I awoke at half 1 in the morning filled with regret. Regret for the poor life choices I’d made yet again, and for the waves of nausea.
I wasn’t hungover, although this time I had consumed enough comfort food and alcohol for my stomach to eject its shameful burning contents down the toilet when I’d sooner have been enjoying my weekend. It had been years since I’d eaten and drank enough to throw up, although I was ashamed about the almost daily habit of one or two glasses a night I’d progressed to. Alcohol free days had long since become a conscious effort that felt more like a battle. Not to mention what it was doing to my bank account.
That evening, I lay awake next to my husband fed up with feeling toxic and lethargic. Fed up with making decisions I wouldn’t have made had I not reached for that wine. Fed up with my motivation to change my life being sapped away by the temporary numb of an icy craft beer or a sparkling Prosecco. Fed up of the shame. The guilt. The money I’d literally pissed down the toilet with zero benefit except for feeling like I’d been poisoned – because I had been!
I’d tried to quit several times before, but the only times I’d succeeded was when I was forced to because I was pregnant, and for a time afterwards because I was anxiously caring for a newborn who depended on me around the clock.
That evening, as I lay in my toxic cloud of shame, and as my husband and I talked about the role alcohol was playing in both our lives, I made a steadfast decision that I’ve never made before in my life. I decided to quit alcohol for good.
I was well aware that telling people my decision might elicit a roll of the eyes or an ‘oh, here we go again’. And I wouldn’t blame them. Three months later, I can say I don’t regret my decision, nor will I be going back.
The Traps of Alcohol
Why did I fall back into this pattern of regret over and over again? Because by ‘trying’ to quit, it was clear that I hadn’t made the vital decision to cut it out. How could I when deep down I was convinced I would fail? I still needed alcohol’s safety net, to know that it was waiting in the background like a toxic relationship that knew I’d come crawling back.
As I’ve questioned myself over the years, read a tonne of quit lit, and watched several Youtube channels about quitting alcohol, I’ve come to understand 6 keys things that were keeping me in the cycle;
- Alcohol is one of the most addictive (and destructive) drugs in the world . It’s also socially acceptable, and even expected in our culture.
- I was surrounded by other people who drank and encouraged me to join them, and because I saw alcohol as this relaxing, fun thing, I always caved in even if I’d planned not to drink
- I saw it as this classy, sophisticated thing that successful people do (thanks to deviously clever marketing and its alluring portrayal in movies, TV series, and videogames)
- I saw alcohol as this friend with benefits who would make everything more fun. Spoiler-it didn’t! And there were no benefits. Only illusion.
- I viewed alcohol as a salve for low self-esteem, trauma, grief, and other recurring bad feelings. Of course, none of it went away. It actually made it all worse because I wasn’t dealing with it.
- I was using it to numb my autistic traits, to numb the exhaustion caused by masking in society, and to calm the likely symptoms of untreated ADHD (I am on a waiting list for ADHD diagnosis). Alcohol is one of the worst things you can turn to if you have ADHD by the way.
Alcohol numbed things for a blissful half hour, but, ultimately, never solved anything. It didn’t make anything more fun, it didn’t make me successful, it didn’t solve a single problem. All it did was take while it made me crave more, because chemically, hormonally, and psychologically, alcohol does that.
Feeling the Benefits
Since quitting alcohol, although my brain goes at 1000mph in a million different directions, my thinking is clearer and more…me. I’ve also felt motivation coming back to me that I thought I had lost. Has it solved my problems? No, of course not. Getting rid of the alcohol only takes away one problem – the mask that was numbing the original problems I was escaping.
Quitting alcohol now frees me up to feel everything in its entirety (and boy have I been feeling everything!) In turn, this means that I can now fully face up to and take steps to start slowly crafting a better, more vibrant life. I did it once before with minimalism, now it’s time to take things further. Much further.
I quit to feel better. I quit to become the person I need to become. I quit so that I can be the best parent I can be. The most authentic I can be.
I quit so that I can live.