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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 20-Nov-14 10:55:24

Guest post: 'The moment I knew I had to give up drinking'

To mark Alcohol Awareness Week, MN blogger A Hangover Free Life explains why she gave up drinking - and argues that society needs to be more accepting of sobriety

A Hangover Free Life

A Hangover Free Life

Posted on: Thu 20-Nov-14 10:55:24


Lead photo

'It feels like nobody is taking our country's escalating drinking problem seriously'

On 20 September 2013, I drank my last alcoholic drink. As a nurse who cares for liver disease patients, I had seen the physical impact of booze, but also the psychological and social impacts – I knew I had to stop.

My own drinking started when I was a teenager and had slowly increased over 25 years, from light social drinking to drinking heavily every day. I had become psychologically dependent on booze – all attempts to try to moderate my drinking had failed. I have two young children, and I didn't want them to experience what I did growing up. As a child, I remember finding my parents passed out in the garden in the middle of the day, drunk. I had been terrified for them.

I remember going to a barbecue with friends. They were the perfect hosts and our wine glasses remained topped up all day. By about 7.30pm, I was beginning to feel worse for wear and asked my husband if we could leave. He didn't realise what a state I was close to being in, and said that the kids were still having a ball so we should stay.

I went and passed out on the sofa. Later, we walked home with the children – I was reeling, and remember cannoning off the verges and falling over many times. I even stopped to spend a penny – in front of my kids. I remember crawling up the stairs on my hands and knees and passing out cold.

I had done the very thing I swore to myself I would never do to my own kids.

It wasn't rock bottom, as such – it took me another four months to stop – but it was part of a slow realisation that my self-esteem, and my confidence in my ability to function without booze, had been completely eroded.

Alcohol is a silent public health epidemic, and both my professional and personal lives have shown me just how true this is. It feels like our whole country has an issue with booze. 85% of the population drink, and although the message from the drinks industry is always one of 'responsibility', I've never drunk moderately in my entire life - and neither have most of the people I know.

I went and passed out on the sofa. Later, we walked home with the children. I was reeling, and remember cannoning off the verges and falling over. I even stopped to spend a penny – in front of my kids.

Most of my family and friends don't acknowledge that my husband and I don't drink any more. We have had some very negative reactions to our sobriety, as if we're snubbing those we socialise with. People seem to take it personally, like it says something about their drinking habits rather being a reflection of a change we wanted to make in our own lives. People will try very hard to get you to have 'just one', as if, if we're all in the same boat - all 'just having a swift half' - then we don't have to think about what it's doing to our health.

Alcohol is ingrained in our society because it is our first response to anything and everything. Birth, wedding, divorce, funeral? Have a drink. Christmas, New Year, birthday? A large one. Good day at work, bad day at home with the kids? Celebrating or commiserating? Open a bottle. It's like we don't know how to connect or express ourselves emotionally without involving alcohol. A few glasses of wine will lubricate that deep-and-meaningful you've been meaning to have with a friend for ages, or get your boss on side in the pub after work, won't it? Alcohol is woven into our everyday lives, and picking up a bottle at the supermarket is as ubiquitous as getting milk and bread. Drinking is so normalised in this country that not to do so marks you out as 'weird'.

There's an old adage that says 'you only have a drink problem if you drink more than your MP or your GP', and with the House of Commons spending £1.4m on alcohol to stock their bars in two years, one has to question how seriously the political class takes this issue. At your GP's surgery, you will be offered an Alcohol Brief Intervention if you drink more than the recommended unit guidelines and will be advised to cut down a bit, but that's about it. It feels like nobody is taking our country's escalating drinking problem seriously.

Things are starting to change, though. There are lots of resources appearing online to support people who want to cut down or stop completely. There are hundreds of sober bloggers just like me, there are online communities like Soberistas, and a new documentary film called 'A Royal Hangover' - which looks at how alcohol has become such a big part of British culture - is due to premier in London shortly. And maybe, this Alcohol Awareness Week, we should all think about how much we drink, why, and whether we could stop.

By A Hangover Free Life

Twitter: @hangovrfreelife

redjumper Thu 20-Nov-14 11:50:14

Yes yes yes! I am very similar to you in terms of job and having young children. I too went teetotal last year, on 25 August and it was a fantastic life changing decision. I wasn't drinking particularly heavily at least not compared to my friends and peers but I always wanted more than I should, and wanted it every day. I felt like I always had it in me to become a full on 'alcoholic' if something bad were to happen in my life. I spent a lot of time hungover and I worried that one day booze would get the better of me. So much of my time was wasted thinking about booze it was driving me mad.
Now life is great, I'm free from being a slave to drink. I go out as much as ever but the only difference is I drink coke not wine. I feel like I'm really present in life and will become the best version of me. I really don't feel I'm missing out, I'm not. The only thing I've given up is an addictive poison which was only harming me. The other huge motivator is that I'm really present for my children and I'm setting a good example of how to live without alcohol (especially as my kids may well have inherited my alcoholic genes).
I feel like an alien in many ways because no one else I know is teetotal, on the other hand I feel like a bit of a rebel as I've opened my eyes and chosen a different path rather than follow the drinking majority just to fit in.\
I found a lot of support in the website and would recommend it to anyone, it's particularly aimed at women and is hugely positive and supportive.

SometimesSlummy Thu 20-Nov-14 11:53:44

Definite food for thought for me - I do struggle with alcohol free celebrations, it is so ingrained in culture and family life that I don't think I know how to enjoy myself without it. Thanks for sharing this.

brokeneggshells Thu 20-Nov-14 12:16:51

Couldn't agree more. I stopped for 6 months at the start of the year, going back to drinking and realising that I felt so much better without it and I had a problem stopping at one or two. Often drinking one or two bottles most nights. I've now been teetotal for a month and know that this time I will not be picking up drinking again. It will be a sober life for me.

One thing that has struck me is advertising. I'm not sure what it is like in other countries but to see alcohol advertised first thing in the morning I'm now finding quite shocking. Was an Asda wine advert as far as I remember. Something I've never noticed before.

Seems to me that especially as a parent there is the perfect excuse to drink. I've forgotten how many times I've heard the expressions 'wine time' or 'mummy's little helper'. I feel strange in that I'm the only one out of my friends who no longer drinks, even my Christian friend has the odd one. You mention you don't want to drink and you're met with 'oh just the one?', 'you're not that bad' or laughter at your intention to not drink again. Not drinking makes people feel uncomfortable, almost as if you are challenging their drinking habits.

Although I haven't been on the soberistas website in a while I thought it was fab, along with the lovely 'Dryers' here of course who have helped me enormously grin

Mouthfulofquiz Thu 20-Nov-14 12:36:58

I found that the very process of pregnancy, breastfeeding and having small kids has reduced my drinking immensely. I still enjoy a drink but never more than 2 glasses of wine (125ml) except on very special occasions. I hope to keep to this level as the kids grow up.

Demonchops Thu 20-Nov-14 12:37:02

Great post and some interesting facts- it is totally ingrained in us you are completely right- I too have been thinking seriously about giving it up for good in the last few weeks- whilst I don't really drink in the week - when I do get a chance to go out with friends or more recently a round of 40th parties, I tend to binge drink with my girlfriends - letting our hair down and forgetting our worries- we are all busy frazzled mums of young children- and part of us feels we should have this down time of letting go - but more and more I don't like how I am when I'm that pissed! Forgetting what I have done smile and I am a terrible flirt - I'm dangerous! And perhaps it is time for a change I think ... Thanks for post- has made me seriously think about my habits.

BattleMum Thu 20-Nov-14 13:59:25

Completely agree with all your points. I gave up with my husband 4 months ago and after reading a book to help us, we've never looked back. We're there for our little boy every morning, bright-eyed and bushy tailed as the saying goes, and we're loving every minute of it. Alot of friends and family can't get their heads around it and assumed I must be pregnant again, which I'm not. We've made a conscious choice to no longer drink alcohol and to be there for our little boy 100% and we're loving it. It was something we wanted to do but couldn't quite get there. A friends 11 year old child said to my husband "I can't wait until I can drink" to which the child was asked why. It was the response that shocked us, "cause mum and dad can't live without their wine". This confirmed to us that we never want our child saying the same about us and we did something from there to change things in our household.

We thought it would be hard but 4 months on the old associations with alcohol, like celebrations, hard day at work, nice steak, are all gone and we've had many enjoyable social gatherings without an alcoholic drink. Plus our wallets are all the better for it. We really hope that by the time our son grows up he'll see alcohol as something other people do but not something he'll want in his life. It's a silent addiction that no-one recognises as it is a drug that is socially accepted. Thank you for writing this article. It's so nice to see other people making the same choice as us!

Lottapianos Thu 20-Nov-14 16:14:14

Well done all of you. Its a great feeling to get back in control of your life, and to realise just how much of it you lose to alcohol when you're drinking heavily.
I am horrified by how much I used to drink just a few years ago - I would easily get through 4-5 bottles of wine over a weekend. Nothing in the week, I've always been a binger. I got on top of it a couple of years ago - packed it in for a while and felt so much better for it. Now I do drink but am very controlled with it, I have my limits and very rarely exceed them. I absolutely loathe and resent hangovers - they are just not worth it, ever, so I avoid them like the plague. I often meet a friend for dinner and drink only fizzy water - that would have been as unthinkable as flying to the moon a couple of years ago.

Its so true that alcohol is ingrained in our culture and lots of people get terribly freaked out by someone who doesn't drink or doesn't drink very much. Its really worrying.

hotbuzz Thu 20-Nov-14 17:48:11

I am quite lucky that drinking isn't so ingrained in my social circle - partly due to our interests (sports) and partly because we're from a wide range of countries, where drinking isn't so common. So it doesn't seem too weird to have people at a social event who don't drink, and nobody ever gets hassle for it. There are so many reasons that someone might not want to drink - pregnancy, religion, health/diet, finances, being the driver, having to be alert/awake early. I would never question anyone who doesn't drink, it's a shame that people feel pressured for it in this day and age.

I did go through a short period of excessive drinking when I first went to uni, but even that stopped after the first year and I tended to socialise with a group who were happy to drink in moderation, or not at all. Nowadays I like a drink at a social event, but I never drink at home and one or two is easily enough for me. I find that wine makes me sleepy so I'd never manage to binge drink on it, I'd end up falling asleep before I drank too much!

evertonmint Thu 20-Nov-14 18:37:07

I drink maybe a glass of wine a night on maybe 3-4 nights a week, although some weeks I just don't have any. DH probably has one glass 5 nights a week, so we're on just over a bottle a week between us.

We are surrounded by people who down a whole bottle with their spouse every night! They drink with other mums on 'playdates' while the children play, they think nothing of abandoning the car at the pub and walking home with the kids after Sunday lunch so they can have loads to drink, they literally neck wine at social functions while their children are present, they socialise at beer festivals at weekends with their kids running around. And nobody seems to think this is a problem. DH and I hate this casual acceptance of the need for tonnes of alcohol.

I saw a friend's husband recently for the first time in about 2 years. He drinks probably half a bottle of wine a night on average - and now looks terrible on it: old, puffy, tired sad

So many of these people say "I probably should drink less" but they never then cut back.

There is a HUGE problem with social drinking in this country.

Lucy2610 Thu 20-Nov-14 18:53:47

Thank you everyone for your kind comments. I'm Mrs Hangover Free and you can find me hanging out on the Dry 5 thread smile BattleMum couldn't agree more and that 11yr old child's reasoning is scary. Don't want my kids to ever say that about us ..... Congrats to all of you who are doing things different and I can't wait for the day when I'm not considered weird for my choice!

exWifebeginsat40 Thu 20-Nov-14 18:55:36

I'm 7 months sober. I finally quit in April, after realising once and for all that my lifestyle was killing me (and it very, very nearly did).

By the time I finally stopped I had lost everything. My job went, then my daughter - to live with her dad. I got into recovery last October but it was too late for my marriage and I lost that, and my home.

I have regained so much in the last year. I see my daughter regularly and she is regaining her trust in me. I am in a new relationship with someone who has never known me drinking. I live on my own now, with my cat, and I mostly love it.

Something I have noticed now I don't drink is actually, most people don't drink like I did. I have had a close circle of friends for 20-odd years now - formed friendships as drinking buddies and we still see each other a few times a year. They are, to a man, delighted with my sobriety - not because they had seen the worst of my drinking; rather that they can see the positive changes in me.

I was a rock-bottom, lost-everything, mouthwash drinking alcoholic. I'm still an alcoholic, and believe I always will be, but I now consider myself to be recovering. If I can do this, anyone can.

It's always a controversial topic in discussions around alcoholism, but I honestly believe that AA saved my life. It's not a religious cult - it's somewhere I can go where everybody understands how chaotic and dangerous it is to live with ourselves in drink, and how hard it is to quit.

If you're wondering if you have a problem with alcohol, you probably have a problem with alcohol. Ask for help. Alcoholism is an equal opportunities disease - it doesn't care who you are, where you came from or what your plans are. My GP was also really helpful. I also self-referred to my local Alcohol Treatment Service who got me into an outpatient rehab programme, which was also enormously helpful.

Blimey. That turned into an essay! Be kind to yourselves...

exWifebeginsat40 Thu 20-Nov-14 18:56:52

also, i need to say 'also' more. gosh.

SholerAndChocolate Thu 20-Nov-14 18:58:00

I'm t-total because it's a personal choice and it was the way I was bought up and I couldn't agree more about society. When we go to work functions a glass of wine or champaign if offered. Saying 'sorry I'm t-total' or 'I don't drink alcohol' is met with scoffs and scorns. The amount of times I've been met with 'really?! Just have 1 glass, just to take the edge off'.

Frustratingly at events alcohol flows freely, bottles on the tables and glasses being handed out, yet alcohol free options are few and far between. Dh and I end up going to all inclusive events and spending a fortune on non alcoholic drinks, I can see it would be so easy to slip back into drinking. Huge respect to you for admiting there was a problem and for doing something about it, and for speaking out now.

BigglesFliesUndone Thu 20-Nov-14 19:50:34

I have just passed the one whole year sober milestone and I cannot believe the difference. I know I was an alcoholic. I pretty much spent my eldest daughtersdaughters childhood in a haze and will never bring that back. I knew for a few years before i finally stopped for good that i had a bog problem but thought i was in control. I was never in control, it controlled me. Now I honestly feel 'free' I did a 'personality' quiz yesterday and could, for the first time ever, answer questions like 'do you have mood swings?' and 'do you lose your temper regularly?' with a No, and finally mean it. It really isn't easy but it's the best thing I have ever done.

whyhasmyheadgonenumb Thu 20-Nov-14 20:31:51

This couldnt of come at a better time for me, I had my last drink last Saturday night, feels so strange to say that. I hope you don't mind me posting.
My DC are teeny and I'm a single parent so it's a decision to benefit all of us, it was getting dangerous.
I will be looking at all the links on here.

furcoatbigknickers Thu 20-Nov-14 20:50:09

Such an interesting blog. I don't know if I want to give up but since having dc4 my drinking has increased to a level im not happy with. I don't drink every day or most days but can't just drink 1. I am trying to cut down.

furcoatbigknickers Thu 20-Nov-14 20:53:57

Not only am I piling weight on despite 3 visits a week to gym, im also worried about my liver. And I spend lots of dsys hung over.

Lucy2610 Thu 20-Nov-14 22:11:46

Congrats to those who've stopped and for those who are thinking about it come and meet some of the other MNers on the Dry 5 thread smile Thanks for all the support, it means a great deal flowers

scousadelic Thu 20-Nov-14 22:16:57

I think the biggest danger is that drinking is normalised by the media and society which has an insidious effect on us all. We need a real change as has happened with smoking

whitechocolatestars Fri 21-Nov-14 04:28:41

This is a topic close to home for me too. I am interested in one thing, did you find that having DC (especially the year of not drinking with pregnancy / breast feeding) changed your habits forever or did they creep back afterwards?

I am pregnant with dc2 and as with dc1, I love not drinking. I used to drink far too much and the year "off"' has done wonders for me. I really want to make this last, what are your experiences?

whitechocolatestars Fri 21-Nov-14 04:34:44

The overall sentiment I couldn't agree more with, alcohol is a ticking health time bomb along with smoking and obesity in this country. Yet whilst the risks of smoking and obesity see widely publicised, there are totally conflicting stances presented on alcohol.

They tend to be along the lines of "yes yes, moderation is very important, too much alcohol is bad for you, stick to the guidelines and drink responsibly as part of a balanced / healthy lifestyle but here.... Just have one more, it won't kill you".

Well one day, it just might.

sunflower49 Fri 21-Nov-14 09:59:52

OP, your post made me have 4 alcohol-free nights since reading it. I don't drink massive amounts daily or anything, but I am guilty of having a few every night to wind down-and if I go out and don't have to drive I tend to be with friends who can handle it much more than I can, so I get drunk whereas they stay at the tipsy stage.

I've managed to wind down just fine without alcohol, 4 out of six nights this week. Might not sound much but It's a turning point for me.

Luckily I've not been invited to any social events recently but I am going to take it steady next time, and drive if I can. Just, alcohol is so, omnipresent?! It's everywhere as a PP said-It's as if we have forgotten that we don't have to drink to enjoy a social event.

Lucy2610 Fri 21-Nov-14 11:05:18

sunflower congrats on 4 days alcohol free! A turning point is all it takes smile

ThatDamnedBitch Fri 21-Nov-14 11:06:01

I can totally identify with this and you're so right.

I reached a point about 4 years ago where I couldn't function psychologically without alcohol. I was going through quite a rough time in my life and alcohol became a crutch. The catalyst for me was new year's eve of 2010. DH and I drank 5 bottles of wine between us. We weren't even at a party we were at home with the children who were still quite young. I feel ashamed that my children saw me in such a state. The hangover the next day was worst I've ever had in my life. I couldn't get out of bed for 2 days (except for crawling to the toilet to vomit) and had to leave DH to look after the children.

After that I stayed sober for about 4 months. I started drinking again but managed to keep it under control. Every now and then it will start to get a little bit more than I'd like and that's when I cut back. I've never drank as much as I did that night and never had a hangover like that one again (thank god). I will never drink more than 3 glasses of anything now regardless of whether I'm at home or out at a party or the pub.

This week I've realised that I've had a glass of wine every night. And even though it's only 1 glass, every night has an effect on my health and my sleep and my mood. So I'm again stopping for a couple of weeks and then only going to drink at weekends.

I do think there should be more awareness of how alcohol can effect people and how easy it is to become addicted. And how your chances of being addicted to alcohol rises massively if there is a history of it in your family. I didn't realise until I actually accepted that was becoming addicted that there are a lot of alcoholics in my family. It was just the norm growing up and I never questioned it. It was just something that everyone did. My uncle died of liver disease 2 years ago as a result of his alcoholism. And it did make quite a few family members stop and look at there own drinking behaviour.

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