My 1st year sober

Dry January was hard. Every day was a decision not to drink but it did not come easily. I had always hoped that if I stopped drinking I wouldn’t have to go through the agonies that so many people talked about. I didn’t want to be ‘once and alcoholic always an alcoholic’. I wanted to believe that I could ‘kick the drink….easily’. Nothing leading up to that point had been easy and one of the things that puts people off trying to quit drinking is the thought that every day, from that point forward, will be hard but without the temporary relief offered by alcohol. But when I finally quit, on 29th April 2018, after a 22 year bad relationship with alcohol, it just happened. There was no fanfare, no memorable promise to stop, no announcement to the world, no force of willpower. My husband, a few weeks before, at my request, had removed all alcohol from the house so there had been nothing there immediately to tempt me.

My first Facebook post related to Dry January did not paint a rosy picture. To sum it up, feeling all positive and ready to be the best mother, I headed out for a day out with the boys. We were going to go scooting and go to the cinema to watch the Greatest Showman. We went to a local lake that is very pretty and the boys enjoy scooting around. The Baby, who had been given a scooter for Christmas, refused to scoot. In the end I had to let the big boys go off by themselves around the lake while I pottered about with The Baby. The Baby was being a pain and in trying to help him avoid a very large puddle, he fell right into a bigger one. Cue wet cold screaming child. Having taken all his spare clothes out of his bag after a calpol disaster, I had forgotten to put any back in. Now I had a screaming cold child dressed in the hodge podge of clothes below.

The boys took so long to reappear I thought they had fallen into the lake and was wondering what I was supposed to do at this point, with wet screaming baby and potentially drowning children (they can swim but mother’s anxiety and all that!) They eventually emerged and The Bear’s blood sugars were super high again. He had had a sickness bug for weeks and had lost 6kgs in three weeks. We just couldn’t control his blood sugars. I was extremely tempted at this point to jack it all in and go home to drink wine and rant. But I didn’t. I thought I…AM…GOING…TO…DO…THIS. Instead I persevered and picked up sandwiches to feed the boys in the cinema. I didn’t know this at the time, nor did I after this viewing, but the Greatest Showman was soon to become my best film ever and I would watch it 7 times in the cinema including two sing alongs and an outdoor viewing. This is me was my anthem and A million dreams my life’s story) 

Shameless affiliate link for the Greatest Showman here as it’s just so good that you have to own it!!

Having made it to the cinema, everyone settled, ate their sandwiches and the baby fell asleep in my arms. I breathed a sigh of relief and start to take in some of the film. As The Baby slept, I started to relax and think how lucky I was. After not very long, The Baby started coughing. Poor thing I thought, cough cough cough – VOMIT!!! Everywhere!!! Over remaining clothes, the floor, me, the badly packed changing back. On my own in the cinema with 3 boys covered in vomit.

So, not a propitious start to my coping mummy sober lifestyle. But a win because I didn’t drink that day. I got home, cried, told My Love how crap it all was, read the next day of the 28 day alcohol free challenge, wrote the post for Facebook and enjoyed the replies.  By the evening I saw the funny side. Definitely not what would have happened if I had had a drink. The result then would have been tears, arguing, guilt, shame, feelings of inadequacy.

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People talk about how negative social media can be, and I understand the negative side of it, but for me it was a game changer. The biggest thing I learned in Dry January was how huge and supportive the online sober community is and how fast it is growing. Instead of reading ‘how much can I drink and not die of cirrhosis of the liver’ (I’ve seen many, many people at the end of their alcohol careers and it’s pretty nasty stuff), I was immersed in articles about why to quit drinking, how much better life is afterwards, how alcohol is the enemy not the friend and comfort I’d always used it as

When I started drinking again I felt like I’d failed again, even worse this time because I’d stopped for so long and really thought that was it. The sober community helped me see that it was OK; most of them have fallen down multiple times before finally reaching the sober goal. I believe this really helped me to finally stop three month later.

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When I finally quit, it almost happened unnoticed. I realised I hadn’t drunk for a couple of days, but also that I hadn’t missed it. This revelation was startling. It had never ever happened before. I realised quickly that if I touched another drink I’d be back on the same treadmill for years, so I didn’t. I know that sounds insane and unrealistic but my outlook and support had changed so completely that I didn’t need the crutch anymore.  I couldn’t believe that after 22 years, and 12 years of struggling, that that was it. But I’ve always believed that the universe gives you what you need if you are open to it.  I truly believe that opening myself up to the sober world had finally opened myself up to sobriety as an option and the universe stepped in to help.

Did I never have a craving? Of course not, there were definitely times – when I was annoyed with the children or My Love, when I was scared, stressed or uncomfortable – that I absolutely wanted to drink. Summer evenings were hard, something about a summer evening says ‘sit outside a café, chill, chat, drink.’ I worried massively about December. My Birthday and Christmas in the same month. Usually an excuse for prosecco every night and no-one will notice because EVERYONE IS DOING IT! I kept my birthday lower key. I went to my sister’s with my mother. We had an Indian take away and watched Strictly Come Dancing. To be fair I love Strictly Come Dancing and would have probably watched it anyway but would have done it after day out, dressed up to the nines, drinking too much prosecco and eventually feeling upset, disappointed and resentful that I didn’t have time to dance, dress up and was too overweight and unfit to look gorgeous as the people on Strictly. Alcohol consumption not actually as much fun as it appears? I did feel weird though. I didn’t have the over excited feeling I usually get about my birthday, but I didn’t have the upset or disappointment either. One birthday navigated alcohol free.

After my birthday Christmas didn’t seem quite so worrying. In December I ate a lot! Mince pies, chocolate, biscuits. But I just accepted what I needed to do to get through December alcohol free. I would worry about it in January. I also watched cooking programmes constantly! I don’t really do TV but I have always enjoyed the odd episode of Nigella or Great British Bake off. I am a foody and love cooking delicious food with My Love. It reminds me of meals together and companionship – all very hygge. And Hygge is definitely what I needed! A bit late to the game, I read the Little Book of Hygge .

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It filled me with such warm, cosy, hygge, happy feelings that I was determined that my winter would be Hygge and not a SAD affair (seasonal affective disorder most years!). I concentrated my December on being cosy and warm, wearing fluffy socks and fluffy jumpers, reading books by the fire (Fire on TV from YouTube but it works!), candles, hot chocolate, food and tea. Bit different to the glamorous, dressed up, prosecco filled party girl I always tried to be!  It was wonderful and was also a step further to changing my outlook. When my sister had given me fluffy socks for my birthday the year before I had almost been offended! But this year I was revelling in the fluffy!

I also properly discovered tea. Although I always drank tea and liked tea, I hadn’t fully immersed myself in the world of tea. Now I have teas for the morning, teas for the afternoon, tea for hot days versus tea for winter days, tea for zen evenings or teas for slouchy evenings. I had always loved the idea of the Japanese tea ceremony. Taking things slowly, being mindful of each moment, savouring the present. However I had always thought I didn’t have time for that. I don’t spend hours every day making tea, but there is something about having different teas for different moods and situations. Something about making a pot to share rather than a cup, watching it infuse and waiting to taste it. 

This all made winter evenings much easier to manage. I used to dread evenings and that is why they were prime drinking time. Evening made me completely miserable. With a drink I felt ok but after 8ish I felt completely miserable, ashamed and anxious. Without a drink I felt miserable from 5pm (when I would have had a drink) to 8ish (when I would have stopped) and then it cleared – connection?? This meant that crucial family time just wasn’t there. I did what I felt was my duty – family meals, bathing children, stories – but I didn’t enjoy it, couldn’t understand people when they said they did , and if I’m honest I slightly resented it. I think on some level the boys felt this, because when they were younger, they never stayed in bed, they messed about and it frequently descended into arguments.

Since I stopped drinking evenings have been a revelation. Apart from a bit of a down feeling that goes with winter dark evenings sometimes, I do not have those black feelings. We cook, eat and clean up together. After supper I bath the baby while we listen to music and sing together. Then I read stories with the baby, give him a kiss and he goes to bed. I mean who knew that toddlers can actually go to sleep willingly??? Maybe the baby is just odd, but I do think the concentrated attention he gets at that time leaves him feeling happy and safe and ready to sleep. Once the baby is a sleep it gives me an hour to be with the boys before they go to bed. We’ve found a few Netflix things we enjoy together, or I try to read a chapter of something to them. They’ve always loved stories and I’m still trying to convince them that reading is amazing! Once they’re in bed it gives My Love and I a little time together when we try to do some yoga – usually Yoga with Adriene – before bed.

Reading this it all sounds a bit idyllic. Obviously this doesn’t happen so smoothly every time, they still act up, fight and drive me crazy. It’s sometimes just way too busy to do all the nice stuff. We all still argue and shout. But in another way it is idyllic. It’s how I always wanted evenings to be. Even when it doesn’t go to plan it’s OK, because I really enjoy the times it does. This all developed slowly over the course of the year, not a sudden transition from horrendous evening to idyllic life. But like anything, the more you do it the easier it is to sustain and then it becomes natural.

Speaking of things becoming easier to sustain, in my 1st year sober I did more exercise, more consistently than any other time in my life. It was hard at first, but the more I did, the easier it became. At first it was hard to find the time, but when I got into it I could just slot it in anywhere. I exercised at home or outside, as I knew I would never have the time to disappear to the gym, but that made it easier to sustain. I practised yoga morning and evening, I did T25 (High Intensity Interval Training stuff) for 25 minutes, I cycled to work and with the family and we went for long family walk. There were days when this didn’t happen, but lots of days when it did.  The endorphins flowed and I felt amazing!

One of the things people dread when they stop drinking is going on holiday, and I was no different. I have had two holidays since then. The first was a family trip to the seaside for a week in August and the second a week in Italy. My parents came to both.  I love holidays and don’t normally get two, but it was firstly a treat to say well done for being sober and secondly as a thank you to my mother for all the childcare help she give us so we can work. I was very anxious, especially as the year before I had become so anxious and hysterical in a caravan by the sea that I had cut a two week holiday in half and come home. We were five in a hotel room for 7 days. Hotel rooms also say to me – wine on arrival. As it was it was OK. If I needed to escape the room I took us out. I kept a supply of diets cokes and San Pellegrino cans in the room. I had a bath if I needed 5 minutes. I also chilled out and stopped trying to control everything – if the boys wanted to watch too much TV rather than go out – so what? It’s their holiday too. I love the sea, so any time I felt anxious, which wasn’t very often, I left the hotel and sat on the beach listening to the waves.  In Italy I was also worried but I had been sober for nearly a year by then. But doesn’t Italy mean eating alfresco and long afternoons drinking wine? I did eat alfresco, we did enjoy long afternoons with coffee and ice cream, we did argue (all sharing an apartment), I did get frustrated with the children just wanting to play on I Pads instead of going out – especially as THIS WAS ITALY! But I didn’t drink, and I didn’t want to drink. I did however; discover alot more about myself than I would have done if I had been drinking. More on that in the next post. This year I have my first festival and we are camping for a week in Wales – eeeek!

In my 1st year sober, became a better mother and wife, I became stronger physically and emotionally, I lost 8kgs and for the first time, felt happy in my own skin.  

How to quit drinking

So you’ve hopefully read How I Quit Drinking and seen my journey to sobriety 14 months ago. In this post I’m going to give you my tips for How to quit drinking. I drank for 22 years. For 18 of them I drank too much and for 12 of them I battled to quit. I hope they help you, as they definitely worked for me.

1) Get a champion

Everyone needs to have someone they can turn to when things get rough. For you this may be your mother, sister, partner or best friend. Pick someone you feel happy being completely open with, someone who doesn’t put you down or tell you your ideas are wrong. Someone who has a good outlook on life and who you respect. There are always people out there willing to pull you down, so choose wisely. I am so lucky for the people in my life, but I know there are people, often for legitimate reasons (such as worry), that I would not choose for this role. For me it was my husband. My Love always supported me, never ridiculed any of my ideas, played along with my crazy schemes and listened to my drunken rants. I could never have done any of this without him. You need to find this person and open up to them. Tell them your intentions, your reasons, your goal and the support you need to reach it.

2) Announce your intention proudly

For me this was through Facebook and Dry January. There are so many support groups online, especially through Facebook and Instagram. These groups, on both platforms, are for people to share ideas, talk, support each other and even meet up. There also likely to be local support groups if you need a more face to face environment. As sobriety increases in popularity (yay!), there are so many more opportunities to give up drinking. Not just Dry January, but also Sober Spring, Dry July, Go Sober for October, or Dryathalon. This way you’ll have a plan to follow and have lots of support from people doing the same thing and probably feeling the same way as you!

3) Practice self-care

This part is crucial and I cannot do it justice in this blog post. Instead I have created a free course called ‘7 days to feel better about yourself’. Just sign up in the box below and I will send you an email every day for 7 days with advice and practical elements to complete that will have you knowing and loving yourself so much more in as little as a week. 

For the purposes of this post, let me just reiterate how important this part is in overcoming any problem. If you constantly criticise a child, tell them they are too this or too that, berate them endlessly when they make a mistake, tell them will never amount to anything – would they succeed? Would they grow up to be well rounded, loving, caring and successful people with few problems? Probably not. Of course, it is unlikely that you would ever do this to a child – so why do it to yourself? If you encouraged, supported, nurtured and loved that child, imagine what it could achieve! Enough with the child analogy, but I hope it makes my point.

Make sure in whatever journey you are on, that you make time for yourself. If you love reading, find a space to read, if you love music put it on., if you love cooking, buy those special ingredients and make something you really want to make. Have that bath, light those candles, take that walk, go to that spa. Why not? Where in the rule book does it say we cannot do what makes us happy?  You need to balance in your day what depletes you with what nurtures you. When I attended a mindfulness course to help with post-natal depression after The Baby, they talked about making lists of what depleted and what nurtured us. Obviously in early motherhood with 2 other children there isn’t much to nurture us. I was already in a bad place so when they suggested that we tried to turn the things that deplete us into the things that nourish us, by doing them to the best of our ability, I was not really loving it. I believe the point that I burst into tears and started shouting was the point that they said ‘master the ironing’. MASTER THE IRONING?!! SOD THAT! I have not been through everything I have been through and achieved everything I have achieved to be told that my value and joy in life is the ironing. Well, no. I do actually understand the point and maybe my reaction would not have been so strong if they had said cooking instead of ironing! The point is that if we do the best we can do with what we have at the time, then, when we have more capacity, what we will achieve will be even greater. So, if you are in a crap place, choose one thing that you love, one thing that will nourish and nurture you. Start doing that thing whenever you can. If it’s something you cannot exactly do right now, is there anything you can you do now that will help you do it better when you can?

One final point on self-love. If there is a situation you do not want to be in, do not be in it. So many times we force ourselves to do things because we should, without actually examining whether we really want to. If you are trying to stop drinking, why go to a party or a pub that you don’t want to go to. If you don’t want to be there, you’re already in a weak position within yourself, so slipping up is far more likely. You can worry about pubs and parties later down the line when you are feeling stronger. If anyone is so unhappy with you for this that they stop speaking to you, then maybe that isn’t the type of unsupportive person that you need around.

However, if, after all of this, things do go wrong – don’t beat yourself up. Accept that it is what it is. There is nothing you can do to change the past, but there is plenty you can do, with a little self-love, to change the future.

Sign up below for my free ‘7 days to feel better about yourself’ course,

4) Practice bibliotherapy

I have found time and again that when I put my intention out there, the universe gives me an answer. When I’m struggling, this is most often in the form of a book. But for you and many others it could be a podcast, a Ted Talk or an audio book. I find the act of sitting down to read is an act of complete self-love. You are giving yourself the permission to take time for yourself and your own development.

Bibliotherapy is not a recent phenomenon. Using my most trusted source of Wikipedia, it says that the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses II (in the 1200s BC) had a phrase above his library saying “the house of healing for the soul”. Also that in 1272, the Koran prescribed reading as a medical treatment. Apologies if anyone can tell me this is wrong but I love the idea of it!

Neuropsychologists have said that reading reduces stress levels by 68% (1). Looking back on my experience with bibliotherapy, I can totally understand this. When you read you float into another world. This is not a world of the stresses and worries you have in your life. The complete distraction it provides allows you to relax, and therefore any tension and stress to temporarily slip away. Any reduction in stress has been shown to improve your mood and boost your immune system, as prolonged stress hormones have a negative effect on the body.  

The problem we often face is that we become bogged down in the complexities of our lives and our problems become so big that they overtake the whole picture. Reading, and the distraction and relaxation provided, gives us that moment outside ourselves reflect. Is it possible that in this time we can see that our insurmountable problems aren’t quite so insurmountable? Black and white thinking is often seen to be one of the factors in depression, but if by reading you can reflect, see another person’s story or perspective, then we are taking in a little of the grey.

The content of the books, particularly self-help books, are often positive stories about people who have overcome their battles. These stories, read at a time when our mind is relaxed and open, can give us a positive boost to say ‘these people have done it, why not me?’. In the midst of our problems we can feel very alone. But reading a story that is similar to yours, or very often one that is worse than yours, helps us to feel that we are not alone, someone out there understands what we are going through. There is a connection. Connection is one of the keys to happiness.

I know that for me, each time a book has found its way to me at the right time, wonderful things have happened. 

My recommendations are:

Other people’s recommendations

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5) Find your exercise

I have written about gentle movement in my ‘7 days to feel better about yourself’ course. I know people groan at the idea of exercise, but it is so important. It is shown to boost mood and self-esteem, reduce stress and depression, improve sleep and energy as well as reducing the risk of a whole host of physical ailments such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s (2).

Exercise does not have to be awful. We are not talking about half an hour on the treadmill every day – ugh, what could be worse! If you look and experiment there will absolutely be an exercise for you. Do you like dancing? There are so many people I know that have taken up Ceroc (modern jive dancing). It is accessible at all levels and abilities, is seriously good cardio and is very social (no partner required). I do not get paid to advertise Ceroc but it is where I met My Love and it holds a special place for me. Do you like hiking, horse riding, ice skating, yoga, martial arts, outdoor swimming, surfing, sailing or cycling? Do you want something more social? Look for a netball team, football team or hockey team. If you have children, is there something you can do with them or at the same time as their classes? If you can’t get out, You Tube is packed with exercise classes and ideas. If you hate cardio, Tabata is amazing.  Four minutes of circuits, 40 seconds hard core exercise with 20 seconds rest x 4. Who can’t do 40 seconds cardio? The best thing is, your fitness and ability will improve so quickly – 2 weeks for me, and after that it is far less daunting. Exercise is proven to be pretty addictive so give it the two week and get those happy hormones flowing! They will be your best friend when things get hard.

6) Find your tribe

In my previous post I talked in detail about how important it is to find those people on the same journey as you, as they will be your rock and your support when things get tough. You need to know you are not alone. You need to have people you can talk to, who can relate and understand your story. Be around sober people. Immerse yourself in groups, blogs and relevant social media. Feeling a connection, like I said before is one of the cornerstones of happiness. If you are truly happy, how likely is it that you will want to hide behind alcohol? Read my post How I quit drinking to find out more about finding your tribe.

7) Reminders

Visualisation is an important tool in your problem solving box. If you can visualise where you want to be it is easier to maintain your course. Use meditation to help you create a peaceful place to visualise your goal. This is looked at further in my 7 days to feel better about yourself’ course. Make a board with images of what you are trying to achieve. Keep it somewhere visible as a constant reminder. Make some jewellery or a T-shirt or a tattoo, if you like them. Make it obvious so that you are always aware of what you are trying to achieve. It’s almost a form of brain training. If you say it enough and think it enough and believe it enough, it will eventually be. 

8) Other things that helped me on my journey

A gratitude diary. I will write about gratitude in a later post, but for this I will explain how I did it. Every time I felt happy, or saw something beautiful or got a warm fuzzy feeling, I would make a note on my phone of what had caused it. This was a lovely reminder of that fuzzy feeling that could be triggered again with the memory, but also it was a reminder when I was feeling low of what I had to be grateful for. Having just one thing to be grateful for in a day is enough. Being grateful expands exponentially until you have more than you ever imagined possible to be grateful for.

Find your drink. For some this is non alcoholic alternative, helpful if you don’t want to stand out or you are in early sobriety. For me it was Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade, Caffeine free Diet Coke and Coffee. Rose lemonade was my treat drink, I would have it in a champagne glass to celebrate, although thankfully I’ve lost the need to do this now as I am a very happy non-drinker. Diet coke is my go to when I’m feeling stressed. Coffee is my relaxing  me time treat, especially if I buy myself a cup out. Savour it, nurture it, enjoy it. Obviously I try not to have more than one coffee or diet coke a day as it isn’t the healthiest, but hey, better than booze! Also, I must mention tea. There are so many weird and wonderful teas out there for very occasion! Bird and Blend and Whittards are particularly good and you can taste before you buy or return it if you’re not keen.

Find a drink you love for the times that you need it

So that’s all for today. I hope it helps. Remember – it’s OK to fall down but that doesn’t make it OK to give up. Each time you fall you are a bit closer, a bit stronger and have learnt a bit more about reaching you goal. Don’ forget to sign up for 7 days to feel better about yourself’ and future courses

Happy not drinking everyone!

How I quit drinking

Dry January

After a heavy 2017 Christmas, I had taken The Bot and The Bear up to their grandparents to stay for New Year so it was just My Love, The Baby and I staying at a Premier Inn by the sea for New Year. I love the sea but I hate New Year, it feels so forced and so fake. I didn’t have a drink on New Year because I was feeling pretty consumed with self-loathing. We don’t really watch TV at home, so on New Year’s morning while My Love was in the shower and I was lounging around in bed, I decided to have a go at this channel flicking. Yet another of those universe moments. I saw flash up “The 28 day alcohol-free challenge” and I thought, mmmm, that doesn’t sound too long (I had only managed 28 days a handful of miserable times but positive thinking and all that!). So I started watching the interview and it was a discussion about recent sober literature between Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns who had written The 28 day alcohol-free challenge and Catherine Gray who had written The unexpected joy of being sober.

While really wanting to believe Catherine and all her claims of being happy sober, I dismissed it because it seemed so implausible. This 28 day challenge sounded like an idea though. Despite everything else I really like to challenge myself! I have 3 children, 3 degrees and a new career – high functioning? I bought both books from my place in the bed and said thank you to Amazon Prime – it would be there when I got home.

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I needn’t have bothered with that though, as on 1st January the supermarkets are full of these books for Dry January. Speaking of which, Dry January and announcing my intentions to the world seemed like a good idea. If I told everyone what I was doing and said it was a challenge – not that I had a problem with alcohol – still full of shame there – then I would feel pressured to complete the challenge but without the pressure to quit drinking for good. So I showered Facebook with Dry January stuff, changed my profile picture to say I was doing it and wrote a post telling everyone I was doing it. So much love and support poured in, I felt so grateful.

Bibliotherapy

When my books arrived I read the 28 day challenge proudly. Previously I had covered my quit drinking literature in wrapping paper so people wouldn’t see that I had a problem. Now it was ok because it was a challenge, not a problem! This book wasn’t about giving up FOREVER, which is all too daunting to start with, it was about using the 28 days to change your relationship with alcohol. A chance to step back and reassess. They start with Get ready, Get Set, Go! Get ready takes you through all the challenges facing you when you drink and when you choose not to drink. Get set talks to you about practices needed to change your mindset and Go! is Go! Each day has a chapter with exercises and thoughts for motivation and support. They talked about exercise a lot, so that became a bit of a focus for that month – more on that later in the post. Healthy eating, which was also talked about a lot, did not become a focus! I have always eaten well but January 2018 definitely had more pizza, chocolate and ice cream than usual! While I loved this book and it was great at keeping me going, there was a lot of stuff about dealing with the social aspects of drinking. By this time, social drinking wasn’t really a thing I did, much more alone drinking, but I know that a lot of people do have very active social lives and that not drinking in social situations can be their biggest challenge so this book will definitely be good for you.  The guys set up an online community One year no beer whose mission is ‘to help as many people as possible change their relationship with alcohol completely’. It was the start of an online support tribe – more on this later.

I didn’t drink again until February 10th. Don’t get me wrong, the challenge was hard! There were days I could feel myself being drawn to the booze aisle in the shop and having to force myself to turn around, but I’d set a challenge so I had to complete it! My books and exercise kept me going every day. I told My Love all the really shitty things I was feeling and thinking. I was also so proud of myself, I had reached 28 days and was still going – maybe 60 days next. Then I went to visit a school friend. She doesn’t have children, I came with 3. I am shockingly bad at being a guest. I love seeing old friends and having a day out, but being a guest and not in my own space freaks me out completely. My Love was supposed to be at home studying, but he could see that I was getting really anxious about going so he picked up his laptop and came with me. It was lovely and we had a nice day. We were staying at my friend’s partner’s house who I hadn’t met properly before. In the evening they sat and read their newspapers while I tried to keep the children peaceful – this house was immaculate – and worrying about when the children would get supper and what The Bear’s blood sugars were doing. I eventually broached the subject and supper got slowly underway.  By this point my anxiety was so tight in my chest that I wanted to jump in the car and run home, so when my friend offered me a glass of wine, I took it. Very slowly I drank it and the anxiety ebbed away. I nursed the glass all night through supper and Moana until I had an excuse to go to bed. That was it, I had felt better, my alcohol friend was back and I was going to use it to the full!  

The next few months were full of booze and back to the usual routine. Exercise was out the window, everything was back to normal – I was back in my comfort zone – anxiety, tears and all! So, while drinking, I started reading quit lit again. Because actually having got so far, the shame and guilt were even worse than before. I couldn’t believe I’d done that to myself but also revelled in the fact that I had given myself a green light to keep going. Lots of people online recommended Jason Vale’s Kick the Drink…Easily! So I ordered away. When it arrived and I started reading, it felt very familiar! I did some research and I think there were some legal questions between Jason Vale and Allen Carr – this book read very similarly to Allen Carr’s The Easy Way To Control Alcohol. I had read Allen Carr’s book in 2013 in another failed attempt to stop drinking – but it did stop me smoking! After that book I never touched another cigarette and felt really good about it. I loved the theory, but worried that if I’d read it once and it had failed, it would probably fail again.

After Jason Vale I hunted around for more recommendations. I had put off reading The unexpected joy as I had skipped the first few pages in when it arrived in January and it was waaaay too depressing! When you are living that life, you don’t want to read about it. One night when feeling particularly rubbish I just decided to wallow and read the book. I couldn’t put it down. Although she had it worse than me and in a very different situation, all her feelings and emotions felt so similar. I completely understood what she was saying and she had managed it! She didn’t drink! I had seen her on TV looking healthy and happy. It suddenly felt like there was hope. This was the the last book I read before I quit drinking for good. 

There are so many books that other people have found helpful too including The Sober Diaries by Claire Pooley, Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Scoblic, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.

Find your tribe

One of the things Catherine Gray recommended to help you on your journey was to find your tribe. I wasn’t about to go out and start joining local sobriety groups (people fear and all that), but the fab thing about this digital age we live in is that we are all connected and you can find what you need to at the click of a button. I subscribed to everything! Blogs were great: I subscribed to Hip Sobriety and Mummy was a secret drinker.  I read about what people had experienced and how they’d overcome it. I especially focused on mothers who had turned their lives around – because it’s all very well saying I gave up alcohol after travelling the world and rediscovering myself or I gave up after spending weeks in a beautiful recovery sanctuary – not practical for day to day working parent!  I joined communities online such as Soberistas. I followed sober blogs on Facebook such as Sober Courage, SoberMummy, The sober mama and The Sober Fish Story.  I signed up to Belle Robertson’s Tired of thinking about drinking – 100 day sober challenge.

Reminders

I was being bombarded daily by a self-inflicted stream of emails, notifications, newsletters and posts but it was EXACTLY what I needed. Instead of feeling alone in my struggle, I was suddenly a part of something HUGE!  If I felt like things were getting on top of me I just opened my Facebook or email and there were stories and supportive posts and comments from other people feeling the same way. It was all I needed to say, phew, OK, I am OK and I am not alone. Belle was amazing. I read the free exerts for her book about her journey to stop drinking then I signed up to the 100 day sober challenge. You can either do this with her help or by yourself. She is there for you to email every day in your challenge if you need her and she will reply with support and encouragement. She will also track where you are in you journey and cheer you on. It’s a whole community where people post where they are in their journey and how you’re feeling so if you need the support and need to know how others are coping then this is definitely for you! I did the self-administered challenge to start with but signed up for the daily inspirational emails which kept me motivated. I also loved a post I read from Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety where she talked about her tattoo saying NQTD. This was her commitment to Never Question the Decision to stop drinking. I went straight to a bead shop and made myself a lovely colourful bracelet with NQTD in the middle and small charms hanging. The charms were a bird (for my freedom from drinking), a heart (for loving myself enough to stop), and Ankh (for life) and a star (because it’s pretty!). I wear this bracelet nearly every day and it’s a constant reminder of my commitment to myself and my choice for life.    

My quit drinking reminder

Yoga and exercise

In Dry January I focused heavily on exercise and yoga. I loved yoga and had practiced it intermittently over the years but now I did a daily (almost) practice before bed. I knew from previous attempts that joining the gym was pointless because when do I actually have time to say, “Right My Love, I’m off to the gym for a few hours (every day), you sort the children out”! So home exercise was what I needed. I read a lot of posts and lots of people raved about Yoga with Adriene on You Tube so I thought I’d give it a go.  I started doing her 30 days of yoga videos, which as it says, is a different yoga video every day for 30 days. They only last about 20-30 minutes each and felt soooo good at about 9.30pm as a way of coming down from the day. It was my treat to myself. I lit scented candles, turned the lights down, put on fairy lights, put on comfy clothes and revelled in my treat to myself that I deserved at the end of each day. I made sure that after the practice I went straight to bed so that I was relaxed and I couldn’t start stressing about anything else! It also felt amazing to stretch my muscles after my daily vigorous exercise. My sister had met someone who had raved about T25. This was a daily 25 minute high intensity exercise routine with Shaun T of Insanity fame. I obviously wanted to get it immediately but the price had put me off a bit (quite a lot actually!). I justified its purchase in Dry January with all the money I would apparently save from not buying £7 bottles of prosecco 4 times a week –

7×4 = £28 x 4 = £112

T25 = £115 – It is far cheaper than this now!

I have never been so exhausted in my life! In 25 minutes you expend more energy than I think I have ever done at the gym. It is also targeted, so it hit areas that you might miss completely otherwise. I tried to stick to his routine which is quite intensive and was physically exhausted at the end of every day. I made sure, with the help of My Love, that I squeezed that 25 minutes in whenever there was a small lull in the day. By week 3 the work outs became easier and the exhaustion eased to leave such a feeling of energy and positivity. I recommend this to anyone who has ever experienced a post exercise high, it will change your exercising life!  I will do a full review of it in a later post.

When I started drinking after Dry January I gave up the yoga and the exercise, feeling defeated and sinking back into my ‘safe’ routine. But I started to miss the buzz of T25 and the peace of yoga, so slowly over the following months I reintroduced it.  

In the middle of all of this I had somehow stopped drinking. After 22 years of drinking and a conscious 12 year struggle, my first day of my new life was 29th April 2018. I was so immersed in this new life and new way of thinking that drinking stopped being my focus. I did not experience the struggles that I had had on previous attempts to stop drinking. I did not feel the craving and the longings. I was so immersed in everything else I was focused on that it just went away. I have not touched a drink since and I love being sober. My next post will tell you all the things I have learnt about How to stop drinking.

Why I quit drinking – the alcohol part of it all

I started drinking at 14 years old. Something that boarding school does to a lot of people I believe! It was just what you did, vodka behind the squash courts while we lit up those Marlborough lights. At university, I drank to cover my raging social anxiety and because I felt bubbly and fun and stopped worrying about whether people liked me or not. Inevitably I had very few friends at university and gained my self-worth through a stream of dodgy relationships. When I no longer had friends to go out with, I drank at home, drank after work, drank until it was a reasonable time to go to bed so that I could forget about the day and see if tomorrow was any different. It wasn’t. At this point I couldn’t see that alcohol as the problem.

In my first job Friday night drinking was de rigueur. Drinking was now an acceptable part of the week. Everything led to Friday, it was all about Friday. Finish work, head out with all the other smart officey people, down the first 250mls of Pinot Grigio with my Marlborough lights. Stumble home at about midnight and spend the whole of Saturday feeling dreadful, Sunday feeling miserable and then starting again Monday morning. Everyone else was doing it so it must be ok. I realised later that they were on the same merry go round – and also far worse than I was. I came to see at this stage that alcohol and I were not a good combination, not that that stopped me drinking at every possible occasion.

Even after moving to Edinburgh I didn’t stop. My new work friends also liked the Friday night drinking circuit and for a while I joined in to the full! In my worse moments I looked at AA but didn’t go in case the people didn’t like me. I was also unwilling to give up my friend. I mean, the first glass of wine made me feel better didn’t it? Lighter, less worried, more full of potential. This didn’t mean I didn’t know there was a problem. One night I opened up, drunkenly, to my sister who said ‘don’t be silly you’re fine’.  ‘Don’t be silly your fine’, ‘you’re not an alcoholic’, ‘you’re just drunk and overacting’, ‘you’ve not got a problem’, ‘you’re just coping’ were the phrases that would follow my constantly in the next 12 years as I tried to defeat this alcohol demon. My first husband, my GP, my family – I did not drink enough to have a problem.  

I knew I did though and I couldn’t understand why everyone was fighting me, almost willing me to keep drinking. I tried to stop, over and over again. Sometimes it even lasted a few months. But eventually I started again – something too stressful, some party that I ‘needed’ to go to and couldn’t do without a glass in hand. By this stage I was counting units so my weekly intake had decreased from the 50, give or take, units a week. Now I was at a mere 27 – 36 units a week (a few more than that 14 though eh?!). A lovely hypnotherapist I went to see to help me with anxiety and drinking almost turned me away when I said I drank 3 – 4 bottles of wine a week rather than a night.  In this world of fixatedly counting alcohol units – forget calorie counting, I knew the unit value for everything – I got pregnant. Every day of pregnancy was a painful battle not to have a drink. Even googling to see if drinking really would damage the baby, or how much I could have to not cause foetal alcohol syndrome. I got through 3 pregnancies without a drink and hated every single painful dragging minute of them all. No wonder I didn’t want to stop drinking if that is what every day would feel like.

After babies, I was supposed to be in mummy heaven right? To an extent I was. I adored The Bot, he was cute and funny and giggly. But I was insanely anxious and left alone with a small defenceless baby all day. It didn’t help that he got sepsis at 2 weeks old and was in hospital for 3 weeks. I started worrying constantly that he would die or I would die, it all eventually focused around carbon monoxide, the silent killer that would get us as we slept. Looking back now I think it was a form of post natal depression, but I didn’t see that. I dealt with the problem by drinking it away. Drinking it away became very easy. Every time something seemed too much, it was OK because I knew that in the evening I could have some wine and it would all go away, I was self-soothing with alcohol. I never drank during the day after I had children, only at wine o’clock (about 5pm in my household) and then I stopped by 8pm.

Moving to Egypt, where alcohol is not such a social thing, I thought it might break the cycle. But the expat circuit is all about the booze! The alcohol in Egypt it so bad that you actually develop a hangover while drinking it, but I didn’t let that small fact get in the way. Nor the fact that you had order it in advance from a special shop because you couldn’t buy it locally. You can be sure I always knew when we were running low and if I didn’t have a corkscrew, I knew how to get into the bottle with a biro casing! My loneliness and social anxiety were all soothed away by very bad booze.

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I was so confused and so desperate to be OK and be happy. Life seemed to be getting harder and harder to manage. My husband and I were very unhappy. He had never been a drinker but he’d started. We knew we’d had fun while drinking in the past so the answer was clearly to start drinking at home. We could recreate those happy time. But while it didn’t seem to affect him too badly, I was becoming consumed with guilt and shame. Every drink I had was counted and measured and I knew obsessively how many units of what to drink and when to stop each evening. My head was full and going round and round in circles of thinking about drinking. I was anxious, crying and exhausted. Even though I started to feel better after reading You can heal your life by Louise Hays, it was not enough to finally stop drinking. I knew I want to be happy, but I honestly didn’t believe I could be happy without it. How would I celebrate? How would I commiserate? How would I manage the ups and downs? How would I cope with all my feelings? But I also worried that my children might think drinking every day was normal. I worried that The Bear might think that it was OK to drink every day when you have diabetes. I was worried that I wasn’t ever fully present with them in the crucial after school up to bed time. The guilt was huge. Every day around lunch time the battle in my head started. Should I drink tonight/shouldn’t I drink tonight. This thought pattern consumed my head until 5pm when I inevitably gave in to manage the stress and guilt I had inflicted on myself. By 8pm? The guilt was back. Nothing was better.

I was in this cycle for years but I couldn’t seem to stop. When I remarried, my husband rarely drank. I couldn’t understand how he got through every day without it. He seemed to be OK at parties with nothing! He celebrated quietly or had a cup of tea – how was that exciting? How boring I thought. But he was the first person who said to me that it didn’t matter what anyone else said. If I thought my drinking was a problem then it was a problem. He supported every one of my attempts to stop and he never judged me when I started again – although I was judging myself like crazy! It took a while. I kept going and eventually in January 2018 things finally changed. Read my next post How I quit drinking to find out more