I never intended to still be alcohol free 20 months in. My initial aim was to not drink alcohol for 21 days, as part of giving something up for a church initiative. Stopping drinking for a certain period, was something I’d tried a few times in the past and it had always played out in the same way, so I wasn’t fully convinced that 21 days would be possible.
I had tried to ditch the booze for Dry Januarys and Lents in the past but inevitably would only do it for a week or so. The pattern was this, I’d start on a Monday then Thursday would come and I’d say to myself, “I’ve done so well, I’m sure it’s ok for me to drink on the weekend…”, so I would change the goal to I’ll not drink during the week but can have a couple on weekends, which would inevitably end up being Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday (who doesn’t like a glass of red wine with a Sunday roast dinner!), so technically one week day and a weekend! Then Monday would come and the whole plan to not drink for January or Lent would have come to an end, as I wouldn’t see the point, I’d already failed.
So, what was different this time? It had got to the point where I think I knew deep down that alcohol was no longer serving me. I was also aware of a nudge saying there was more to life and I should ditch the booze. This was coming up more often, so I was becoming more aware of it.
I used to love heavy red wine, as I lived in Spain for a year at 20 / 21 years old and then seemed to keep the habit when I started work and then into my 30s, when I became a Mum. However, a couple of years before I stopped drinking, I found heavy red wine, like Rioja and Malbec, was no longer enjoyable and it gave me a headache most times after just one glass. So, I switched to Pinot Noir thinking that was lighter, so would be better! Then when that didn’t agree with me, I started drinking white wine, which I had never really liked before, it had always been red wine, gin and champagne on occasions.
However, white wine soon became unenjoyable and it was just gin & tonics and champagne left. I didn’t mind these but there was this foggy head in the mornings that was becoming more of an occurrence. In my head though, I kept thinking I needed a G&T to relax, be sociable, as that was perfectly normal…I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, I was highly functioning, working in a pressured job in the city, a wife and mother and was able to hold my drink, most of the time.
I had started to realise though that I needed to drink more than before to get the same buzz I used to have and it was getting to the point it just felt like something I was doing out of habit and because everyone did it. I’d been drinking for 25 years, so how could I possibly go to a social event, a client dinner, on holiday etc. without drinking?!
My last day of drinking alcohol was the 8th of November 2020, which was a Sunday. I knew I was going to stop for 21 days, so I thought I’d have a glass of fizz as a last hurrah! But not even halfway through that one glass, my stomach started churning and I absolutely knew I was doing the right thing. I also had the phrase, “the truth will set you free” keep coming to me, so I thought it was time to re-evaluate and if I could stop for 21 days that would be amazing and I’d be able to moderate. Little did I know this would be the start of a new adventure.
I found the first couple of weeks quite tiring, I was only drinking water, coffee and tea and going to bed early. Some nights I was in bed at 7.30pm just to avoid thinking I need a drink. There was no doubt my body was recalibrating, as I was sleeping lots.
Then I discovered a whole new community. I can’t really remember how I came across it but realised there were people who hadn’t hit rock bottom, were “normal drinkers” and had decided to become alcohol free as a choice. I could believe this, why would you not drink out of choice?! However, I listened to a couple of Ted Talks, one by Jolene Park on Grey Area Drinking and another by Janey Lee Grace on how Sobriety Rocks! That sparked my curiosity and I wanted to learn more. I found out there were also several celebrities who were not / no longer drinkers.
My curiosity led me to the “Alcohol Free Life” podcast, which I ended up devouring episodes of each evening and found an online community, which inspired me to keep going. There were people in the community who were 6 months, 1 year and 2 years+ alcohol free and they were raving about all the benefits and how good it was. I couldn’t imagine it but I was beginning to feel different not drinking. I also found a couple of alcohol free alternatives to fizz and gin, which tasted good and this changed the game for me.
I completed an online course on ditching the booze and the most important question was “why did you want to be alcohol free?”. Then consider what you liked about alcohol vs what you didn’t. As I listened to more podcast episodes, I realised most of my beliefs around alcohol and what I thought were positives, simply weren’t true. I then discovered Quit Lit (books about ditching the booze) and the first one I read, “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray, completely shifted my mindset.
So, I thought I’d keep going on this journey and see what happened. Along the way, I realised I was more aware, I felt I had a lot more clarity and I was more present. I started to see some situations for what they really were and made changes. I became more confident in my own skin and I am convinced becoming alcohol free has made me braver. I also found I seemed to have more time or at least I didn’t waste time, so was reading more, learning more, doing more, not just sitting in front of the TV with a glass of wine or a G&T at the end of the day. I became more patient, felt myself becoming more curious and creative and just felt an overall shift.
I got through my first alcohol free Christmas, other than when I was pregnant, by “keeping the ritual, changing the ingredients” as Janey Lee Grace says and having a plan. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Normally, Christmas Eve involved wrapping present with wine late into the night and feeling slightly heady on Christmas Morning. However, this time, it was lovely to wake up feeling great and excited about the day.
I even created a vision board at the end of 2020, which I had never done and this set me up and gave me focus for 2021. I discovered self-care, which I used to think was a spa day with fizz(!) and was just looking after myself more from a wellbeing perspective. There are so many benefits that I’ve seen as I went from 21 days to 30 days, to 60 days, to 90 days, to 6 months, then a year and now over 20 months and I can genuinely say I’m a different person and so grateful for the changes and the opportunities becoming alcohol-free has brought. I’m looking forward to hitting my two year milestone, as I’m told it keeps getting better and better!
There is so much more I could write about but will save that for my next blogs. If you have been thinking about how your drinking is making you feel or questioning whether alcohol is still serving you, I would encourage you to ditch the booze for a defined period (60 or 100 days maybe), make it a non-negotiable and see how you feel. There are so many resources out there, a wonderful alcohol free community and people who will cheer you on along the way.
If any of this resonates and you’d like support, feel free to reach out for a chat.