I can vividly remember the morning of my last hangover, standing in the kitchen with my throbbing head, messy hair, dry mouth, miserable face and deep overwhelming guilt. I can remember crouching down and reaching into the back of the cupboard to retrieve the empty bottle of wine I’d hidden from my husband the night before. I felt like complete and utter rubbish. My self-esteem was gone. My sense of wellbeing was eroded. I was utterly miserable. This was my personal rock bottom.
And I made a decision. Enough was enough. This had to stop.
I had tried for years to control and moderate my drinking. I’d done deals with myself, had dry patches, set limits. None of it had worked. The minute the wine hit my throat I was a goner. Time and again I let myself down. It was time to face up to reality. I couldn’t control alcohol and no-one else could help me. It was my hand twisting the cap, my arm lifting the glass, my brain responding to the drug. It was my problem and only I could fix it.
That last miserable morning when I made my big decision I clung to the belief that if it was just me that needed to fix me then surely I could do it. Other people get sober – why not me? Other people learn to live without alcohol, surely I could too.
And so I did.
It has now been over eight years since my last drink. I won’t gild the lily; it was bloody hard at first. I had cravings. I got shitty and emotional. I had sad days and angry days and days when I had no idea what the hell I was feeling except it just felt bad. Slowly but surely I realised I’d been using wine as an emotional suppressant – habitually drinking as a way to keep things on an even keel. I had to learn how to be emotional.
And I had to learn how to have fun without booze. My whole adult life I had equated alcohol with fun. A party wasn’t a party unless I was getting hammered. A wedding was an excuse to lush out! A disco party with the kids was a great opportunity to drink chardonnay with girlfriends. A long lunch was made all the more fun because of the endless supply of drinks. How was I going to enjoy anything without my beloved booze?
With this I was determined. I knew I couldn’t live as a miserable boozer any more, but I also couldn’t face living as a miserable non-boozer. I couldn’t bear the thought of going through the rest of my days feeling like I was missing out, feeling like a sad, boring loser. I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. I refused to do that!
So I worked really hard at re-training my brain. Read lots of books to help me see alcohol not as the magical elixir that had all the power to make things fun, but as the enemy that lied to me and made things worse. I kept going out to weddings and parties and dinners and slowly but surely I got better at it. I learned not to drink too many energy drinks, not to fixate on what others were drinking, not to isolate, and most of all to look for the real things that make an event fun – the people, the camaraderie, the jokes, the atmosphere, the music, the food, the party clothes, the dancing!
The more I refused to accept that alcohol had the power to make an event fun the more I realised it didn’t. My fun and enjoyment didn’t rest with the fact that my drink had brain-bending qualities, it rested with all of those other real things.
Again, I won’t gild the lily. Sober events can be hit and miss and sometimes I do go home feeling a bit flat. But then again that used to happen even when I was drinking. A boring party will always be a boring party even if I’m boozing heavily – that just makes me drunk at a boring party. I now know a fun party is always a fun party even if my glass only has lime and soda in it.
I went to a friends 40th recently and danced for 4 hours to cheesy 80’s pop hits then drove all our friends home. It was the most fun ever! And I didn’t drink a drop. Not drinking doesn’t make me a geek. It doesn’t make me a loser. It doesn’t make me boring. All it makes me is someone who doesn’t drink alcohol.
Getting sober is hard, it takes work, but it can be done. Front up and be honest, dig deep and go for it. Find your support – find it with friends and family or in the rooms or online – and go for it. To turn from a hopeless boozer like I was into the self-respecting sober lady I am today us to experience complete, glorious freedom. Kick that nasty booze to the curb, free up your life-force and let yourself soar. I promise you, if you stick at it, push though the hard early months and keep on going without the booze you will experience a hugely positive transformation. It will happen. It always does.
And know this, you are not alone. There are many, many of us who are turning sober. Thousands of us who are now moving through our days with no alcohol passing our lips at all. It’s ok, really it is. It’s better than ok, it’s freaking fantastic.
Mrs D xxx