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How I gave up alcohol... by accident

I will begin this post with a confession that I find quite difficult to admit (especially as a holistic therapist) … This is the longest I have ever allowed my body to be without alcohol since 1995, when I started regularly drinking at just 15 years old.

I say that now as a parent of a 15-year-old, and I realise just how young I was, but it was the norm in the 90’s. That “laddish culture” of drinking pints with your mates, going out all weekend, knocking back Dry Martini’s until 5 in the morning and waking up after just a few hours’ sleep feeling like a new person, they were the heady days of my youth.

I worked for Richard Branson in Gran Canaria as a holiday rep when I was 19, and we would drink in the clubs until the early hours, go home, sleep a bit and be up, dressed and immaculate by 10 am! Incredible!

Even as I grew older, and became a mother, alcohol was still very much the norm in my life. I became a part of the “mum blogger” scene, and again alcohol was promoted as a reward for getting through another day of parenting. There was a lot of, “is it wine o clock yet?” and “pass the gin,” promoted towards us and by us, and we accepted it.

Alcohol has been so deeply engrained in our culture, that I never really saw it as an issue for me. I didn’t particularly feel that I was drinking much, but by the time I reached my late 30’s I was drinking pretty much every day as a “reward.”

I was, by this time, a mother of three young children and my days were crazily busy, alcohol was the marker where one day ended and the next one began. It was my present to myself for waking up early, packing lunches, cooking meals, cleaning toilets (not at the same time!) doing the laundry and generally keeping everything ticking over. I didn’t drink a lot, maybe 1-2 small glasses of wine a night, but that soon adds up, and so do the side effects. My anxiety at this point was constant, but I was not really aware of this.

I don’t think I was addicted to alcohol; I think I had formed a habit. It was just part of a daily routine, put the kids to bed, open the wine… every day. I could do Dry January without any trouble, but it never seemed to make me feel any different. I now know that I needed to give up for longer to feel a difference, because the other positive effects that not drinking was having on my body were too subtle for me to notice in 4 weeks, and on the first of February I would open the wine and carry on drinking.

February 1st 2020

So as a person who never felt she had a problem with alcohol, even though I now recognise several problems it was creating in my life, you can imagine my surprise when on the 10th August 2021, I suddenly gave up drinking.

I had no intention of giving up drinking on my wedding anniversary, on holiday, and I had no idea that the glass of prosecco in my hand, that I could feel burning my throat and my stomach as I carried on regardless, would be my last one. All I knew was that I wasn’t enjoying drinking anymore and it was starting to feel like another “chore” to fit into an already busy day.

My health was suffering, and I was beginning to feel quite ill generally. I had developed colitis, I was constantly anxious, tired and on edge, and as I sipped that last alcoholic drink, I suddenly thought, “why am I doing this?” I poured the rest away down the sink and put myself to bed.

The following evening, I replaced my usual drink with squash, because I was trying to get myself better so we could enjoy our holiday. I did this every day for the rest of the week, and each day I felt a little bit better.

I never believed that the alcohol I was consuming was affecting me much. I had two small glasses of wine each evening and that was it. I never went out binge drinking, I never got drunk, I just ticked along with two glasses of wine… every single day.

But that two glasses of wine every single day added up to:

21 units of alcohol most weeks

150 bottle of wine a year

Which added up to the best part of £1000 a year on wine.

If someone said to me, “I want you to spend £1000 on yourself this year,” I would never do it, but here I was more than happy to.

As the days, weeks and months passed by, I still didn’t think that I had given up alcohol, it was just a temporary thing I was doing. Even now, I won’t say that “I’ll never drink again,” because that might make me want a drink. I just know that today I don’t want a drink and my body is grateful for the rest.

My second big confession of this post, is that I actually wrote it over a year ago, and I have been too scared to share it with you! But I am feeling much more confident now in my ability to be able to offer an opinion on this subject and I hope you are finding it helpful.

I am now 124 weeks alcohol free, and I can tell you that I am definitely finding life easier.

My anxiety has improved significantly. When I was drinking every day, I always had an underlying feeling of anxiety around me, it was subtle, but definitely there. It took three months for it to leave my body completely.

Colitis is much less of an issue, and actually almost gone. I no longer feel like my entire digestive system is on fire, so that’s a bonus!

I sleep better, not perfectly (I have kids), but better.

I feel more positive and productive, and also more able to experience emotions without trying to suppress them in some way. They are what they are, and they tell me things about my life, which is quite helpful really.

I don’t miss drinking one bit. I feel like that’s a bit of a smug thing to write, but it’s the truth. Not once in 124 weeks, have I thought, “I’d really like a drink now.”

I have saved a whopping £2600 so far by not consuming alcohol.

This is not a blog post on how to give up alcohol, I can’t really tell you how exactly I did it after 27 years of drinking, I just wanted to record somewhere that it is possible, and you will know if it’s the right time for you to do the same.

The advice I would give to you, whether you are embarking on dry January, or a longer-term plan is to follow the principles of reiki, where we say, “Just for today…” that helps it all to feel much more achievable and less daunting.

So, if you feel ready to leave alcohol behind in 2024, try the mantra “Just for today I will choose to drink water.” Feel free to add your own choice of non-alcoholic drink here! I like pressed fruit juices and sparkling water, but you can go wild!

Try to avoid replacing alcohol with soft drinks like cola because these can have other detrimental effects on health and hormones… but that’s a blog for another day!

Whatever you choose to drink, I wish you a very happy and healthy new year. I am having a celebratory cup of tea for finally sharing this post!

Sarah. XX

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