This week’s blog is by Club Soda member Lesley about her 100 days alcohol-free, living in the moment and her journey into mindful drinking.
I’ve always drank too much, always been a bit of a party girl.
I started drinking in pubs when I was about 15-16, hanging out with an older crowd, it was a couple of halves of cider back then, not a lot, and wine on occasion.
Then I went to university. That’s when alcohol really became a big part of my life and since then it always has been – my partner in crime, my social crutch, my answer to all of life’s ups and downs.
I’ve known for a very long time it was a problem, the hangovers, the blackouts, the unexplained bruises, lost personal possessions, the brain fog, the disturbed sleep, the guilt, the shame. I knew I needed to cut down but didn’t know how – alcohol was so deeply ingrained in my life and what’s more I ‘liked’ it, or at least I liked the relaxing effects of the first one or two.
The past couple of years had been particularly hard, a difficult and traumatic family situation led me to seek even more comfort in the bottom of a large wine glass or a double G&T. My husband was worrying about the amount of alcohol I was consuming.
Anyway, I started seeing a Psychologist to help me deal with the fall-out from the current family trauma and then almost a year of therapy later(!), something just felt right, it was time and I was ready to do something about my drinking. Then just by chance I saw Laura being interviewed on Breakfast TV and she was talking about a community called Club Soda.
I googled Club Soda, signed up to the online community and started reading everything on the website I could get my hands on.
On the 1st October 2018 I signed up for the Club Soda’s 8-week mindful drinking course and set my goal: No alcohol 4 days/wk (Mon-Thur) and in moderation (max. 16 units) Fri-Sun. Bearing in mind that at the start of this journey I was drinking 40-50 units/wk with only 1 or 2 days off per wk this was quite an ambitious goal.
I was determined to succeed and with the help of the daily emails and tasks that were set as part of the course, the incredible inspiration from the online community and lots of quit literature, I learnt so much about my own personal relationship with alcohol and built my survival kit day by day. I discovered that alcohol was less of a physical dependency and more of a habit for me (eg. after work, making dinner, watching TV) and something I used to deal with my emotions (good & bad) and deal with social anxiety. I learnt about my triggers, my associations & pitfalls and how to plan ahead. And I achieved my goal! I could not believe I’d done it!
I kept going through December and then on the 1st January 2019 I signed up for Club Soda’s month off booze & Dry January. Again, more daily emails & tasks but by then it was actually pretty easy for me to make the switch from 16 units a week to zero, my brain was already re-wiring following 3 months of moderation and I was reaping the rewards of my healthier lifestyle (although chocolate was proving hard to resist).
Once I got to 1 month sober I decided to set myself another goal and keep going to 100 days, after all, everything I’d been reading said to really experience all the benefits of being sober you need to do at least 3 months and I thought, well I’m a third of the way there now, I may as well keep going.
And so, on Wed 10th April, I achieved my 100 days sober goal. For me, this was a monumental achievement – I would never have thought this was even possible 6 months ago. Who knew?!! There have been so many firsts in this journey, Christmas parties, work nights-out, business trips, holidays, birthdays (I’m 52 now) – all with little to no alcohol – and you know what, I can totally rock the sober thing in social situations, I’m still learning but it gets easier and easier each time.
So what now? My intention was and still is to go back to moderation because a) I’ve already proved to myself that I can and b) it is nice to have a glass of wine with a nice meal in a nice restaurant and I have missed that.
My new, even more, moderated goal is no alcohol 4 days/wk (Mon-Thur) and in moderation (max. 6 units) Fri-Sun. I actually think this should be quite easy as my whole thinking around alcohol has changed so much and not only that, as I’ve only just discovered, my tastes have changed too.
Last week I opened one of those small 187mL bottles of wine. It had been sitting in my fridge since December. I sniffed it and thought ‘hmmmm, not sure I like that’. I took a sip and honestly, it tasted disgusting. I took a few more sips trying to persuade myself that it HAD to taste nice, after all this was one of my favourite wines! My husband took a sip and confirmed the wine was fine, it had not gone off. It was my taste that had gone off!! I poured it down the sink.
I have however had better luck with gin. I had 2 single G&Ts with a friend on Saturday night. It tasted very strong after all those months of drinking tonic on its own but I liked it – although I think it was the taste and smell of the cucumber garnish served with my Hendrick’s that I actually liked the most!
There are so, so many benefits to having a healthy relationship with alcohol whether you are completely sober or drinking mindfully that I know I will never go back to my pre-moderations days! I am so much happier and contented now than I have ever been, the anxiety that has plagued me most of my adult life is slowly diminishing and I feel a new confidence in myself. I notice and take joy in the little things in life and best of all, a sense of just living in the moment!
For anyone just starting out, the journey is so worth it. You are worth it!