This seems like a lifetime ago. I have no regrets. Everything was, and is, just as it is meant to be. That's how we learn and grow.
"Become increasingly aware that our circumstances and situations are oftentimes the absolute issues that our soul is creating for its own edification, growth, and unfoldment."
Michael B. Beckwith
I felt hopeless – like I was getting everything wrong and there was no way to change things. I was trying, desperately trying.
After my second baby and suffering a year of postnatal/hormonal issues, I found yoga (through the restorative route aka ‘nesting’ yoga…try this if you haven’t!), I embarked on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with huge success tackling the crippling anxiety I felt (it was so helpful I even tackled my lifelong spider phobia) and I healed my gut by cutting out sugar/gluten/milk. I was in the best shape I’d been in for years… But just months before, I had visited my GP in state of despair, reluctantly asking for help to be able to cope. She prescribed me anti-depressants to deal with the hormonal imbalance and asked me how much I drank. I told her – and I forgot to lie and half it. She suggested I cut down and I felt a bit silly for being honest about it. I left that day with no real sense of why I really needed to cut down (I know it’s bad, but it can’t be that bad?) and secondly no idea how I would do that, because at that time it felt like the one thing that was helping me. But I had some relief that I was moving forward and doing something. That made me feel better. And it got better over time with all the facets of my ‘new’ life. I felt good and I came off the antidepressants within about 6 months. I felt like I’d achieved something – I wasn’t a lost cause and I wasn’t a total mess. I could do it and I didn’t need medication anymore. I had been against taking them because to me that meant I’d failed, but they weren’t so bad after all. They evened me out and got my head above water so that I could breathe. They gave me the space I needed to work on myself. With hindsight, they numbed me to an extent, and in that time I grew and healed. I went back to being a social drinker.
And then I fell pregnant with my third baby… Hormonal rollercoaster #3. I practised yoga all the way through and thoroughly enjoyed all the aspects of my pregnancy – confident with experience and knowing that she might be my last. I savoured the months, but I also missed having a drink. I felt left out, deprived. My neighbour used to joke of the afternoon she popped in following my little one’s birth at home in the morning. I was propped up in bed in a state of mostly nakedness, save a pair of disposable paper pants, in full babymoon bliss mode – with a chilled glass of my favourite Italian white wine on my nightstand. It was the searing summer of 2018 and that was my reward. I didn’t see what was so funny initially – I’d achieved a great deal that morning, birthing my baby with little more than water and some gulps of entinox for pain relief! If I deserved anything, it was a chilled glass of wine.
That’s exactly how I continued to see it. A ‘reward’ for all my toil and hard work during the day. For putting up with the kids’ nonsense all day – dealing with the endless wants, navigating all the emotional minefields, tantrums, whining, shouting, stomping, acting out, unrealistic and illogical demands. Being the martyr, doing EVERYTHING, being everything, remembering everything, juggling it all. Layered with unfulfilling work and the threat of an insecure business. I was anxious, stressed, guilty, resentful and angry. I had rage at times like I’ve never known and didn’t recognise as mine. I felt hormonal – up and down, imbalanced and out of control. I was either really happy and ‘coping’, or for what seemed like just a few days a month, at my rock bottom – in a rage, volatile, on edge, massively frustrated. I couldn’t understand why ‘all the things’ weren’t working this time. I was doing more yoga than ever before, my practise having advanced – asana, pranayama, meditation… I went back for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and my therapist told me that he couldn’t help me as there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me…that I needed sleep, rest and some support to have time out/time to work/time together as a couple – none of which he would give me or that I was likely to get from anywhere! Baby #3 has always been up all night, which has meant sleep deprivation on top of sleep deprivation. People think they understand and nod along, but only some – the unlucky ones – truly understand the extent of it. The torture.
Mark the Therapist talked to me about self-care and soothing myself for the tricky time of the month. Sure, I love cuddling up to the doggos, but in reality ‘self-care’ was a glass of wine to take the edge off. I thought that it was helping me to relax, when in reality it was robbing me of my life, my creativity, my interests, my joy and my identity. Right in front of my eyes. It makes me so sad to think of myself like that – distracted, rushing the kids to bed, impatient and bristling…choosing the guilt of missing a bedtime story in return for a glass of my reward.
Full of self-doubt, I’d lost a lot of confidence. I questioned myself, I didn’t feel capable or worthy. If I had a drink, I’d feel better, but I couldn’t always stick to my own rules to moderate. The weekend would soon start on a Thursday or end on a Tuesday. Or there would be a ‘reason’ to enjoy a drink:
There’s a show on I like.
I’ve had a couple of days off!
I won’t drink on Thursday.
Oh f*ck it, I’ll start again next week!
All the thinking about when, for how long, when not, what that meant for later in the week. I would feel deprived and miserable…almost wishing my life away to get to ‘the weekend’ and be able to drink. To be able to ‘relax’. If I thought ‘maybe’, then that meant I would have one. And then it would unlikely be just one. Hoping that my husband would have one, so that I could use that as an excuse to join him. Enjoying the ‘rebellion’ against myself, full of glee as the glass chimed its way out of the cupboard. Convincing myself that I couldn’t be doing myself any real harm. Everyone drinks. Everyone drinks more than they’re supposed to.
Feeling accomplished the next morning when I hadn’t finished the bottle…feeling guilt and self-loathing when I realised I’d had more than one, and the ‘achievement’ was the second bottle itself. Feeling low level hungover most of the time and that being ‘normal’ – just how I felt every day…with varying degrees of headache and lethargy.
I thought alcohol helped me to sleep – nope, it just knocks you out. And sometimes makes you black out. Vegas!! A tremendous time was had, but that scared me. Being so vulnerable. At almost 40. With kids at home. Fun? At the time, yes, but totally irresponsible. And now…I’m sad that I missed out on some of it and I expect I’d have had just as much of a fun time – if not more so - without being awash with booze. What would the Matt Goss experience have been like sober??! His show was amazing and it was awesome to meet him, but it would have been infinitely better to have been able to remember the whole thing.
So Vegas was my last hurrah. I disgusted myself so much with the quantity I’d consumed and felt so physically shit on my return, that I stopped. That look of pure joy on Baby #3’s little face when I came home and she saw me out of the window! That’s all I needed. Until I had detoxed enough and started again, before long drinking just as much as before and justifying it to myself to make me feel better. Telling myself, “it’ll be alright when…” – fill in the gap:
I get past Christmas
I figure out what I want to do with my life*
*this was never going to happen without the clarity of being alcohol-free – of which I was blissfully/or not so blissfully ignorant
Baby #3 starts sleeping
I finish this project
I sort out this problem
I win the lottery (which I never put on)
Futile attempts to appease myself.
I knew that I wanted to take a break to see what happened. Not give it up forever, but take a proper break. I just didn’t know how. I planned to do Dry January, although figured it was largely going to be miserable, depriving myself and missing out. But just before Christmas I discovered the science about moderation. It blew my mind. I felt understood and relieved. Amazed but worried – not quite wanting to accept the truth because of what it might mean, but excited all at the same time. It made sense and I couldn’t ‘unknow’ it. My desire to drink disappeared. So I stopped. The first dry Christmas I can remember (apart from being pregnant). And it was wonderful! I could savour the kids instead of rushing them. I was fully present for the whole thing.
During my alcohol-free experiment in January, I worked through all my beliefs about drinking and was surprised to discover on examination that they were all disproved:
- I didn’t like the taste
- I didn’t like how it made me feel
- It didn’t help me to sleep
- It didn’t relax me – in fact quite the opposite
At the start of the month, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do. I hadn’t started this to stop drinking completely. I possibly knew deep down, but I had to process what it all meant…for my relationships, could I still enjoy myself, etc. And as the month wore on, the benefits came thick and fast. The learning and growth happened. Life carried on and emotional resilience built.
Life is of course still hard at times, but it is all doable and life just flows, easefully. One of the most beautiful things has been rediscovering all the things I’d lost along the way – my interests and myself. Rediscovering myself. Finding my identity. My purpose. Not wanting anyone else to erase themselves like I did. Not wanting anyone to unnecessarily miss out on their precious and fleeting family life. Wanting to wake everyone up to what’s possible in the present:
I know joy I never thought existed/was possible.
I’m clear, better able to focus. Sharper.
I don't miss out socially - I actually have more fun!
I don’t have to worry about hangovers, decisions about drinking/not drinking, missing things, not being able to work whenever I choose.
I’m in control.
I’m healthier than I’ve ever been before.
I lost some weight.
I (now) sleep better.
I’ve found/rediscovered so much and have the energy to grow.
I am calmer, much less anxious.
I feel truly liberated and capable of anything.
From the seemingly impossible, I just needed to know why and how. And that’s where I can help you if you are questioning the role alcohol plays in your life, and whether it is taking more from you than it’s giving.
I am just so thankful that I didn’t miss out on more of this life I was meant to have.
I hope that you see what is possible, so that you don’t unnecessarily waste any of your precious family life.
"Thank you for opening my mind and showing me what my life really could be! It’s an exciting chapter in my life!"
Sally T - Suffolk, UK
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