On 26th January at about 10pm I poured nearly half a bottle of vodka down the sink. That was it. I was done. For the next 100 days at least. Giving up booze is something I’ve contemplated for years, usually whilst hung over, but at other times too. I marvelled at people being teetotal, like my hairdresser, who would rather have a cup of hot Ribena than a glass of wine. Or my old boss, who was quite the connoisseur of fruit juices. Every time I considered it I just couldn’t see how to remove alcohol from my immediate future; there was always that meet up with friends planned, or an after work social, or simply coming home from work knackered and in no mood to do anything other than plant myself on the sofa with a triple vods and diet coke and mindless TV. I needed a clear month or two where I had nothing planned that involved drink: weddings, nights out, work do’s, and Christmas were all definite no-no’s. It would seem getting pissed was firmly embedded in my social calendar, no matter how big or small the event.
So giving up never happened, and even in the last 4 years since my daughter was born I still managed to drink at my usual pace. Chances to go out were fewer and farther between than before, and work was no longer in the picture, but I’d discovered a new excuse (as if I needed one) – being a parent. Even at the very start of my parenting journey I remember being at an NCT class and the teacher was giving one of many sales pitches on breastfeeding – this time saying you could even have a glass of wine at the same time as feeding your baby. What’s not to love then? I must admit, I think I was the one who asked if breast feeding mums were allowed to drink, as nine months of abstinence was more than enough for me.
I’ve said before that discovering Mum Blogs has been incredibly helpful to navigating the ups and downs of becoming a mum, even to the point of wanting to join the tribe myself. I would have had a crappy day of mothering, probably made myself go to something like a baby sensory class (that’s what a competent parent is supposed to do isn’t it?!) and finished up the day wondering what the fuck my life had become, so to feel better I’d read a funny blog and feel the accompanying sense of solidarity – I’m not the only one. And then, probably, pour a lovely drink because I DESERVED it. The end of each day spelled ‘Me Time’ and it felt like all my fellow mothers were clinking glasses at Wine O’Clock (whatever time of day you deem that to be appropriate, the earlier the better was my view) across the internet in a collective salute to getting through another day of tantrums, challenging behaviour (kids being little shits), CBeebies, and picking bits of dinner off the carpet. And its fine, I’m certainly not judging because I’m not sure I could have ever contemplated quitting booze AND be a stay-at-home-mum to a pre-schooler. There were many days when I’d pour a large one at 4pm just to be able to power through till bedtime (especially on a Friday because Fridays definitely don’t count).
One thing I always hated though were the hangovers, and I can confirm they do get worse with age. Setting aside the banging head, wanting to puke, and having to wear something very loose around the waist because of my cramping tummy, the worst part was the effect on my mind, specifically my mood. Hangovers would mean a downer for at least a day or two, and I now know why thanks to another group of bloggers I’ve discovered – the Sober Ones! So far Clare Pooley and Catherine Gray have been showing me the way (I love that no matter what you want to do in life or what you’re going through there’ll be a blog somewhere out there for you). Put simply, booze messes with our brain chemistry because it makes us produce dopamine – our ‘feel good’ chemical. Great at the time, and probably why me and my friends would end up drunkenly hugging and saying “I fucking love you mate!” in the middle of O’Neils on a Saturday night. But what goes up must come down, and in order to come back up again the brain thinks it needs more booze: booze = pleasure if you drink enough for long enough, like me.
As I type this I can hear my uni mates laughing in my head as I say that alcohol is an addictive drug. The thought of me writing about the perils of drinking is like… well, ME writing about the perils of drinking! Its only after 36 confusing, what-am-I-doing type days of not drinking that I see it more clearly. I was addicted. Am I an alcoholic? I’ve googled it enough times and never really been sure. I never got up in the morning and wanted a drink, but is that the real test? My problem is I can’t stop at one (what’s even the point of only one drink?!), and booze is something I’ve relied upon. Feel happy? celebrate with booze. Feel sad? commiserate with a drink. Feel nervous? down a shot. No matter the situation, there was always a reason or excuse to drink, even to the point of calling it ‘medicinal’ (I reasoned that the common cold couldn’t survive in pure alcohol so plied myself with it each time I had one).
So what’s next? a life of sobriety? Sounds so depressing. And writing about it on my blog feels like I have to commit to it, which make me a bit nervous. I tell myself its only 100 days but the real truth is I don’t see how I can go back to it. They say the first month is the hardest so why would I want to do that again and again? After 22 years of drinking I know what kind of drinker I am (its even in my genes), and frankly I’ve probably had enough for a lifetime. Anyway, I’ve heard virgin mojitos are pretty good.