For a 5ft2 pint-sized person, I sure used to drink a lot of wine.
I’ve never been the go-out-every-weekend-and-do-shots-in-nightclubs kind of person, but since I turned 20 (five years ago) you’d rarely see me after 18:00 without a glass of wine in my hand. This was just a part of my evening routine: get home from work, pour a glass of wine, make dinner, have some more wine, watch TV, have another glass of wine. I didn’t think twice about it and didn’t think there were any side effects aside from the standard hangover. I rarely got too hammered and could always get up in the morning (albeit with a few more snoozed alarms).
Then, over time, I started drinking a little earlier, finish a little later. Maybe sometimes I’d drink a whole bottle, sometimes I’d accidentally have a few drinks at work, then drink after work, too. On these occasions I definitely felt it the next day and would be in bed till 18:00, puking my guts up and feeling convinced everyone hates me. But, by the following morning, I’d forget how awful I’d felt and start the weekly drinking routine all over again.
Because I’m pretty healthy in other parts of my life, I never saw my drinking as a ‘problem’. Everyone else does it, right?
Turns out, no. Most of my friends drink at weekends but don’t drink in the week. I justified my habits because I wasn’t getting white-girl-wasted in a club on a Saturday (I was just doing it at home instead). I liked drinking wine and turning down my emotions sometimes, no harm done.
But, over the last year or so, I started forgetting parts of the night, or say something I regretted (or not remember saying something I later learned to regret, which was even worse). The hangovers got more persistent, I was tired all the time, and the week-long hangxiety was far greater than any enjoyment I’d experienced on the night. Even with this realisation, I didn’t stop drinking because I didn’t associate these feelings with the drinking itself. The anxiety festered and grew until I was anxious most days – not just about when I was drinking, but all the time, about everything.
I’ve written about how this year has been a big soul-searching journey for me. I’m learning a lot about myself, and why I’ve turned to wine to help how I feel is something I needed to explore. I know now I drank to push away stress, to numb my worries, to slip into a haze of wine-tinted-glasses and Taylor Swift songs. What I’ve learned since not drinking is that all wine does is make those worries bigger.
Having not had a drink in nearly four weeks, I’ve already noticed big changes. Rather than tossing and turning all night in a hot sweat, ruminating over negative thoughts and imaginary worries, I fall straight into a deep sleep. Rather than setting 5 alarms because I can’t get up in the morning, I’m awake before my alarm. Rather than thinking about a glass of wine before I get home, I’m looking forward to doing some yoga with my kitten and a tall glass of elderflower tonic. I can think straight, I’m less anxious, I’m in control.
It’s also positively impacted other parts of my life, too. By seeing the difference being sober has made to my mental (and physical… and financial…) health, I’ve cut down on caffeine and junk food and drink far more water (because who knew, I actually turn to water rather than wine when I’m thirsty now). It feels a little like a fog has been lifted over my life – like instead of relying on drink and stimulants to get me through the day, I’m instead tuning into what my body needs instead of blocking it out. Yes, there are some raw emotions that appear to be more challenging to deal with when sober, but I can trust my body and mind that I’ll find the best solution from within, rather than from a bottle.
The funny thing is that I started writing this blog post when I’d gone 6 days without a drink. I didn’t post it because I didn’t believe I’d actually last that long before sloping back to a bottle of wine. But, despite even myself, each week I’ve come back and edited the post to change the timeframes and add more of the benefits I’ve experienced since not drinking.
If you’d like to learn more, here are some of the most effective resources I’ve read:
- The Sober Girl Society Handbook, Millie Gooch
- This Naked Mind, Annie Grace
- The Happy Sober podcast
- Seltzer Squad podcast
Cheers to a hangover-free life!