Well today marks being six months sober for me.
It’s 8am and I’m sat in my garden in my bikini sunbathing thanks to this glorious British weather we are having and sipping black coffee writing this with a clear head after a 9 hour sleep.
With England through to the semi finals of the World Cup yesterday then I suspect that most of the nation isn’t even awake yet, let alone up and enjoying the day like I am. Plus let’s not talk about how rough many people will feel for most of the day if they’ve been out celebrating with alcohol…
So it’s been exactly six months since I woke up from a university reunion in my old college halls feeling so hungover from drinking far too much port, with a gash on my knee from falling over so many times on the cobbles (still have the scar as a gentle reminder) and deciding enough was enough: I was committing to a 90 day alcohol free period for myself. Drinking had been creeping in to my daily life since the end of last year and I was using it as a way to reward myself on the evenings for having to work the long evenings and hours that getting a new business off the ground takes. And I didn’t like it!
So something had to change!
The first couple of months off the drink were fairly easy – it was the beginning of the year and so there were others having a token month off booze so at least then it seemed more acceptable to say ‘I’m off the booze at the moment’. Plus I had the initial wave of enthusiasm that you always do for the first few weeks of trying to commit to a new habit or resolution.
Travelling a lot to the Gulf with my business as I did at the beginning of the year also made it easier – you are interacting with largely Muslim customers and so it was really good not even having to broach the ‘what would you like to drink?’ question in a way that saying a ‘tonic water’ or ‘juice’ would raise eyebrows. In fact you have to actively go on the hunt for alcohol there. There was one incident in Dubai however where at the beginning of this journey I am slightly embarrassed to say that I did use the fact that we were in a dry restaurant as an excuse to say to other Brits at a business dinner that was why I was not drinking (they were desperate to have a drink with their meal and ended up going straight to somewhere afterwards where they could have a cocktail and some beers) instead of now feeling comfortable and confident to say to most people I know or meet for the first time that I don’t drink. It’s a process that you have to go through and a journey within yourself.
There were also some other challenges though during that initial period: the air travel being one. With taking regular flights I had become accustomed to enjoying many a gin and tonic and/or red wine to help me pass the time and see it as something enjoyable. However with it I had also become used to getting upset too and shedding far too many tears with at 40,000 ft, a mixture of having time to reflect, the alcohol and the heightened emotions. Not a good combination, especially for the poor sods next to me wondering what on earth was going on! So by cutting out the booze I have definitely been able to enjoy travelling in the air more and my last flight back from Kuwait in May was tear free – I felt I had really turned a corner with that!
Another testing event was a sponsored business networking event I had organised in early February at a posh 5 star hotel in the centre of Leeds – free drinks!! Now anyone who knows me knows that being a Yorkshire lass I LOVE a freebie or at least getting value for money! And most of the 50 people who came along I knew from my business network…and they knew of me as someone who loved to have a glass of wine or two at events like these…so sipping on the elderflower tonic was a challenge. What I also realised on that night too was actually how easy it is to use alcohol to give you that bit of extra confidence at events like these. Even actually me on that night, who I would say is someone fairly confident and outgoing, I felt that without drinking I was more exposed if that makes sense? Exposed as being my true self and perhaps not quite as outgoing and fun as my drinking self. And it certainly took me to another place outside of my comfort zone. But I did it and I realised that through this and as time went on actually I needed to take this to another level: 90 days wasn’t going to be enough to really understand myself better and if I wanted to have alcohol in or out of my life in the long term.
So once 90 days came, I said let’s do 100 and then now we have reached 180 today.
Obviously a lot has happened between 90 to a 180 days but one of the main things has been the way in which I’ve changed from saying ‘I’m not drinking at the moment’ to ‘I don’t drink anymore’ – and that wasn’t intentional, I just found myself saying it as time went on and it sounded natural.
One of the other main transitions has been able to transition back to healthy clean eating. The first I would say 4 months of this year had been difficult on the nutrition side, with me certainly allowing the fact I was giving up the booze as an excuse to eat far too many processed carbohydrates and sugar that I normally wouldn’t touch. Funnily enough it wasn’t what I was replacing with drinking that was the problem, I’ve only really replaced alcohol with tonic water as I don’t touch fizzy soft drinks full of sugar and only the very occasional alcohol free beer.
Gradually though and since May I have been able to get back on track now that not drinking isn’t anything new, it’s just part of me. And with also less international travel and in a better routine of exercise and eating I am feeling so good at the moment and have lost the additional weight gained. However as someone who normally doesn’t struggle to eat well, the absence of alcohol did knock me out of balance for a while so I would say to anyone on the same path to let your body readjust to the lack of alcohol and if you need to compensate in other areas to have enough strength to resist then do it. Over time and eventually you can and will get back on track in other areas too!
Moving forward I have no intention of going back to drinking for the time being. I see how much wasted time and energy it brings to others around me and I don’t want to lose how good I feel from not drinking! I’ve come to realise that I can go out and have a good time without alcohol and then drive home after plus I can be ok with being me and who I am, not hiding behind booze or using it as a vehicle to bury my head in the sand about what’s going on in my life. I have greater levels of clarity and focus for me personally and in my business and feel that I have so many things I want to achieve and enjoy, I don’t need or want alcohol getting in the way of it.
So I’m going to keep going and keep enjoying this journey of self discovery and redefining myself. It means I won’t be the red wine or g n t lover a lot of people in my network remember me or knew me as, but I’m ok with that, and instead I can become someone hopefully even more memorable, driven and interesting to be around in time!