by Jess

I had my first taste of alcohol when I was 13, my friend and I were hanging out with some boys in the year above us and they had some big bottles of cider so when they offered us some we happily swigged some back. We didn’t have much, just enough for us to behave even more silly than normal and start running in and out of the public toilets in hysterics. Then when I was about 14 I had my first ‘proper’ night of drinking, we were all camping in a field and had stocked up on a range of spirits. I mainly drank Archer’s and within a couple of hours I was being violently sick. The next morning I was lying on the floor outside my tent and felt like I was dying but somehow that wasn’t enough to stop me doing it again.

Over the course of the next ten years I drank alcohol every weekend. We had a massive group of friends and that was just what we all did, we used to drink in the park or people’s houses until we were old enough to go into the pubs then it progressed onto bars and clubs. I basically lived for the weekend.

The thing is that I never used alcohol well, I would end up barely conscious and puking my guts up about 70% of the time I drank yet I never even thought about giving it up or changing my drinking habits. The main reason being that I was struggling with self-confidence in those days and it was the only way I could handle going out. I didn’t really know who I was so would drink to be someone else. It’s quite scary to think back to some of the dangerous situations I put myself in, I would start spinning out and just leave wherever I was to pass out somewhere. It happened at parties and festivals where I would walk off and pass out in a field somewhere, there were times when I would start walking home and lie down somewhere, even in the middle of winter. I would walk out of clubs and pass out in doorways, there was one occasion when Matt (who hadn’t been drinking) was driving us back from a party in his new van. After puking all over it I then just opened the door and fell out onto the road whilst we were waiting at a junction, had a car been coming the other way who knows what would have happened.

Quite possibly the worst occasion though was the New Year’s Eve of 2010, a couple of months before I fell pregnant with Cherry. This was the last time I got drunk. We’d been invited to a family friend’s house for a dinner party. My sister and I had started drinking really early and by the time we arrived were already quite drunk. Then we had our wine glasses refilled until we sat down to eat at 10pm, I don’t think I even made it to the main course before I’d walked off and passed out. I then managed to puke pretty much all over their bathroom, everywhere apart from the toilet. They must have stripped me off and put me to bed in a spare room because I woke up the next day in my underwear. It was a freezing morning and I had to be driven home wrapped in a sheet with my clothes in a bag. Something which at the age of 25 just felt wrong and I vowed never to do get drunk again.

And I didn’t. Having kids gave me so much confidence and I no longer ‘needed’ alcohol. I was perfectly capable of having just one or two drinks and I did on the odd occasion because it felt fun, like it’s just what adults do. I started to find that one drink at a wedding would give me a headache though or a couple of glasses of wine when out having dinner would give me a terrible headache the next day. Then I started to notice it triggering my anxiety and making me feel depressed. This happened really badly at the end of last year, I had a few glasses of Prosecco on Xmas Day and for about 4 days I felt so depressed. So at the start of this year I decided to completely stop and I haven’t missed it one bit.

Here is why I no longer drink…

#1 I no longer need it. As I mentioned above I used to rely on alcohol to help me deal with certain social situations (such as going to clubs), or to just escape my life. I no longer have a need to escape my life and I no longer go to places that I need to be completely out of my head to deal with. I was never a huge fan of clubs anyway but I equally didn’t want to stay in on my own, now I’m quite happy to do that!

#2 If I need to relax then I have a bath instead. It seems to be completely socially acceptable to use alcohol as a way to relax, no-one questions it if you say you’re desperate for a glass of wine come 6pm yet if you replaced the glass of wine for any other drug then it suddenly sounds completely wrong. ‘I can’t wait for 6pm so I can snort a line of coke’ or ‘I can’t wait for 6pm so I can knock back a load of prozac’ – alcohol is a drug just like any other. I don’t want my children to become aware of the fact that I need alcohol to deal with my life as a mum, I really don’t want them to follow in my footsteps so I feel like I need to lead by example. I find having a bath far more relaxing anyway so now I just do that instead.

#3 I never wanted my kids to see me drunk. My parents used to drink a lot when I was growing up and I always hated it. In fact I was speaking to my mum the other day and she told me how she’d found something I had written when I was 10, all about how I hated her drinking and wished she would stop. I can still remember the way they were when they’d been drinking, they were never abusive or anything but just really hard to communicate with. They weren’t really with it, I mean drunk people are really irritating aren’t they? I knew from day one of being a parent that I never wanted my kids to see me like that.

#4 It’s a waste of calories. Alcohol is packed full of sugar and calories and I realised that I would rather eat a cake than drink something that would give me a headache.

#5 Hangovers. Oh the hangovers, before having kids it wasn’t really an issue to waste an entire day in bed after a night of drinking but once you become a parent you realise you need to be fully on the ball. Even a slight headache can make it hard to cope.

#6 It’s better for my mental health. I find that after drinking alcohol my anxiety flares up and I end up feeling depressed for a few days after. Given that I’m finally at a stage where I have both these things under control, to the point where they aren’t an issue most of the time, it makes no sense to me to risk them flaring up just to have an alcoholic drink.

#7 It’s expensive. When I was buying alcohol I would opt for organic varieties which were bloody expensive and still used to give me a headache! I can’t even imagine what a night of drinking alcohol in a pub would cost these days.

#8 I like being in control of what I say. I still cringe when I think back to some of the things I used to do and say after drinking alcohol, I was actually an overly nice drunk which would mean I’d tell people how much I loved them and be so over the top. I would make friends with my worst enemies if I’d had a few drinks. I hated waking up the next morning and having to think through the things I’d said the night before. I can’t even imagine doing that now, I like to be fully aware and in control of the things I do and say which is impossible when alcohol is involved.

It’s funny to see people’s reactions when you tell them you don’t drink alcohol, it’s as if they write you off for being a complete bore. First Dates (a dating show in the UK) is a classic example of people’s reactions to non-drinkers, the first thing nearly everyone on there does is head to the bar for a strong drink to ‘calm their nerves’, it’s bizarre! Then when someone says they don’t drink alcohol, their match looks at them as if they’ve just landed on earth from another planet.

Of course some situations make me nervous but I much prefer to use the power of my mind to control my nerves instead of alcohol.

What do you think? Could you ever give up alcohol?

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