When people find out I don’t drink there are always the usual questions: Why did you stop drinking? Don’t you miss it? How can you NOT drink? Did you have a drinking problem? Oh you must be on antibiotics! And so it goes…
Usually in my experience, those who are the most interested are actually asking for themselves. They want to know “do I drink too much, do I have a drink problem?”
I got sober on the 13 January 2014, when I was living in Hong Kong, through a 12-step programme. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and remaining sober is a daily reprieve. I am a very grateful recovering alcoholic. Through my programme of recovery and the regular group meetings I attend, I have met the most wonderful people. Some of the kindest, most honest, clever, successful, attractive and funny humans on this planet. We all share the same condition, and together we can help each other stay sober. I have formed deep, meaningful connections with these people and truly honest friendships.
I think I started drinking to cope with my crippling anxiety and to give me confidence. But I wasn’t always a problem drinker. Anyone who knows me of old will know me as the party girl – always the first to suggest a night out, and always the last to leave a party. I loved to drink and have fun. But over the years it became less fun and more of a necessity to deal with life. In the last two years of my drinking, my life spiralled and my drinking increased to unhealthy and dangerous levels. I always told myself I could stop but I never could. Eventually I faced up to the fact I didn’t drink like ‘normal’ people and I needed help. I couldn’t do it alone. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
So how do you know if you have a problem? I am not a doctor and nor do I claim to be an expert. Claire Pooley, from The Sober Diaries sums it up for me ‘ The problem comes when alcohol turns from lubrication to self-medication‘. If you’re using that glass of wine (or three) each night to cope with life or binge drinking – or when you try to stop or cut back but always return to your old familiar pattern of drinking then I think alarm bells should ring. Or if you behaviour changes when you drink – and not for the good or if you couldn’t possible imagine going out socially and not drinking. People often think an alcoholic is someone who starts the day with a stiff gin or whose life is in the gutter. Sometimes that’s true but often not. I was a functioning alcoholic like many others out there.
Don’t get me wrong life without alcohol is not always easy. You have nothing to take the edge of a shit day, and sometimes you’d love to say f*** it and let your hair down and get drunk and forget everything – especially as alcohol is everywhere – on TV, sultry ads, Facebook, Instagram – the glamorous shot of a chilled rosé, greetings cards – you name it. And I sometimes feel very boring and left out when I want to go home at 10pm while everyone is still on it. But that said I can honestly say although I live a very different life today it’s a better one. One where I am present for my children, my family and friends. I look forward to waking up and starting my day. I have to deal with life on life’s terms, with no anaesthetic, but I have clarity now – I feel real emotions, not heightened or worsened by alcohol. I can deal with any problems I face, rather than bury them in alcohol, only to wake up the next day to find them still there and nursing a hangover on top of it. Even better I always remember the night before – no cringing at what I might have said or done!
I am so grateful for the help I had from others and feel passionately about now helping other achieve sobriety. Especially women. So I’m thrilled to be training as a sober coach here in London and taking my studies further at the Betty Ford clinic in Minnesota.