On New Year’s Eve 2018 I drank my very last glass of prosecco. Last glass, EVER. Of anything even remotely alcoholic.
This was a momentous event which I had mentally been building up to for a few months beforehand, prior to that I had been dreaming about it for even longer! I can’t tell you the precise moment I took my last sip, or even when I put the glass down knowing it to be my last. I had to step away from the beloved bubbles earlier than I expected that night as, for the second time in recent weeks, my heart was hammering with such force that I genuinely felt it may burst free from my chest! Probably in a desperate attempt to escape my alcoholically pickled insides. It wasn’t quite the booze fuelled swan song I hoped for. However, if I wanted some kind of sign that enough was enough, my heart was spelling it out loud and clear.
I have learnt so much about myself over the last few months. What I thought I liked in life versus what I actually like has become clear. I now understand what it is to have a subconscious that is quiet and peaceful, well most of the time, rather than blasting a constant dialogue of desire. The copious amount of sobriety literature I have ravenously consumed like a box of chocolates have taught me that this eternal voice was what many refer to as my ‘Wine Witch’. Thankfully she is now silent, leaving just the Hormonal Hussy to contend with from time-to-time.
I want to open up about my journey because I know I am not alone. I know there are many more women out there, also in their forties, fighting the same battle I fought for far too many years. Lying awake night after night in terror that your drinking habits are going to wind up giving you so much more than a hangover, breast cancer for starters (did you know that just 1.5 glasses of wine a week raises your risk of breast cancer by a whopping 75%?!) Knowing that you need to get your raging alcohol beast under control and swearing that every new day will be the start of a more disciplined and moderate drinking you. But by early evening you’ve already convinced yourself that you’ve ‘earned’ that glass of wine. Just the one, of course …
And then there are the phases where you justify your weekend drinking by staying dry Monday to Thursday. Oh, we feel positively virginal when we can control that level of moderation. But pretty soon there’s always an excuse to slip into our old ways; the most silly event renders us experiencing a ‘bad day’ which can only be soothed by a glass of the old white stuff.
Aside of my fear that my drinking habits were writing my own death certificate, I had actually turned into a person I didn’t like. I don’t like being controlled by anything, most of us don’t, yet I was allowing my addiction to wine to control almost every element of my life, to the point where I felt imprisoned by my own existence. When you’re drinking on a regular basis, be that bingeing at the weekends or partaking in a single glass of wine which seems to magically and perpetually refill every night of the week, it plays havoc with both your mental and physical self. You become bloated, tired and jaded physically. Depression, paranoia and unbalanced moods affect your mental health. Relationships suffer and you start to manage your diary around fitting in as many opportunities to drink as possible.
As a society we’ve made this last point incredibly easy for ourselves as every single social outing now seems to be hinged on alcohol; a last minute BBQ with friends, a day at the races, an early flight for a week in the sun, a lunchtime catch up with a colleague, a girlie shopping trip on a Saturday, the commute home on a Friday night, Sunday roast with the family. Every single one of those events, and many more, are now propped up by alcohol.
During our twenties our bodies can sustain that level of alcoholic punishment on a regular basis. Our lithe and fit bodies appear to bounce back almost overnight, ready to take on the next booze-propelled event. Even into our thirties, when for many of us kids have joined the equation, we still manage to pack a few heavy drinking sessions under our belt. But by our forties it’s all starting to catch up with us. As our livers work a night shift battling to detox the poison we have thrown at them, we lie awake questioning why we have suddenly developed insomnia. Our waistbands start to feel a little snug when we can no longer metabolise all those additional calories. Our skin becomes sallow from constant dehydration. The list goes on and on. And the addiction takes hold.
I am now 85 days alcohol free. I feel like a new person. The list of benefits sobriety has brought into my life is endless. There are never enough hours in the day to do the things I now want to achieve. One of those things is to share with others the life of sobriety I now embrace in the hope that it may help others.