I cannot remember the last time I went one week without booze. That sounds really bad when you say it out loud, though I’m aware many of my peers could probably say the same about their own drinking habits. It’s not necessarily a binge drinking session every week; there may not be a hangover. It’s certainly not a case of drinking every day. But by about day five I’m craving a good glass of wine. Though if I’m honest, it’s rarely one. So no, I can’t tell you the last time I went seven whole days without an alcoholic drink.
I love drinking. I love the taste, I love the buzz, I love how it makes me feel. Until I slide on past that high and straight into taking it too far without even realising that’s where I’m headed. Until I’m suffering from anxiety for the next two days and an astonishing level of self-hate over something as small as the fact I’ve lost my umbrella whilst drunk the night before. (Note to self: you need to buy a new umbrella.) The shame of a black out, the embarrassment of not quite remembering everything. I’d like to clarify this doesn’t happen all that often (though it did when I was younger) – but once in a while is enough.
Generally speaking, my generation is one of hard drinkers. Our teens were etched out drinking spirits in parks, uni days were a lesson in binge drinking and work drinks are simply a part of the tapestry of our careers. Our social lives are lived out in bars and pub gardens, over dinners with free pouring wine and all you can drink brunches. The idea of going on a date that doesn’t involve drinks? Forget it, it’s bad enough out there without having to do it sober. I’m not that much of a masochist.
Sound familiar? I’m not judging anyone – I’m one of you. I’m known to be a big drinker, always have been. But my mental health hasn’t been great of late. I think it’s been a gradual build up of a few things I struggle with, though I hadn’t realised I had slipped back into how I felt before I had cognitive behavioural therapy two years ago until lately. One thing that really made me recognise it was how I’ve been drinking. Having the feeling of knowing I shouldn’t have more than two drinks one night else I’d likely end up in a spiral. Then on another day, having all the fun over plenty of drinks yet not knowing when to stop, ending up inconsolably crying hours later. It’s happened more than once. And that makes it a pattern. Which makes it a problem.
It’s not the alcohol that is causing my mental health issues, but it is exacerbating them to an unmanageable level. So whilst I take the time to get my mental health back to a healthy place, I’m taking a bit of a break. I’m cutting back. I have the hen do of one of my closest girlfriends in about a month, so I’m gonna see if I can go without before then, and then assess. There are a whole load of things in the diary I would usually drink a decent amount at before then, and I’m not gonna lie I’m going to find it bloody hard. I could barely be in a pub the one time I decided to try Dry Jan – I moaned constantly and I ending up lasting ten days. I’m expecting to hate it. As I write that, I’m wholly aware of the alcoholic vibes I’m giving off, but I’m conditioned to it – so many of us are. Drinking is ingrained in my lifestyle, I’ve been doing it over half my life. I’ve got my own leaving drinks from work next week (prime time for people to buy you drinks too, ugh); a bottomless brunch booked in (mine will be all the coffee on the premises); and a friend’s 30th where I’ll be reunited with the Goa gang. I would usually get pissed at all of these events. But my mental health is a bigger priority than the challenge of attending a party without boozing. So I’m gonna give it a go. And then when I do try drinking again, I’m gonna give it an even harder go at not overdoing it and going back to square one.
You must be thinking ‘alright love, it’s not even a month off the booze, calm yourself’ and y’know – fair. For a lot of people this isn’t a big deal. It’s all relative. I’m just hoping I’ll hate myself a little less navigating a party sober than I would if I hinder my progress of getting my brain back on track. I’ve got shit to do and a life to enjoy, and I need my brain working to be the best I can be. Although, if I don’t lose weight from cutting out booze? I’ll fucking scream.
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