It's taken me a while to crawl out of my drinks cabinet and tell the world I no longer partake in a tipple. None of my friends know how deeply ingrained alcohol was into my life. I've benefited from moving a lot in my life, leaving shame and regret at my last port of call, be that a different street, town or continent.
I moved to Australia in 2010 and was pregnant in 2011. I was able to start afresh, slow down a bit. Get to know me again, me without alcohol for 9 perfect months. I tried to be a better me. But having that baby and going out on well needed mothers group nights out, landed me in a whole new barrel of problems.
My drinking became a (noticeable) thing, a tool that disabled the good parent I was supposed to be. Before brats there were no consequences to my outrageous behaviour. That kidless freedom enabled me to carry on drinking and run away from normality. Only when that baby popped out, demanding my attention, was I aware that some changes may have to made and that perhaps I wouldn't be able to dance on a speaker until 4am after slamming 8 Sabucas and that keeping a small human alive for 24 hours a day was impossible hungover. I tried drinking and parenting for far too long, it's not a good look. Weekends became entrenched with excuses and paracetamol. 'Mummy isn't well' my husband whispered to my eager son as they left the house to play at the beach. Drunk Mum wasn't pretty.
I moved to Queensland 5 years ago. New friends and no links to my past helped me maintain the image of a 'together' person. I gave the the impression I was whole. My drinking had slowed a little by then but my addictive tendencies penetrated motherhood during difficult periods - I slipped, got wasted and hated myself afterwards. No-one knew I was struggling, no one saw me the day after feeling like a bucket of death, crying in my bed. No one knew I felt guilty and full of regret. In the end my drinking got in the way of my being there. Being part of my own life.
That's when I got help - got therapy and well, quit. sounds easy - it wasn't - still isn't.
I was pleased that I'd finally taken responsibility for my behaviour. You'd have thought I'd be shouting it from the roof of the Aldi carpark, but it's wasn't as simple as that.
I hid my truth in fear of upsetting people I love or coming across as a martyr, or worse, failing.
Quitting drinking is a long process, you're never sure where the end is, you try to stop, you stop, you start, you regret and you fail. So telling people can be jumping the gun. It's like betting your going to win a running race, only to find the race is double the distance you imagined and you have a cannon ball attached to your leg dragging you backwards, I mean, your heart is telling you you can win, you can do it but everything is working in the opposite direction. You say you've quit and then start again, then the relapse, it's a drawn out process, it can be depressing and it can end badly. So, I avoided telling anyone for ages. I didn't want to let anyone down. I didn't want to lie and say that I had given up drinking forever only to be guzzling Prosecco at the next hen night I went to.
Only now, two years alcohol free, have I decided to start telling close friends that I no longer drink. I've been so scared of how they'll react. Scared of people thinking I'm boring or weird. (I am both of these things at different times of the day) So, I held off, embarrassed not to be that drunk funny girl they were expecting. I'd been replaced with the true me - would they like it?
I was worried that friends reactions might lead me to start drinking again. Surly drinking was better than being rejected?
but I discovered the most wonderful thing....
Nobody gives a shit if I drink or not!
It's incredible I know!
I approached the topic timidly at first, by telling friends I'd cut down or that I was working in the morning, making excuses as to why I wasn't shovelling shots down my gullet faster then student during freshers week. People asked the obvious questions 'are you pregnant again?' Are you on antibiotics? but I got bored of lying and decided to embrace my sobriety.
Now I tell people with confidence "I've quit drinking"
"Oh, why?" - "whats wrong with you?"
"it was affecting my life in a negative way"
That one sentence is enough.
I expect moans and groans of how dull I am and what a party pooper I've become but, to my utter astonishment reactions are always positive.
They say 'well done!' 'thats amazing!' 'How did you do it?'
There are no digs, no eye rolls or declarations of boringness.
Just kind pats on the back.
People are then intrigued. How? Why? When? Whats it like?
So you can go to a party and not drink at all and still enjoy it?
"Yes! I say - I can" "in fact the party is better!"
Firstly, I can remember the whole damn thing and secondly, I have real connections, real conversations without the barrier that alcohol provided me with - it's free flow baby and it feels fab.
'It's better - you should try it ' - I say in the most un-smug way I can.
I wasted a lot of time worrying what people would think of me. It was silly because I knew I was doing the right thing for my body and for my family. I discovered no one really cares about me and what I do in my private life - just because I don't drink at Sharon's 40th, or Grandads wake, doesn't make me a shit person. It makes me a responsible one (first time ever). Those that care about me don't judge me and those that are offended by my abstention are so because they too are questioning their alcohol intake. My sobriety is too confronting for them and thats ok.
I'm still a little shy about my non drinking ways - I keep my blog anonymous and only mention my sobriety if someone asks. Which isn't often. But I do want to be loud without coming across as superior, it's a fine line.
Knowing when to be open about this topic is hard. I'm working on it. I can feel when the time is right or when I fell that someone is reaching out for help.
I had a good chat with a guy at a party on Friday. He offered me a drink and I said no. He asked if I was the designated driver, I said no. Then I was brave and said 'I don't drink' He told me he wanted to cut down and I told him some great books to read. perhaps my being more vocal about it could help people. it's a good reason to share.
I was proud when I told him about myself, it felt great. Instead of telling crazy stories of drunkenness and vomit I told this man about how my life had changed since I quit the bottle, he was interested and we parted with promises to keep in touch. It was a very positive exchange that didn't involve me making a prick out of myself. Awesome.
We, as a society, need to make it easier for people to be proud. Maybe more complicated humans would give up if collectively we were totally accepting of non - drinkers. There is nothing wrong stopping. My only wish is I could have found out earlier that there was this other way, this sober way. I could have avoided many disastrous injuries, dodgy men, arguments, morning after pills and rashes.
Sticking to this code of being a better person isn't easy, but the small accolades help, pats on the back from caring hands fill my heart and genuine hearts fill my glass - with fizzy water and if I'm super lucky - a sprig of mint and a squeeze of lime. Virgin Mojitos at sunset have given way to Sunday Mornings with no regret. The chaos has lifted now and being sober brings so many other opportunities into my life, more experiences and real connections.
This smarter way of socialising and being this spandangly sober me means, unfortunately, you won't meet me on the edge of a filthy dance floor , or with my head in a toilet or in the queue at a kebab shop at 3am and thats ok....instead you'll find my curled up in front of a movie with my kids slouched against me, my pride will be intact and Lindt ball wrappers will lay scattered around us like the drunken ghosts of my past!
I'm going to shout about sobriety - I want to let people know that it's ok.
We are doing the right thing.
For me, being sober is safe living. Feeling safe, feeling well and feeling happy is everything drinking is not and I want to stay this way.
Hope your having a happy Sunday x
Pic - Instead of lying in bed crying into a bucket of sick I did face painting with my daughter. Much more fulfilling.