Part 4: My Journey to Sobriety – Special Occasions, Sober October & Fools Rules
“It’s our 10th wedding anniversary for fuck sake!”
have kept meaning to update you – honestly I have. Truth is, my declaration of sobriety has taken somewhat of a back seat over the summer. Not intentionally, it just sort of happened. Booze crept back into my life. Well actually it didn’t creep – it returned with a big-fuck off bang. I met an inspirational acquaintance just last week. Someone who has followed my journey and offered me a lot of support – she is two years sober and looking incredible and it’s all down to quitting the booze. A somewhat different tale to mine – hers was wine for breakfast, wine before the school run, wine just to get through the everyday. She commended me for being so open and for sharing my journey as it unfolds. Rather than writing it down and publishing it at a later date – I suppose, to an extent, I have set myself up to fail.
The beginning of the end.
June 19th – I posted my last post on my ‘journey to sobriety’. (I’m thinking I should have labelled my journey somewhat differently – maybe ‘my attempt at sobriety’ would have been more fitting). I remember it well. It was the night before mine and Mr T’s 10th wedding anniversary. Over three months ago now. As I was writing that post the night before our anniversary I subliminally knew that I was going to get shitfaced on champagne the following day. Looking back, I think I felt the need to appease myself by putting it out there that I was doing so, so well (two months off the booze), knowing full well that it was all going to go drastically tits up on 20th June – Ten years to the day that Mr T and I tied the knot. So that post was my last post on the subject of my sobriety. It was probably an attempt at trying to convince myself that I was ‘cured’ even though the yearn to dump the kids and hotfoot it to The Lake District as fast as we could and crack open a bottle of chilled champagne was so severe. The desire to drink my favourite tipple after abstaining from it and pretty much everything else for 50 days was unbelievably intense. I could almost feel the cold, light fizz of the bubbles invade my mouth and the deliciously dry and nutty liquid penetrate my taste buds as I was writing that last blog post. I was battling with my sober self that night, but the truth was – I couldn’t wait for the day of our 10th wedding anniversary to arrive. If there was one excuse to fall right off the wagon just for one night, that was it.
“It was our 10th wedding anniversary for fuck sake.”
We were to be child-free for four days. Of course there would be lots of champagne and I wasn’t going to convince myself of the contrary for one minute longer. I went to bed that night with the enthusiasm and impatience of a child on Christmas eve. I could not wait for the morning to arrive. I could not wait for my first glass of celebratory champers. I would have one blow out. Just the one. I could justify just the one.
“It was our 10th wedding anniversary for fuck sake!”
I would climb right back on my self-righteous sober wagon the following day. I would.
Fools rules – The Justification
When one drinks more than one should, justification becomes the norm. I made a lot of rules around my drinking. These rules convinced me that my drinking was under control. “Oh I rarely drink on a weekday” “I don’t drink on a morning” “I drink the same amount as my friends” “I only drink wine” Wait for it – the best one… “Hell I’m a connoisseur of fine wines and champagne” Oh there are loads. The list of justifying rules was simply endless.
Conscious Lifestyle Changes
It took a while to come to the decision that we would spend this important milestone in The Lakes. I towed with the idea of a long weekend in The Balearics. We discussed Croatia. Dubai. A city break in Rome maybe? This time last year it would have gone without saying – a crazy weekend in Ibiza would have most definitely been on the cards. But they all conjured up visions of boozy days round a pool. Boozy long lunches. Boozy nights out. Booze and lots of it. Iain had absolutely no problem with this – in fact had it have ultimately been his decision, we would have been on a Jet2 flight to Ibiza before one could say ‘Dos bottles of San Miguel and a bag of patatas fritas por favor’.
But it wasn’t his decision. Mr T didn’t get an iota of a say in this. I was the one on a sober journey, therefore it was my decision as to where we were heading. No. We would go to The Lakes. We would hike to the top of Scarfell Pike – that’s what we would do. We love hiking… nearly as much as we love clubbing in Ibiza together. Nearly as much as we would have both equally and thoroughly enjoyed a child-free, chilled out long weekend in Dubai or Croatia. Lazing in the hot sun on a posh sun bed and sipping on cold beers during the day. Slipping into a beautiful summer dress and wedges on an evening and walking hand in hand around a sun-drenched marina before dinner and cocktails. A club maybe? Nope.
The new, sober, self-righteous me wanted to go somewhere where there were distractions. Away from the booze. Where we could be wholesome and healthy. We would pack our hiking boots, compass and waterproofs and would spend our time exploring every corner of the Lake District. That’s what we would do. We would make memories and I was determined to remember them.
So I hired a classic car as a surprise for Mr T and I booked a luxury three-night break at The Gilpin Lake House in Windermere. Iain squeezed into the driver seat of the Morgan and off to The Lake District we tootled. (I have to say The Gilpin Hotel & Lake House was out-of-this-world. Absolutely incredible – you can read about our stay at The Gilpin Lake House HERE).
When it goes wrong, it goes very wrong…
We pull up outside The Gilpin Lake House. Of course I’ve already pre-advised them that it is our 10th wedding anniversary in hope they would gift us with an exotic fruit bowl. Like fuck… The Gilpin is Relaix & Chatteaux property- I expected nothing less than a decent bottle of chilled champagne.
We entered our luxurious bedroom. I immediately clocked the neck of a bottle poking out of a silver champagne bucket brimming with ice cubes. Tiny little spots of evaporating water sparkled like diamonds on the gold foil as the sun’s rays caught the rim of the bucket and foil from the window above. It was whispering to me. Goading me. Like the evil child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang “Come here my pretty. Champagne, Champagne, allllll freeeeee today” Well it had me hook, line and sinker. I made a beeline for it. There and then nothing really mattered other than popping that God damn cork. I had justified this one bottle to the point of no return and I could not wait to taste the nectar. I was like a tramp on chips. All over it like a nasty rash. I couldn’t get the fucker open quick enough…
I was pissed as the proverbial fart within 30 minutes of arriving at The Gilpin Lake House. The rest of the day consisted on another bottle of champagne in the hot tub. Then another bottle in the room whilst getting ready for dinner. Pre-dinner cocktails. Wine with dinner. One for the road.
I justified every last drop. “It was our 10th wedding anniversary for fuck sake.”
The morning after the night before.
Well I was an absolute god damn mother-fucking mess as you can imagine. The morning was a complete shambolic write off. I moaned and groaned in bed. Dragged myself down to breakfast and downed two super green smoothies in hope that I could save myself from the pit of burning champagne-induced hell that I was in and rescue my liver from its anguish.
I was poisoned. Beyond repair. I hated myself. This is exactly why I had stopped drinking in the first place and now look at me. I told myself it was our 10th wedding anniversary. The kids were out of the way. It was ok. I could lay in my luxury, Egyptian-cotton-covered pit of sorrow for a few hours and then relax in the Lake House’s gardens. All was ok. It was also OK to have one glass of red wine with dinner that night – it was medicinal. Would help me sleep. It was ok. We never made it up Scarfell Pike. We did do a lot of walking, and snoozing, and you guessed it – drinking. We have an incredible time in The Lakes. Absolutely no regrets on choice of location, or, thinking about it, getting so shitfaced on night one – after all… “It was our 10th wedding anniversary for fuck sake!”
I declared myself “SOBER FOR SUMMER” when we returned to home. 96 days of sobriety. I slapped it all over social media like the fool that I am. The support flooded in.
But then on 14th July it was Mr T’s birthday and we were heading to London for another child-free weekend so that put the kybosh on Sober for Summer. The school summer holidays – well of course the justification was no one had to get up for school, and it was hot.
I did two solid months with no booze.
That’s one hell of an achievement. And that’s how I have to look at it. I am not a failure – I put my mind to something and I achieved it. People tell me all the time that I should be proud of myself. My mum is a little disappointed in me. My friends commend me for my strength but were quick to welcome me with open arms back into the circle of booze-fuelled fun and friendship. Mr T will support me whatever. He would like me to find a happy medium – A Lyndsey somewhere in the middle of the pissed-up goodtime girl and the self-righteous, sober pain in the arse that I was for nearly three months. Sadly I don’t think that will happen because I am all or nothing. There is no middle ground. In any aspect of my life.
The pros and the cons
My health played a major factor in my decision to try and quit the booze. I’m fast approaching 40 and not only do I not want to be that embarrassing 40 year old mum who gets pissed up and acts like a twat, I most certainly don’t want to end up with some booze-related illness. The media are constantly bombarding us with all sorts of horror stories, advice, warnings and contradictions. Who knows what to believe? I was constantly reading stories and stats on booze when I wasn’t drinking. Justification as to why I had to stop entirely.
We don’t need to be rocket scientists to know that too much of anything is bad for us.
What I do know is that I slept better, looked better, had more energy and less brain fog. I was a calmer, nicer person (according to my mum – but she would say that) and didn’t black out on the sofa at 6pm on a Sunday once. I woke up fresh with no regrets, all memories intact and cleaned out a lot of draws and cupboards in that two months. I also read a lot of books. I was present at all of my children’s early morning Saturday sports clubs and we saved a fortune on taxis and of course wine.
But… I gained weight due to over-consumption of cake, hot chocolate and too many Magnums. Abstaining from drinking left me with a void I had to fill with sweet treats. Haribo, biscuits, tubs of ice-cream – all justified because I wasn’t drinking. Not very healthy either. Mr T insisted that he was super proud of me but I know, deep down, he found me a little hard to deal with because I turned into this self-righteous, crazy, cleaning, neurotic parent who no longer wanted half the street’s kids in my house. I didn’t want to socialise with our friends, and I didn’t want to go out all that much. There was no silly, drunken sex, and let’s face it, after 12 years together and two kids we all need a wine or two to flash our mum-tums and muffin tops and put on our best bedroom show. I had to completely re-think the proposition of fun.
So what’s next?
Another break. I can do another break. But I simply cannot never have another drink again. I don’t think. Maybe that will change in the future, but for now I’m concentrating on applying the few golden rules that I have set myself:
No to going out and getting shitfaced and putting myself in any kind of danger.
Allowing myself a drink on a weekday night if I want one rather than abstaining entirely until Thursday and then going on a three day boozy, binge-drinking bender.
No drinking whilst I’m cooking Sunday dinner – only when I start eating it.
No to get shitfaced at work-related events.
I have a big jug of lemon and orange infused iced water in the fridge – I drink this out of a wine glass. It’s delightful. I neck it in-between each glass of wine if I’m drinking at home. Or instead of wine during the week.
I have discovered non-alcoholic Heineken – it’s great with a curry of just when I have that urge for an ice cold beer.
Turning on the kettle as soon as the bottle of wine that Mr T and I shared is empty.
I clean my teeth a lot more – Wine tastes vile after cleaning one’s teeth.
My advice to you
I do have some advice for those of you if you are questioning your relationship with alcohol – whether you are looking to cut down, embark on Sober October or stop boozing completely:
Do not start following every successful sober celebrity on Instagram. You cannot compare yourself with these people. Following and continuously comparing myself to the likes of Davina Taylor (Kate Moss’s bessi mate), who once made up one of the notorious hard-core drinking and coke-snorting Primrose Hill Set was not my best move. This transformed super-human of a woman now runs seven miles a day and appears to drink nothing but super green organic smoothies topped with chia seeds. It is not realistic. All well and good when you can afford a personal chef, trainer and a nutritionist. I for one, can’t.
For lots of reasons I could, not so long ago, have been a member of the Primrose Hill Set – for one, I lived in Belsize Park – 10 minutes down the road from the lot of them. But tapping into their seemingly sober and perfectly wholesome lives on Instagram now is not necessarily motivating. It could just make you feel like shit. There’s about as much chance of me running seven miles a day as there is of Michael Jackson re-releasing Thriller. It’s just not me.
Do not compare yourself to those who are single sober heros. If, like me, your husband fell in love with you because of your wild ways and your ability to neck pints – giving up the booze entirely will most certainly have some negative impact on your relationship. Unless of course he is prepared to take that journey with you.
Mr T has absolutely no intention of going completely sober. He has however downloaded a units to his mobile phone, which in itself, is mindful progress.
Take a break from the booze. Don’t commit to a set time frame – just go as long as you realistically can, be mindful about how your break positively impacts your parenting, your health, your relationships, your sleep, your work and your mental state.
Talking of which…
The word ‘mindfulness’ used to really piss me off. Like I’ve got the fucking time to sit in a quiet room for an hour and focus on my surroundings. A load of utter tosh. I can’t sit still long enough to have my eyebrows waxed ffs. Now, thanks to a beautiful lady called Gina – an ex-party princess-come-sober-Goddess who now helps others to change their relationship with alcohol – mindfulness has become an intrinsic part of the process when I’m deciding on whether to have a drink. More so when I’m two glasses in and thinking about my third. By focusing my thoughts on how I will actually feel the next day and how it will affect my day, my children’s day, and my business, am able to control my drinking more.
Slowing down or quitting entirely – whatever the change – you need to find a solution that works for you and your situation and that ultimately brings fun, balance and happiness to your life. One thing’s for certain – we are all heading to the same place. Good luck to those of you doing Sober October. It’s a great cause and an opportunity for a break from the booze which is never a bad thing.
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
A year to the day and myself, my husband and our two children were midway through our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip of a lifetime to Sri Lanka and now this incredibly beautiful and captivating little country is in mourning.
Emma Stirk is a Business Success Coach and Legal strategist for small businesses, she left her corporate career as a high flying solicitor to set up her own business and has never looked back! Emma is passionate about empowering women to identify their purpose and goals, plan and strategise their next career or business move and create a positive, strong and confident mindset with high performance strategies to increase productivity and efficiency so you can work less, achieve more, and make burnout and overwhelm a thing of the past!
Jo Swann has 15 solid years of experience in Public Relations and runs award-winning Leeds-based PR Company – Chocolate PR after working in media, marketing and PR agencies. She has worked with companies of all sizes including the likes of Whistles, NSPCC, Marriot Hotels, Yo! Sushi to name just a few and won many awards along the way but her mission now is to help small businesses, and particularly female entrepreneurs harness the power of PR.