On Boxing Day 2018 I decided I’d had enough. Enough of drinking and drinking and drinking and drinking. I had loved it. Since around 2001 I had been drinking pretty much every night… wine, lager, cider. My favourite was wine. A nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc: Mud House or Villa Maria were my absolute faves. I was also partial to a bottle of Aspall… or 3.
Obviously I hadn’t drunk every night. There were the two pregnancies when I didn’t drink. And there were the attempts at moderation (not in the week, 3 straight days off the booze a week, maybe 2 will do?) But mostly, more often than not, I would drink in the evenings. And when I didn’t, I missed it. It was like a denial, not allowing myself to have something I wanted. I was grumpy, like a toddler. I would stare at my pint of squash with hatred and think “oh my god! How to people actually not drink and be OK with it? This is miserable. This is so boring!”
But my drinking had become a problem. It bothered me how much I drank. My ongoing attempt and failure to moderate made me feel crappy. I regularly felt like shit in the mornings. Not thumping head or anything (unless it had been a big night) but usually sluggish and lethargic. It was like being on a treadmill with the dull background noise of “meh”, every day. But then every day, at around 5pm, I’d start to get excited about a drink. Of course it wasn’t over-the-top excitement. It was like a little rub your hands together or a little tilt down of the head with a conspiratorial smile, with scrunched up eyes and a little wobble of the head – like a secret little treat was due. My husband would text me “WOFS?” which was abbreviation for “Want owt from the shop?” – our little excited drinking code. Of course all memory of the heaviness of the morning faded by then. Any thoughts or feelings of shame evaporated. By that time of the day, the focus was all about the evening – sofa, drink, telly. Lush. Heaven.
But then the next morning it was the same all over again….. eurgh why can’t I not drink every night. Shit I’ve got a meeting at 8am and I feel like I’m running on fumes. Then I started to notice the anxiety. Which I would mainly describe, in me, as becoming disproportionately worried about stuff. And then obsessing about it, and panicking, and then rationalising and convincing myself it was all OK, following by forgetting it’s all OK and allowing my mind to escalate into ridiculousness again before mentally dragging myself back down to earth. It was exhausting. Plus a million other things.
So on Boxing Day 2019, something in me broke, or clicked, or whatever. Something shifted. And then that was it. I’d had enough. I realised that I couldn’t go on as it was. It was exhausting. It was embarrassing. Shameful. Pathetic. Out of control. I pride myself on being a somewhat sensible, confident person, and yet this was how I was choosing to live my life. To raise my children. To spend my money and my time. Not good choices Emma. Not choices I would be proud of if I really thought about it. What the hell was I doing?! So on Boxing Day I wrote a list and I downloaded a book onto my Kindle. Probably the best book I’ve ever read as it was what kick-started me on this road to better choices, a better life. One I can be proud of.
The book was The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, by Catherine Gray. It was as if the universe had sent me exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. I loved her writing, I connected with her story, and it gave be the hope and the strength I needed to significantly change and improve my life.
The list I wrote was of ‘reasons why’ I wanted to stop drinking, and this was it:
- To stop the on going mental battle of trying to drink less and failing.
- To never be drunk. It’s disgusting.
- To stop feeling miserable when I can’t or shouldn’t drink.
- Because I’m never happy with only 1 or 2 drinks. We struggle and fail to drink in moderation. Always.
- To start going to bed alert every night and not shit-faced.
- To have good evening sex.
- To remove hangovers and feeling rough in the mornings
- To stop making bad choices when drunk
- To stop the shame I feel about how much I drink
- To enjoy spending time with my extended family more, rather than being embarrassed about how much we drink.
- To stop always having to work booze in to my schedule and plans and days, which limits what we can do.
- To be able to book a table for 8pm and not worry that I will have drank too much by then to want to eat.
- To stop the anxiety I often feel after a heavy night socialising with drink, and cringing at my behaviour the next day.
- To stop getting pissed and over-sharing.
- To always remember what i did the night before.
- To have more money.
- To lose weight and have better skin.
- To be healthier and live a long healthy life for my girls, full of great experiences. Travelling for me, and being there for them for as long as possible, helping them through their lives with their children.
- To set a good example for my husband and to help him to drink less, and live a long healthy life with me. And to set a good example for the girls.
- To have more energy to exercise and keep the house tidy clean and well looked after.
- To have the energy and motivation to do ‘extras’ around the house.
- To have more time (when I would be drinking or sleeping off a hangover) for:
– playing with the girls
– escape room
– night time walks
- To be a better parent in the mornings and engaging with the kids rather than letting them watch YouTube all the time
- To have better quality sleep
- To read more
- Hoping to have better focus, memory and concentration, and be less scatty
Now, I’ve deleted out a couple of the less British or unattractive entries. Trying not to overshare….!
This is a list that I’ve since revisited. I’ve added more detail and little notes too (in my phone); successes, or things that I’m proud of over the last year. But the list as given above was written in the notes section of my phone on Boxing Day night, while I lay in bed, determined that I was going to do this. I remember writing it, and feeling so strongly about those words, so quite emotional about how much I meant them, and I so wanted to be that person. That day was the beginning of the year ahead for me. Crikey hasn’t it been quite a year….
I’ve certainly eaten a lot more cake than I used to.!