As the weeks went by, I was gradually finding parts of me that I had lost over the years. The old Kelly was coming back.

I will never see my Day 1 again. EVER! It was a day of anxiety, guilt and hating myself for putting myself into yet another 4 days of what had become my alcohol fuelled anxiety binge cycle. I was your weekend party drinker, from the age of 17, through to my 30s, you know the routine! Everyone around me drank, friends, family, it's what we all did, and it was fun times.

Kelly before her challengeI had my daughter at 34 and anxiety hit me like a train, this was the start of 6 years of prescribed sertraline for anxiety, but I continued to drink socially at weekends. My 2nd daughter arrived 2 years later. If only I knew then that the alcohol was making it so much worse! I don’t even know if the Setraline was working properly as there was always alcohol flushing through my system. I was taking an anti-depressant to help with crushing anxiety and then drinking alcohol which is a depressant! It had to stop.

I would drink on a Friday night, even though I knew it would mess my head up for days, I would then spend 2-3 days eating junk food feeling awful, bloated, too tired to train, not sleeping with massive anxiety! After a few days I would feel better, eat well again, get back to my training then a few weeks later repeat the whole thing.

My turning point

At the beginning of lockdown and after another very messy zoom call with friends and a bottle of gin I knew that if I was going to get through it I had to have a clear head and I knew alcohol was fuelling the anxiety. Giving up alcohol was the only answer.

I had done the dry Januarys and opted to be the designated driver to avoid drinking but it wasn’t enough as when I did drink, I couldn’t just have 2 drinks. It’d nearly always be 12 or more. To other people I was fine with drinking. I didn’t appear to have a problem. I didn’t blackout and I didn’t cause trouble but they didn’t see the anxiety caused by it the following day which was destroying me. I was so fed up of letting anxiety constantly live in my head like a nagging neighbour banging on a wall all day.

Finding OYNB

Kelly after her challengeI, like many people had seen OYNB on Facebook and always thought I couldn’t do it. It was way out of my comfort zone to think of talking to people about the anxiety that had shadowed me for so long and what if I failed as I had done so many times before. Enough was enough, through bleary eyes and a banging headache I clicked on the 90-day challenge.

It was the Facebook group that encouraged me and kept me motivated on my hard days. I read so many posts, everyone wanted the same outcome, to stop drinking. I found many people with the same anxiety issues as me and I cannot tell you how good it was to be able to talk openly and honestly about anxiety to a group of people that understood it all.

My experience of the alcohol-free challenge

I realised very quickly that it wasn’t the alcohol I craved, it was the habit and association to what alcohol connects you to. I could still socialise, have fun, go to the pub, see friends – just without the alcohol. As the weeks went by, I was gradually finding parts of me that I had lost over the years. The old Kelly was coming back.

My life is calmer and oh my god my head is so much clearer. I’m waking up in the morning and I’m out the door on a 10k walk because I don’t have anxiety making my head spin. I’m doing things I haven’t done in 10 years! I’ve signed up for a 3 peaks challenge and hoping to join in on an OYNB spartan. Never ever would this have happened if I was still drinking. I feel like I’ve just escaped from a lifetime of self-inflicted imprisonment and now I’ve allowed myself to be free again! I choose to not drink, I choose to live my best life because I deserve to be happy and all I had to do was stop drinking alcohol.

What's next?

I will reach day 90 in 2 days and currently on holiday in Spain and I haven’t had any alcohol because I don’t actually want any! I’m not fighting urges to drink. I’m not wasting hours sitting drinking watching my kids in the swimming pool as I’m now with my kids in the pool swimming, playing in the sea! Doing all the things alcohol and anxiety had taken from me. One of my biggest fears joining OYNB was that I couldn’t even think about going to a social event not drinking, let alone on holiday. I couldn’t see past the day I was on and that was ok! That was all I needed to see to get me to where I am today.

Now I am looking forward to living every minute of my life, this holiday and every social event to come because now there is no edge to take off, this is my new normal. Never again will alcohol take one more moment or memory away from me. 365 days – here I come.


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