I decided to take part in The Alcohol Experiment after realising that my drinking was too frequent and too heavy. Here are my thoughts on the subject...
What led me to make the decision to try this?
On Saturday night I drank too much and my husband had to drag me out of a house party in order to go home to my teenaged son and get him off the XBox and into bed. We got a Chinese takeaway on the way home. I scoffed a load of that (despite trying to trim down a bit for our wedding party in a couple of months) then crashed out on the sofa and fell asleep. When Mark woke me up I was grumpy and still tipsy. I snapped at him. Then I spent the ensuing hours believing all of this was his fault.
The next morning in the cold light of day I began to see that actually he'd been reasonable, wasn't gas-lighting, and it was me who was in the wrong.
I happened to mention this to a friend who happens to have recently stopped drinking. She told me about Annie Grace and her book/podcast 'This Naked Mind'. This book and Annie's programme 'The Alcohol Experiment' had been mentioned to me before but of course as I didn't consider myself a full-on alcoholic I had not acted on the recommendation. It didn't fit in with my lifestyle, which involved drinking booze every evening. The only time I didn't drink was if I had flu or a stomach bug and I tried not to drink at lunchtime unless we were on holiday. Nothing else came between me and my daily fix of wine, cider or spirits. In fact, cider never really felt enough unless it was pretty strong. Many evenings I would stick to just half a glass of wine or one G&T and not fancy continuing, but it was the other evenings that had become a concern... the Whole Bottle Evenings; the Binge Drinking at Parties evenings. To be fair I had pretty much outgrown the shots stage but still I felt that the drinking was unhealthy and was probably putting a strain on my vital organs and interfering with sleep, parenting, work and relationships. I was seldom without a drink in my hand when I was out and drank with every dinner at home.
So I searched for Annie Grace and started listening to the podcasts. On the same day I decided to try going booze-free - at this point I hadn't set myself a target of how long this would go on for - I just knew I wanted to stop. My friend Gill had been abstaining for a couple of years already and I could see how beneficial it was for her but for some reason I thought my drinking was something I wouldn't be able to give up. Now I'm starting to think I was wrong. Maybe I CAN.
What is The Alcohol Experiment?
'Rather than teaching you how to be sober – This Naked Mind takes the desire to drink away. Your desire to drink will be gone so you won’t feel like you are missing out.You aren’t being deprived of anything. The focus is not on staying sober, it is instead on just living and being happy. You won’t be pining for a drink or avoiding social situations because of temptation. Without desire there exists no temptation.'
Annie has created a free 30 day abstinence programme where she encourages and supports members to try going without alcohol for this period. She believes that the there should be some middle ground between the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Programme and being a full on drinker. Something for people who want to get off the train before it goes off the rails - people who want to improve things in their own way rather than having to be at rock bottom before they do something about it.
Annie has researched and studied facts, figures and science about our minds and bodies and believes she has found a way to deal with the cravings and addiction that so many of us experience after regularly drinking alcohol for years.
All sorts of relevant questions are answered about everything surrounding drinking - for example why is it more acceptable to drink socially than not, and what will we do instead?
How I'm getting on with it
As I write this I'm actually on Day 5 of no alcohol (they say it takes 5-7 days to fully be out of your system) but I didn't register for The Alcohol Experiment until yesterday so officially I'm on Day 2.
I'm doing OK!
I've resisted huge temptation seeing as there's rose in my fridge and spirits in my wine rack. I've also attended a group birthday meal where everyone was drinking gorgeous looking red wine or refreshing Cobra beer. The temptation at that point was bordering on excruciating. I had a ginger beer and a Masala soda (which was too sweet for me). Last night was 'Date Night' which is when I'll usually have wine and Mark will have cider. I got a turmeric and ginger shot from M&S and a zero alcohol Heineken. It was OK! Another big craving I'm having to resist is putting a dram of Baileys (well fake Baileys from Lidl) into my coffee in the morning. Actually I think after the 30 days is done, this is one of the things I will re-introduce (if not before) because a splash of Baileys is hardly going to get anyone drunk or be damaging.
Probably the best thing so far about this (apart from already feeling fresher in the mornings, more perky in the evenings and my face being less red and blotchy) is that a friend messaged me today saying she saw me mentioning this on my Instagram Stories and has decided to do the 30 day project too. So someone is at the same stage as me, and weirdly we are both pretty excited about it.
Here's what she said:
'After watching your Stories I ordered This Naked Mind this morning (I’m not a podcast person) but I had a ton of ironing to do at work so I figured it was a good time to listen to one.
I know I am not an alcoholic; I’m not a problem drinker. But I DO have a problem with the amount I’m drinking and my reasons behind it. I love how she describes it as stopping the train before it goes through the tunnel and before it goes off the rails. Cannot wait to get the book tomorrow and I cannot wait to not wake up - on too many mornings - feeling less than refreshed! I'm just astounded that, without realising it, we’ve become a society where drinking to excess is normal. Mums bring out the wine when kids have a play date - normal. Meeting friends for lunch and having a bottle of wine - normal. Drinking every day - normal. When I spoke to friends about my concerns they all said the same “oh that’s normal, a bottle a night is normal, everyone does it, it’s not like you’re an alcoholic” as though the only time alcohol can become a problem is if you’re at rock bottom.
It’s all very interesting and I can’t wait to get the book. In an ideal world I’d enjoy a glass or two of something alcoholic when I was out or having friends over. We’ll see where I end up with it. All I know is that I don’t want to carry on as I have been.
The crazy thing is that 10 years ago I never drank at all! It’s something that’s built up since my ex and I split up (I’d begun drinking socially when we were together because it eased my anxiety, made me feel I fit in) and I drank more to numb my mind.
I don’t need to numb my mind now - I want to feel awake. I’m very excited!
I know I wouldn’t want my kids or social media to see me drunk! And that’s the thing; I drink more than I should but only very rarely get drunk, and every time I do I have the most horrific panic attacks the next day. I am certain there are many many more people out there who feel like we do. I’m aiming for 30 days too, and see how I feel and what my relationship with alcohol is like at the end of that time. So feel free to get in touch if you’re having a wobble! X'
Which occasions will be tough?
I've checked my diary for the next 30 days and the only social occasions that will really test my resolve are:
1) A party for friends' 10th anniversary mid month.
2) Family members (who love a drink) coming home for Easter.
We also have a big wedding to go to in London this month but it's a born-again Christian affair so there won't be any booze flowing. Normally in that kind of scenario I'd take my own in my bag and neck a massive glass of it before going in, and at stolen moments in the car or ladies' loos. (I KNOW, right?!!!!) So the lack of it will probably actually show me that happy times and fun do not require alcohol as an essential element.
I did Veganuary two years ago (going vegan for a month) and didn't keep it up afterwards so I'm wondering whether I'll slip back to booze too after the 30 days has elapsed. I think because there's so much wisdom, science and psychology in the podcasts/book/website/Facebook group there's a good chance of taking it further than a month.
I will return with any useful information I glean or thoughts I have during this experiment.
UPDATE: Just checking in on Day 28. It's been a fantastic month. I feel great after 28 days of no alcohol and I really do recommend this 30 day challenge to everyone who drinks regularly. Now I have a decision to make - moderation or abstinence. Currently I'm thinking moderation, and yet abstinence feels strangely inviting too.
UPDATE: Day 29. I think I'm on my last day of the challenge (as my first booze free day was Mothering Sunday - 31 March) and although I decided I would drink moderately after the 30 days, I'm really not that bothered, so it has been a massive success for me. I may have a drink now and then; I may not. It's been such a great month without it. I stared doing an IGTV journal but haven't really kept it up. Work life, parenting and personal life have all been better and I'm so GRATEFUL. The only time in the last 3 decades that I wouldn't drink would be if I was ill or the 9 months of being pregnant. It had just become such a part of me, with heavier and lighter patches of drinking. Oh and it's also saved me money, which I spent on clothes and then realised I needed it for other things and now I'm overdrawn. BUT I feel like everything is so much better and good things are happening. Well done to everyone who is on this journey. You know you are doing the best thing ever for yourself and the people around you.
If you are interested in addressing your own drinking habits and want to contribute any comments or messages, please do!
Thank you to the following local businesses who are on my SUPREME package and are the reason I can keep on connecting, promoting, facilitating, supporting and blogging...