For as long as I can remember, alcohol has been part of my life.
My parents have always enjoyed a drink and as children it was normal for us to go to the pub on Saturday afternoon and have coke in a glass bottle with a straw.
My first experience of being drunk was at 10 or 11 at a neighbours’ new years eve party sitting in a bedroom passing round a bottle of ‘punch’
I vividly remember my first hang over in my late teens, unable to get out of bed
And drinking and partying were normal through late teens and university: We went out, we drunk and we were horribly hungover the next day.
I would never exchange the fun we had, but equally it never occurred to me that not drinking was an option.
In my early 20s I went to live in the south of Italy, where excessive drinking was frowned upon and I knew any misdemeanours would be reported back to my boss immediately!
Being drunk or English drunk probably didn’t feature heavily after we had our eldest child at 29.
But a different kind of drinking crept it- Friday night wine, social drinking- weekend drinking that extended from Thursday through to that last glass of wine on Saturday night. I dabbled with giving up- during pregnancy, lent or dry January but this was always with an end in sight: when could I drink again?
So what stopped me from ditching it earlier?
I made excuses, including the following:
“I’d like to give up or cut down but I don’t think I can.”
Just as with every other choice: our relationships, work, how we spend our time: we get to choose
“I don’t have the will power.”
Self discipline is a muscle and it increases daily.
“My friends/ family/ other people will be disappointed I’m not drinking with them or think I’m boring”
I am enough. I don’t have to drink to please other people.
So what changed this time?
This time last year, after the loveliest holiday in Sicily, I ditched the booze for 3 weeks, ahead of the Great North Run. This is pretty standard- before a big race I’m focused on diet and wellbeing just so I’m not cursing myself when it gets tough.
Giving up also co-incided with a flurry of 40th birthdays, which would usually have included some serious drinking. So I drove, dodged the questions around the possibility of a fourth child! I clumsily pretended to sip welcome drinks before passing them to my husband who was only too happy to help.
The more I had the “Why aren’t you drinking conversation?” the easier it got.
And as time went by I became aware that people around me didn’t drink. At all.
And actually these people were lovely, sociable and often inspiring people who chose not to drink.
The truth is alcohol was becoming a pain:
Life is moving so fast and it slows me down- I fit a lot in and the weekend time is precious. One time too many I’d head out on Saturday or Sunday morning and sweat it out, or argue with my husband about whose turn it was to get up with the kids; or get up with the kids but secretly count down the time until I could curl up on the sofa and have a nap. But this isn’t who I want to be or how I want to spend my time.
My kids are watching literally everything I do. So if they see me needing a glass of wine to relax, they learn to do the same.
Life without alcohol is more than ok.
The truth is habit change takes time.
For a REALLY long time my husband waved a glass of wine under my nose, trying to convince me to drink.
For a really long time I’d stare at a bottle of wine on a Friday night and want a glass of wine. And I had to teach myself another way to relax.
So now I’ll-
Put on some music and dance- my daughter is always up for a kitchen disco!
Run a bath of Himalayan salts and listen to a podcast or music
Go out for a walk
OR what I really want is a nice cold drink- but now the ice and slice are usually enough, or tonic, or alcohol free fizz or a pink drink. Sometimes it’s just about having a drink in my hand
- No more faffing with taxis or uber (pre-Covid!)
- No more pressure to have another drink
- No more worrying about the following day/ what’s happening/ how I’m going to feel
- My skin is clearer and I have more energy. I’m less likely to snack on crisps or chocolate in the same way I might if I was having a drink.
- A fairly significant saving on what I would have otherwise spend on alcohol.
Are you tee-total?
This still makes me wince. Because this word is still a taboo. Not drinking is still considered boring or counter-cultural.
Does it make everyone else seem really boring?
Well no. I bloody love my friends and I love seeing them relax and have fun- with our without alcohol- I don’t care
Will you go back?
I don’t know. At the beginning of lockdown the naughty little voice in my head whispered- well you could just drink through this. But I’m glad I didn’t because it was tough as it was I knew if I started it would become a crutch, rather than me taking responsibility for how I was really feeling.
Going forward, I may go back to having the odd drink at a party or special occasion.
But to have broken a habit of 20+ years feels good.
We have a choice about what we do and how we feel.
If you are ready to start a new positive habit, why not join our FREE 5 day habit change challenge starting Monday 21st September, focused on how we form and change habits and offering you support and accountability to make a change. Join us here.