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
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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