Should I Stop Drinking?

Realising enough is enough.

I didn’t plan to stop drinking alcohol for good. I would have refused even to contemplate the idea.

Stop drinking? Forever? That’s ridiculous!

So I flirted with the idea of giving up… I entered into a short-term relationship with the notion, fully intending for it to be a fling. A novelty for the month of September.

But September felt good and ‘Sober October’ sounded appealing — there must be something about the rhyme — so I continued with my short-term romance for another month.

November arrived and I just didn’t want to let it go. I was starting to notice how wonderful I felt and I couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t about to let a drink get in the way of this feeling.

I wanted to answer a few questions that I’ve been asked around my decision to ditch the drink.

Do you have to reach ‘rock bottom’ to quit?

The short answer: No.

The slightly longer answer: Define ‘rock bottom’. If it’s the point at which you can’t get any lower and you’ve almost entirely destroyed your life, then no – I was far from it. I was a high-achieving, fully functioning, most would say ‘thriving’ at the peak of her career, holding down a high-pressured job, a relationship and all the wellbeing hobbies I would cram into my sleep-deprived schedule. I was a poster girl for success on the outside and an anxious mess on the inside.

So, my comment on rock bottom is that it’s a little more grey than we may first think. My idea of ‘rock bottom’ could be somebody else’s idea of an average Friday night out. Arguably, each time I blacked out I felt a sense of rock bottom. A miserable weight of self-disgust and shame. A weight that I couldn’t shake off as soon as the hangover disappeared.

But I didn’t need a blackout on the last day of August in 2021 to spark my sobriety on the first day of September.

I already carried the heaviness of my previous blackouts. It was a fog. A thick cloud that I couldn’t blow away, no matter how much yoga or meditation I did, no matter how far I ran into the countryside.

It was always there. As long as the next bottle of wine was waiting in the fridge.

Did you have a problem with alcohol?

Not by society’s standards.

I didn’t drink every day. I didn’t drink in the morning. Or early afternoon. Most weeks I would have a few alcohol-free weekdays. On the days I did drink, I would sometimes just have a couple of glasses.

However, there have been too many times in my life where I’ve relied on a drink… the countdown to the 5 pm relief, a celebration, commiseration. My relief, my escape, my reward, my sticking-plaster, could always be found in a wine glass.

What I called ‘moderation’ was my norm — the facade society labels as ‘moderation’ to sugar-coat the dysfunction.

Getting drunk was a relatively rare punctuation to my moderation. Like a kid trying to use a semi-colon, it occasionally happened and wasn’t pretty. And when it did happen, I blacked out.

Since having my daughter, there’s one occasion I can’t remember. I was okay because I was looked after. I was lucky. My husband put me to bed and I was safe.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that when I do get drunk, I’m not always safe. I’m totally vulnerable. I have no control over what is happening to me and that’s a scary place to be.

I also didn’t like the fact that alcohol had become such an intrinsic part of my life. I was curious about what life could be like without it.

I had also read a book about the science of sleep (Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) and he said that there really is no amount of alcohol that is ok if you want to get a genuinely restorative night’s sleep. This resonated and I really wanted to see what a good night’s sleep felt like!

So, why did one month become forever?

I realised a few things:

  • Sipping a few glasses of crisp sauvignon blanc translates to consuming ethanol — soaking my body in a toxic chemical from the inside out. There’s nothing appealing about that. Nothing to gain.
  • Alcohol has hurt me on several occasions. I hated the feeling of my vulnerable little inner child being abandoned when my body was drenched in wine.
  • I didn’t like the messages I was sending my daughter through my relationship with drinking. She’s 6 years old and it’s my job to end this generational habit.
  • My physical health. Even in moderation, alcohol increases cancer risk. Watching my mum battle cancer, deal with endless medication, knowing her life will end too soon, is heartbreaking.
  • Do I need any more reasons? I could go on.

How is sobriety working out for you?

When I wrote this article, I was 300 days sober on my 43rd birthday. You could call it a coincidence that such a milestone fell on my birthday. I call it divine timing.

My first sober holiday abroad was on the horizon – a thought that would be fuelled by trepidation in my drinking years.

Now, going on holidays sober is surrounded by nothing but excitement. Celebrations are the most magical experiences without the booze and on the days when I’m feeling low, sad, or frustrated, I know I have a whole toolbox of ways to approach the feelings and experiences I’m having, so I no longer need to ‘take the edge off’.

I’ll be 3 years sober in September this year (2024) and I’m grateful for every day.

I honestly feel a childlike glee at the prospect of feeling awake and clear-headed on a daily basis, early mornings of productivity, evenings of deep sleep… and most importantly, being entirely present for my life, my work, my relationships and the tiny human I’m blessed to call my daughter. She deserves that. I deserve that.

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