Wine o’clock: Could you stop? A di­ary of go­ing sober

This Oc­to­ber, Macmil­lan Can­cer Sup­port are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to be a #sober­hero and give up booze for the month, but is it as easy as it sounds? Flic Everett, 47, who lives with her part­ner, Andy, in Scot­land, quit al­co­hol in Jan­uary this year and this d

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I’ve al­ways liked the way a few drinks made me feel – sparkling, chatty and happy. I’ve never had a prob­lem with al­co­hol but, when I hit my 40s, I started to feel the con­se­quences of cosy nights in with a bot­tle of wine.

I’d wake up with a headache that felt like some­one was drilling through my skull. My skin looked dull and, em­bar­rass­ingly, after a few drinks, my face would flush. It struck me I’d been drink­ing for around 30 years, and that ter­ri­fied me. So I de­cided to give up the booze…

1 JAN­UARY

For my first week off al­co­hol, I’ve filled my fridge with el­der­flower spritzer and stock­piled herbal tea. I’ve also dipped into a few on­line fo­rums to see how other peo­ple have man­aged with­out al­co­hol, but they all seem to be rag­ing alcoholics on the verge of a break­down, so I don’t re­ally iden­tify. I de­cide I’ll just get on with it alone – how hard can it be?

12 JAN­UARY

I haven’t been out all week, and I’m amazed at how easy I’ve found it not to drink. Ad­mit­tedly, most of my friends are hi­ber­nat­ing, too, but it’s as if I’ve re-set my brain and just switched off the booze but­ton. I have a slight yearn­ing when my boyfriend cracks open a bot­tle of red, but, re­mem­ber­ing my flushed face and poi­sonous headaches, it quickly fades.

19 FE­BRU­ARY

I’ve just taken on a big new project at work and I’m ex­hausted. In the past, I’d have necked a G&T to re­lax but now, I have to find some­thing else to help me chill out.

I gen­er­ally have a bath just be­fore bed, so I start to have one straight after work, in­stead. It seems the rit­ual of re­lax­ing is what’s im­por­tant, not the drink it­self.

2 MARCH

Tonight was the first night out with a close friend and her part­ner since I stopped

drink­ing. I try to keep it ca­sual and not make a fuss, but they’re full of ques­tions: ‘Have you stopped for ever?’ ‘ Was it be­com­ing a prob­lem?’

‘ You’ll never man­age it,’ my friend jokes. ‘ You love drink­ing!’ I’m slightly of­fended, but I can see why she thinks that – I’ve never made a se­cret of my pas­sion for Prosecco. I tell them I just want to see how it goes, and am re­lieved I don’t feel the urge to join in – I’m happy with my mint tea.

23 MARCH

I fi­nally feel like I’ve bro­ken the habit of drink­ing now – it’s not the thing I think of when I open the fridge on a Fri­day night. But I’m sick of

fizzy drinks. A bit of re­search un­cov­ers the al­co­hol-free spirit Seedlip, which is ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive, but tastes enough like gin to be worth it. I also in­vest in some al­co­hol-free wine to in­dulge in when Andy’s hav­ing a drink.

10 APRIL

I’ve be­gun to no­tice how much I used al­co­hol to soothe anx­i­ety. I’m find­ing life slightly more stress­ful, be­cause I don’t have an in­stant crutch. Thank­fully, now it’s spring, I can take our dog Ell­roy for a walk.

We live in the coun­try and trot­ting along with a bouncy Cocker Spaniel is a per­fect way to un­wind.

27 APRIL

It’s Andy’s birth­day, so we go out for din­ner. For once, I can be the driver, so he gets to en­joy a bot­tle of wine. I do feel a bit en­vi­ous – cel­e­bra­tions are so heav­ily as­so­ci­ated with clink­ing glasses, and nor­mally I’d have a glass of Cham­pagne. It’s the first time I’ve been tempted by a tip­ple, so I’m glad I have to drive us the 20 miles home.

4 JUNE

Out for drinks with old friends. Now ev­ery­one is used to the idea of me not drink­ing, they’re re­ally en­cour­ag­ing. But they’ve al­most gone the other way and al­ways ask ner­vously if it’s OK if they drink. But I hon­estly don’t mind. I don’t need to be tipsy to en­joy be­ing with the peo­ple I love – they’re en­ter­tain­ing whether I’m drunk or sober.

5 JULY

I’ve been in­vited to the launch of a new restau­rant. There’ll be lots of old col­leagues there and ac­quain­tances I haven’t seen for years. I think about go­ing, but with­out Dutch courage, I’m afraid I’ll strug­gle. In the end, I stay home and watch Nash­ville with a curry, which makes me far hap­pier than sip­ping wa­ter in a room full of free booze.

18 JULY

The re­cent heat­wave has meant Face­book is full of pic­tures of friends in their gar­dens with a cold bot­tle of rosé. I miss those evenings where ev­ery­thing gets a bit hazy and you can’t stop laugh­ing. Then again, my skin has cleared up, I’ve lost a few pounds, and I love never hav­ing a hang­over.

2 AU­GUST

Ac­cord­ing to Andy, I’ve be­come ‘a bit judgy’ about his drink­ing. I never used to no­tice, but now I find my­self mon­i­tor­ing his wine in­take, mur­mur­ing, ‘Do you re­ally need to fin­ish that bot­tle?’ I have to re­mind my­self that while it’s my choice to stop drink­ing, it’s his choice to con­tinue, and I vow to stop be­ing self-righ­teous.

26 AU­GUST

It’s my birth­day, so we go out for din­ner with friends. There’s wine on the ta­ble and they ask if I’ll have a cock­tail to cel­e­brate, but I hon­estly don’t feel like one. Luck­ily, the bar do ‘mock­tail’ mo­ji­tos, so I drink those all night and wake up smugly de­lighted that I feel fine – un­like past morn­ings after my birth­day.

25 SEPTEM­BER

I never thought I’d man­age nine sober months, and I’m sur­prised at how easy I’ve found it. My best friend tells me I’ve done bril­liantly, but I don’t feel I de­serve praise.

I haven’t over­come trauma or ad­dic­tion – I just de­cided to stop do­ing some­thing that was bad for me.

I some­times miss the in­stant re­lax­ation of a cold glass of wine after a bad day, but bathing, read­ing, walk­ing and box sets are al­most as good – and none of them mean a headache after­wards.

Like many peo­ple, I en­joyed a tip­ple Andy has sup­ported my al­co­hol-free jour­ney

The way I cel­e­brate hasn’t changed too much... Walk­ing Ell­roy is a great way to un­wind

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