because I’d set myself a challenge to stop drinking for a year, and I was determined to stick to it. I knew if I caved in to temptation, I’d regret it.

I am sure there will be other difficult days in the weeks and months ahead but my friends and family have been a huge support. On 1st May I posted on Facebook that I had managed one third of my Dry 2018. I was overwhelmed by the number of people congratulating me – I didn’t expect that sort of response. It really helped to spur me on my sober journey.

Five benefits of staying sober:

1/ No hangovers
2/ Weight loss
3/ Better skin
4/ Improved sleep
5/ More productive


by Daisy Steel

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This