1000 Sober Days : Why I Quit Alcohol Forever

Exactly a year after I ditched the drink I wrote a “Goodbye to Alcohol” letter.  You can hear me read it out on Eusebius McKaiser Show HERE

As I said in my letter, that first year was tough but yes it got easier as alcohol gradually loosened its grip.

So now that I am on the homerun for my third soberversary and have clocked up a staggering 1,000 days without a single glass of wine it seems about time to check in again.

Let’s rewind to early 2015. Still very much a “functioning alcoholic” I was (just about) holding it all together. Living in my beloved Cape Town, lovely family, nice home, good friends etc.   Trying hard to “make a difference” by volunteering at a business school but something was “off” – something just felt wrong…

I had managed to integrate Sauvignon Blanc into my life to such an extent that the first drink would often be just before midday when it was time for an “apéro” – which would then morph seamlessly into a couple more large glasses with lunch. By the time 5pm came around another cork would pop to see me through the (early) evening.

This was just a quiet day at home, the evening may get a bit blurry and there would be the inevitable 2am wake up call which would find me full of anxiety but there was rarely any alcohol related drama.

If I had succeeded in engineering an evening out then the drinking would step up a notch.   In the restaurant I would pay more attention to the waiter (source of more wine) than my friends.  I would get irritated with anyone unable to keep up with my enthusiastic drinking pace.

Always the last one to leave any social event I felt like I was “living the life”.

I was, of course, completely fucked but back then it didn’t feel that way.

It felt pretty damn good actually.

Of course were the blackouts, the injuries, the dramas and the horrible depressions – but everyone got those that when they “overdid” it – didn’t they?

Of course I was not an “alcoholic” – those were the homeless guys down by the beach…ag shame.

Of course this was not going to end well…

The end came in the form of a “rock bottom”

And I am truly grateful for that “rock bottom”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Rock Bottom” took place during a weekend away with some lovely friends – friends who all liked “a drink” but I was the only one who had a “walking, talking blackout” with absolutely no recall of an entire afternoon – even though allegedly I had been functioning in a relatively “normal” way.

After that weekend I just knew I was “done”.

What the actual fuck was wrong with me?

I was so privileged, so blessed in my life – what possible excuse did I have for drinking myself to death.

After all a blackout doesn’t mean you’ve “forgotten” what happened – it just means that the brain is so soaked in alcohol that it cannot make any memories in the first place!

Did I really want to be messing with my brain like this?

I don’t think so.

So I did it – I ditched the drink!

My greatest achievement in life – what a ride it has been!

 

YEAR ONE

 

Year one was tough, very tough. Convinced I was in for a life of deprivation – the fun times were over and now I would be leading a quiet and dutiful life. (yawn)

The benefits came in as promised – yes I lost weight, slept better, my skin looked great, eyes were clearer – I saved money – and yes I even learned to love mornings.

In spite of all that good stuff, life felt just a little “flat” – now that I wasn’t planning my drinking, doing my drinking or getting over it I seemed to have a lot of time on my hands – time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with.

I felt like I was facing a bit of a “void” and got rather depressed – no doubt my body was so used to letting alcohol make me feel good that it had forgotten how to produce the dopamine which would give me some “natural highs”..

True there were no massive “lows” or 3am despair fests – but there weren’t any highs either.

Everybody was so “proud of me” that I would never have admitted my moments of doubt – my moments of wondering if I had done the right thing – what if I had “lost more than I had gained” here?

I hung in there, mainly because I couldn’t work out what else to do – just as I had been “trapped” in my drinking I now seemed to have painted myself into a corner and “trapped” myself in sobriety…

 

YEAR TWO

 

Things slowly got better. The mists began to clear and I could sense a whole new life on the horizon. I got “glimpses” of how my life was meant to be…

One day I realised that the little knot of anxiety that had resided in my stomach for decades had moved out…giving me courage to try new things, to meet new people, to start a new business.

Year two was about getting out there and “doing the work” – developing “sober skills” as I began to navigate our alcohol drenched society.

No longer fazed by parties I learned the art of listening to other people rather than hiding in a corner clutching my AF drink and feeling awkward.

I could feel my courage and confidence growing, day-by-day.

I realised that many people were rather intrigued by us non-drinkers so I began to have fun coming up with increasingly bizarre reasons why I didn’t drink.

I realised that there would always be a tricky moment when the wine arrived in a restaurant but I also realised that the moment took about 30 seconds to pass – and then I could just relax and enjoy the meal and the conversation.

I had spent so many years using booze to “take the edge off” that I had made myself numb. Just as a dental injection gradually wears off I could feel my mental numbness dissipate as the synapses started firing again.

Best of all I kept having ideas and wondered if it was “normal” to keep emailing myself with yet another bright idea?

Then it came to me.

My brain was no longer anaesthetised and my creativity was returning – big time!

This was exciting stuff.

YEAR THREE

Here I am just a few months away from my third Soberversary and I feel like a completely different person.

My self-esteem is back as I no longer have to agonize about my lack of “willpower” as yet another attempt at “moderation” comes crashing down.

I now realise that giving up drinking is a hundred times easier than trying to “moderate” and truly regret that my “fear” of living in a world without wine held me back for so many years!

I now realise that all those years hopping on and off the wagon meant that my subconscious mind was registering that sobriety was miserable and difficult.

I now realise that all those years hopping on and off the wagon meant that I never actually broke through to the “other side” – to experience the joys of an alcohol free life!

When I spot the title of a new book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” I have to smile – that more or less sums up how I feel these days…

I used to daydream about “retirement”. I knew I would live in a hot country and was pretty sure my life would involve a fair amount of sitting down in a garden with a large glass of wine in order to “wind down” and “chill out” as a reward for a lifetime of hard work.

Well how wrong I was.

Rather than “winding down” I feel as if I have embarked on some kind of spiritual journey as I find my purpose and work harder than ever before!

They say the opposite of addiction is connection..

I have a deeper connection with my husband and son.

WorldWithoutWine.com has connected me with sobriety advocates from all over the world.

It has connected me with people coming through our workshops and signing up for recovery coaching.

This work is incredibly rewarding.

After all as #sobersister and author Clare Pooley says in a recent blog “ex-drinkers rock”

Well yes Claire – actually we do 😉

 

 

 

A Family Matter

Meet Ryan & Chané – a lovely couple who came on one of our WorldWithoutWine workshops. (You can tap here for more info on our upcoming workshops). 

They’ve ditched the drink and pretty much transformed their lives – but why don’t I let Chané tell  their story … 

“Like most South Africans, my husband Ryan and I have had a very socially acceptable relationship with alcohol since our teens, we are now 40 and 43. As 2 young, introverted adults (growing up separately), we both used booze for the social confidence to successfully fit into any occasion or party; a couple of glasses of whiskey, wine, champers or beer and we were the life of any event.

Fast forward a few of years and meeting each other in the high-stress and extremely social television industry, we quickly become a drinking force to be reckoned with. No matter what party, we were always the last to leave and if you were invited to our house, you probably wouldn’t leave till the sun’s up. We always wanted to know who were those people that as soon as the night was at its best, would say good night and leave with a smile.

As we started getting older and especially when we started a family, the party lifestyle wasn’t what it used to be and something was missing.

Our party days.

One (lucky and coincidental) day we happened to be driving at the same time in separate cars and heard the soothing voice of a British lady who spoke to dear Eusebius about World Without Wine and the inability to moderate. That night when kids were in bed, and us, with a beer in hand, started talking about what we heard on the radio. We hadn’t heard the whole conversation so we scrambled for the podcast then listened to every word.

It was such a relief to hear that other people had similar problems and made us look at ourselves and into our past, where did it all start. How can something so available and acceptable be so soul destroying, and how did we miss or ignore this revelation for so long.

Everything Janet said was me, was us.

How many hours, rands and opportunities were wasted with empty afternoons and evenings of drinking till closing time

Sometimes someone just needs to say the obvious, and if you are ready to accept what you already knew then the battle is half won.

I didn’t want to be mediocre and just another sheep in the herd anymore. I am better than that. We are better than that. I want to be one of the cool kids that say: No thank you, I don’t drink. You can still have an awesome night, in fact a BETTER night.

When we decided to sign up for the workshop, we were obviously scared. It was out of our comfort zone, is it going to be one of those … Trust me fall back in my arms kind of workshops? No drink to hold in my hand and guide me through it. Are they going to see the introvert in me that actually doesn’t like making small talk, which a drink always made better. It is all these small things that are actually big things that pushes us to grab a glass.

 

“The hardest part of giving up alcohol is not the craving for a drink, it’s getting to know yourself again, the person that’s been hiding for so long that you don’t even know anymore” – Chané, Workshop Graduate 

 

Alcohol free living

The advantages are infinite… All the extra time you have on your hands to do something rewarding,  all the conversations you now can remember, just being yourself and never having to be on the back foot because of what alcohol made you do or not do.

I think the battle was mostly won already because Ryan and I were committed in starting this journey together and it has been a flippen awesome ride. I will never drink again, we will never drink again!

In the words of my beautiful husband: Alcohol makes strong men weak”

I don’t want to be weak, I want to be Chané and the best I can be.

Most importantly, our kids are ultimately who we are. If we want the best for them, we need to be the best example we can be!

PS: My only advice, after you’ve made your decision to either abstain completely or just moderate, don’t hide from social events. Because as you conquer each without alcohol you see how you don’t need alcohol to be your awesome self!

And remember people will change towards you and people’s perception of you will change. But don’t let other people’s denials, demons and insecurities deter you. Good luck at being the best you!

We certainly feel a lot better these days and I reckon we look at lot better too!”

 

 

What a wonderful and inspiring story from two of my favourite workshop graduates. Congratulations guys – you look amazing!

For more info on upcoming workshops in Joburg and Cape Town  tap here.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone!

I love New Year – somehow the idea of a “clean slate” and a whole clean shiny year ahead makes me happy.

I have always been a “goal setter” – it’s probably in my DNA after 30 years of corporate life! I still set goals but of course but now it’s all around the development of World Without Wine together with some personal goals.

Before I quit drinking I would always set a goal to “cut down” on alcohol – what a waste of time that was! Now that I have educated myself about alcohol I can see that it was rather a futile goal. Not only is alcohol chemically designed to be addictive but I am one of those people who don’t possess an “off” switch and will never be able to “drink responsibly”.

By using will power alone I would usually manage a dry (ish) January but inevitably come February I would be out of control again – and feeling miserable.

These days it gives me such a thrill to just jot down “maintain sobriety” and be fairly confident that it will happen. My life has changed so much since I stopped drinking on May 23rd 2015 that I agree 100% with sober celeb Matthew Perry who says:-

“The thing is if I don’t have my sobriety I don’t have anything”

 

Our Dry January Challenge is flying!  We have already raised R26,000 which is enough to provide yoga classes for more than 100 children in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill schools.  I will be on the Eusebius McKaiser Show (Cape Talk/702) on Monday 8th January to talk more about Dry January so hopefully that will shake out a few more donations!

The Challenge is open until the end of January so you can even register on 31st January and do a “Dry February” – after all it is the shortest month 😉

All you need to do is to make a small donation to a good cause and we will send you an email every day full of tools, tips and motivation to get you through an alcohol free month.  If you have the slightest doubt that taking just one month off alcohol has significant health benefits then you need to read THIS.

If you are looking to make a permanent change and go for an Alcohol Free Life (spoiler alert:  it’s awesome) then this Challenge could give you just the start you need.  We are in touch with most of the people who have been through our workshops (that’s nearly 200 people) and I have come to an interesting conclusion recently.  A bit of an a-ha moment for me.

Of the people who want to quit completely most of them find:-

The first 30 days is the toughest time (so it makes sense to use the Dry January Challenge to get access some online support)

As people complete their first 100 days it gets easier as the brain gets “rewired”, the body begins to heal and not drinking becomes the new normal.  During this time people say that they get GLIMPSES of the benefits of alcohol free living – and they like what they see.

After 6 months people tend to be in a completely different place mentally and physically.  Anxiety levels have plummeted, energy is sky high, they have lost weight and no longer fear socialising without alcohol as they have learned the survival tricks.

The sad thing is that many people (and I was one) spend their lives getting on and off the wagon which means that they do those first few weeks over and over again – and of course those first few weeks are the hardest and you never get to experience any of the many benefits of sober living.  The result of wallowing in these dark days of trying and failing is that your subconscious mind picks up the idea that this is what sobriety is all about – and it sucks… – that could be why sobriety gets such a bad press and is labelled as boring and difficult.

So whether you want to use the Dry January Challenge to get you through those tough early days on the way to permanent sobriety, or whether you just fancy a 30 day “detox” please click HERE and register right now!

janet xxx

 

6 Reasons to do Dry January

1.To Reset

If you dropped a frog in a pan of boiling water he would use those strong legs to leap straight out again. Yet if you put that frog in a pan of cold water and gradually heated the water he would sit there until he was boiled alive.

Well it’s a bit like that with alcohol which can sneak up on you over the years.

What starts off as literally “a glass of wine” to unwind after a day at work can easily become several glasses or even a bottle.

Doing a Dry January gives your body (and more importantly your mind) a bit of space. Space to recover, space to think about your relationship with alcohol and to decide whether you want to make any permanent changes.

 

2. To Detox

 

If you have been drinking a glass (or two) of wine every evening for years then your body is permanently in a state of mild “withdrawal”, which feels a bit like mild anxiety.

This is because it can take between 7 – 10 days for all traces of the alcohol to leave your system.

This is why that first glass of wine in the evening tastes so good – it’s ending your state of withdrawal and feels like a massive “relief”

Doing a Dry January gives your body and mind a chance to heal, to feel less anxious as your system becomes alcohol free

 

3. To Reduce your Anxiety

If you are in the habit of drinking alcohol to make you less anxious then you should know that it has now been scientifically proved that alcohol actually increases your anxiety.

A batch of lab rats were injected with alcohol every day for a month. The control batch got to stay sober.

Then all the rats were put through a very stressful “obstacle race” and guess what – the control group way outperformed the rats with alcohol in their system.

Conclusion is that alcohol will actually reduce your ability to manage anxiety.

You can even test this for yourself:-

On Day One of your alcohol free month write a list of things in your life that are currently making you stressed or anxious.

On Day Thirty revisit that list and you may just find that you can deal with it!

 

4.  To Freshen up your Looks

This is Nicola who came to one of our workshops – before and after she stopped drinking for 100 days.

Even if you are not up for 100 days of sobriety you will notice some immediate changes – you will lose the puffy face and tired eyes within a few days.

Within a couple of weeks your skin will improve – no more dull and dry skin – and no more broken veins or red blotches.

We make bad food choices when we drink alcohol so the combination of no booze, healthy food and lots of water means you are bound to drop a couple of kilos!

Next time you are at a party check out the most fresh-faced person in the room – the one with a natural looking glow – she’s probably not drinking!

 

5.  To get some High Quality Sleep!

If you have been relying on a glass or two of wine to get you to sleep you should know this:-

Although you get a few hours of “deep sleep” you may find you are awake and feeling anxious in the early hours of the morning as the alcohol leaves your body. Alcohol also reduces your essential REM cycles from 5-7 to about 1 or 2.

Another interesting fact is that when a non-drinker starts getting ready for bed their brain will naturally start to “dampen things down” to get them feeling sleepy.

However if you are a regular drinker your body won’t do that because it will be used to depending on the artificial effect of alcohol to get you to sleep.

That’s why for the first few nights of your Dry January you might not sleep so well – your body is just not used to doing that natural “winding down” thing…

The good news is that after 4 or 5 nights your brain will re-adjust and the quality of your sleep will dramatically improve!

 

6. To help a Disadvantaged Child

For the third year WorldWithoutWine has teamed up with the fabulous Earthchild Project in a fundraising project to provide children in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill with yoga and life-skills classes.

Over the past 12 years Earthchild have taught yoga to thousands of children in disadvantaged areas.

Yoga empowers vulnerable children to transform their lives and communities.

Just R250 provides a child with weekly yoga and life-skills classes for a year.

You can start your Dry January right now or anytime up to the end of January – just decide on your 30 day alcohol free window and we will send you a Daily Mail – full of tips, tools and motivation to get you through..

Click HERE to donate and help us to sponsor some more little yogis!

 

 

 

Do you Dare to go Dry this December?

10 Reasons to be Dry this December

It’s the last day of November and the traffic is hectic, the shops are heaving, the party invites are flooding in and your relatives are already squabbling over whose turn it is to host the Christmas get-together.  Your head is spinning and your to-do list is getting longer by the day.

Same old, same old – every flippin’ year… but… why not make this year just a bit DIFFERENT?

No I’m not talking about cancelling Christmas but I am talking about a whole new way of coping.  Yes I’m talking about a DRY DECEMBER!

I know it’s crazy, I know it’s “off the wall” but sometimes it feels good to swim against the tide…

So here we go – 10 reasons to be dry this December…

  1. December is a madly busy time – chances are that whatever your profession you will be busy at work, busy socially – and of course busy creating that “perfect Christmas” for your family.  If you give up alcohol for December you can actually claw back a lot of time.  Time usually devoted to planning drinking sessions, drinking and then getting over the drinking.
  2. Everybody does “Dry January” but only the seriously cool people do “Dry December” and then start the new year feeling fantastic – rather than exhausted and poisoned with excess food and alcohol. Always remember that “sober is sexy”
  3. There is never a perfect time to give up or cut down on alcohol – there will always be a party, a wedding or that “teambuilding” event coming up.  In fact December is just about the most crazy time to take a break from the booze – but maybe crazy is how you roll?
  4. You will reduce your stress as you “take control” – you will sleep better and steam through your “to-do” list and even begin to feel slightly superior to your pals as they struggle with their hangovers…if your friends give you a hard time just tell them you are doing 30 dry days to raise money for Earthchild – maybe they will even join you…
  5. You will have a wonderful excuse for avoiding the dreaded “office party” – “I’m taking a break from alcohol at the moment so think I will give it a miss this year” – let somebody else do the “walk of shame” through the open plan office the morning after the office Christmas party.  You can be sure you will hear about exactly who did what to whom before the day draws to a close.
  6. You won’t have that anxiety in your heart about the amount you are drinking and the nagging thought that you really must do something about it come January – you will be way ahead of the game this year…
  7. Action is the key – “Just Do It” – at least get through those first few days in December “alcohol free” – and if you can’t manage it then maybe you do need to seriously think about addressing your relationship with alcohol.
  8. You will lose weight!  We are surrounded by super-fattening foods during December and after a glass of wine or two we just get stuck in.  Staying sober means you can stay in control of what you are eating and drinking.  As an extra bonus you can opt out of the dieting misery train that we are all supposed to board come January 1st.
  9. A lot of people worry that they cannot enjoy themselves without alcohol – but think about it – what makes a good Christmas?  – being with your family and seeing the joy on the children’s faces as they open their presents – or knocking back the booze?
  10. At the very least a sober Christmas will be an interesting experiment – even if you hate it you will have tried – and who knows – you may even discover a whole new side of yourself…

To help you on your way WorldWithoutWine have launched their “Dry January Challenge” which in fact can also be “Dry December” if you dare – just make a small donation by clicking HERE

In return you will receive a daily motivational e-mail from WorldWithoutWine to keep you on track for 30 days.

We are raising money for the Earthchild Project – just as we did last year –  check out this 5 minute movie we made about how we spent the R30,000 we raised last year..

Thanks for reading!

Dry January Challenge – 2018!

So excited about our 2018 Dry January Challenge!

 

 

Yet again WorldWithoutWine has teamed up with the fabulous Earthchild Project in a fundraising project to provide children in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill with yoga and life-skills classes.

This is our third year of working together and the generosity of our donors has meant that so far we have been able to sponsor more than 300 children.

Over the past 12 years Earthchild have taught yoga to thousands of children in disadvantaged areas.

Yoga is a powerful and practical tool that supports the physical, mental and emotional development of the child.

Yoga empowers vulnerable children to transform their lives and communities.

Just R250 provides a child with weekly yoga and life-skills classes for a year

 

This is how it will work:-

In order to participate you will need to resolve to give up alcohol for a 30 day period.

The registration period is open from right now to the end of January so just pick your 30 day window – for example you might decide to be dry from 1-30 January or if you are still on holiday during early January you might prefer to choose 15 January-15 February.  You can even register on 31 January and end on 2nd March.  Or if you are anxious to get started or just like to be different why not sign up right now and go for a Dry December (!)

Once you have decided on your dates please reflect on how much you would have spent on alcohol during those 30 days and divert that money (or a proportion of it) to Earthchild.  Just a couple of bottles of wine comes in at R250 which already covers one child’s yoga classes for a year – how many bottles do you get through in a month?  Enough to fund several children’s classes perhaps?

So once you have decided how much you can afford to donate please click HERE and make your donation.  Then email me at worldwithoutwine@gmail.com with the dates of your “Dry January” and I will set up your daily e-mails.  BTW for the benefit of our regular donors I have written a whole batch of new Daily Mails for this year!

So lets have a healthy start to 2018 and help (at least) 120 kids have a better 2018!

I look forward to hearing from you!

janet x

Coins in a Jar

I connected with another Soberista a couple of months ago via her blog which you can find on FaceBook @coinsinajar – do check it out.

I was so impressed with her approach and her commitment that I invited her along to a workshop to inspire the participants – and she did!

She was also kind enough to write about the workshop so if anyone is wondering exactly what happens at our workshops then here is Jo’s review:-

 

“I was lucky enough to attend World Without Wine’s workshop two weeks ago. It was held at Janet’s lovely home in Cape Town. What a relaxed and welcoming environment.

The morning started with a coffee as everyone started arriving. There were 8 of us in total (I think!) as well as Janet and Mandy obviously, who run the course.

What struck me straight away was how welcoming Janet and her team were. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but as I got chatting with the others, I began to feel more relaxed. After all, we were all there for one very clear common reason: Alcohol. And the negative effects it was having or had had on our lives.

We all sat around Janet’s couch where there was ample space for all of us to be comfortable. The first thing we did was share why we were there, our relationships and history with alcohol. Each story was different but equally as eye opening. I just felt so fantastic to be sitting with this group of amazing, like-minded women who understood me and me them. To tell others your story and you just see the click in their eyes- they get what you are saying as they too have had enough of alcohol running and ruining their lives. It’s that simple.

After the shares, we received some important facts about the dangers of alcohol. We all know how bad it is for our health but just how bad and to see it in black and white was a good lesson. I particularly enjoyed our “prac”, which was to pour into a wine, whiskey and beer glass, what we think were the safe limits of alcohol consumption per unit. Very interesting. I’ll just say that I was drinking a woman’s weekly limit EVERY night. Scary stuff.

After a lovely lunch and more coffee, we had a guy come and chat to us that had not drunk for a year, after attending the course. It was informative and inspiring. Listening to him was great as he seemed so happy and alive, without having drunk for so long- something we all want to aspire to. Obviously, as we all do, he has stresses and strains in his life, but has just chosen to not numb them with alcohol, focussing on his health and family instead. Janet also read us her goodbye letter to alcohol which was deeply moving and just resonated with me so much. Her words could have so easily been mine.

We then watched a video and got some really cool info in the form of a “Toolkit”, in other words, how to cope with going to parties etc and also on how to moderate for those who wanted to go that route.

Some tea followed and then each of us spoke of our action plans and what we were going to do going forward. Some chose to cut down or moderate and others decided it was time to say cheers to the booze forever.

At the end of the workshop we had some alcohol- free drinks in the form of “what to drink when you don’t drink drinks” and I was amazed at the variety. Non- drinkers really do have options. I particularly enjoyed the Duchess gin and the JC Le Roux champagne. There was also a nice beer but I forget the name.

Everybody was so supportive and encouraging and there was really nowhere else I would rather have been that day. I’ve already been in contact with some people from the course and being on the wattsapp group and private FB page is so comforting. Knowing that others are on the same journey as you are.

And by the sounds of it, it only gets easier and easier and more rewarding and it’s super awesome to be a non-drinker.

Well done Janet, you guys rock and the amount of people you help, inform and inspire is incredible. I would highly urge anyone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol to give this course a go. Nothing to lose. Just a better and healthier life to gain.”

 

Octsober – Vicky’s View!

It’s been a while since we asked Vicky to write something for us – it’s not easy to catch her in one place as she is such a globetrotter – Barbados, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua – and that’s just the last few months!  She has written some beautiful pieces for us which you can catch up with HERE – and today you can read her views on Octsober:-

 

Why I didn’t do Octsober…

This may sound like heresy for a WWW audience, but bear with me!

Like many of us, I love a drink at the end of the day – and sometimes at lunchtime at the weekends. And yes, I do sometimes exceed the 14 units per week which is now the amount recommended by British doctors.

But I don’t feel the need to give up the booze for a whole month, and here’s why.

Everyone is different, so an addiction can be as little as the need to have one drink a day, or a whole bottle. Years ago a friend of mine, who drank no more than a glass every day, decided she was so reliant on it that she went into rehab.

My trick to maintaining my peace of mind is to have 2-3 alcohol free days per week. This is in fact the routine recommended by the Royal College of Physicians. Their reasoning is very simple: it takes the liver at least a day to recover from drinking alcohol so as long as you give it some free time you can keep it healthy. It is also reassuring to discover how easy it is to have alcohol-free days. My rule is that I never drink when I/we are home alone, but only when we go out. As this happens infrequently it is quite easy.

The benefits of giving up for a month (and for good) are extolled: better sleep, concentration, weight loss plus a reduction in cholesterol, glucose and fatty liver. Diabetes, linked to alcohol consumption, is an increasing danger as we get older, so reducing the amount we drink is important. I am not arguing against the benefits of not drinking at all…it’s just not for me!

Six and half years ago our daughter Louise died of an overdose of ketamine, and in 2013 I was diagnosed with a life-threatening soft tissue sarcoma, shortly after both parents had also died, and my husband had been operated on for prostate cancer. Luckily we are now in remission, whatever that means…but for me to punish myself by denying one of the remaining pleasures I have seems masochistic. This is not by way of excuse, just MY reasons why…

What is rarely mentioned is what happens when you start drinking again and go back to all those bad habits, where the norm is drinking every day. Soon all the benefits are completely wiped and you are putting your body under additional pressure after having cleansed it. As Professor Charles Bamforth of the University of California says, ‘Many people don’t realise that drinking in moderation has significant health benefits [you know that glass of red wine a day is good for the heart etc]. You are seriously mistaken if you think having a month without drinking will protect you from the effects of excessive drinking for the rest of the year. The best advice is to drink moderately throughout the year.’

For the record I did give up last January, because Janet asked me to! But I won’t do it again. Rather I will stick to my healthy regime of not drinking several days week. Because I know I can do it.

 

Guest blog – Tina’s story

My lovely workshop “graduates” are hitting their milestones and some of them are even sending me their stories – thanks guys – we love stories and I am always humbled by the way people open their hearts and “share” at the beginning of our workshops.

All our stories around alcohol are different but by sharing our angst about the booze we can all become stronger – there is a great benefit to being open and honest and that is how we will change our relationship with alcohol – as well as inspire other people.

A couple of weeks ago I posted “Nick’s Story”, today it is Tina’s turn and “Jamie’s story” is in the pipeline – so watch this space!

TINA’s STORY

Alcohol was my best friend, my go to strategy when feeling blessed, stressed or depressed.

I grew up with alcohol – from my first party at 14 to girls holidays in Ibiza – from countless afternoons in the wine bars of London with work colleagues to milestone birthdays in Vegas. It was fun, it made a good night out great and gave me unbridled confidence.

I always turned up for work – I worked hard and played hard – I never drank on Mondays and thought that meant my health wouldn’t be impacted because I often took breaks of 2-3 days, sometimes weeks at a time.

The years of partying continued into my late forties. But then thing started to change, I noticed it was taking longer and longer for me to reach that ‘buzz’ and even longer to recover from a ‘big night out’ or ‘legendary lunch’.

The hangovers were getting worse and the frequency of waking up not entirely sure what had gone on the night before were increasing (I now know these to be blackouts) I particularly didn’t enjoy the feeling of waking up and having to retrace my steps through bar and taxi receipts (let alone text messages).

My health was also suffering. I was bloated, had chronic indigestion, my skin was dehydrated and my diet was generally poor – the hangover days were fueled with carb and sugar frenzies.

I slowly started to resent how alcohol was dominating my social life. Days and nights out were built around alcohol – even going to the theatre had to involve pre, during and post show drinks.

Still I carried on consuming way over the recommended amount of 14 units (I mean who sticks to that, really?). It was normal to get plastered at the weekend- everyone drank as much as I did…. Right?

The problem was my conscience was nagging me. It wouldn’t let up. I had known for years that I drank way too much – I’d often thought about stopping but knew I needed help. I kept minimizing the adverse side effects and attempted to cut down on my own but that lead to drinking more and eventually my consumption began to negatively impact my relationships and so I decided enough was enough and last October I made the decision to quit.

It wasn’t an easy decision and it’s been a challenging journey but with the help of support groups I am looking forward to celebrating my one year soberversary.

A lot of people questioned why I would want to give up alcohol and now one year later I frequently get asked how I feel and have I experienced any benefits.

Truth is there are many benefits – I’ve listed a few below.

My anxiety has dramatically reduced

I can focus better

I stick to my commitments (like training for a half marathon)

My sight has improved and my skin is clearer

My face is not bloated or puffy

I don’t binge all day on pizza, crisps and coca cola

I listen to others instead of talking about myself all the time

I’ve not injured myself or anyone else

I’ve met some amazingly cool and fun sober people

I still party like its 1999 – I just remember everything and don’t lose the next day to a hangover.

If you’re thinking of quitting for 30 days, 100 days, a year, forever the best thing you can do is join a support group. I had stopped for a few weeks but was struggling, then I attended the World Without Wine Workshop in Cape Town. It helped me enormously.and now, 1 year later, I want to help others on their sober journey.

If I ever doubt my decision to quit I only have to ask myself this … is my life better or worse with alcohol…

Tina