“You are SO funny!”, ‘”I didn’t know you could be so outgoing!” and (my favourite) “You always seemed really boring and quiet before” were just a few of the compliments that I received, as a 17 year old, after falling down drunk and ripping my vomit covered skirt at my older brother’s wedding. Finally! I had a magical elixir which could make quiet old me interesting and entertaining.
Fast forward 25 years and alcohol had become my constant companion. A quick mini bottle of wine gave me the courage to turn up to family events. A whole bottle – or two – of wine kept me company every evening. I effortlessly self-medicated away my anxiety and depression. My days were planned around cooking the dinner and cracking open the bottle of red. The fact that I was trapped in the house from about 5pm onwards seemed like a fair trade. Racing heartbeat and alcohol induced insomnia? It was worth it, surely! I loved drinking…
Except, I didn’t. Every year I’d begun to feel that my drinking wasn’t right. I knew I was exhausted. I knew the amount I was drinking would lead to an early grave. I didn’t like being that mum who spent the evening in a haze, but I couldn’t stop. Every time I decided to ‘moderate’, the longest I could last was an evening or so. I was never drunk, never abusive, I got up every day and went to work and cared for my family – I just felt shockingly tired, upset and bad about myself whilst doing it. I took the anti-depressants, saw a therapist, and still kept undoing any good work with my drinking.
So what happened? Well, nothing dramatic. I didn’t wake up on a park bench. I didn’t have a terrible fight. I just got REALLY FED UP. I didn’t want to drink any more. And so I stopped. I set myself a target of 100 days alcohol free and – with a lot of difficulty – I got through it. As the 100 days went on, a whole new world opened up. I slept properly! I didn’t know what that was like! I enjoyed social events without a drink – even getting up and dancing. I had more energy. I had more confidence. And I began to like and value and respect myself. The deep whole of self dislike just seemed to disappear.
Stopping drinking was really hard at first and I’d expected that. What I hadn’t expected was for it to be so much fun. When you’ve spent your entire adult life as a heavy drinker, you can’t imagine sobriety being the amazing experience it is.
After the 100 days I kept on. I didn’t miss booze. These days, I have a drink now and again on special occasions – if I want to. I CHOOSE if and when to drink and that’s something I had no control over before. My way isn’t for everyone. For some people staying completely sober is the right (and sometimes only) choice.
Life is simply better now. I can’t put it much simpler than that. I didn’t know how good it could be. After a lifetime of being broken, I became whole again.