Written by Silvia Collins

Lifestyle

My month off the booze

Four months of partying and a health scare made Silvia Collins take a look at her drinking. She tells us how Sober October proved the perfect chance to reset her relationship with the booze.

floating bottlesI’m 44, a busy working mum and, like most people I know, I drink every day. Well, used to.

Though I wouldn’t describe myself as a heavy drinker, I looked forward to that glass of red of an evening. It signified my time to relax, took the edges off the day. The problem was I couldn’t stop at one glass, and regularly found myself finishing off the bottle. I was always on time for work and still juggled childcare, housework, shopping and all the other stuff that had to be done. I just couldn’t find the willpower to have a dry day.

These last four months have been one big party, celebrating the end of one job before starting a new one five weeks later. It was one giant holiday: no schedule, no alarm clock, just lots and lots of fun. I partied with friends, went to work dos and celebrated my new life with gusto, all the while knocking back the booze. I had a blast.

Three years ago my health was called into question when I was diagnosed with an overlap of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It scared the shit out of me. The drugs were hardcore and shocked me into making some major life changes: after a cortisone injection sorted me out, I quit smoking and started running. But I didn’t stop drinking. I’ve since run four half marathons and a full marathon.

“I picked up a leaflet on the effects of alcohol on the brain and liver damage and had my ‘Fuck it’ moment. I was going to stop drinking for a whole month.”

Right now I’m struggling to run at all, though. My lupus symptoms kicked in again three months ago, mild at first but unquestionably there. Worried but in denial, I self-medicated with painkillers. And booze. During the day I listened to the ads for Sober October on my car radio and thought I should give it a go. In the evening, a large glass of wine in my hand, I’d think, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”

On 28 September, I had an appointment with my rheumatologist for a check-up. The hospital thought I had an infection so I took a course of antibiotics, had some blood tests and was sent for a chest X-ray.

Sitting in the hospital on my own, wearing one of those gowns that leave nothing to the imagination, left me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I had time to reflect. Did I want this to be future me? No I did not. I picked up a leaflet on the effects of alcohol on the brain and liver damage and had my ‘Fuck it’ moment. I was going to stop drinking for a whole month.

First though, I had the small matter of my husband’s birthday on 30 September, for which we’d booked a kid-free night away in Manchester for a romantic/debauched getaway. We were staying in a gorgeous apartment in West Didsbury and decided to explore the area by way of a pub crawl.

withnail-i

“We want the finest wines available to Didsbury!”

We started at 4pm with a pint in the sunshine and by 10pm were both absolutely hammered and had a row. One of those stupid drunken rows which ended up with me stropping off back to the apartment to crash out while he stormed off for another pint. A romantic break it was not.

The next day, after some sheepish apologies, a hot shower and several coffees, we headed into Manchester city centre for eating, drinking and shopping. It was an unseasonably sunny 1 October, and I was glad, if apprehensive, that it was also my last day of drinking. We’d already agreed that Sober October would start for us on 2 October, as we were still in birthday/holiday mode.

The first thing we did was go for a hair of the dog, the second was a delicious Japanese lunch washed down with Sapporo. We celebrated our last night on the sauce at home with a takeaway and a few glasses of wine.

And now I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for almost a month. The weird thing is, when we first started this month of abstinence all I could think of was how we’d celebrate its end by cracking open the champagne. But I feel differently. I might even save the champers for New Year’s Eve.

“I was probably drinking too much, and Sober October has been my reset button.”

There have been so many occasions when I’ve thought, “It would be SO nice to have a drink right now…”, but NOT giving in has taught me that I can still do everything I normally do without booze. I still go to the pub, I still meet friends and I still chill out in the evenings.

The other revelation is how much shit I’ve finally got done. With evenings no longer hijacked by wine, my husband and I have been to the theatre without arguing over who would drive home. We’ve met up with friends at the pub and not felt embarrassed about drinking lime and soda. We joined a Buddhist meditation course and I started Tai Chi which is something I’ve wanted to do for ages. Netflix has taken a hammering as we’ve binge-watched the whole of Narcos, Mr Selfridge and Sense8. Sober.

As I started Sober October, I sought inspiration in book form. A whole month without a drink. How would I cope? I ordered High Sobriety: My Year Off The Booze, which made my paltry month seem much less of a hurdle. I like a drink and don’t feel the need to stay teetotal for a year or more, but I’d like to find a comfortable middle ground. The plan is to mainly not drink, but have the odd one if I fancy. I was probably drinking too much, and Sober October has been my reset button.

How do I feel? Well, I still feel like shit and my lupus is worse. No amount of abstinence will help with that. But my head is in a much better place and I’m determined to get my life back on track.

I’m still me; I still laugh at stupid cat videos and spend too much time on my phone, but I’ve proved to myself that I can change my relationship with alcohol. I don’t need to drink every day and I’m proud of myself for doing Sober October. I really didn’t think I had it in me.

@SilviaCollins17

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Written by Silvia Collins

Silvia Collins is an animal lover, Scrabble geek and running nerd still chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.