Day 14 of my AF experiment and I wake up dry mouthed with a bit of a headache….. no, I didn’t have anything to drink last night….. in fact, I realised I had barely had anything to drink at all – not even water – and that’s when I realised through the hazy morning snooze period that I was just a bit thirsty. Not the hungover, death warmed up, give me a drink before I die kind of thirsty, but just normal, not had enough water, kind of thirsty – and I felt an unusual level of elation and pride in the knowledge that I’d done another day of the challenge.
1 big glass of water later and I’m ready to tackle the world. It’s 6.40am and the kids are already up making their own breakfast. We are in Wimbledon visiting friends with 3 kids – with our 3 kids – yes that’s 6 kids and 4 adults, (no one ever pointed out to me that when you have three kids you’re permanently out numbered – until it was too late and blindingly obvious!), but instead of the usual irritation at lengthy discussions about whose turn it is to have the cereal first, who finished the milk, who spilt the milk and why they can’t have chocolate for breakfast, I gaze at them all adoringly, send them outside to play in their pyjamas and think what an amazing childhood we’re giving them.
I decide to walk into the town centre to pass the time until the other 3 adults who had a skin full last night are up and about – google says 40 minutes but when you spot a fox and take ages stalking and photographing it and then go via a golf course where the gate is locked at the furthest end and you have to squeeze through a hedge, it takes considerably longer to arrive at Starbucks than planned. The upside of the detour however is it gives me time to reflect how the AF world seems to open up opportunities you never knew were there before – I’ve never seen a fox or photographed one before – and I’m pretty sure when I come across a locked gate with NO ACCESS on the other side of it there’s rarely a handy hole in the hedge to bypass said gate. Coincidence? Good luck? Maybe, but I like to think of it as being a change in my mindset that is opening my eyes to new possibilities – feeling optimistic and hopeful rather than closing my mind and finding only the bad in situations.
Amateur mindfulness session over and I order my decaf coconut flat white and a deliciously Ella energy ball (I’ve been going caffeine and sugar free (ish) as well, but that’s another blog). Sitting in the sunshine in a beautiful part of the world, making memories with special people and I realise again how lucky I am to be able to make these choices and revel in my good fortune that I found OYNB – or it found me.
I buy Psychologies magazine, walk the 40 mins back to the house where the kids are playing happily (on screens admittedly, but don’t judge – I’m working on that one!) and help our friends of 20+ years make cooked breakfast – does life get any better than this?! And it’s not even 10am!!!
Day 15 and we have loads of extra guests descending this afternoon for the obligatory ‘first rays of British summer time Bank holiday BBQ’ and you know how that’s going to go down…..
I’m just hoping I got in enough AF cider to hide my dirty little secret that I’m not quite ready to share yet, so I can last into the early hours when everyone else is slurring and doing the conga while the kids look on bemused and bleary eyed. I’ll update you tomorrow!
Day 16 So you’re wondering if my resolve crumbled right? Well, I have to admit when the adult numbers went from 4 to 9 and the kids multiplied into 15 (some of them possibly another side effect of one too many drinks), it was tempting to dull the noise. As Pimms came out of the kitchen in a sparkling glass jug, stacked with ice, brimming with fresh mint and chopped fruit I wondered for a moment if this was some kind of Jeremy Beadle set up to catch me out. The Veuve Cliquot Rose followed not long after and as the cork popped and everyone cheered with excitement, watching the pale pink bubbling liquid pour into slim, elegant glasses, it all became too much.
I took myself off into the bathroom, locked the door, sat on the loo and thought for a moment. Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I torturing and depriving myself, for what?! I don’t even drink THAT much anyway, surely 1 won’t hurt will it? I could have so much fun if I just had a couple – one of each would be fine and then I wouldn’t crave it anymore and then I wouldn’t feel like I’m missing out.
As reality started sinking in, I realised this is what our ‘friend’ alcohol does. It talks you into thinking it’s ok, it doesn’t matter. But it does. 1 turns into 2 – because 2 is OK, I can still drive on 2, so that must be ok. Oh dear someone just topped up my glass when I wasn’t looking – well it’s expensive champagne I can’t throw it down the sink so I’ll have to throw it down my neck instead. The quicker I drink it, the quicker I can get on to water or coke or lemonade and then I’ll be sober again and it’s as if I never had any at all. But 2 becomes 3 because that Pimms is still looking so tempting and actually – it’s half lemonade anyway so it’s not even that strong right? By 4, any resolve you had not to drink has dissipated completely and you think ‘oh well, I’ve blown it now anyway, I may as well enjoy myself and start again tomorrow.’
So what do I do? I sit and read the list I made in my phone about why I wanted to stop in the first place: to get fitter, stronger and healthier, to play with my kids more, to never have to suffer another hangover, to enjoy social gatherings and actually remember what was said the next day, to set an example to my kids where alcohol isn’t the centre of every weekend and holiday and to feel more at peace with myself, less anxious and more confident that I don’t need alcohol to get through life and that by confronting life head on without alcohol, I will find a whole new world waiting for me to discover it.
So, I went back out of that bathroom a new person. With a strength and resolve I certainly hadn’t had when I went in there. I took a cut glass, filled it with cranberry juice and lemonade and scooped loads of the ice, mint and chopped fruit out of the Pimms jug and put it in my glass. The taste of success was so much sweeter than any alcoholic drink I could have made myself and the first person I started talking to hadn’t had a drink for 10 years….
An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.