When wine became a false friend

Illustration by Lucy McCarthny

In 2014 I decided that alcohol was a false friend to me, albeit an enticing one that with a wink and a nod could lure me into behaviour and situations that although had seemed fun initially were ultimately really not helpful at all.

Without going into detail, over the years I did some really dumb and sometimes dangerous things while under its “spell”. I parted company with drinking after attending a birthday party, not because I got drunk but because I was drinking truly ghastly wine,  and despite this I kept on drinking because I didn’t know how not to. I really did not know how to be at party and not drink. This habit was so engrained that I literally felt powerless to not drink. The next day I just felt seedy and horrid and filled myself up with  greasy food and carbs just to ease my nausea and feed my fatigue. Enough, I thought and that was it, for 6 months I had no alcohol .

Not long into this phase I started a new job and was known as a “person who didn’t drink”. I was in great team of  people who loved to drink and where booze was totally part of the work culture. That was an experience that I somehow managed to survive! I had  told no one of my decision not to drink and just said I was doing a 100 day challenge if asked. What I  later realised, was that I had set myself up in a situation that was totally new and where I had no previously formed habits or rituals. The first “after work drinks” we had, I chose bubbly water and that lay down the new pattern for me going forward. Don’t get me wrong I still had the  internal conversations and wrangling over how much easier it would be just to drink along with everyone else but as far as actually changing my behaviour the new situation made it so much easier.

While this was all going on I was quietly reading copious  sober autobiographies, on line blogs and joined the on line community Living Sober. I was amazed and delighted that there was so much on line information, support and community happening. It was super helpful to me, although I still felt that I was living a half life as my “real” life people did not know  what I was going through. Six months down the track I thought I could moderate; sure enough a year later I came to realise that all drinking wine had added to my life were a few kilos, given me a couple of embarrassing blackout experiences and made me feel generally drained and tired. Now what kind of a friend is that? Drinking for me was no longer fun and I had easily slipped back into the habit of drinking every night.

One evening the house was (unusually) empty and as I sat in my lovely old chair looking out toward the city lights sipping my glass of wine I suddenly wondered what on earth I was doing, drinking, alone. I have a great life, fabulous partner, family, friends, job  so what was I doing? Was I going to end up a haggard, old wine lady gasping for some acrid, sour liquid in search of a buzz?? That was it, a high bottom one might say, in my comfortable chair but inside I was feeling pretty low. That was well over a year ago and I am so grateful for that moment and  to be on this journey of recovery, working on new helpful habits and learning to be content to just be Me.

There are many different reasons to break habits, often  only when the reward  is no longer  worth what it once was are  we are prompted to change, that is when we reach out.


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