Alcohol Free ’till February – Update!

If you read my previous post, Alcohol-free Until February you’ll know that on 1st January I stopped drinking alcohol completely, for a variety of reasons, and committed to being alcohol-free for two months.

Well, I sort of did it, and I sort of didn’t…

I did 48 days straight (excepting that bit of champagne at Jen’s 40th as planned on 4th Jan – but even counting that, 44 days straight!) and I have to say it had gone really, really well. The first two days I really felt deprived but the beginning is easy enough, then every few days I’d get a huge craving and feel grumpy knowing I couldn’t have any but also completely proud to ignore that feeling and plough through. Right from the start I felt better, slept better, looked better. So far so good! Around the end of the month, when all the Dry January folks were looking forward to their first drink and celebrating their successes I was struggling. It felt like I’d done such a long time and still had as long to go again. Part of me wished I hadn’t set myself two months instead of one… But then the better part of me realised that the fact I felt that way meant this thing hadn’t done it’s job yet – this body-mind reset hadn’t been completed and I knew that the second month was there for a reason. Psychologists say it takes 28 days (or is it 21? – I can’t remember, and anyway it’s probably a myth!) to break a habit or set a new one as your new default. But I really felt that, for as many days as I’d found it easy not to drink there were as many again where, without my commitment, I’d have definitely poured myself a drink not out of choice but need, and as long as that programming was still there I was going to carry on… so I ploughed on into February!

A couple of weeks in, a noticeable shift happened. I found myself looking forward to my non-alcoholic sparkly wine and imagined choosing it over a bottle of red once the time was up. Most days I just didn’t think about it at all. I often considered whether I would have a drink if I was free to and gradually, more and more often simply didn’t feel like it! I really, really felt – and feel – that the reset has happened. I really, really like not drinking! I feel better, healthier, and un-beholdened to it.

So with that in mind, when Gabs started getting really tired towards half-term, struggling with school and asking, sometimes in a desperate tone of voice, could we please, please go to Nana Pip and Grandad’s house in Cornwall, I started to feel like I needed a new plan. We were all exhausted and Gabs and I especially really needed a good holiday! But even with my Driving Phobia a little more under control from the daily school-run, driving 270 miles with two kids in the back all by myself wasn’t really my first choice… until the flooding and storms in Cornwall washed the trainline into the sea:


My Gabs needed this trip so badly, there was nothing for it but to grab myself by the metaphorical balls and get behind the wheel, so off we went. It wasn’t too bad at all, took us five and a half hours with one stop and the boys were unbelievably angelic. I felt so flippin’ proud of myself you’ve got no idea!! This was a big deal for me, coming from a place of having panic attacks before driving a few metres down the road in a straight line, to driving myself and my children all the way to Cornwall, calmly and well.. even enjoying the ride! So I’ll be damned, I was gonna enjoy my half-term to the full once I got there! I also don’t think we’ll get down there for another break until the Summer, something I hadn’t forseen back in December. So I wanted to relax and have the nicest time I could… including a glass of red wine with my chilli-con-carne!

So, I had a glass of wine with dinner each day I was there. Well, actually the first day I could only have two sips and got a headache so my Dad drank it. The next day, half a glass of white. The next, a proper glass of red which I drank, and the last day a pint of guinness with my fish and chips 🙂 The trade off is, I went back on my fast when I got home to London and I’m now doing an extra week into March, finishing on the 8th.

Am I excited about finishing and going back to total freedom to drink what I like? No, not really. I found, predictably, that first glass of wine a massive anti-climax and am actually so glad I didn’t wait it out until the 1st March so, so looking forward to it and then being disappointed. Wine is still my choice of treat over cake, chocolate or whatever… really I couldn’t care less about sweets, although I’ve tried to enjoy them this last two months as they’re pretty much all I’ve had left! But even with alcohol now, I can take it or leave it, and I’m pleased to note that coming off my week of drinking back into the so-called fast (which doesn’t feel like a fast anymore, but just normal) was beyond easy… no, a pleasure. It’s actually nicer not to drink. So why did I drink over half-term at all? I almost didn’t. It nearly went the other way, I spent an hour thinking about it feeling that it made sense to but I felt too irritated to let myself, since I’d said I’d do it! At which point, I realised it’s bloody stupid to do something out of pig-headedness when it no longer holds true for you and you’re only worrying about what other people will think.

Because I wanted to! Because I can. Because I’m an adult who should have the self-control to choose and not have anything hold power over me either in the love or the resistance of it.

So as 8th March approaches and I look back at what I’ve achieved so far this year, I can happily say I kicked two things in the nuts: My driving phobia, and my need to reward myself with a nice drink. Both lost their power over me. So welcome, properly welcome now, to 2014 which can really truly start for me afresh and the new, more Balanced Me 🙂


Driving Phobia & Walking for Tilda


On Saturday 11th May, I got up at 6:30 and got two sleepy but acquiescent boys dressed and into the car. (Thank you Remus, for getting up to load the double buggy, several bags of spare clothes, snacks and lots of violins while I grabbed a cappuccino!). This sounds simple enough but for me, it was no mean feat: I have suffered for a long time from being massively driving-phobic. Despite having passed my test over two years ago and having some sporadic driving success for one year of that, even short journeys for me can involve delaying tactics, finding excuses to use public transport, and should I get in the car, usually some shaking and crying. Nevertheless, I had put this date in the diary a long time ago and it, being pretty inaccessible without a car, seemed the perfect goal to aim for to overcome my fears. I’ve driven on and off for two years but when even a successful 160 mile stint to Cornwall didn’t cure me I lost all hope of ever being a “real” driver. But finally, I had something to drive to, where the destination was key, where getting there, and showing up on time and in one piece meant more to me than clinging on to my fear. And it seemed to work! My phobia came to a head a few weeks before when I found myself on my sofa, twenty minutes before nursery pick-up time, sobbing into my hands like a baby, unable to get in the car and drive the three minutes down the road to pick up my boys in the pouring rain. My lovely, safe, responsive Audi A4 S line sat right outside my flat. It was dark, windy and thrashing rain and I cried and cried and beat myself up mentally for even considering walking 15 minutes with the buggy out of fear of driving two blocks in a straight line down the road. I couldn’t believe it had come to this! And I knew that in a few short weeks I WAS going to drive to Ashford and be there for Jennie and Matilda Mae. I just didn’t know how. So I sobbed with my face in my hands for maybe twenty minutes, hating myself out-loud. I looked at this for a long time on my pinterest board:


And then, at 5 minutes to 6pm, I got up, took out my keys and drove to nursery. My knees shook, my heart raced, I fucked up my parking. But I did it. I had got the most afraid I could be and I overrode it. And the next week I drove to Knightsbridge and picked my husband up from Heathrow (I shook a bit, but I didn’t cry 😉 ). And the week after I drove to Watford for work and drove my colleague to Cheltenham for a gig and home again. So I knew I could do it. But the night before the walk, my husband still asked me, “Are you sure you’re OK to do this?” And even I was surprised how confidently I answered, “YES”.

Because I’ve never been more committed to being somewhere I had promised to be, my phobia didn’t stand a chance! I planned my route on google maps. I zoomed in on street-view and obsessed over which lane to take when. I worried about my first toll-booth experience on the Dartford Bridge. But nothing was going to stop me getting in that car and getting me and my kids to The Rare Breeds Centre in Kent for the Mile in Memory of Matilda Mae Walk!

In the end I drove like crap. I went twice round a couple of roundabouts. I got lost once and had to stop and heard a lot of “re-calculating, re-calculating…” from the sat-nav stern-voice lady. But who cares, I made it! And it was so worth it! My next post recounts the day in full, read on….