THE STORY OF WHY ALCOHOL AND I PARTED COMPANY
‘One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went though and it will be someone else’s survival guide.’ – Brene Brown
I grew up as the child of two alcoholic parents and I can say with heartfelt honesty that there was no room to be a child in that environment. Looking back what this experience did give me was a determination to never reach those levels - for my sake, for my children's sake. It has also given me such a powerful drive to support others.
Teens and 20s - embracing a social life around alcohol
I was a teeneger of the 90s alco-pop era jumping in feet first at the age of 15. It wasn't unusual. I continued on to university where the drinking culture was strong and alcohol seemed to be the essential element for any night out.
And so it continued - my 20s living in London in different houses with friends - enjoying corporate life, enjoying London life. Alcohol was always present. I never allowed myself the space to consider if it was actually doing me any good.
Mummy loves wine
Ah the volume of hilarious "mummy loves wine" quotes: moving out of London I embarked upon my 30s as a mum of three children and indulger of all new mummy wine culture. Alcohol was a big part of this new decade. It was the reward for being a mum. It was the reward for combining work and parenthood. It was the appropriate end to a long day of being a mum and it still defined a night out for me.
Drinking to relax
Aside from 30 years of being consumed by the need/pressure/desire to be in party ready state where, on any night out alcohol would propel me straight there and numb my chattering brain, at the same time I also fell into the category of "drinking to relax". I had a lot on my plate in my present with 3 children, one with a rare chromosome disorder whose needs were a constant challenge to my already maxed out parenting skills. So I was able to justify a relaxing drink with my "life is tough " and "I deserve it" mantras.
40 - accepting my role as a "middle lane drinker"
I hit 40 and could see myself easing into the role of the new commonly coined title of "middle lane drinker" but noticed I felt tired on too many occasions and sometimes uneasy. Because alcohol was my source of relaxation I did seem to use an unnecessary portion of my brain capacity wondering when I would be able to enjoy my next glass of wine. I realised, without me being aware, my mind now perceived alcohol as the key source of my enjoyment, my unwinding, my escape. But I also started to notice that "warm relaxing glow" that wine offers ended after a couple of glasses and then negative feelings were at risk of surfacing or my off switch would malfunction and I would "go with the flow".
What signalled the change?
I began to question this "middle lane drinking thing". Yes I could drink wine in an evening and function fine at "life" the next day but was it really actually enhancing it? I couldn't put my finger on it but it just started to feel wrong. Then one night I received the signal - in the shape of pushing my own invisible limit. Everyone's trigger will be different but something made me stop and actually listen to myself when I asked the question "is alcohol adding any value to my life?" and the response was "no".
Facebook read my thoughts (literally) and up popped an advert for a 28 day challenge to give up alcohol. I joined a local community of alcohol free adventurers. I immersed myself in quit lit, podcasts, learning. I embraced a new existence that didn't revolve around alcohol. My mornings gradually became joyous. My evenings became freer as thoughts were no longer dominated by which tipple I would enjoy. And I used my incredible amounts of free time to learn about all things wellbeing and to become a coach!
It might feel more comfortable to pop people in a box labelled "problem drinker" but I feel doing this prevents people from really considering how they actually feel for fear of being labelled. Such labels aren't helpful. It doesn't matter what people's definition of "too much" is. What matters is how drinking makes you feel. As a friend said recently I have been so open about going alcohol free from the start because when something is worth shouting about then we need to raise the volume. I want to support anyone that needs it and to show an alternative to anyone that is curious.
Taking a back seat in your life
Drinking and the recovery period from each session can have such a physical and mental impact that it can leave you with no choice but to take a bit part in your own life as the negative impacts are so damaging they eat into huge chunks of your available time and can play havoc with your mind . You still have your commitments: work, children, life admin etc and you might manage these essential elements but the impact of alcohol means you won't have capacity for much more so anything else goes out the window.
This is how it has genuinely felt. Removing the alcohol has
Removed the blinkers
Given me bucket loads of confidence
Given me heaps more time
These three things combined have literally lit fire under me and changed my whole life! When you don't follow the dominant path and start to ask questions then your brain becomes flexible in other ways. I feel 100 times more fulfilled, 100 times more energised and so much more empowered.
Everyone's sunshine looks different
It might be trying a complete break or cutting back to some degree. Stepping into this adventure might lead you down a number of different paths. Some will work and some will lead you to push further. But if it is something you think might benefit you and your mental health then be brave and try it.