Alcohol Free

I realised that I was a ‘grey area drinker’. According to Jolene Park, a well-known American nutritionist and now 5 years alcohol free, this term means: the space between the extremes of “rock bottom” and every-now-and-again drinking: a gray area that many, many people find an impossible space to occupy.

You can find out more from this article: https://www.thetemper.com/5-signs-you-might-be-a-gray-area-drinker-and-what-to-do-about-it/ and from Jolene’s own website: https://grayareadrinkers.com/

I have never had a rock bottom.

I have never blacked out. I have never driven over the limit. I have not lost my home, my husband, my children, my job – not anything – over alcohol. Except very occasionally, my pride when I’ve been a bit of an arse! But nothing anyone would connect with having a ‘drink problem’. However drink has become a problem for me. If I talked to anyone about my drinking they would more than likely say:

What are you talking about? You don’t have a problem. You don’t drink to excess. You don’t drink any more than me. You are fit and healthy. So what, you like a few glasses of wine. Don’t we all?

However, I was starting to feel low; according to the Forbes website: By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult).  The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression. https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/10/16/what-alcohol-really-does-to-your-brain/#7c172109664e

I was often waking at 3 am, feeling really shit: gurgly tummy, sweaty, dehydrated and perhaps worst of all, angry with myself. How can someone who prides herself on keeping fit and eating healthily be so stupid as to put something harmful into her body, feel terrible, and worse of all, keep repeating the same mistake?!

I tried moderating. What a disaster. Talk to anyone who has given up alcohol and they will say the same. It’s exhausting! This is how it goes:

I’ll just drink at weekends. OK, weekends and one day in the week, but that’s all. I’ll stop at half a bottle and I’ll drink lots of water before bed. I won’t drink tonight as I’ve got to get up really early, but I can make up for it the next night and ‘treat’ myself. I know I said I wouldn’t but it’s been a tough day; a horrible bill came through the post, my child has been rude and disrespectful, I didn’t get a reply on that job I applied for. I know I said I wouldn’t but it’s been a great day!; I filled in my tax return, I achieved so much more than I thought I would (four loads of washing rather than three! I completed that extra work assignment, I’m so incredibly awesome, etc). I even tried, I ran 22 miles, I deserve a drink. Now, that’s totally counter-intuitive.

Blah, blah, blah! Just twisted talk and running round in circles.

This year has been the eye-opener for me. In January 2019, I decided I wanted to run my first ultra (any race longer than marathon distance of 26 miles/42 kilometres). I entered a 50 km run, and committed to do the the training booze free. What a bold move! I hadn’t managed this during any marathon training I had done, but it seemed like a great idea, especially given the demanding schedule of 5 runs a week. I surprised myself and didn’t drink for 4.5 months. I felt great! My eyes and skin were clearer, I had more energy, I was sleeping better, training didn’t feel as tough (imagine running over 10 miles feeling groggy after a night of drinking wine), and, yes, I felt a bit smug!

The smugness unravelled after visitors left our house after a week’s stay towards the end of my training. I had watched them drink copious amounts of alcohol every night that week, and had even driven them to and from a wine tasting session! I didn’t touch a drop during that week. Hours after they left, I cracked open a bottle of wine to share with my husband. After all, I’d cooked for 6 all week, it had been fun but more demanding than a typical week, so I deserved it, right? It was all so easy.

Then followed a few nights here and there over the next few months where I would share a bottle, or a little more, with my husband. Each time I was disappointed with myself for ‘caving’ in to temptation, but after all, I was only doing what everyone else was doing, and I’d be a very boring dinner guest if I didn’t drink, wouldn’t I?

But it didn’t make me feel good – physically or mentally. I decided my drinking ‘career’ needed to come to an end.

So, after one final night on the wine (Monday 26th August 2019), I woke up in the early hours (that darned 3 am thing) and emailed everyone I know to announce that I had quit drinking (see Day one of my blog for more). What? Are you mad?! What like, not ever? Oh, god, are you sure? What will they all think? Are you ready for this? Yes, I am.

I shared my decision with everyone I knew as I realised that going it alone meant that I could always go back to drinking if I wanted, and nobody would even notice. I had exhausted the options through moderating and making promises to myself. By announcing it to everyone I had made myself accountable – to my children, my family and friends, and most importantly to myself.

So, from now on it’s an alcohol-free life for me and I’m sure I won’t regret it.

To finish, I do like a good inspirational quote, and I’m offering you a little ‘eye candy’ at the same time!