Do you want to know a secret? I used to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
But that isn’t the secret. The secret was that I kept this hidden, for a long time, and managed to function as a busy mother and business owner without anyone knowing that a problem existed. But I knew, of course. I knew the that habit of binge drinking every weekend had built up over the years to include more days, then more glasses. More and more until the point that I was drinking excessive amounts every night of every week.
I would wake every day feeling tired and groggy and oh-so-disappointed in myself that yet again I’d caved to the habit and drank over a bottle of wine to myself just to blur out the day’s stress. Or to celebrate the wins. Or the losses. Or the nothing. It was a bad habit and one that I wanted to stop.
Throughout the day, in my busy jobworking from home, I would have ‘words’ with myself. Today was the day that I would break the cycle and not drink. I wouldn’t have anything – I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ kind of a girl. Then, 4pm would roll around and I’d look forward to my kids getting home from school and catching up with them about their day. I’d make dinner, we’d play and chat with the kids and by 7pm when they went to bed, why wouldn’t I open a bottle of wine?
Mummy's Wine Time
All the other mums were. In fact, most had already drunk two glasses as they made dinner. Isn’t that what the media would have us believe? “Mummy wine time” is alive and kicking and if everyone else is doing it, it’s ok if I do too, right? “I’ll just drink tonight and not tomorrow” I told myself. And by 11pm when I sloped off to bed, I chastised myself for failing at breaking the cycle yet again. I wondered who would get up with the kids in the night if they were sick. Who would drive them to the hospital in an emergency? The guilt ate me up and I hated myself for being so weak and selfish.
In the morning, it started again. The endless cycle of physically feeling unwell and hearing the self critical voice in my head saying I was weak and a bad mother. That 7pm itch started showing up earlier over the months and although I never started to drink until the kids were tucked up asleep, it became something that was on my mind constantly.
The Turning Point
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressivebreast cancer and you’d think that would be enough to take better physical care of myself. Instead, I struggled with PTSD and anxiety and simply didn’t know a better way to deal with those issues other than to avoid them entirely by drinking myself into another world. And it worked, seemingly. Because my business was successful, my kids healthy and happy and to all who could see me, I looked like a positive, fully functional go-getter.
But inside, and my insides, were not dealing. I made the decision, I was going to stop drinking.
When my husband got home from work that day, I told him that I no longer drank alcohol and I asked if he would support me by doing the same, at least until I felt confident that I wouldn’t be tempted to started again. He agreed. That was January 23rd 2019 and I haven’t had any alcohol whatsoever since. Aside from my pregnancies and through chemo, this is the longest time I've ever gone without a drink since I started drinking alcohol.
How I stay on track
Giving up drinking is still relatively new to me but I'm in this for the long haul. I check how long have I been alcohol-free every day using an app – which has a daily reminder that pings on my phone. I also record the number of days I’ve gone without alcohol in my planner as I love having a visual of my AF days.
I have also spent a lot of time reading quit lit, for example Allen Carr's ‘How to Stop Drinking' which I found incredible insightful, this book really helped me to understand my relationship with alcohol.
Will I ever drink alcohol again?
Whilst I had originally toyed with the possibility of drinking the odd glass of wine in the future, I now have no inclination to whatsoever and I know that I would just end up back where I was. The habit is still breaking down, I still have moments of feeling like it isn’t fair and I miss that feeling of instant relaxation that I used to get when I opened a bottle of wine. However, it just wasn’t healthy. I was blurring my life away and purposefully drinking to ‘forget' or to ‘minimise' the storm around me. Alcohol was numbing the pain but fuelling the anxiety fire and I appreciate now that I was only masking my demons, not facing them. Now I have to face them head on. It's SCARY but I understand that I need to face them, as tough as it sometimes is. So, I’ll be alcohol-free forever and it's exciting because the health benefits of quitting alcohol I'm already feeling are amazing.
Two amazing benefits of being alcohol-free
I sleep better now
Like, I really sleep. Proper, deep, out-for-the-count sleep. SLEEP. I still struggle with the insomnia I’ve had since my teen years with getting to sleep but once I'm out, I am out.
I have less anxiety
That ‘next day guilt' or paranoia or disappointment in myself has gone. No more ‘what did I do last night?' or ‘why did I not stop drinking earlier?' or ‘why did I do it again?'. I now wake up feeling fresh (ish), guilt-free and focused.
Anxiety and PTSD after cancer is still a thing for me. Still something I'm working on every day. But the anxiety I was giving myself from drinking too much, too frequently, has gone. And it feels amazing to be taking back some control in my life when so much has been taken away from me.
There are many more benefits that are still showing up in my new alcohol-free life every day.
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.
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