I'll readily admit that this is the first week that I've actively not been drinking. And I'll also admit that in writing this and launching it out into the net, I'm running the risk of being a massive hypocrite if I back out quickly - a label I have never wanted since the teenage days of watching everyone's Catholic parents come streaming out of Sunday mass where they'd been genuflecting in bent concord, desperate for the forgiveness that would ensure their place at His Right Hand, and straight into St Dominic's Irish Social Club where they'd immediately order a pint and slag off Bridie O'Flanaghan for being such a "fecking mare".
So this becomes an insurance policy for me. I do not want to fall back into the daily drinking trap. It has a lot to answer for. It definitely affects the way that I look after my children.
I'm not talking about the kind of drinking that we can all "tut-tut" at. The bench-dwelling-9.5%-tramp-cider that we know we will never be keeping ourselves warm with. What I mean is the large glass of wine that you think about all day. The one, then the two, then the 'oops, that's over half now', then the 'Jesus, that's nearly all gone' wine. The wine that drops your shoulders, swills your gills and fills you with calm, that makes the dishwasher unloading seem like an OK task and stops you from scoffing what's left of the cottage pie in the ceramic dish after the kids have been bullied into bed.
No one is going to call Social Services about you having that kind of a drinking habit. But it's not good. No, it's not good at all.
Within one week of conscious sobriety (and can I make it clear, I'm no health guru, am not of any religious affiliation and have no reason to say this other than to insure myself against relapse) I have noticed a very real, in fact alarmingly, soberingly real, shift in behaviour in this house.
As a single parent I feel that I deserve a glass of wine. I work, I make all the breakfasts, packed lunches, suppers, do all the washing, instigate and support the homework, bin changing, my own marking, toilet seat de-yellowing, shopping - you know the score. I love wine. Happiness. My goal. Socially acceptable disconnection waits at the end of each day. But the wait is the problem. I can feel myself ramping it up, like the Countdown Clock, the mad shepherd that I become, snapping at them and reading through David Walliams' books in the manner of an over-lusty auctioneer, and all because my friend awaits; red and alluring, telling me that I can hang out, but only when they're in bed.
A few years ago, my daughter's nursery teacher told me that she had said, "when Mummy kisses me goodnight, she always smells of wine" - shit, maybe I'm not even waiting most nights then? Must have been the weekends. We both laughed. But actually, it's not the best me. It's not what I want her growing up to remember about me.
I don't want to be putting out the recycling on Monday morning and feeling relieved that there's the odd Dolmio jar clanking away in the glass bit among the week's wine bottles.
I have spent so much money on this habit that has done so little for me. It's dried me out into the half-reptile that I am; daily basting with oily unctions necessary to abate total desiccation, it's provided the daily calorie equivalent of two deep-fried doughs for no nutritional gain, it's robbed me of £15-£20 a week (almost a grand a year - that's a damn fine holiday...) but worst of all, it's given me a fire, a fuel that acts against the very behaviours you need to have at the fore when you're the person caring for the children.
Think of all the top blogs, all the funniest women out there and how so much of the content is based upon getting the bloody kids to shut up and piss off so that we can get a drink in. Yes, we do need some fun. We definitely do - but in the same way that I detest the cartoon 'Horrid Henry' for showcasing really shitty behaviour to small kids who don't need that in their psyche, I think we need to just have a think about why the 'Piss Off Kids' blogs are so huge... we all love the comfort and guilt-lessening effect of a mirror - if she's doing it, then it's OK that I'm doing it... but, lovely fun people, one day they'll be gone. Then they won't need you to be awake for them, to be calmer and more forgiving. You can party damn hard then. You probably did choose to have these children after all.
This week I have seen:
a) Better skin already.
b) Less tiredness; I'm happy going to bed at 9:30pm, there's no wine to get through.
c) Smaller bill at Aldi.
d) 2lbs gone.
e) Kids are happier - I'm not joking. It could be a coincidence but, I was happy walking about with them at the local farm lambing evening, I was not rushing. I was happy and calm when my daughter couldn't sleep because I had no other agenda. I helped her settle instead of shrieking "YOU HAVE GOT TO SLEEP!" up the stairs as it was surely my wine time.
I've been happier in the morning. I feel like I'm at the start of something good, rather than commiserating myself about the end of things.
There's definitely been a noticeable change for good and my children have got a better parent. I want this, not just for them, I want this for me. For the best me that I can be - because I really like her a lot more than the fractious, snappy wine-hag of the past few years.
Bear with me though. I'll try to remain witty.