Clearing away the empties after a big night, I’ve sometimes considered scribbling out the ABV % and instead pencilling in the measure of my shame, on a scale of 1 to 10.
Let’s just say, a ‘1’ was never in the running.
A whole bottle of wine + five gins = one deeply private overshare, gallons of tears and at least 24 hours of deepest depression.
Little mental calculations flying everywhere. Like ‘yes it was bad, but next time I’ll drink more water’, or ‘if I’d stopped at the wine everything would have been fine…’
Fundamentally though, those sums are all underpinned by the belief that giving up alcohol would be a socially or personally unsurvivable loss.
Remarkable, isn’t it?
Alcohol is actually thought to affect around 50 different neural mechanisms, most significantly:
Oh the luxury of knowing that silly season is behind us for another year.
Gleefully we dump the mince pies, donate the weird gifts and vacuum up every last vestige of tinsel. It feels a touch Scrooge-like to be so relieved to see the back of such a ‘special’ time.
Except it’s not. It’s only bloody reasonable.
Most of the joy was sucked from Christmas when we became adults…. FEMALE adults.
Because here we are, somehow almost entirely responsible for delivering the full Christmas experience – with giving our children all the sparkle and delight, with juggling family and in-law relationships, usually with cooking and (99 times out of 100) shopping resting entirely on our plates.
And then we wonder why we’re miseries; why it takes a gallon of alcohol to make us *joyful* and to lubricate our way through the season.
We’re miseries because there is nothing merry and bright about being the Christmas workhorse…
Ok I didn’t actually kill anyone, but if deathly thoughts counted for anything he’d be pushing up daisies right about now….
And it was only partly his fault.
The other part was mine. My self-care routine was knocked out of whack so, instead of re-defining it, I let it slide. So, there I was, with all of life’s usual pressures and dramas, and without my outlet – my safe space and time to unwind and process.
It was not pretty. But I learned from it.
From now on, I will kill FOR my self-care time, not because of the lack of it.
Jokes aside, what I did learn is that, since creating that time for myself, I am so much more able to navigate the peaks and troughs of work and relationships, and without it I’m a little bit at sea. That time is, in the scheme of things, just a few moments, but it works wonders for my wellbeing.
Because I don’t want to be a reactive, dramatic person – most of us have no desire to...
Deciding to ditch alcohol can feel like a HUGE statement.
‘Oh God, everyone will think I’m a raging alcoholic’, or maybe ‘if I say I don’t drink, but then I start again, I’ll have failed’.
Those thoughts can be crippling.
But sometimes we set our goals too specifically, and in doing so we talk ourselves out of them before we’ve even got off the starting blocks.
What if the goal wasn’t to ditch the booze, but to find better ways to self-care, to self-soothe, to show yourself a whole heap of self-love?
Because, ultimately, it’s kinda the same thing.
Changing your relationship with alcohol doesn’t mean you have to tip everything down the sink in a blaze of ‘new me’ defiance (although you can if you want). It can just mean thinking, observing, nurturing, and then plotting a new path as all that understanding unfolds.
Big old lines in the sand can give us a tremendous kick when they work, but...
Want to work on your wellbeing? Start by ditching the self-flagellation, my friend.
We women are experts in telling ourselves to ‘do better’. We constantly beat ourselves up for never being ‘enough’, for never getting things quite ‘right’. We’re utterly unforgiving.
I get it – I was expert level in it too!
And that’s why I drank. Because I was drowning under the unrelenting pressure of modern womanhood and I’d learned, from a very young age, that alcohol was my band-aid of choice.
If you don’t already know, I was born in the UK but grew up in Africa. My parents didn’t drink any more than any of their friends, BUT my grandparents started each day with a Gin and Cinzano. And, at the ripe old age of 13, I was allowed to start drinking too.
I don’t blame any of them. The received wisdom back then was that, ‘if we let them drink with us then they'll be used to alcohol and better able to...
Stop ‘quitting’ alcohol
So often, when we think about how we want to enhance our lives, we start with all things we need to ‘stop’. We set about decluttering our inner workings like they’re an overstuffed wardrobe.
Energised and ruthless, we chuck out everything ugly and ill-fitting – all the things we no longer want to be part of who we are. Until, exhaustion hits. Then we look around at the mountains of odd socks and resistance bands, and – overwhelmed by fatigue and futility – we decide to come back to it tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow…
Because in picking that enormous battle, we had already lost.
Great ideas don’t become sticky changes through willpower – by bloody-mindedly ploughing through something awful – change happens when we set our sights on a new horizon. When we’re motivated by hope and optimism.
We have to believe with all our hearts that what’s on the other side is...
I call bullsh*t on alcohol
Hello and welcome to Emma’s alcohol-free paradise; a place of sunshine, rainbows and eternal joy.
Alcohol-free or not, life is life. Immense highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between. And that’s a daunting prospect, especially without our trademark ‘safety net’.
Except our relationship with alcohol has never been, and never will be, ‘safe’. It’s a sneaky little devil, dressing up as a solver of problems while it lights fires all around us.
And still, it manages to convince us that we ‘need’ it. That life will be worse without it.
I call bullsh*t.
Alcohol takes more than it gives
The first step to that rainbow-filled AF world is to recognise (as above) that our perception of alcohol is TOTALLY skewed. It is not our friend, it is not a band-aid and it will be no loss.
Why is that important? Because perception and positive mental attitude are critical to our...
2019 was a shit storm of a year. I had walked away from my 20 year marketing career a victim of some pretty unpleasant, but all to common, workplace behaviour a valium popping, nervous wreck unable to cope with the simplest of tasks. I was so full of shame, like so many women on the receiving end of toxicity in the workplace. Why couldn't I cope? Why wasn't I up to it? Why did they choose me? I didn't know who I was without my career. I was completely broken. Years of living in fight or flight trying to manage a full time corporate career two little babies, and a marriage that was not in great shape, surviving on caffeine, adrenalin and booze, I was brittle and it only took a few really unpleasant encounters for me to break. Then followed the aftermath, lawyers and financial uncertainty, I was lucky to have a great support system to guide me through the process, I couldn't have done it alone. Over that year whilst I maintained my running and built a daily yoga and...
Did you get alcohol-free or sober curious over the pandemic? Is this your first Christmas without alcohol? The holiday period can be really activating for our nervous systems – family, socialising pressure, stress, and so on. It's a big fat lie that alcohol relieves stress, even if that belief takes a bit of shifting. Your body goes into hyperdrive as soon as it consumes alcohol, prioritising the removal of it from your system above ALL else. This leads to the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin - which are like pouring petrol on the flames of our anxiety and stress.
If you REALLY want to have a stress-free Christmas, the following ideas can help you to not only keep booze at bay but have blast while you do so!
If you are not feeling it. Don't go. You are under no obligation. Your early alcohol-free journey may not be ready...
Mindful drinking can be an important tool for people wanting to change their relationship with alcohol. Research shows that awareness without judgement is the key to lasting habit change. As my friend and mentor Annie Grace would say, "all change happens on the other side of awareness".
When we have been trying to cut down or stop drinking for a long time we can end up losing our trust in ourselves. Through mindful drinking we can rebuild that trust with loving compassion. When you keep trying to unsuccessfully stop or cut down your drinking it can get really demotivating. Mindful drinking gives you the opportunity to celebrate your awareness as a tool to move towards your goals with alcohol. You can stop trying to stop drinking and start trying to understand why you drink.
Important to this is the understanding that alcohol is an addictive drug and the way it works on the brain means that we are programmed to want to drink more...