A couple of weeks ago, at half 1 in the morning, I awoke filled with regret for the bad choices I’d made yet again. 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 writing. 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 (with one or two days alcohol free). Not to mention what it was doing to my bank account.
That evening, I lay awake next to my husband fed up and tired with feeling toxic and lethargic. Fed up with making decisions I wouldn’t have made had I not had a few drinks or had a bottle of wine waiting for me in the fridge. Fed up with my motivation to dramatically change my life being sapped away by the promising numbness 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.
So, that evening, as I lay there furious and ashamed with myself, 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.
Apart from my husband, I’ve not spoken about this decision much to anyone else, so writing about it here on my blog is making my palms sweat a little. Telling people I’m close to might elicit a roll of the eyes or an ‘oh, here we go again’. And I wouldn’t blame them.
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.
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 and alive I can be.
For me, right now, it feels like the start of the New Year. And that’s because quitting alcohol is only part of the equation for the rest of the things I’m about to do differently, for the things I’ve already started doing, including how I use my money.
For example, the money that would usually be wasted in the alcohol aisle, I plan to save towards studying CPCAB Level 4 counselling. Instead of numbing in the evening, I’m going to continue to enjoy learning new skills to apply to my colouring hobby, or to writing. Especially my writing. Critically, the most important thing I’m going to do is to stop masking my autism half as much as before just to ensure that others remain comfortable (huge thanks to Pete Wharmby, author of ‘Untypical’ for that one!)
In short, anything that cuts my odds of success, or that erodes my mental or physical health is getting the chop.
If you’re on a similar journey or want to share your story, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email. Additionally, if you want to be notified when I upload a new article, you can subscribe below.