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Guest Blog by Laura O'Shaughnessy

The Overthinker Drinker

Laura is a mum to four and wife to one. She says, 'I spent many years believing that alcohol elevated my vivacious persona to its most fabulous heights, only to realise it was just making me frazzled and flat. I’ve ditched the booze and the veil has lifted. It turns out I’m perfectly acceptable just as I am, only brighter, calmer and way more comfortable in my own skin.'

Here is her story -

I’m ok, you’re ok

I have spent 18 months apologizing for not drinking, or even funnier, pretending to drink. This short article is my ‘coming out’ piece. My ode to all those who choose not to drink.

If my words resonate, maybe you’ll consider a new chapter. A productive and peaceful post-booze world. If it doesn’t align, that’s ok. Some people have their glass beautifully balanced. I see the relatable romance of country walks, with a fireside pint in the pub. Or a celebratory chink in a swanky bar. I raise my glass and say ‘cheers’ to you.

The critic

I stopped drinking to give my noggin a rest. Not to ease my liver, or improve my skin nor to lose weight or gain sleep. I have simply had enough of the voice in my head. It’s been winding me up for donkeys’ years.

I have always had a noisy inner critic, a shouty little jobsworth, critiquing me on my actions, thoughts and words. It’s an uninvited guest, who took up residence in my mind many moons ago. It smugly sits, making a sport out of my every move. De-railing me with pre-match nerves and mocking me for unforced errors.

Over the past 30 years, my inner critic has not so kindly counted over 1.6 million wine calories. It’s panicked me about 250 upcoming drinking events. It’s surrendered me into over 2000 ‘fresh start Mondays’ and it’s been appalled about my words and actions too many times to count.

The party

To be fair, my inner critic had front-row seats to quite a show back in the day. The debacles of my youth were probably an entertaining spectacle. I partied like it was 1999. When it was, and when it wasn’t.

I have slept on grassy banks at German beer festivals. Danced with stag do’s till dawn in Barcelona. I have flown from Chicago to Vegas for a 48-hour Elvis wedding (dressed like Elvis). I have woken amongst sunflowers in South Carolina and snoozed in many nightclubs and bars. I’ve had a blast. I adored the accidentally drunk days and the delicious Spanish sundowners. And finest of all were the ‘world to rights’ wine nights with my best friends for life.

The evolution

But that was then and this is now. For various reasons, not all known to me, I am ok without hedonism. It could well be age and exhaustion, but I’d like to think there’s some sort of wisdom in between.

With a little effort and a lot of luck, I have stumbled upon the simple joy of my life. I am authentically ok with what I’ve got. I don’t need to ‘take the edge off’ or get tipsy to talk. I don’t even need my share of the chit-chat or have a need to be right.

I suppose it would be fitting if I could hold a glass of wine still. After all, the forty-something me can write, run workshops, laugh and do yoga. The grown-up me can make tahini dressing, whip up pancakes and host multiple playdates. It would be fitting to add a little Friday tipple and a ‘toast to the weekend’ on top.

But the reality is, ‘the computer says no’. Irrespective of one glass or a gallon, that god damn inner critic is like early man. Still primitively hunting and bashing anything on the head, in fear of survival or rejection from the tribe.

Over the last few years, my drinking’s reduced and my inner critic’s power has waned. Yet its desperate clamber for control makes its moans more obnoxious. Irrespective of units of wine or the type of event, my critic has analyzed it all to disproportionate measures.

Not only that but my body’s following suit. I crash mid-afternoon from a civilized glass with lunch. I wake dehydrated and depressed after two glasses of cava. So, with all equations considered, I’ve hung up my drinking boots.

The cheerleader

Not only am I no longer berated over one glass or bubbles, or waking up blue from a small beer with supper. I have also welcomed on board a sparky addition to my crew.

My inner cheerleader applauds me, irrespective of the day of the week, the season, the weather. She’s a little ray of sunshine who wakes me with a smile every day. She encourages me to push my boundaries, make creative plans and reach out to people I haven’t connected with for a while.

This lovely inner coach has waited quietly for this moment to shine. She’s my marvelous little fan and a welcome member of the inner tribe.

With my cheerleader in tow:

I show up. I feel more capable of saying yes these days. The consequence of any event is only ever tiredness. I used to have to perform an interesting equation in my head around the event, the emotional investment, the flatness the next day, or the toll on my week. I simply turn up these days. Or I don’t.

I parent. I am not a perfect parent. I lost an argument with an eight-year-old about who loves our dog the most this week. My parting line was ‘Well he’s MY dog’. Despite that, I am thoroughly more connected. I rush less. I spot the big things brewing before they explode. I listen more intently and feel less angst over the basics.

I’m here. I don’t have a better or worse life now. I just don’t need to hang on till ‘wine o’clock’ or live for Fridays. I feel fairly nonplussed about the whole lot. It’s easier to get a grip on life when you are not using a crutch to take you away from it, then trying to re-land in the same spot (to sort out the things you postponed till tomorrow).

The journey

I am sure some pals think I have lost the plot. That it’s time to dust myself down and shake out the razzmatazz. It challenges the unwritten contracts we made. We worked hard, we played hard and our boundaries were vast.

I can understand that. I know the pang of paranoia when other people pave a new path. I’ve experienced the uncomfortable wave of momentary unsteadiness. It’ll pass. I’m a solid friend and the loyalty and laughter will outlast.

So, I carry on navigating my own journey, enjoying the ride. I feel alert and excited, with a magical clarity and ease that I didn’t even know I was missing.

The toast

We’re all so uniquely different. Our thresholds, our ups and downs, the pace of our world and the swing of our pendulum. It’s one of those special things that make us human. So, wherever you stand and whatever your choice, here’s to us all. The drinkers, the non-drinkers and the in-between sometimes drinkers. Bottoms up, down the hatch, salute, santé and goodnight.

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