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Health + WellbeingThe Balanced Brief

Wednesday Wellbeing: Confusion and Clarity, my route to sobriety

  1. Clarity and confusion – my route to sobriety and why

I’ve had requests to share my experience and insights into giving up drinking alcohol and how I did it.

 I appreciate there’s no text book method or one size fits all approach that works for everyone because we’re all wonderfully unique and have our own life experience and particular personality traits and characteristics. But what I can share with you is an insight into my personal experience. The first part of this began with me getting clear on my ‘why.’ Why did I want to stop drinking?

Reflecting back, the first issue that was crucial to my stopping drinking was understanding my motivation. It’s not unlike any other decision, knowing and understanding this is part of the root to succeeding. As I shared in my previous article ‘Put a cork in it – sobriety and me,’ I felt as though I’d been ignoring the intuitive call to stop drinking for some time. It took me around 8 years from first having these thoughts to taking the action.

Admittedly the first time these thoughts manifested was during a two week break on the Greek island of Eresos. I remember it so clearly. A large group of families and children, we had a blissful time together exploring and chilling at the beach. It was usual for some of us to have a pre-lunch beer around 11.30am. As many do on holiday, then beers at lunch and before we knew it, it was time for a round of cocktails at the Parasol bar , famous for the views and sunset,  Happy Hour followed by supper and wine.

It’s easy and most might say ‘normal’ to drink on holiday in the sun; nothing too heavy, regular and steady with lots of laughs and good times along the way and copious amounts of water to hydrate too. Everyone was in holiday mode and high spirits. It was fun!

At the end of the first week I woke to do my usual morning yoga and while I pushed up into and held my downward facing dog, I felt as though the floor was moving beneath me. Was it an earthquake – not unheard of, I’d experienced one in Zante some years before? But nope it wasn’t! It was the blood rushing to my head and the impact of too many nights of poor, alcohol disrupted sleep mixed with a hangover. I felt grim and spacey and I thought to myself urgh ‘I want to stop drinking.’

I shared this idea, as one does, born from the feelings of my overindulgence with my now husband. It was dismissed rapidly as an impossibility. What would people think?! How could that possibly work? What about our social life and friends?

I didn’t drink for the rest of the holiday. Instead I booked myself in for a couple of delicious bodywork massages to detox and had nothing more until I sipped a final chilled Mythos at the airport before the flight home. But the thought of stopping had been sown as a seed, a powerful experience and it stayed with me, as did the reasons and circumstances for continuing.

As time went by there were other occasions or catalysts that occurred; waking up after an unplanned or planned ‘session’ or a supper at friends that ended in kitchen dancing and simply ‘one too many’. Feeling all the feels the next day, chronic anxiety and the combination of too much to drink and not quite enough sleep plus losing time for the body to recover from dehydration (hangover!) while having a carb craving frenzy!

Our last trip to Goa, India in November 2017,  a month before I decided to stop drinking. My husband recalls this as our last ‘unplanned session.’ I did love the feeling of relaxation that washed over me as we sat in the courtyard of Siolim House drinking an expertly made double g + t!

It was our last night in the North and we planned to grab a bite round the corner at the Thai. We had the sharpener and stepped out, popping en-route  to the local bar (first visit!) just for one, my husband’s desire. Before we knew it, we were chatting to some local Brits who lived half the year in India. My husband was in his element, I could see that. We continued and the Thai went out of the window (it closed at 9pm). I munched on some fries for supper and could see the classic impact of alcohol overtaking the brain’s capacity to make rational decisions in the moment.

The next morning I woke starving and with a feeling of unease, alcohol induced anxiety, for the car journey down South to stay at our favourite Vivenda Dos Palhacos. I drank water all the way! On arrival my husband went with his tried and tested ‘hair of the dog’ strategy and I abstained, drinking minimally for the rest of our stay, my thoughts drifting back to the intuitive call to stop altogether.

But the final straw, I suppose I could call it, came after visiting my son for a long weekend in December during his first term at university in Falmouth, Cornwall. On the Sunday we popped out for an afternoon gin and tonic served in those beautiful bowl-shaped glasses at the fabulous Star and Garter, wood fire roaring, stunning views of the harbour, smells of Sunday roast in the air. It was text book picture pretty, crisp blue skies and all the things that many consider go in to making the perfect Sunday afternoon. We headed merrily back to our air b n b to prepare supper, with the gin and tonic giving us wings to climb the steep hill!  Before supper we set off to walk the beagles in the cold winter air and dropped back to the pub for a Bloody Mary on our return – an aperitif before supper! We ate with a few glasses of red, my parents were also with us and then decanted to the lounge to light a fire.

My son was working on his first university essay due for submission the following morning. Last minute in nature as are many first years! As an academic, I’d promised to give it a read through before he submitted, one of the reasons for our visit. However, this did not turn out to be the case. A full tummy, the warmth of the fire and the alcohol, a deceptive sedative had made me sleepy, so I took myself off for a quick snooze.

I woke around 11pm, mortified, remembering what I’d offered to do. Isaac had his coat on and was about to head off to the library to continue work. He said it was too late. I could say much about what I felt the personal impact of my behaviour was. I wasn’t staggering around drunk but what I ‘d consumed had impacted on my capacity to be present. There are many ways of looking at it. In all honesty my son was not bothered, there was no reason for me to feel guilty, the piece of work was unfinished so there was not much to look at! But for me, it was the trigger, and the final reason that returned me to the intuitive call to give up the booze, for what I thought would be a short while.

I’m sharing this in detail as this along with my other reasons, outlined in my original article are what helped me to understand my ‘why.’ These experiences and their outcomes became my personal motivators to stop drinking. These thoughts and experiences worked together in combination to help me set this powerful intention and as a result the contextual decision to stop drinking for 40 days. I knew I wanted to feel and be more present in my true self, not any form of alcohol induced self. These experiences had shown me this. I also wanted to feel well and do the best for my mind, body and wellbeing so I felt in optimum health at all times and this of course all links to personal choice.

Getting very clear on my ‘whys’ and understanding my motivator(s) is what carried me through, particularly when I felt the urge to succumb to that juicy red with pasta or cave in to the cold, crisp glass of white as the bottle clinked against the fridge door when I opened it on a Friday night! I was also able to link back to my ‘why’ and these experiences and motivators when friends said ‘oh go on just have a small one, it won’t hurt. It’s so much more fun when you’re drinking.’ My motivators were clear in my head and these influenced my thoughts and as a result my actions. I lived the metaphor and my thoughts became my reality.

I made it to the 40 days and am still continuing, even more empowered than ever before about the benefits I’ve experienced from an alcohol free life.

 

What can you take from this?

As I’ve said this experience is personal and individual. If you feel the call to experiment here is perhaps a starting point:

Spend some time considering why you would want to stop drinking.
List the reasons or as I did experiences down, be as graphic and honest as possible.
Write down some notes of the pros and cons of this decision so you are aware of good stuff and the challenges to come (the next part of the sobriety strategy!).
Identify your motivators clearly and write these down. Consider: why would I make this decision? What would I gain from it? How would I feel? What could be the potential impact?
Spend some time visualising yourself in your optimum situation and how you want to feel and feel it.

Recognise too that this is just the beginning, your starting point.  What then follows is developing strategies to support yourself on your journey and I will share more about these in forthcoming pieces.

Sobriety, alcohol-free living or low alcohol living is starting to gain real momentum and popularity, particularly with the younger generation. There are many resources out there to support people. Including Join Club Soda, One Year No Beer to name just two.

As always you can find me over on Twitter @ZoeUniBrightonor on the Gram @ Zoe.Swan

Have an amazing week!

Zoe

Health & Wellness Coach