For me, there was no defining moment that led me to address my relationship with alcohol. No pouring vodka on my cornflakes in the morning, no hiding bottles around the house. Like millions of people in their 40’s, drinking had become more regular and once the bottle of wine was open, it would be gone, with another on standby ‘just in case’ .. who was I kidding!? That one would be half gone too! I spent my 20’s and 30’s binge drinking, partying hard, drinking most nights of the week. I could make any occasion a reason to have a big drink to celebrate or commiserate.
It wasn't all fun and games
I piled on the weight, it became an effort to be the party girl, I was riddled with self-doubt, low self-esteem, anger and suffered with bouts of depression. Now, I’m not saying the booze was the sole reason, but it certainly contributed to my mental health issues. I went for counselling to work on my self-esteem. During those sessions, I would say “I wish I didn’t drink” my counsellor replied “OK, so why don’t you not drink?”. I think I may have looked at her like SHE needed counselling, I mean seriously.. stop drinking? Was she mad? Obviously, I dismissed this suggestion as some kind of crazy talk and busied myself with mindfulness, walking, yoga, anything but give up the booze!
Previous AF attempts
Over the last year or two, I had completed Dry January and the following year I was sober from January to March. Then it was my birthday. I drank a huge amount of red wine and made an absolute arse of myself. Well done me. I clearly hadn't learned my lesson. I needed to drink like a normal adult with a ‘stop drinking’ button! I kept returning to the counsellors’ words “ok, so why don’t you not drink”. I wanted a different life, to fulfil my potential, to remove my self-doubt, to challenge myself and to feel like I was really living, not just existing.
I was drunk one Friday night (standard) and signed up for a 26 mile charity hike. I knew I couldn’t do this if I carried on drinking. This is when I found One Year No Beer. I’ll be honest, when I realised I had to pay to give up drinking, I was in two minds but then I worked it out that I’d be spending way more on booze and cigarettes, so I went for it. Nothing to lose right!?
The support from the start has been amazing, daily emails, videos and when I joined the group via Slack and Facebook, that support network just blossomed. There is no judgement, only acceptance, love and support. Soon after joining, I agreed to attend a OYNB social event. This was a huge deal for me. To meet new people I didn’t know, sober, was nerve racking. I needn’t have been scared, they were all so friendly and open, sharing their experiences. I was so proud of myself for overcoming my first challenge.
My AF benefits
Being a 40 something year old woman, I got used to being overweight, ageing skin, dark circles around my eyes, piling on the night cream hoping it would make a difference, but oh my god there is no better skin care regime and diet than not drinking alcohol. In a few weeks, my skin was glowing and gone were the dark eyes. In 3 months I’ve lost 18lbs. Seriously, if you want good skin and a waistline, step away from the wine bottle!
Other joys I have found being alcohol-free are my reclaimed weekends. They are filled with long beautiful hikes in the countryside, dog walks, gardening and learning new skills like sewing. Most importantly, I have my self-esteem, good mental health, I know who I am and where I want to be. That to me, is better than any bottle of wine could ever be. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, people may say you’re boring and try to tempt you to drink. But, the true friends, the ones you need at your side will show their real colours and you may be surprised!
To anyone thinking of going AF
When life throws you a challenge it’s hard to resist using alcohol as a coping mechanism. But what I can promise to everyone who takes on the OYNB challenge, it’s 100% worth it. I simply could not have done this without the support and love of the OYNB tribe, they are without doubt the best there is. So to anyone thinking about giving up the booze and signing up to a 28, 90 or 365 challenge, I would ask you one thing. Do you dream of a better life? If it’s a yes, then this is the first step to realising that dream!