Alcohol-free but still waiting for the benefits?

There’s no doubt it’s easier to stay sober when things are going well. Not only do you feel more hopeful and have a higher degree of faith in yourself to stay committed to an alcohol-free life, but you’re far less likely to hit the self-destruct button when you’re feeling happy.

When things are looking less rosy it can be all too tempting to throw the towel in and get submerged in booze as a way of blotting out the darker aspects of life. For those who have successfully cut out alcohol but are yet to notice any earth-shatteringly positive results, read on…

Life doesn’t become great simply because you stop drinking (at least not for everyone). Many heavy drinkers will have developed their alcohol habit directly because they are attempting to disguise an element of their life which they are fundamentally unhappy with. This may be a bad relationship, a job which is unfulfilling and/or stressful, or a painful bereavement. Alcohol, despite its numerous and severely damaging consequences, does work well in the short-term in numbing emotional suffering thus it’s an obvious choice of self-medication when times are tough.

When you quit drinking, the cushioning and fog disappear leaving the raw truth; this may not always be what you want as your reality.

So what’s the answer; continue drinking and cover the problem areas up (but also have to cope with the untold additional traumas that arise from heavy drinking) or stay alcohol-free and change the factors of life that are less than satisfactory?

There’s no definitive answer – the choice, as always, is down to you the individual. Being told that you should stop drinking by anyone is never going to be effective for your successful sobriety.


A few years ago when I became alcohol-free there were areas of my life that I didn’t particularly like and that all of a sudden seemed to slam up close, impossible to ignore and demanding attention – any kind of attention. One such problem was that I suddenly realised I desperately wanted a second chance at being a mum and to be a part of a happy family following my acrimonious divorce and the subsequent years of single-parenthood. (The above photograph is of me, four months pregnant with my baby, Lily. To reach this point I had to work through my issues of low self-esteem and depression, both of which took a great deal of effort and time).

As I had spent 20 years blotting things out, covering stuff up and burying my head in a large glass of red I was somewhat unaccustomed to considering difficulties, developing tactics to deal with them and then putting my plans into action. One thing I really noticed as a newly alcohol-free person was that I craved instant gratification – I didn’t want to put any effort into working through issues. I just wanted them to go away, and NOW!

But real life isn’t like that. The big problems that may rear their ugly heads in a newly sober person’s life will not disappear at a click of the fingers. Such matters usually demand a reasonable amount of thought, effort and time (and sometimes a lot of heartache) if they are to be conquered and/or banished for good.

But the benefits to be derived from putting in this extra effort are;

a) reinforced self-confidence

b) increased self-esteem

c) the resolution of whatever the problem was in the first place

d) strengthened commitment to sobriety (because you have proved you can get through the bad times minus the booze).

There is nobody but you who truly knows whether it’s worth staying sober to fight the fight. But there’s nobody but you who will experience first-hand the full rewards of an alcohol-free life either – in the end, it’s a choice only you can make.

Happy Memories of Electric Whisks

I was 23 and pregnant with my eldest daughter, now almost fourteen, when my grandma died. She had lived with us since I was nine years old, with my grandpa (prior to his death, when I was sixteen years old), parents and older sister. Even before my grandparents moved over to join us in Sheffield from their Lincolnshire bungalow, we were very close. My sister and I were thrilled when they, along with our parents, made the decision to buy a house in Sheffield and for us all to live together.

Me, aged about six, with my lovely grandparents

My grandma suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in her last years, and when she finally passed away, she no longer knew who I was. I visited her in the nursing home where she saw out her final months when I was several months pregnant, and although she demonstrated happiness at the news of the impending baby, she had no idea that my soon-to-be-born daughter was her great grandchild. She died soon after that visit.

Life moves on; my baby was born and I married my (now ex) husband a few months later. Although I was extremely sad that I had lost my beloved grandma, I was so caught up with the hectic schedule that accompanies being a new mum and wife that I buried my grief to a degree in order to concentrate on the here and now.

As the years went by, the memories became increasingly distant, pushed to the back of my mind. I began to drink heavily in my late twenties, attempting to anaesthetise myself against the pain of my divorce and the sadness I felt at being left to raise my daughter without her dad around. All the negative events that I had experienced during my life prior to then, including the death of my grandma, gradually whittled away to minor grievances, diluted by wine, numbed by my drunkenness. Somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling.

When I gave up drinking alcohol, and the weeks of sobriety turned in to months, I began to think a lot about stuff that I had interred, long ago, in the depths of my consciousness. I became aware that most of the sad or painful life experiences which had occurred earlier on in my life, had never been ‘dealt with’ – instead of feeling emotional pain, living it, working through it and then moving forward, I had just drunk those emotions away, blotting them out like an eclipsed sun. I had, effectively, never known true pain.

I had lived through things as though I were an automaton, forbidding myself to feel emotions like a human being should, boxing painful memories away like disused ornaments in a dusty attic. Drinking took away my ability to hurt.

But slowly, emotions have returned. Over the last few months, particularly after the birth of my second daughter, I have thought of my grandma frequently (our baby is the namesake of my grandma and of my partner’s mother). Silly things remind me of her; an M&S nighty hanging on an old lady’s washing line; re-reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’; whipping cream to peaks with an electric whisk, mine being a modern version of the 1970’s one I used to borrow from her as a child who was a keen baker; the new series of Dallas; attempting to sew my other half’s trouser hems, minus the wonderfully equipped sewing box she kept so well stocked; Pond’s face cream, the reason behind her lovely pink complexion; my baby’s little chin, round like a button, and which so reminds me of her great-grandma’s.

Although it has been fourteen years since her death, I still miss my grandma. I wish she could have known my two lovely girls, and seen my sister and me as mothers, with our own families to look after. She gave us such constant and unconditional love, and I wish that I had been given the chance to visit her and look after her at an older age than that at which she passed away.

Although I still cry sometimes when I see the seemingly inane things that remind me of her, I am so glad that I feel those emotions and think of her, so fondly, as often as I do. I wouldn’t have ever grieved properly for her had I still been drinking wine every night, and even though it  hurts, I am happy to finally be dealing with my feelings, good and bad, like a fully functioning human being.