My journey to quit drinking began in February 2021. What started as a commitment to ‘reduce’ put me on a path of quitting all-together, and I never looked back.
Before the quitting journey started, I obviously had my own journey of “falling in love” with booze.
As a young adult, I drank alcohol quite moderately (for Australian standards, at least). I was very much a weekend/social drinker only. I hardly ever kept alcohol at home unless I had visitors.
What I definitely remember was how much I enjoyed that sweet spot where I was just tipsy enough to feel relaxed, quirky and confident - before it was ‘too much’ and I lost control.
I loved post-work drinks on a Friday afternoon with my colleagues, a nice bottle of wine with a special dinner on Saturday and a nostalgic Sunday afternoon ‘last hurrah’ drinks before it was Monday again.
Alcohol meant fun times - what’s not to love?
My drinking life was pretty much like that until I got pregnant at 34 and alcohol became unpleasantly nauseating stuff and I just could not stand the stuff. In fact, even before I took a pregnancy test, I remember sipping a glass of bubbles and feeling like vomiting!
I had my baby and did two years of breastfeeding. Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, I had a three-year break from alcohol.
Fast forward to my late thirties and alcohol made a comeback into my life!
My brain still remembered how I enjoyed that tipsy feeling, but the dynamics changed.
I turned into your stereotypical busy mum! Between my daughter, two stepkids, house chores and paid work, I was always exhausted and alcohol became my self-medication.
Around 5 pm was my ‘wine o’clock’. It was that time of the day that I stopped whatever I was doing and opened a bottle of wine. Between chopping vegetables and telling the kids to do their homework and practice their musical instrument, I would sip my first glass of the night. My partner and I would go on to finish up that bottle as we had dinner.
Alcohol made me relax instantly. It took the edge off.
In 2020, with the pandemic, and kids often at home full time, my self-medication with alcohol became even more intense.
But the negative side effects were also there.
Alcohol made me feel sleepy and made me fall asleep quickly and deeply, but never for long enough. It was quite common for me to wake up two-three hours into my sleep, feeling thirsty, with a burning stomach and a light head. As tired I was, it was always a struggle to get back to sleep.
Needless to say, I woke up feeling awful pretty much every day.
My sleeping patterns got extremely messed up and I was clearly on a downward spiral journey. It was a vicious cycle of ‘not sleeping well + not enough sleep’ leading to ‘more exhaustion’ leading to ‘needing more wine to relax’.
I knew something was wrong. I tried to ignore it. I told myself that one bottle of wine shared with my partner every night was not ‘that bad’. I certainly knew (and still do know) people who drank more than that.
The thing is whatever my drinking quantities were, alcohol was undeniably having a negative impact on my mental and physical health.
My big wake-up call came in January 2021.
We were on our annual beach holiday. I was taking a break from work. I was drinking more than usual and sleeping very little.
When the holiday finished, I came back home, exhausted and sleep-deprived. I simply didn’t like what I was doing to myself.
That’s when I knew I needed to do something about it. I was very lucky that my partner (in love and in drinking) embraced the journey and went along with that.
Initially, our goal was to return to my weekend-only drinking.
Looking back, I was just too scared of the Q-word.
Quitting seemed like a huge commitment and I probably was too scared of aiming so high and failing.
I also knew that ‘wine o’clock’ was a big deal and I needed to wean my brain off!
I spent a small fortune on non-alcoholic drinks, including several bottles of alcohol-free wine. I hated them all!
I eventually found myself enjoying non-alcoholic Gin & Tonic and non-alcoholic Negroni (made from a mixture of non-alcoholic vermouth and Campari). While it was still hard work to resist the urge to have my beloved wine, those drinks helped me to ‘trick’ my brain a little.
The positive effect on my sleep was instant.
The very first night I did not have any alcohol, I had a long uninterrupted sleep. I actually had some energy when I woke up! It was bliss and I was hooked! I wanted my life to be like that and, most importantly, I knew I could do it.
As my initial goal was to return to weekend-only, I initially did my Monday to Thursday alcohol-free nights, and was back drinking on Friday until Sunday.
With weekend drinking, my body and my awful sleeping patterns also went back to my drinking days. From there, it didn’t take long for me to just ask myself ‘why drink and ruin your weekend’?
From there, my partner and I just easily decided we no longer needed or wanted alcohol.
Two and a half years on, I am still that busy mum working for a rural mortgage broker business as marketing manager, but there’s no doubt that my health has improved and I have a lot more energy to cope with it all after quitting.
I can’t help but feel a little proud that I’m showing my kids that not drinking is okay and is possible. I’m not trying to imply they will be non-drinkers. In Australia, it’s hard not to be one at some point in your life, but I think it’s nice for them to see that the possibility is there.
My brain has fully adapted to sobriety and no longer ‘demands’ alcohol. I do still feel a little awkward when, during social gatherings, I say no to a drink. That story that alcohol is the only drug you need to justify not using is very true!
There’s no doubt that sobriety has been the best decision I made for my health and for my family.
A huge shout out to Silvia for telling us her story x