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.
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.
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.
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.