Guest post: "Dry January is coming to an end, but my sobriety isn't"
Lily stopped drinking almost a year ago after realising she had become an alcoholic. Here, she reflects on reasons why and what's changed since
Alcohol Free 2016
Posted on: Thu 26-Jan-17 16:15:04
(15 comments )
This time last year, I seemed to have everything anyone could want. From the outside, I was a professional woman, with a thriving business, a partner, three growing children. The reality was different: I was a woman clinging to sanity by her fingernails, with one child off the rails, a partner who was borderline abusive and refused to work, and an increasingly unmanageable fondness for Sauvignon Blanc.
I was also dangerously close to the edge, drinking about five times the recommended number of units per week, reliant on medication and perpetually terrified that something awful was about to happen.
The anxiety about the effects of my drinking was developing from a quiet whisper in the back of my mind to a clanging cymbal right in the forefront of my consciousness. I drank to manage my feelings, to stuff them down so I didn't have to face the unpalatable truth - because if I did, I might then have to do something about it.
The concept of a dry day, let alone a dry January, was pretty hard to contemplate.
Dry January is really a chance to test one's resolve and start the New Year in a healthy way. For most people it's an exercise in mild self-control, but no more. But for those people a drink is just that: part of a fun evening, winding down, a social thing to do.
But for others, like me, a drink is never just a drink. It's an escape from real life. It’s creeping habituation and increasing tolerance. It’s a bottle every day, and more at weekends.
It's wine in a mug so you can pretend it's tea, it's extra drinks when no one is looking, it's hiding the recycling so the neighbours can't see how much you get through every week.
But for others, like me, a drink is never just a drink. It's an escape from real life. It's creeping habituation and increasing tolerance. It's a bottle a day, and more at weekends.
It's an emotional crutch, a desperately loved and passionately hated necessity that pervades all aspects of life and influences every decision.
On 11 March 2016 I went out for dinner with my family and some friends; as usual, I ended the evening plastered. The next morning, I woke up with a cracking hangover and the familiar fear that I had done something embarrassing. My partner told me that I had tripped in the bedroom, narrowly avoiding serious head injury.
The shame and anxiety felt overwhelming, especially coupled with my physical misery. Not for the first time, I thought "I need to stop drinking." I always knew this was the answer, but I'd never felt a strong enough conviction to act. This time, at last, I summoned the courage: I decided to stop drinking, one day at a time.
During those first days, I looked no further into the future than an hour or two. I could not contemplate being dry on significant occasions or if I was under stress. And what about holidays? I told almost no one, kept my head down.
Physically it was rough to start with. My sleep was poor, I was permanently agitated, I seemed to sweat a lot and I had an almost permanent headache. I bought in a supply of soft drinks and "held on" grimly. I refused every invitation in the first couple of weeks, because every situation felt like a drinking opportunity and I didn't trust myself one bit.
My partner was still drinking at home, but less than previously. It was bloody hard, and at times I was conscious of every five minutes passing. Adding the days motivated me, and slowly the physical side effects settled, and I started to feel better.
Since then, sobriety has meant freedom.
Sobriety has given me clarity of thought, has propelled me to leave an unhappy relationship, has brought me emotional strength I didn't know I had.
Sobriety has saved me several thousand pounds (so far), it has connected me to a wonderful community and has made me friends. It has left me 21lb lighter, with clear skin and bright, white eyes. I sleep deeply with few restless episodes.
Above all, sobriety has enabled me to look outwards, has smoothed my mood swings, and it has made me more patient, less anxious, and kinder.
It's a new start, not just for January, but for good. This year, on the outside I may have less, but inside I have so much more.
Dry January is coming to an end; I pray my sobriety never does.
Are you worried about your alcohol intake? Would you like to sobriety to continue beyond Dry Jan? Join the webchat with Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberistas.com, next Wednesday 1 February, 9-10pm. Details here.
By Lily B.
Well done you! Hope your family life gets easier
Brilliantly written, I hope this gives just one person the strength to follow suit.
Wow, you achieved so much last year! Hope this year is a good one.
You should be very proud of yourself well done
Wow! This should be compulsive reading for everyone who has that nagging voice in their head saying "you're drinking too much"
I know a lot of those feelings, the good and the bad, I put down my last drink on 6th September. The best thing I ever did. I think if I hadn't I would be dead now, either through drink or suicide.
Congratulations OP. Well written and inspiring. Good luck with the rest of your journey - just keep taking it one day at a time.
Be so proud of yourself. I left my alcoholic husband in 2015 after 5 years of empty promises.
Thank you so much !
It's a bit overwhelming seeing this in "print" - if anyone is interested you can find the blog here www.alcoholfree2016.com...
Me too. Exactly the same as you. Sending hugs. We've got this! xxx
Well done! I was struggling in and out of sobriety for years and finally found my happy place. Nearly 10 months sober now. If anyone reading this is worried about their drinking call AA or attend a meeting, or see a GP. Good luck to all x
Great post and well done OP! I would urge anyone who is concerned about their drinking to seek help. But please bear in mind, depending on how heavily you drink, it can be dangerous (or even deadly) to just stop cold turkey. Please seek advice about reducing safely if you feel you need to.
Very much so user, there is help from GP's and local community based drug / alcohol teams. Take the first step, ask for help ...
And thank you mummy London and water nymph - well done you guys too 😀😀