Despite this blog being centered around minimalism, this weekend I feel like sharing that I’m 3 weeks alcohol-free (which is actually a type of minimalism for the body if you think about it).
It’s not like I haven’t tried to quit before. Since my mid-twenties the longest I’ve ever gone without booze is 9 months when I was pregnant. The rest of the time I was drinking almost every evening, and the amount I was consuming each night was steadily creeping up. So were the amount of hangovers.
I never used to be a big drinker. The only times I’d drink was on occasional boozy nights out with friends. Family and friends used to laugh at me for ordering cups of tea whenever I went to the pub (I’m still a huge tea drinker). Anyway, the times I did drink I always went crazy with it and ended up with embarrassing stories of throwing up, three day hangovers, and being carried back home half passed out. Once, I even fell over a chicken-wire fence and smashed my face on the pavement, cutting and bruising my face all over. I didn’t even realise until the following day.
When I got older, I had a good few stressful and traumatic times and started drinking on the weekends to de-stress and block it all out. Then I added Friday nights to the list. Before I knew it, I was drinking almost every evening, and every little thing was a reason to pop open the wine or ale. I’m also autistic, and once I realised that alcohol could numb my hyper senses and slow the world down to a bearable level, I was hooked.
Soon, drinking was a bigger part of my life that I would have liked to admit.
Feeling sad and stressed? Best pour a wine. Upsetting event? Neck a bottle. End of a work day? Crack open the cider. Happy event? Celebrate with a glass or two. Or three.
I also started making excuses for my drinking. My husband has always been a big drinker, and told myself that if he was sitting on his PC drinking, there was no problem with me doing the same. And if he was having a cheeky midday beer, it was OK for me to do so as well.
So what made me choose to quit this time around? What’s so different to the other failed attempts?
There are several factors. First of all, I’m learning to drive, and waking up with a hangover on the day I was to get into a car just wasn’t an option. Secondly, I’m starting a level 3 counselling course and want to be sober when I’m studying and pouring my soul out. Thirdly, I didn’t want my kids to witness me on this slippery slope. Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve had enough.
Enough of waking up feeling sluggish and dizzy. Of waking up with the stale, acrid taste of booze still in my dry mouth.
Enough of thinking about booze every single day and counting the time until it was acceptable to start the wine.
Enough of spending my limited funds on poison and crappy days spent recovering.
Thankfully, my husband has also decided to get sober and is planning to stay that way for the foreseeable future after experiencing some scary symptoms which crept up on him. Together, we are each other’s accountability partner and talk each other out of giving up and going to the shop.
I’ve also changed my mindset on alcohol by reading a large number of quit lit books, the most prominent being ‘This Naked Mind’ by Annie Grace.
To my horror, most of these authors went through what I went through so many times, and what I’m going through right now as I keep up the sobriety. Yet society never considered them alcoholics because alcoholism is viewed as needing it on your cereal in your morning, going to work drunk, and becoming homeless. Thus, most people struggle silently, forever googling ‘Am I an alcoholic?’ over and over, like I did.
Three weeks after quitting, I can safely say that the benefits are worth it so far.
My head is so much clearer. Mornings are sharply in focus. I have deeper focus and concentration. The quality of my sleep has improved.
But despite these benefits, quitting is far from easy. Often, I find myself terrified at the thought of never drinking again. And the cravings are monstrous, particularly around the hours of 4-7pm. It feels like I’m climbing a frayed rope which could snap and send me falling back down at any moment. Other times, it’s like I’m staring down an endless winding road. Who knows when it will end?
Recently, I’ve taken to running, and I’ve been using that to outrun my cravings. Believe it or not, it works! After a good, hard run, the cravings either massively reduce or vanish altogether. I call it ‘outrunning the alco-demon’.
The problem with running is that I have ME so there are times I can’t. When I’m not running, I immerse myself in the type of videogames that have rewarding gameplay loops to boost my dopamine levels.
Another thing that my husband and I have noticed since quitting, are the drinking dreams. The last time I dreamed I downed several glasses of wine, and I woke up devastated. It took me several minutes to realise that I wasn’t hungover and hadn’t drank anything. The relief was immense.
I can’t stress enough that if it wasn’t for the books, connecting online with other people in sobriety groups, and having my husband quit alongside me, I’d probably still be nursing a hangover, aimlessly clocking on Youtube videos right now.
For me, accountability is key. So was having a big enough reason to look at my relationship with alcohol in the first place.
If you’re on a similar journey, or have a sneaky suspicion that alcohol isn’t the friend you thought it was, drop me a message. I’d love to hear from you.