I know what you’re thinking. Another January ‘detox’ post. And yes I appreciate it’s super boring to yawn on about self-deprivation after all the excess of Christmas. The newspapers are full of it. TV programmes go on about it.
The thing is this year, my relationship with booze has definitely changed.
I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with substances. For a start, I’m very gullible (so it’s never my fault of course). If I’m with someone who’s drinking loads, then I tend to mirror their behaviour. This led to a lot of trouble in my youth in Amsterdam where drugs were everywhere (but funnily enough Dutch people have more self-control, and so don’t GO HARD all the time…nevertheless I did). I’m also not a naturally shy person, so it’s not that I rely on booze to come out of my shell- in fact quite the opposite.
I TALK TOO MUCH and tend to divulge intimate details about my life to everyone I meet (and am doing it now through this post too). But that’s by the by. The thing is by December last year, I’d got to the stage where drinking was no longer ‘serving me’ (to use that terrible yoga-speak). It wasn’t making me feel really good whilst I was doing it- in fact it was making me argumentative and grumpy.
And the hangovers. Sweet Jesus, the hangovers. They lasted three days. They kicked off with the fear and that creeping sense of unease that something terrible was about to happen, then they moved onto another phase – pain- usually in my head, between my eyes, like someone had whacked me with a tennis racket. Then, I’d be sick. This wouldn’t always happen right away so it would often catch me out. I’d be washing up some plates mid-morning, and suddenly find myself retching over the sink. Or on the loo, and would throw up in the bath. Throwing up for me is never a straightforward thing. I’m not one of those gals that chucks up and resumes normal service. I don’t just dab my mouth with a flannel and get on with my life. No, instead the vomiting goes on for HOURS and doesn’t stop until I’ve slept it off. With a four-year old at home, that makes life pretty hard. Finally the hangover usually dissapates in the late afternoon, but the dread and guilt hangs around much longer. It seems like a big price to pay for four hours drinking prosecco… put it that way.
Drinking in the past has led to me sleeping with inappropriate men, arguing with friends, being sick out of taxi windows, ending up naked on a beach with no recollection of how I got there. All of these things happened in my youth when booze was pretty much the norm. We trade horror stories and laugh at our terrible drinking tales. As I got older, I never truly got out of control when drunk- instead it was just a bit of argy-bargy with my other half, or taking offence to something small someone said. Nevertheless, the person I am when really drunk isn’t very nice.
In fact, I think I’m a bit of a twat.
Anyway, I wasn’t drinking regularly. I was doing the classic binge drink charade. I don’t see the point in sipping on wine on the sofa, but if I’m out, and you hand me a bottle of prosecco, then I’m Debbie Harry circa 1977 in a club in New York. I’m entertaining, everyone loves me, I tell them all my secrets and it’s great fun (I suspect I’m actually a bore in reality and have a tendency to be quite maudlin). The thing is the past few times I’ve got drunk it hasn’t been fun. I’ve run out of steam, or am already dreading the hangover to come.
Anyway, the decision to stop drinking was provoked by a final session on New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t quite get in the party mood for some reason (family arguments over Christmas, travelling back and forth, feeling knackered and full of trepidation about new year plans). I started drinking early. I chucked it back. Nothing seemed to have an impact. I tried smoking a cigarette (something I only ever do when I’m drinking) and that didn’t work either. I just couldn’t access that Debbie Harry persona (I don’t actually know her by the way but in my mind, she represents the perfect party girl).
Anyway, the night ended and I wasn’t even aware I was that drunk, but the following day was a car crash. I won’t go through the details as it’s too sordid, but let’s just say I couldn’t get out of bed until about two in the afternoon. This is uncommon for me because even with bad hangovers I’m usually the type that believes in a hot shower, carbs and getting on with the day (unless being sick in my handbag). My daughter kept coming into the room and kissing the top of my head and saying ‘Sorry you’re ill Mummy, you’ll get better soon.’ I couldn’t even raise my head to reply. I realised at that point that I didn’t want her to see me this way, but more importantly, I DIDN’T EVER WANT TO FEEL THIS WAY .
So I’ve stopped. And I’m telling myself it’s for good.
‘Oh I’ve heard you complain about your hangovers before,’ a Mum friend said to me in the park a couple of days ago, ‘You always say you’ll never drink again but you usually do.’
But I’m not so sure. I feel like this last hangover was definitely a sign.
Frank Sinatra once said – ‘I feel bad for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.’
The thing is people who don’t drink can wake up feeling pretty damn good. People who don’t drink don’t have to rely on a substance to make themselves feel better. The challenge for me is I associate drinking with glamour and sobriety with being boring. We rely on booze to make us feel rebellious, to escape from the humdrum of parenting, to feel sexy.
And I know, it’s early. It’s the second week in January. It’s a socialising wasteland so there’s not much temptation. It’s just me sitting at home, feeling smug. The true test will come at the next party or social.
I’m cautiously optimistic. I like the idea of waking up and knowing I’ll feel the same all day.
I don’t find the idea unappealing at all.