Updated: Apr 27, 2021
When I look back, it makes me feel a bit sad to think that I used to rely on alcohol so much, either to deal with negative emotions or to ‘relax’ every evening. I wish that I’d have known how much better my life would have been with less wine it; not no wine at all, just less.
I remember being in a Deputy Head interview many years ago and one of the questions was, ‘What do you do to ensure that you have a good work life balance?’ I completely froze on the spot and remember being really, really irritated at the question. I was managing a career as well as being a single parent of a child under three, which I personally thought was an achievement in itself and how the hell was I meant to fit some hobbies in too? I remember having two thoughts at this question. The first was the actual answer to the question, ‘I drink a lot of wine’ The second was, ‘What has my private life got to do with you?’ Talk about on the defensive.
Of course, I made something up about reading or something despite not having picked a book up in years. Looking back, I was annoyed at this question because I knew that my honest answer was that I didn’t do anything, apart from teach, parent and drink. I didn’t do anything for me at all. I was just about surviving and I was constantly, constantly exhausted.
I’m not convinced that the panel believed me as I stumbled through my white lie and unsurprisingly, I didn’t get that particular job. I did however, in time, change my relationship with alcohol and I had no idea of how life-changing it would be. These are my personal top five benefits of moderating my drinking, but it is a list that is literally endless.
It’s a universal fact that all parents of young children are obsessed with sleep because of its scarcity and I was no different. For me though, ‘sleep’ meant passing out on the sofa most evenings and waking up at 3am, dehydrated with a woozy head. I had been drinking for that long that I’d completely forgotten what real sleep was. Once I cut back and I’d got through the, thankfully, mild withdrawal symptoms of the first few days, I started sleeping properly. Despite having my drinking under control for some time, I still never get bored of waking up without a hangover. It’s just amazing. Even when I have a bad night’s sleep, I still feel 50 times better than I did when I was moderately hung-over every day.
I genuinely, genuinely didn’t think I had any time for myself when I was drinking a lot and that’s because I had absolutely no idea how much time drinking was taking up. During my initial attempts at sobriety, I remember it getting to 6.30pm, wine o’ clock, and thinking, well now what? There’s no denying that I did initially feel lost and this did take time and patience to change in the longer term. There were a lot of relapses. (If you would like some tips on moderating your drinking, see our other blog post.) I dodged the cravings with short activities until not drinking became as normal as drinking. Because I had no hobbies at all, I had to think back to what I enjoyed doing at school and took it from there. I have no problem now filling my time with painting, gardening, writing, occasionally cooking, though I’m not so sure my neighbours are as enthusiastic about my guitar playing as I am. That being said, I’m equally as happy doing nothing at all.
I’ve saved money. Well, not saved as such but I’ve redirected it. If you’ve got plenty of money, this might not be a motivating factor for you, but I always felt a bit guilty about spending so much money on alcohol. It probably didn’t help that I saw it as a necessity rather than a luxury. I do not miss waking up and checking my bank balance to find out if we did in fact stay in the pub for ‘one last drink’ or to check for random Amazon purchases. Historically I think I had this sort of martyr image of myself who never spent anything on herself while conveniently forgetting about the total that the alcohol was coming in at. If I’m ever tempted to feel guilty about buying something for myself now, I just think back to how much I used to spend on wine and suddenly I don’t feel as guilty after all.
Like a lot of big drinkers, I often used to replace dinner with a bottle (or more) of wine. I thought I was being clever replacing meals with alcohol as I wouldn’t put on weight and I was too tired to cook anyway. It came as a real shock to me to find out how much better food tasted when my taste buds weren’t grappling with the lingering taste of stale alcohol. I’m convinced that I was addicted to the sugar in wine and once I cut it out, I found that I did have a sweet tooth and a decent appetite after all. It’s far easier to make better food choices when your brain isn’t being fuelled by 13% bottles of merlot and nothing beats a cup of coffee in bed before the day begins. It’s not surprising looking back that I was tired all the time when I wasn’t even eating properly. I definitely have so much more energy now.
In some ways, this is the most important thing of all. I spent so long berating myself about the drinking that it’s no wonder that my self-confidence was shot to pieces. That’s not to say I swan about now thinking I’m brilliant, far from it. But I’m trying to do things that I wouldn’t have dared to before, like co-writing a book for example. I’m now not quite as self-critical if I make a mistake. It’s obviously embarrassing admitting that you used to rely on alcohol a bit too much, but with time and distance I can see that I was often drinking as I was struggling to cope with everything that was expected from me. It’s taken time to find other strategies to deal with some of the more challenging aspects of life and it is an on-going process.
This really is the tip of the ice-berg of what is better now I’m not drinking over 100 units a week and these are just a few of the reasons that I won’t be going back to drinking as I did previously. I encourage anyone that is struggling to get the support they need because the benefits really are too great to miss, however many attempts it takes.
Cate and I would love to hear from you to hear what benefits you’ve noticed from drinking less and wish you well, wherever you are on your journey.
***Alcohol Reconsidered - Book Launch - Coming Soon***
Please note that you should not make any changes you your lifestyle without consulting with a medical professional. Stopping drinking suddenly can be dangerous, or even fatal for some people. The author accepts no liability with regard to this.