Alcohol free for a year – Here’s why my life is so much better
For 365 days I have been free from alcohol, free from hangovers, shame and regret, free from the 3 am night terrors, heart hammering and hating myself. Living alcohol free for a year means there have been no broken promises to my kids, no missing out on their everyday lives and no scaring them by going from normal mum to unpredictable, distant and confusing.
It took a long time for me to finally take the plunge and begin to change my life for the better. I knew my relationship with alcohol was getting in the way of everything, but like so many of us stuck in this unhappy cycle of drinking I was scared to do anything about it – until I did.
If you had told me 365 days ago that I would have been living alcohol free for a year and loving it, I would have spat my beer out in disbelief. But, it is so true – life is so much better without and to be honest it hasn’t taken me the whole year to really appreciate this.
On this day one year ago, my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t buy any more alcohol so we didn’t. There was never a set timescale, we just wanted to see how things would be without it because, let’s face it, things were pretty awful with it. What was once fun had become increasingly toxic. There were more arguments than laughs, more wasted time than achieving anything worthwhile, more days in bed feeling horrendous, more feelings of anxiety, more debt, more fog, less energy, less clarity and less life in general.
I really wasn’t sure how things would pan out but as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months and now a year later, things have changed so much for the better that I am genuinely excited to see what the next 365 days will bring. Here’s 10 ways how not drinking has transformed my life (in no particular order, as they’re all awesome!).
I am healthier
This is a big one and something that I am more aware of now, than when I was drinking. Alcohol is really, really bad for us yet we drink it with wanton abandon in the belief that ‘it will never happen to us’ Sadly though alcohol use has serious consequences for our health, it is a poison. I mean, a hangover is one sure sign that our body doesn’t like what we’ve put into it. Simply by removing alcohol I started to eat better. I wasn’t having green smoothies every day or anything like that but I wasn’t filling myself with foods that were rich in fat or high in carbs to help with a hangover or because of the early afternoon munchies. Yes, I upped my intake of chocolate to help with cravings in the evenings and I still do enjoy cake and chocolate a few times a week. In spite of this though, I have lost a shed load of weight, I look and feel a million times better than I did this time last year. I put the weight loss down to not stuffing my face and downing empty calories like I used to and of course getting outside and doing regular exercise because I now have the time, desire and energy to do so.
I have more energy
I have always been quite an active person, I like running, walking, hiking, getting outdoors and doing stuff. The trouble with alcohol though is that it made me constantly bleugh. Once the can was cracked open in the afternoon I couldn’t be bothered to do much. Then of course, the next day I could just about manage to do normal day to day stuff so anything more strenuous was out of the question. I was quite surprised by just how much drinking zapped my energy. After about a month off the booze I started feeling amazing, just full of zing and a desire to do stuff! I now do exercise every day, even if it is just yoga and walking the dogs. I love messing about with the kids and I have the energy to spend time with them properly. The difference now though is that I want to do it, I enjoy doing it, I am not forcing myself to do it. My increased energy levels have given me a drive and focus to start my business which let’s face it, is hard work. You simply cannot get up at 5 am and work if you have a hangover!
I am a better mum
I bought into the whole ‘Mummy needs wine culture’ for so long and genuinely believed that alcohol helped me be a better parent, to be more fun to be around and of course, it helped deal with all the stresses that motherhood brings. I can see now though, after being alcohol free for a year that it is the shittest advice out there! Alcohol made me a terrible mum, not all the time of course but there were many occasion when I knew that the situation would have been much better had I not had a drink – dealing with early morning kid puke when you’re hungover is no joke!
Kids notice everything, they are extremely perceptive and it still upsets me to know that they would be confused by the change in me as I had more to drink, being silly one minute then shouting at them to be quiet and leave me alone the next.
Thanks to being alcohol free for a year, when I spend time with my kids now, I am wholly and completely there, fully present. Days at the pool are not cut short or spoilt by wanting to go to the bar, walks are not rushed so I can get back to my beer, I am with them in the moment, clear headed and genuinely enjoying myself with them. There are no more broken promises or wasted days and they can rely on me 100%. Parenting is relentless and trying to ease it along with alcohol doesn’t work. I realize that seeing their mum with a beer or a glass of wine constantly in hand is not a great example to set and if I want to help my kids to grow up to be the best version of themselves then they need to see the best version of me – which is alcohol free and very happy thank you very much!
I have peace of mind
Drinking takes up so much head bandwidth. Always obsessing about how much I was going to drink, when I could drink, what, where and then, not wanting to drink, wishing I hadn’t had so much to drink, worrying about drinking and worrying about my health. It’s not just the thoughts of drinking, though it was the little voice in my head, putting me down all the time – especially in the early hours of the morning when I was alone in the dark feeling scared and wretched. When I finally stopped, the peace of mind I felt from all of this was truly liberating. I felt freer and lighter somehow. Having all of these negative, obsessive thoughts in my head all the time was draining and exhausting. I found the only way to really shush them completely was not to drink at all, and to be firm in my decision, be clear and happy about my choice. Once I accepted it, it was like the brain fog lifted and all the doubt and negativity disappeared. While this may not seem like a ‘benefit’ of not drinking, but If you have been stuck in an internal battle with yourself for so long and you are always thinking about drinking, then when it all goes away, there truly is no better feeling.
I look after myself
In my drinking days, I used to think that self care was ‘me time’ on the sofa with a bottle of wine or a pack of beers and the telly. It just isn’t. Since quitting drinking I have learned how to look after myself properly. I am aware of my emotional and physical needs in a way that I never was. I listen to my body. I eat when I am hungry, rest when I am tired and have built up a collection of tools and techniques to help me through or just make me feel better. I understand also that self care is not just about spa days and new shoes, it is about doing what you need to do to keep on the right path, it is about showing up for yourself every day and putting yourself first. As a busy mum I had such a hard time getting my head round this but once I accepted that I must put myself first, I must look after myself properly, and began to build self care into my daily routine, then everything sort of fell into place. I really feel strongly that without proper self care it is all too easy to go back to old ways. My self care essentials are daily yoga, walks in the woods, early nights, good books, tea and chocolate!
(Read my post on why proper self care is *essential* in your sobriety)
I get stuff done
In my head I used to do loads! I would plan all the things I would do tomorrow, at the weekend, in the holidays with the kids. All the trips we would go on, days we would spend together. But, once I had a beer or poured my first glass of wine, it all went out the window. I would retreat into my own little bubble and nothing would get done. Since quitting and living alcohol free for a year together with more energy, time and clarity I can actually be bothered to get up off my butt and do stuff.
I have more clarity
If you read my piece in The Voice of Calm, you will know that quitting drinker has made me much more mindful. I don’t mean that in a sitting meditating way, although I do do that. What I mean is that I am much more aware. Life is supposed to be experienced in full glorious HD and while it is difficult when bad things happen or negative emotions appear, I have the clarity to do something about them, deal with the situation and not drown it out, likewise with the best bits of life. Alcohol is a depressant and it just numbs you out. Now I get to enjoy every glorious moment, I appreciate the little things and am no longer living in survival mode.
I don’t have hangovers and I sleep like a baby
I cannot stress enough just how wonderful it is to wake up every. Single. Day without feeling like death warmed up. For so long I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up feeling properly fresh and rested and boy, was I missing out. The joy of waking after a great night’s sleep that hasn’t been interrupted by frequently needing to drink water, followed by trips to the loo, followed by the horrible 3 am terrors is the best feeling in the world and I never, ever want to go back to old ways and experience that again. You might want to punch me in the face when I say this but I enjoy waking up early, before the sun and getting on with my day. I cannot believe that I used to spend so many precious hours in bed suffering the after affects of alcohol. In the early days when things got tough, my husband used to say to me, “just think of the morning” It might seem like a little thing but proper sleep and hangover free mornings are what kept me going in the beginning and I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
I grew up
I was quite entitled as a drinker, everything was about me. Life was quite dramatic, I could be insensitive and I had no clue how to deal with my emotions properly – I just blocked them out with wine. Quitting drinking has not been without its challenges but when you overcome them, you do grow and learn and develop. Being alcohol free for a year means I am learning how to deal with my emotions properly and if something scares me or if I am in a tricky situation I deal with it like an adult, I no longer run away and hide! I am finally becoming the person I knew I always was. I am not trying to fit in or be cool (I will never be cool actually). I know that I am quite shy, serious and perhaps a little bit weird and that’s okay too. I am also more considerate of others now, I am kinder and hope that I am a nicer person to be around.
I realized I don’t need alcohol
This was an eye opener for me! As someone who relied on alcohol for everything I had no idea how on earth to relax, have fun, be social, deal with stress, celebrate, commiserate (insert anything you like here.) Alcohol is such an ingrained part of our culture and so revered that we are encouraged, ordered even to drink to everything – no wonder we haven’t a clue what to do without it! But, (and this is mind-blowing) we don’t actually need it at all. Sure, the thought of going out, Friday evenings, dealing with the kids, sunny afternoons on the patio was scary and tough at first but like any new experience, it is always difficult until you get used to it. The truth is that life is so much better without alcohol to blur the edges. When I relax now I properly relax, going out is fun with the added bonus of remembering the evening, the conversation and not paying for it the next day. The kids actually don’t stress me out as much as they used to. If I do get stressed I have healthier ways to deal with it. Of course, being alcohol free for a year means I have had many ‘firsts’ without alcohol and I got through them and enjoyed them, or if I didn’t have great time I know for next time not to go. I see now that there are actually no benefits to drinking at all and all the marketing we are subjected to is a load of crap. You do not need alcohol to be cool, sexy, gorgeous, successful, popular, fun, bla, bla, bla. Everything I experienced with alcohol was false but now everything is real, true, raw and how it’s meant to be.
The beauty of an alcohol free lifestyle is that is just keeps on giving
I could go on because the truth is that by giving up one thing (alcohol) I have gained so much. The beauty of an alcohol free lifestyle is that is just keeps on giving and getting better. If you are struggling at the moment or having a hard time deciding if this choice is right for you, then let me assure you it is. And, the longer you stick with it, the more of the ‘best bits’ you get to experience! Life without alcohol really is awesome AF!
Now, if you’ll excuse me I am going to celebrate with cupcakes and tea and toast to the next 365 days and beyond.