On 8 March 2021 I decided to go alcohol free for a year.
I’m just over 3 months in, and I want to share with you the story of why I’m doing this and what I’ve noticed so far.
I wouldn’t call myself a heavy drinker… but I have been a consistent drinker, and 2020 saw me drinking more consistently than I have ever before.
And from what I saw leaving Dan Murphy’s I don’t think I was the only one! (Here in Victoria we called it “the Dandemic” for a reason ;) )
For me, the beginning of this commitment to not drink started in the first lockdown we had in 2020. One of my highest values is growth and 2020 was a strange year for this to be outworked.
Many things changed in life due to the lockdown that for us lasted many months. The flexibility and growth that was required from this wasn’t always easy, and although I thrive with variety I found that in 2020 one thing I did cultivate in my life was a practice of stillness.
Stillness – like, literally learning to sit still for a length of time – doing nothing… WHAAAAT!??
During one of these stillness sessions I became aware of how uncomfortable I was in my body. I was heavier than I wanted to be, my cycle was becoming harder to deal with and I wasn’t sleeping well due to being too hot at night…. Only being 39, I felt I was too young for that rubbish yet!
So, I booked an appointment with a nutritionist and got to see him between lockdowns.
He did a live blood analysis, which I figured would be a good indicator of what was happening in my body.
My first visit revealed sparkles in my blood… I thought it was a sign that I was in fact magical! But apparently not. The sparkles were showing inflammation in my system… BORING!
But as a result I started a 3 week cleanse – eating really good selection of whole foods, not much meat, and hardly any dairy – it was yum, got some great recipes.
It helped, but not totally. Then, over the next few months and a few more blood tests, his biggest recommendation was to go gluten-free as the sparkles in my blood were more likely gluten particles because of a leaky gut.
Now, there are basically two ways to go gluten free.
You can swap everything for gluten-free equivalents of the same foods (like gluten free bread etc) but this often means consuming more processed food.
Or, the alternative is to go “nerdy gluten free” by avoiding the processed foods wherever possible and eating more whole foods, carrot sticks and hummus. This was the path I chose.
While eating like this I felt I had more energy, my cycle became more manageable and I felt better.
However, I had not had any weight loss and I still wanted to work on that, so I googled hypnotherapy and made an appointment at a place I liked nearby.
The hypnotherapist asked me a million questions. Some I expected, and many were a bit strange and really made me think. It also made me wonder who I had booked with as she seemed like she knew more than just hypnotherapy… and it turned out she’s also a clinical councillor.
It was a great experience. She asked me about overwhelm and anxiety and held space for me in a way I wasn’t expecting.
She even asked me if I was feeling anxious… I kind of looked at her and thought “Um – do you not know me?” Yes, I have had anxiety in the past and post-natal depression so I knew what she was speaking about – but I’m usually pretty bubbly and resilient so I shrugged it off.
As we finished the session one of her pieces of advice was that any time I felt overwhelmed or anxious or worried over the next few weeks, that I should simply exhale…
Just breathing! No mention of food or eating or weight loss.
So, I started exhaling.
And exhaling and exhaling and more exhaling… until I reminded myself of a deflating balloon.
I could not believe how many things I discovered made me feel anxious or overwhelmed.
At least 20 things a day!
Going to the supermarket, how much money is left in the shopping account?
What do we need? Whose sports activity do we need to be prepared for this afternoon? Are my kids eating to much sugar? Am I creating safe and healthy boundaries for them and being consistent? When did I last clean my toilet? Why won’t those jeans fit? Will I ever be able to run faster than I do now? Who do I think I am dishing out all this advice to people day in day out?
I recognised that I had been thinking this way for at least 5 years and had just assumed it was normal. I was completely unaware that this constant anxiety was operating.
I returned to my hypnotherapist a little stunned… WOW. Ok – so yeah – maybe I had been anxious for a while…..
After a couple more sessions I started to laugh more.
My kids even put a 1.5kg tin of milo in the trolley one day and it got checked out before I saw it. Their faces were shocked as they paused to see my reaction… I told them they were cheeky buggers and laughed – and they ate lots of Milo that week…
This sort of thing would normally be a trigger for me to feel uptight and annoyed, but instead I found I experienced ease and joy in my mind and heart.
So somethings were working out well, but it still didn’t help me with everything that I originally wanted to work through.
So I decided to start using Isogenix as well. It’s one of those eating systems where you replace 2 meals a day with their shakes. I found that sort of system super easy for me and heaps of people I had seen had lost heaps of weight doing it – and it also happens to be gluten free!
And I continued to see the hypno. 5 months later we finally got discussing food!
By then we had distilled and distilled and distilled down to now what was triggering me and what I could let go of. I also started seeing a Naturopath to really help my nervous system (one of the perks of my job is I have great contacts!)
So much work, seeing several different people, and I could feel my internal world shifting and changing and becoming stronger and more grounded.
Then came Christmas.
I have always loved the celebration of Christmas. People who know me would say I am a Christmas nut!
However, actual Christmas day is really challenging for me. We have family challenges on both sides for lots of different reasons. I won’t share the details but what I will share is how I became aware that I would often drink more heavily on Christmas day to numb the feelings that arise for me.
I would basically drink to numb it out the pain and ultimately to avoid the pain and grief that Christmas will probably never be ‘normal’ again.
The drinking still wasn’t excessive. Maybe some lovely wines, cocktails and or bubbles. From the outside in you would never know.
But this year I wanted it to be different, and I didn’t want to have to numb like that.
With this realisation I called for a very small Christmas gathering at our place. Just me and James with the kids. My Grandpa kind of invited himself and then my mum also came which was great.
We did have some wine but I did not drink to numb. I had to drive Grandpa home which was a good reason not to be excessive anyway.
It turned out that a quiet Christmas was just a little boring – but it was nice to create some new traditions and quality time with our family.
And I survived.
More hypno through January. And at work we were very busy just then as we overhauled our flagship training program. One day in Jan had hair and makeup done and filmed about 35 vids in a day! I really did want a break, but sometimes in small business you have do just get things done.
February was another hypno session, this time dealing with more Christmas fall out stuff… and this time I was able to move through it.
At the start of March my son turned 13. I’ve been a parent for 13 years. WOW!
It was right about then, during one of my stillness journaling sessions, that I did what’s called a “pivot to composure”.
This process included me using some guided questions to help get me clear on what was drinking costing me. What were the subconscious benefits of drinking? And what was the other side the coin, what was this costing me?
Well, it was costing me some of my health goals, including the ability to run at times as my legs were too heavy to run and I was too tired to get up.
It was costing me my sleep as I was still hot at nights
It was costing me actual money as I bought 1-2 bottles of wine a week (often shared – but not always).
And it was costing me my mental health as I was still going up and down.
I knew of two beautiful men in my life who had previously made decisions to stop drinking for a year, plus a bunch of friends who had done Dry July and Feb Fast etc… and I also knew that my 40th was approaching later in the year…
So I thought: Screw it. I’m going to do this!
No drinking for a year.
I got an app that encouraged me to pledge – and now I get notifications twice a day reminding me to pledge again.
My pledge is:
Today I will stay sober. Why I am doing this: I want a clear mind, a healthy body, consistent mental health, greater adaptability in myself, to show up and to not numb.
I also decided that I would drink for the 3 days across my 40th Birthday weekend and extend my fast by 3 days at the end.
First challenge was the airport lounge on a trip to Adelaide. Slightly boring but ok.
Next challenge, client retreat. This was also fine – Missed it a bit at the end of retreat as we would usually celebrate with a cocktail or 2 – but it was easier than I thought.
Birthday weekend – I was a little concerned about how I might start then stop – but that was also easier.
At the time of writing this I’m now at Day 100 (Adjusted for the birthday weekend).
Things I have noticed as a result of this….
There is an awkward moment when you tell people because they try it on for themselves and often don’t like the idea (HAHAH who would have known?!!)
Funny thing is for me – this is actually about me and my challenge not inspiring others to do it.
I am sleeping better and am less hot at night.
My cycle is regular and not as uncomfortable.
I have set a goal of running the Melbourne Half Marathon.
My mental health was initially up and down. I had some great days and some hard days where I felt very low and I couldn’t pick why and what was happening.
Overall, what I have found is not drinking, is actually boring.
I miss the feeling of ordering a cocktail, especially after a big event – like a retreat. I miss a nice glass of red on a Friday night. I’m about to go on holidays for a week and I already miss not being able to enjoy ordering a cocktail or 3….
I have not lost any weight at all since not drinking.
I’ve wanted to give up more in the last few weeks then at the start. If it was just up to me, I would have. If only James knew, I’d probably have dropped it, if only my family friends and client knew – I could easily say – it was just for a quarter and its done now
There are 2 reasons I have continued on this journey – one is because I said I would do it.
When I commit to something I see it though even if I’ve not gotten the outcomes I was looking for – yet…
The other big reason I am sticking to doing what I said is because my kids are watching.
They have seen me tipsy. They know mum usually orders a cocktail on a holiday and often a wine when we are out for a meal, they have commented about my drinking over lockdown.
In a few short years, they will probably start drinking. I want them to know that they don’t have to drink in social settings and that when mum says she will do something… that she means it and will see it through.
There are 3 more things I want to be able to do sober – a holiday, a long period of time and Christmas.
Even as I write this I feel like there is more to learn, more to discover on this journey. I thought that it would be easy once I had it out of my system, I thought I’d lose weight easier and I thought that my changes would be linear and make it all worth it. Sometimes, change doesn’t happen in an instant – sometimes our growth comes in steps. Sometimes even in the boring.
I am glad I did this. I am glad it’s only a year and that the 11th March 2022 is coming :D