It’s still dark outside. I have been up for nearly two hours, stirring to the sounds of the baby kicking against the wooden slats of her bed and gurgling to herself. I love lifting her out of her cot first thing in the morning, seeing the flicker of recognition on her little pink face as she makes out my features in the green, half-light of her bedroom, gently illuminated by the coloured nightlight on the set of drawers in the corner.
She sat in her bouncy chair in the kitchen whilst I made her milk, smiling at me every time I looked her way and wriggling her tiny feet excitedly at the prospect of receiving her warmed bottle. Now she is back in her cot asleep, whilst Betty the dog is lying on her beanbag snuggled up close to the radiator, content because she has some company once again. I feel fully awake, the clock showing half past seven, the curtains still shut against the pitch black of outside. And I don’t feel tired at all.
Since I gave up drinking, I never struggle to wake up in a morning (a good job as 6 am is now considered a lie in for the baby!). In the last two years, I have been ill once with a bad cold but generally I feel fitter than I have ever felt in my life, with more energy than I know what to do with. I never crave a huge portion of carbs for breakfast either, which I regularly did when I drank alcohol; I remember quite frequently cooking up a greasy fry-up before work in order to soak up the hangover that I was pretending I didn’t have. That in itself is bizarre now, when a bowl of cereal, some juice and maybe a banana form the basis of my morning meal each day. The idea of gorging on a plate of greasy food laden with saturated fat turns my stomach! At work I would down endless cups of coffee, cans of Red Bull or Coke, just to try and stay alert, never considering that all those artificial means to prop myself awake would be totally unnecessary if only I stopped poisoning my body with alcohol each night.
I fell in to such a blatant trap in my younger years, but could never recognise it until I became teetotal; drinking to feel more confident, to have fun, to ward off the loneliness, to cope with stress, only to suffer the associated anxieties, depression, tiredness, mood swings, lack of confidence and depleted energy levels. And then to rejuvenate my weary body and mind, what did I do? Pour more of the poison down my neck, feeling better for it initially (but only initially) because I was satisfying my cravings for a drug that I was addicted to.
The answer is so easy; remove the drug, remove the need for the drug. Just as in quitting smoking, where the desire for a disgusting, smelly, toxic cigarette dissipates once the habit has been kicked, the cravings for alcohol just vanish as soon as you shift your perception about drinking it. I remember saying to someone years ago that I never wanted to become an alcoholic because then I would have to stop drinking forever, which would be the most awful thing. Clearly I was already addicted to the stuff otherwise the notion of living without it wouldn’t have worried me in the slightest. Time just cemented my addiction until I reached a point where alcohol would have killed me, one way or another, if I had continued to drink as I was doing in the last couple of years prior to quitting.
I wrote a lot when I first stopped drinking, just to help me organise my thoughts regarding alcohol and how I had reached such a low point in my life. I felt very sad to begin with at the thought that I was giving up my beloved wine. I remember writing one thing though, that still sticks in my mind; that to die prematurely through drinking would, as well as being tragic to those left behind, be such a monumentally stupid reason to die. That seems even clearer to me now with almost two years of sobriety behind me; to live life in a permanent stupor, hungover or drunk, depressed, anxious and grumpy, only to die before time because alcohol has poisoned the body, is just the biggest waste of a life. I wish that everyone who is living their life through the tainted lens of binge drinking could recognise what I, and others who have managed to give up drinking, can see so clearly; life is so precious and so short, that we should be able to remember and appreciate every day of it. To lose even one day through being bedridden due to a hangover, or to lose an evening because of loss of memory, is just such a waste.
I know that if I had been drinking last night, I would have resented every minute that I spent with the baby so early this morning, cursing the fact that I had not been able to sleep the morning away. Instead, I cherished every second.