Sunday 22 September 2019

'I threw back the duvet... I was fully dressed in last night's clothes'

In a story many might relate to, a mother writes about the reasons she decided to stop drinking

Stock image
Stock image

I woke with a start - my four-year-old was shouting for me from her bedroom. I lifted my head off the pillow to check the time - 6.30am - and I thought 'Oh God, how am I going to get through today?'

I'd been out in a local pub the previous night, with N, who, like me, is a new-ish mother.

We'd agreed to meet for a couple of glasses of wine. We drank the first glass at a relaxed pace, and by the end of glass two, we wanted more. We agreed laughingly, that it made sense to order a bottle. Except I wasn't laughing now.

I had flashes of pain at different points all over my skull. My heart was beating quickly. I felt very nauseous. I was flushed and sweaty. My four-year-old was calling me. I threw back the duvet and saw I was fully dressed in last night's clothes. My heart began to beat faster. My husband said with a weary tone, 'stay there, I'll go to her'.

I lay back and tried to piece the night together. I remembered talking and laughing about motherhood with my friend, and convincing her to stay for another and another and… I can't remember getting home. It's a dark blur. Dark dread descends and my nauseous stomach lurches. I've done it again. A night that was supposed to be just a couple of drinks with a friend, instead turned out to be a binge-drinking session culminating in a blackout and resulting in this nasty hangover.

The day passes in a slow, painful way. I am extremely anxious and tired. My husband seems to be annoyed with me, and I don't have the energy or imagination to play with my daughter. I have a bad feeling that I was a stroppy drunk at home time.

The above scenario has happened to me in some shape or form more times than I care to admit - not every time I drank but it was a recurring theme. I always enjoyed having a few drinks, but after about three or four, I never knew when I'd had enough.

The next day was always a stressful and unhappy affair. I would feel huge regret that I drank so much. I would feel fearful of what I had said or done as a belligerent drunk person and whether I had upset or offended close friends or family (even if they assured me I hadn't done anything bad). The physical hangover symptoms compounded my misery. But I always conveniently forgot this as I got ready for my next night out.

By April of this year, I had had enough. The thoughts of quitting had been circling in my mind for years. However, I believed I would have a very boring life without alcohol - I felt it added an extra level of fun to a night out. However, I clearly had a problem with it in my life, as I was losing my memory and blacking out every couple of months.

I decided the day after the previously described fear-ridden hangover, that it was time to put on the big girl pants. I was 42 and, as an adult, had never gone longer than a month without alcohol as a way to deal with stress or to celebrate at the end of the week.

I read Kick the Drink… Easily, by Jason Vale. By the end of the book, I was convinced that I didn't need alcohol, and its so-called benefits were all a big lie. I thought about all the times past when I'd had an enjoyable social experience, and thought about what were the common denominators.

Yes, alcohol was always present, but so were good friends, family, and music. The many concerts, festivals, dinners, holidays, sports events, parties and road trips were all amazing because I was with people I loved, and doing things I found exciting. The alcohol didn't create the love and excitement - the people and the experiences did.

I now think about all the days I wasted hungover, and feeling fragile. I now feel free and healthy in contrast. I no longer have the stress and anxiety over what I did or didn't do when drunk. I definitely felt a bit awkward at social outings at the start, but now, I've relaxed about it and realise that I don't need a couple of drinks to have good conversations and fun. In fact, I have much more fun now as the night does not descend into a blurry mess. Waking up feeling fresh and with a clear conscience is worth its weight in gold. I am more productive in work, and definitely less guilt ridden as a parent.

I don't judge my friends who drink. I still go out with them a lot to gigs and pubs - I just leave when I feel like it.

The quality of life that I have gained as a result of not drinking is immeasurable to me. The key is realising that you are not depriving yourself - you are doing yourself a favour.

This contributor first appeared on Newstalk's The Hard Shoulder with Ivan Yates

Sunday Independent

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