100 Days Without Booze: Keeping Anxiety At Bay
Week two of soberdom down and I have experienced only the briefest, most fleeting moment of lusting after red wine. And to be fair, it was a Burgundy wine of the highest quality that was being knocked back in front of me. This week I have actually been surrounded by drinkers and for the most part it has not bothered me. I have opened and poured wine for friends whilst enjoying my non-alcoholic beer without a hint of bitterness. I even got dressed up and went out on Friday to a 90s Hip Hop night. Now, I am a fairly confident and outgoing person but I did experience a tiny bit of trepidation that I would feel a bit of a lemon not drinking. I needn’t have worried. Despite being surrounded by hip young 20-somethings in Ivy Park clothing and hoop earrings, once the music was pumping and the lights were down I just didn’t give a damn what I looked like, was loving the music, and was grinding and twerking with the best of them. I danced til I had had enough, left at midnight, was in bed and asleep by 1am, and up at 9am the next morning to go for a run. Now that is a first!
That Saturday I travelled up to Stoke Newington to see family and friends and had a wonderful day cuddling babies and catching up. In drinking days of yore, that hungover Saturday would have been a painful crawl on public transport, full of resentment and regret, followed by expensive takeaway on arrival home. Instead, me and my husband returned home and cooked together. The next morning, when I would normally have had a ‘second day hangover’, I was up for bikram yoga in the morning and then spent the day lying in the sunshine reading the papers, before preparing for work.
Risks to my resolve
Now, before I get too smug, I will have a reality check moment. I am fully aware that this whole sobriety experience will be significantly more challenging after I go back to work tomorrow. I will be getting up early to an alarm and this will make me grumpy. I will have to drive in traffic to and from work. I won’t have time to exercise during the day and won’t get home til at least 7pm. I won’t have time to walk my dog and stare at squirrels. This is when I will come home and want to fall into a glass of wine, rather than pull on my trainers and go for a run. I will be tired and frustrated. Resolve is so much lower when tired. I will be fed up with being a teacher and having to play ‘the responsible adult’ role. My ‘fuck it’ impulse is going to start creeping back in. And I am going to have to stay strong and remember how good I felt in those first two weeks of the challenge when I kicked booze and decided to put my health first.
Alcohol and anxiety
Alcohol is the quick, albeit temporary, fix. It is an immediate remedy and requires very little effort, other than paying for it in a bar or shop and then lifting a glass to your lips. The taste of alcohol is punchy, like a passionate kiss of the mouth. Within a few sips you feel light headed, your limbs relax, and any anxious thoughts that have been occupying your brain tend to melt away into the background. And this is what I am actually finding hard about sobriety. My anxious thoughts have not gone away, they are very present and very real, crystalline and sharp. The temptation is to sip booze and quieten these thoughts for an hour or two. But I have not done that, because what I have realised through my many years of drinking is that these anxious thoughts don’t go away. They linger in the wings, like eager actors waiting to take centre stage again. And after two or three drinks, these anxious thoughts turn more malevolent, and more sinister. And as you heap on the booze, with the aim of having “a night off” from your troubles, these anxious thoughts decide to re-enter the scene and cause havoc, like a Shakespearean villain lurking and plotting in the corner of a masked ball. And as you are whooping and laughing clumsily this villain will pour poison in your ear and twist your logic, causing you to say awful things, embarrass yourself and generally behave like a drunken dick.
So, after two weeks of sobriety, I have found the answer to be thus: to make sure that I get some proper exercise in, preferably at the start of the day. I find a run or a brisk walk really clears my mind, whilst also producing endorphins that make me feel more positive about life and kick the arse of that sneaky villain anxiety who wants me to think that my life is shit. Singing, loudly, to my favourite songs is a mega stress buster. I have created a Sober playlist on Spotify. And writing this blog helps, whether anyone is reading this or not, to formulate my thoughts around my health and mental health each week, to condense my week into a psychological lesson for myself, and to put it out there really helps me feel like I am moving forward. So thank you Honestlittleone.com for having me and thank you to everyone who has been a support.
Let's have it, week three!