Bye Bye Booze / health

Two Months Without Alcohol – Am I Still Me?

Katherine visits a pub. Katherine craves alcohol to deal with rejection. Katherine generally stops thinking about alcohol so much. Katherine starts referring to herself in the third person. She stops that immediately. 

February arrived, as did several job rejections and shitty weather. I’ve been unemployed since January 6th and the stir-crazy cabin fever was beginning to settle in. Here are some genuine thoughts that crossed my mind due to boredom/spending all day on the computer applying for jobs:

“I am going to set up a tent in the garden and live in it.”
“How long would it take me to walk all the way to Central London? WHY YOU SO EXPENSIVE OYSTER CARD?
“Should I get a tortoise delivered to my house?”
“Is £200 for a kitten too much money?”
“How many times can a human being listen to ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy before they go clinically insane?”

Normally, I’d get drunk to drown out the pure futility of my situation, but I didn’t really feel the need to this month. I ventured into a ‘spoons for one of the first times and I didn’t even think about the whole alcohol thing until I got to the bar and remembered: “Oh! Alcohol, right.” I thought I’d be more bothered and obsess over it, but I wasn’t and I didn’t. Success!

I’ve also been doing things that don’t require alcohol. I’ve been spending a shit load more time with my family and doing activities adults do, including going to museums, taking an online course (screenwriting, if you were wondering) and trying new things. I mean, obviously I watched seasons 1-7 of Parks and Recreations to fill time, but I also had a lot more time to do research before job interviews and get into the nitty gritty. Which meant I finally got a job, init – but technically that’s a March achievement.

There was a big wobble mid-month however, and it’s scary having to sit-out your own intense mood swings. I saw my ex very close to Valentine’s day and I got incredibly sad and confused about having broken up with him. The last time I saw him we drank nearly a litre of vodka to make things less awkward, got too drunk, argued, then were hungover and moody with each other while I had to prepare for a job interview and do a written task.  I was already on edge at that time over other personal issues, so it was not a good time for anyone to be in my general vicinity.

Then we met up again mid-February and both of us were doing a lot better; he’d just got a great new job and I was feeling healthier from not drinking and becoming fitter. I may or may not have then sent a 2500 word email to him about my feelings, and boldly suggested it’s all in or bust; we shouldn’t talk anymore if we are really serious about getting over one another. So that’s what happened – and I lost one of my best friends in an instant.

Normally this would be a cause for drinking my body weight in liquor and matching with the entire world on Tinder, but instead I just cried it out. And I mean lying in bed for hours blubbing into a roll of toilet tissue like this, not fan-your-eyes-I’ve-just-won-an-Oscar tears:

I didn’t numb my feelings for something as huge as this, and if there was ever a time I was going to break my sobriety, that would have been it.

Of course, I kept busy and eventually it wasn’t as difficult as it was at the beginning. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad I didn’t drink and make a tit out of myself (which would have made me feel even worse). I didn’t get off with some random stranger and regret it; I didn’t make my sadness worse than it already was by fuelling it with a depressant. This meant it was easier to deal with overall and I was able to get back to normality a lot quicker than I would have had I entered alcohol into the equation.

Now I’ve not been drinking for a few months, it is easier not to rely on it so much. Sure I thought about in the midst of snotty tears, but the urge to turn to it as a coping mechanism for overwhelming feelings is nowhere near as strong as it was a few months ago. For example, I was told off at work on the shop floor in front of everyone in December and I was so worked up and embarrassed about it that immediately after I clocked off I bought a bottle of wine to deal with it (which I drank alone). But shit son, that’s a pretty pathetic way of dealing with negative emotions. You don’t really deal with those feelings when you medicate them, so when it happens again you’re just as sensitive to it as you were the first time. Also, drinking when something bad happens just exacerbates the bad feelings, and if you go so far as to drink for such a standard occurence you’ll never develop any real coping mechanisms against, well – life. (Sober retrospect is a great tool, people).

Two months sounds like such a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but when drinking is almost your only bi-weekly ‘hobby,’ it feels like a huge change and a massive learning curve. I’m not haunted by ‘oh-my-god-wtf-did-I-do-last-night’ anxiety anymore and generally I’m more confident talking to random human beings because I know I don’t have alcohol to back me up anymore. I still laugh like a maniac drunk and my best mate and I have evenings where we go so crazy that it feels like we are drunk.

And can we talk about the health benefits please? I put on loads of weight around Christmas and none of my clothes fitted, so I decided it was time for a change (and you can’t really buy a whole new wardrobe on Jobseeker’s Allowance). I’ve done shit loads of diets before and I never got past two weeks of the Insanity workout because of hangovers and drunken Domino’s deliveries. I’ve been doing Insanity five or six times a week and cutting out the calories from alcohol has meant a huge change in two months. I’ve never seen such ~insane results because my healthy diets were always peppered with weekly binge sessions. It’s also strange because I’m not really viewing my new healthy lifestyle as a ‘diet:’ I don’t track my calories and I eat and exercise when I want. When I was drinking, I tried to count calories to allow for alcohol, and it would mean under-eating and drinking on an empty stomach, which never led to anything positive. Also, at first my goal was to squeeze back into my clothes, but exercise and eating vegetables is really good for my mental health (duh), so I’m sticking with it for the all-round benefits. I am not doing it to be skinny, and it’s kind of awkward when people’s first reaction to my new look is: “Wow, you look so thin!”

Also, my sister said she liked me more since I’d given up alcohol, which for us, a family of character assassinations and sibling rivalry, is probably one of the nicest things she’s said to me. We probably grew closer than we have ever been in the last few months and it’s a shame that’s she’s jetted off to Australia for a year now.

All this is leading me to ponder whether I will ever use alcohol in the same way again after this year, or whether I’ll be incredibly reluctant to touch a single drop again. I feel the most grown-up I’ve ever felt since I started experiencing life without it. It’s as though I am taking my first steps into adulthood strong-footed, leaving behind the girl twisting her ankle on the cobbled pavements because she’s too plastered to take responsibility for her actions.

– Katherine Hockley


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