Diet Coke. On the rocks.

Whilst the great Rubbish Blood Incident of 2011 was, all in all, a hassle and if I never have to have my blood tested again it will be too soon, one very interesting thing it threw up was me not being allowed to drink alcohol for six months.

I don’t mind admitting it.  When the doctors told me that I couldn’t mix alcohol with my medication, I completely panicked.  I felt worse about that than I did about the potential fertility issues with which my condition may leave me and the lifestyle changes I’d have to make.  The fact that I’d nearly died sailed over my head.  It was the thought of not drinking that broke me out in a sweat, none of the above.  I wasn’t even pregnant for God’s sake, the only feasible and decent excuse for not drinking my tiny brain could think of.
I really really enjoy a drink, and I’ve navigated most of my twenties with a glass of wine in hand.  I don’t drink excessively, (although truth be told I probably would were I not married to someone who drinks not a drop), but the potential to do so has always been there, lurking.  I genuinely love the taste of alcohol.  I love the social opportunities that drinking alcohol provides. I love that feeling of freedom two or three drinks in.  Prior to RBI 2011, I drank at least once a week, and was drunk at least once a month.  That’s not a huge amount, granted, but it was regular, consistent, a necessity in my busy working London life, where meeting friends for a drink is hardwired into our culture.     
Drinking was part of what made me me, and important part of my life.  If I’m honest, it was a crutch.
In London speakeasies

Hence the panic.  I had weddings and birthdays coming up, I had awkward social situations to navigate, I had long hard working weeks ahead of me…and I was genuinely concerned about how I’d navigate them without a gin and tonic in my hand.  I hadn’t realised how much I used alcohol as a support mechanism. 

And do you know what?  It’s been fine
I say fine, not brilliant, because there have been Friday nights after long, arduous weeks at work where I’ve looked miserably at my diet Coke and thought, you know what, I would sell my soul for a glass of white.  Not even posh white.  House white would do nicely.
But for the most part?  I feel like I’ve rediscovered me.  I’ve realised I’m more than capable of going out, conversing, being a fun person to be around, and I don’t need a drink to help me do that.  I don’t magically become funnier, or a better person, with the addition of a gin and tonic.  I have sung Jolene AND Bon Jovi at Departmental karaoke, stone-cold sober.  And I sang them well, and I was first up on stage.  No way I’d have done that six months ago.  I have been at friends’ weddings amongst the last on the dancefloor, talking to everyone, and remembered every second of their special day.  I have had a clear head every single morning of every single day since I stopped drinking.  My skin is the best it has been since I was 14.  It’s almost glowing.  I’m less bloated.  I have more energy.  Not a lot can beat that feeling. 
And I suppose the question becomes; what happens once, or if, I’m able to come off the medication?  Will I be able to have just one, just every so often?  I just don’t know.  I’d love to blithely claim that I’ll be able to drink in moderation; but the truth is, I just don’t know. 
And I’m fully aware that this has been easier than giving up for other reasons, because drinking just isn’t an option.  Same as if you’re pregnant. 
Giving up just for the hell of it, however?  Takes a lot more willpower.    
The point I’m trying to make is this; it’s easy to take alcohol as a given in your life.  But if doesn’t have to be.  Don’t use it to make yourself wittier, more confident, better.  You’re already there. 

And if you do want to give up for a while…it’s really, really not as hard as you’d think.  It’s remarkable what you will learn about yourself, your capacity to handle difficult situations, your confidence.  Self-awareness, the main thing that alcohol blunts, is a beautiful thing. 


Don’t drink, kids!  It makes you look like this!  Ok, I was deep in the middle of a Senegalese jungle, but still.  
Categories: Health, Life Experience, Written By Anna
15 interesting thoughts on this

15 Comments

  1. Catherine
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I seriously cut down my alcohol consumption back in 2008 primarily as a means to save money. I found I didn't really miss it much (foregoing diet coke would be another story entirely) and I still drink very moderately now (with the odd drunken exception)

    I've noticed it seems much more socially acceptable to be a non, or light, drinker in the States where as back home most people seemed to assume I'd become a devout Christian!

    And, very much agreed on the clearer skin and general feeling of healthiness.

  2. amy f
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Hmm, tricky one. I had a friend who gave up drinking for a year, just to see if he could. I thought he was crazy. The only time I've done it was after my drink was spiked (i was fine, James had to carry me across Newcastle in the snow though) and I couldn't stomach alcohol for a few months after that.

    I can say though that Anna meets all my requirements for a good night out even without the booze (funny, good conversation, willing to divulge gossip), although it must be annoying when everyone else gets less coherent as an evening goes on.

  3. amy f
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Hmm, tricky one. I had a friend who gave up drinking for a year, just to see if he could. I thought he was crazy. The only time I've done it was after my drink was spiked (i was fine, James had to carry me across Newcastle in the snow though) and I couldn't stomach alcohol for a few months after that.

    I can say though that Anna meets all my requirements for a good night out even without the booze (funny, good conversation, willing to divulge gossip), although it must be annoying when everyone else gets less coherent as an evening goes on.

  4. Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I've never really been a huge drinker. The combination of being chronically anxious with a tendency toward panic attacks means that I don't like the feeling of being out of control, and I don't like that I can't just choose to stop it and sober up immediately. In the past when I've been very drunk? I have had several drunk panic attacks. I do not recommend it.

    During uni though, I actually gave up drinking completely for 3 months (during UNI, when everyone around you is drunk all the time), because I was on anti-anxiety medication, and it was odd. I found I enjoyed myself more, but at the same time I did find it hard to be the only stone cold sober person there; after a while everyone starts finding things funny that.., aren't really funny, and the novelty wears off. I 100% agree though that you can be just as much your sparkling brilliant, funny, confident self sober, if you can give it a go. And it's worth trying!

    K x

  5. Posted December 1, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks Amy – I'm glad I passed the "night out" test!

    Katielase – yes, agreed. It IS hard when everyone else is wasted and more than once I've looked at my friends wasted and just thought "that would be me,acting like that, were I drinking". It's a terrifying thought!

    Catherine – yes, devout Christian. Or PREGNANT. Just this week I had someone at the bar congratulating me, they didn't even bother to check! I was all like "no, no, just porky" but inside I was annoyed.

  6. Posted December 1, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I like going for long spells without booze, like katielase its about regaining control and reducing anxiety. Unfortunately I need to be covert about it as a newlywed I'm sick to death of getting stick about the possibility of being pregnant. Generally I drive everywhere as an excuse. I shouldn't need an excuse really.

    Px

  7. Posted December 1, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I enjoy a drink. I have tried going without booze, and I have cut back, to save money, but it's not helped when my husband is always opening a bottle of wine, as it's been a busy day and he needs wine to unwind, or he makes himself a G & T, and automatically makes me one. My parents are no better, and open a bottle of wine most evenings.

    My older brother is autistic, and he has a routiine, which he cannot break, which includes two bottles of lager EVERY NIGHT, unless he goes out for a meal, when he will have two pints. If mum forgets to buy the lager, he has a massive tantrum. It is very rare mum forgets.

    I did go for a couple of months of doing most of the driving on nights out, and still enjoyed the evening, but I have a better time with a glass of white wine spritzer in hand. I don't like getting drunk though, just tipsy. I like to be in control.

    I doubt you'll believe me on this, but I have only had a hangover once in my life (after drinking too much champagne – it was the bubbles). I can drink quite a lot, without a hangover. At uni the morning after the night before, everyone would look like death warmed up the following morning, and I would be fine. I think it's my Dad's genes, as he very rarely has a hangover.

    I'm going to try your no alcohol, as I'd love clear skin, although I'll leave it till after Christmas and New Year.

    Anna, hope you're feeling better now.

    xx

  8. Esme
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I pretty much stopped drinking to lose a bit of weight before my wedding and I found it a really interesting experience. My friends really didn't like it but I have to say that I was sleeping a lot better and enjoying my weekends more (plus I did lose the weight). I missed the taste of alcohol though.

    After the wedding I've started drinking a bit more, but it's much less than a couple of years ago. I'm not sure what I'm going to do now, but part of me wants to hardly drink at all so that if/when I am pregnant peole won't notice so much!

    xx

  9. Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I think the hardest thing about giving up without a reason like pregnancy or the it could kill you kinda thing would be friends. I even found myself doing it just now when I read Gemma's twitter post to Anna about getting back on the wagon and I wanted to say "Nooooo, you haven't been to my festive party and tried my new Christmas Fizz cocktail yet, or my mulled wine!" Why do we feel the need to make our friends drink? Or is it just me? Am I just a bad influence and being selfish?

    Personally I don't think I drink too much but it does vary. I sometimes go a couple of weeks with nothing, but sometimes fancy a glass of wine most days (admittedly this can depend on what we're eating or how stressful work has been). I love to drink a glass of wine and sing my wee heart out while cooking and I love cocktails on nights out, just because they are so delicious. Don't know why I never even bother to look at the virgin ones, I'm sure they might be just as yummy – maybe I should try it!

  10. Posted December 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I'm not a big drinker (some loose lipped "friends" may try to convince you otherwise) but I gave up the sauce altogether for a while because some medication required it.

    I think a bout of non drinking does maybe (at least at first) make you a bit choosier about what you're going to drink…and you certainly appreciate a well made mojito more than most.

    So then Anna, meet you at St Pancras champagne bar when you've got the nod from the docs? What do you say? x

  11. Posted December 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    My drinking is cyclical, because of the meds I take in our efforts to make a baby…

    I absolutely concur with Anna-when I don't drink for a prolonged period of time I sleep better, my skin brightens up, it's easier to get up in the morning…but then when I know I can have a glass of Pinot again, I forget all of those wondrous benefits because I *really* enjoy the taste of an icy-cold glass of crisp, white wine.

    Stupid, really.

    Everything in moderation, isn't that the key?!

  12. Posted December 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Yes. Except cake. You can't have cake in moderation (unless that's just me?!)

    K x

  13. Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I don't drink at all. Haven't for years now. I used to drink lots when I went out during my late teen years and through university but it's lost it's appeal to me now. Plus for health reasons all the drinks I used to love are now out of bounds. I tried to find alternatives but try as I might, I just couldn't get on board with wine so I stopped bothering. And now I don't want to drink. While I used to enjoy going out with friends at uni, I don't miss feeling icky the next day. I honestly don't miss it.

    However, everytime I'm at a bar with other people and I order a diet coke I get such horrific looks, 'don't you want a glass of wine?', 'what, you don't drink AT ALL?' I know, shock horror! Is it really necessary to react like that just because I don't like the taste of alcohol anymore? I'm not telling them I eat children or something, just don't drink. Like Catherine said, it's such a culture in the UK that everybody must drink. I'm not pregnant, religious, a goodie goodie two shoes etc but for some reason it's not socially acceptable to just not enjoy it. No wonder me and hubby barely ever go out anymore. Oh god we sound so sad!

    xXx

  14. Posted December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Really, really interesting post. I drank little or nothing on nights out throughout my university days because all my best friends were either non-drinkers or very light drinkers. Then I graduated and found myself working with people for whom having a drink was as normal as breathing. My alcohol intake started rising rapidly, then when I was with my now-ex husband we shared a bottle of wine most nights (oh, the shame!) And now, 2011, my annus horribilis, the breakdown of my marriage, the serious illness and eventual death of my mother, and alcohol has become a way of making my world feel slightly less painful. But I am a strong person, and why would alcohol be the thing I need to deal with my pain?? So of course, I am trying to regain control -well, a little bit, there's still nothing to beat a G&T.;

    Hope you've recovered from your illness Anna K.

  15. Posted December 15, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    This is a really inspiring post. Going to join you on the wagon in the New Year- think I could really do with it.

    Ps great pic! X

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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