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:

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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 🙂

Alcohol-free Until February!

1st January 2014 – I Go Alcohol-free!

I’ve been planning this for a long time, but I forgot to tell anyone save a few close friends and family. For some reason it’s important for me to blog about it before I start and I just have time to sneak a quick post in before 2013 closes, so…

After X no. of months (I’d rather not say how many but it’s more than 1 year) of drinking the obligatory “my kids are nuts, God-help-me!” glass of wine pretty reliably every night… errr, plus a bit, I decided that it’s become a little bit too much of a habit, nay – a  crutch! While I wasn’t concerned that it was an uncontrollable issue – I like my wine and have thus far been happy to indulge myself, but by nature once I’ve decided to do something I can be freakishly tenacious – it struck me that one shouldn’t have to exercise tenacity in order to have a few nights without a drink. If you do, it’s clearly no little luxury, more a way of life.

To be honest, it’s been a way of life that’s worked beautifully for me until now. Two boys less than two years apart was a crazy undertaking! and sometimes that glass of red was the only thing stopping me from blowing a gasket at bed time. But there’s only so many years you can use that excuse! Plus I wake up sooooo tired every morning, it costs a fortune and it’s definitely ageing (I can’t remember the last time I was I.D.’d in Sainsbury’s 😦 ) and actually, really I just got bored of it. It’s not that my wine consumption particularly worried me. Yes, I had that fleeting moment of thinking “God, I drink a lot of wine, maybe I’m an alcoholic!”. But then I realised alcoholics don’t leave a bottle of £16 Barbera to breathe for an hour while cooking, sniffing several times before tasting and skipping around the kitchen in glee…. (No,wine-snobs do – Oh God, that’s worse!) It’s just that I’m not really a fan of routine in any sense (my boys’ erratic schedules are testament to that!) and even pleasure gets boring after a certain amount of time. You can, indeed, have too much of a good thing…

It was, appropriately enough, in Wetherspoons that the idea struck me. The day before, I’d finished up some left over Indian tonic water from Remus’ birthday party to make room in the fridge (for more wine, probably! 😉 ) and the next day I had a ‘Mummy’s day-off haircut/shopping/read-a-magazine day’ all to myself. I rounded it off with a white-wine spritzer. As I sipped it, I felt vaguely disappointed thinking, “This doesn’t taste as nice as the tonic water I had yesterday”… in other words, “Why don’t I just have the spritz and not the wine if it tastes better?!” and boom! the ‘auto’ part of my automatic drinking was blown open.

The other part of my impulse to stop was just that I’m a huge fan of taking stock of my life on a regular basis, from my routines, to my relationships, to belief systems – my own and inherited ones – in other words, leaving as little hidden in my subconscious as possible, living from a place of conscious creation rather than unconscious reaction if that doesn’t sound too “kooky” – and New Year is one of my very favourite times to do this. So an alchohol-free start to 2014 seems like a really good idea and for at least the first two months – with one, and only ONE exception of my sister’s 40th birthday party on 4th Jan – I will not imbibe, inhale or intravenously inject any alcoholic beverages into my system!

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Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. If it was, then I wouldn’t need this Pinterest board of nice non-alcoholic drinks ideas as inspiration, nor would I be making such a meal of it in this extended sympathy/support-garnering blog-post. I just know that I’m going to do it and it’s a great idea! It seems lots of other people think it’s a good idea too as I’ve just been introduced to the idea of Alcohol Concern’s Dry January by a friend who’s joining in and raising money for charity. I’m not joining in with this, partly because this is a mission that’s very personal to me and I don’t quite feel like making it a group  effort this time, also I’m doing it for at least two months not one (after which I’ll introduce alcohol back in on a far less than daily basis!). This for me, isn’t a New Year’s resolution, or something to do every year as a detox. For me, it’s a larger cycle body and mind reset, taking me back to my pre-parenting days when a drink was not a daily ritual but something to have at a party or on a dinner date. Also, I partly don’t feel like asking for sponsorship for this as I have some special fundraising events planned in 2014 (Gradeoneathon for Children in Crossfire and for The Lullaby Trust) and I don’t want people to get bored of me asking them for money before then. But it’s still nice to know I won’t be the only one going alcohol-free in the New Year and I wish everyone doing Dry January lots of luck!

Bring on 1st January. I’m really quite excited!