News and Booze – Our Alcohol-Soaked Culture, And Six Years This Month Of Not Drinking…

My local post office closed down a few weeks ago and the service moved to the newsagents next door. The newsagents has a large sign in the window reading News & Booze and inside, the split of the two is approximately 90% Booze and 10% News.

When I was little, I loved going to the newsagents close to where I lived to spend my pocket money. I’d buy magazines and My Little Ponies, chocolate and stationery items. The shop was about a ten-minute walk from my house, and when my friends and I made the (what seemed like) long trek up there to purchase our weekend goodies, we all felt very grown up.

The News and Booze shop is very different to my childhood newsagents. As I stood in there the other day waiting to post a parcel, I gazed around at the three out of four walls filled with bottle after bottle of alcohol; vodka, wine and whiskey take precedence – I estimated there were at least fifteen different types of vodka on display. As I stood there, a man shuffled in with an empty carrier bag in his hand, embarrassment and shame inherent in his downward gaze. He asked the shopkeeper for a half-bottle of whiskey, and slid it quickly into his bag before paying and swiftly turning on his heel to head out of the door. It was about 11am. I guessed he had been waiting until a ‘reasonable’ time to go out and pick up his morning fix.

Today when I was in the same shop, a woman came in with her two young children. The smaller one, a little girl aged about two, repeatedly wandered to the bottles on the shelf, drawn by the colours on the labels and the shiny glass. She kept reaching out to touch them, entranced by the display that must have stretched up to the sky in her baby eyes. The mother repeatedly drew her back to her side as she tried to work through everything she had come into the shop to do. From behind the counter, the staff member joked to the toddler, “Don’t look at those! You’re not old enough for all that yet”.

And I observed both of these things like an outsider. Alcohol is a strange beast to those of us who used to drink too much of it but now don’t allow it anywhere close. When I drank, I never saw the harm in booze, despite the fact that my life was an alcohol-induced car crash mess – my crap job, my crap relationships, my zero self-esteem, my crap outlook, my crap depression, my crap life. It was all down to drinking too much, too regularly.

But alcohol to me back then was my highly defended best friend – I never blamed it for anything.

Nowadays, when I see alcohol encroach on people’s lives in such negative ways; now, when I see the blanket denial that exists across the board in relation to alcohol and how it never does any harm when we all know it does; now, when I see an alcohol-addicted man shuffle into a post office at 11am on a Monday morning to buy a half-bottle of whiskey; now, when I see toddlers being drawn into jokes about a damaging addictive drug, as if it were no more harmful than lemonade; now, when I see all these things, I feel like an alien. I wonder how those blinkers can be drawn so tightly that people see nothing wrong with alcohol. And yet when I look, I see a poison that nearly killed me and destroyed all my chances at being me, for over twenty years.

We live in a society so awash with booze that it is entirely normal to nip into your local post office to send a parcel, only to be greeted with three-quarters of the wall space filled with vodka and wine. Alcohol is ingrained into the fabric of western society, so entrenched that it can be virtually impossible to imagine living in a world without its omnipresence. And this is, of course, one of the reasons why it can be so difficult to imagine not drinking alcohol – at all, ever again.

More than anything else, the thing that has helped me adjust to being a non-drinker in a world apparently in love with alcohol, is belonging to Soberistas; knowing there are others who share my view of the world makes me feel like I’m not the only one – I’m not fighting this fight alone. Knowing this helps me to see our alcohol-obsessed culture for what it is; the sad outcome of profits over public health, the emergence of alcohol over the last few decades as an incredibly lucrative industry set firmly against the backdrop of capitalist society and a modern world in which lots of people want to escape the daily grind – and are encouraged relentlessly to do so through excessive drinking by alcohol manufacturers.

I am, however, comforted by the knowledge that I’m not the only person to recognise this truth. And I am so very grateful, every day, that I saw the light and waved goodbye to alcohol forever six years ago this month.

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Shouting ‘I’m A Soberista!’ from the Rooftops

Sobriety was once a dirty word to me. Boring do-gooders avoided alcohol. Cool people drank, and drank a lot.

This was probably the biggest challenge for me in terms of deciding to stop drinking. I could not conceive of losing my ‘edge’ and metamorphosing into a quiet dullard who couldn’t let her hair down. I know I’m not alone in thinking these thoughts, and I often read about other people’s experiences with friends and family who are sceptical at best, or scathing and down right rude at worst, with regards to that person’s new non-boozy status.

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What is it about alcohol that prompts people to share their opinion on whether or not we should be partaking in this national pastime? If I sat down for dinner with people I wasn’t overly familiar with and announced that I was a vegetarian, I would more than likely receive a lesser inquisition than if I declared my AF lifestyle and opted for a mineral water amongst the truckload of wine being delivered by the attentive waiter. But why do other people care so much about our drinking habits? Could it be that they don’t wish to draw attention to their own alcohol consumption? Generally, I’ve found that the people who have the least to say about me being a non-drinker are the ones who barely drink themselves, the ones who most definitely have not got any issues with alcohol.

Anyway, the point of the above observations is that society frequently has a tendency to be more accepting of heavy drinkers than those of us who opt for an AF life, and this can be a major obstacle in quitting. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can contribute massively to ‘wobbles’ and, ultimately, to caving in and having a drink. In order to stay true to the path of sobriety, therefore, it is vital that we believe in the alcohol-free way. And I mean, really believe in it – to find it an aspirational way of life, fall in love with it, want it more than anything, and be proud to tell anyone who listens, “No thanks, I do not drink”.

I did not feel this way about not drinking until at least eighteen months into my sobriety. I was ashamed of my problem, angry because I ‘wasn’t allowed to drink’, lonely and full of regret. But eventually, something clicked inside me and all the monumental benefits of being a non-drinker dawned on me. What the hell was I being so negative about? Where is the need to feel demeaned by a choice that will provide me (and my family and friends too) with a far happier and healthier life? Why be secretive about declining to consume an addictive substance that consistently made me fat and act foolishly, which caused me to hurt both myself and those I love, which damaged my mental and physical health and routinely put the brakes on all my hopes and dreams for future happiness?

When you think about it, becoming AF is a lifestyle choice that we should be shouting from the rooftops! These days I am supremely proud of being a non-drinker, to the point of being a bit smug. I like the fact that I am in good shape, that I am the best person I can be in all areas of my life (well, maybe there’s a little room for improvement here and there, but things are eminently better than in boozy days gone by!). I am not apologetic in the slightest about my choice to not drink alcohol, and when people ask me why I am on the mineral water I just tell them the truth: For me, one glass always led to another, and another, and the fall-out from drinking was too much. I’m so much happier being a Soberista.

Alcohol-Free Life; A Better, Brighter Place

I used to be so frightened of not drinking, not nearly so scared of all the associated horrors of downing excessive amounts of wine on a regular basis – the nights when I couldn’t remember getting home, waking up to discover horrific bruises in bizarre places, and the endless, all-consuming feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred that would linger for days after each terrible binge.

I’m fascinated by this phenomenon now, as with several years of sobriety behind me I can’t believe I was ever scared of becoming alcohol-free. I love my life today, and there isn’t a single thing about booze that I miss or wish still featured in my daily existence. Much has been written (on Soberistas and elsewhere on the internet) about the obvious positives that stem from sober living; weight loss, brighter eyes, more money, heightened self-esteem, increased productivity at work and so on. But what about the real, under the skin benefits of alcohol-free life? What does it do to you as a person, not drinking? How much changes, and what, if anything, remains the same when you turn your back on booze?

For me, the number one benefit of an alcohol-free life is that I now have clarity and emotional intelligence. I know myself inside and out, understand when my ego is getting in the way of the important stuff, recognise my insecurities and weaknesses, have developed strategies that work and help me to cope with life’s challenges, and I realise when I need to take a step back from a given situation and rethink my position on it. I am fully in control of my life, and of my human instincts – I trust myself.

I no longer feel ashamed of who I am. These days, everything has a reason behind it, validity and a purpose. There are no knee-jerk reactions and over-emotional tantrums; no more hours spent crying into a pillow, too filled with shame to leave the house. There are no moments of terror in public places when I see someone and cannot remember if I said anything or acted in a particular way in front of them that should now be causing me embarrassment. When I apologise to people nowadays, it is without the heavy weight of disgrace dragging my heart down to the ground. I can look in the mirror and feel proud of who I am.

I have drive and ambition. My thoughts have the freedom to go beyond wishing I hadn’t drunk so much, or wondering when I can next have a drink. My days aren’t wasted lying around, saturated with self-pity. Things get done. I am organised. My life works.

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When people ask me if I ever miss alcohol, I consistently, honestly and with a great deal of passion, tell them no. For me, living soberly is the source of a great deal of pride. I love being a Soberista. I love sobriety far more deeply than I ever did alcohol, although I could not have known that as a drinker. As a drinker, I did not possess the emotional intelligence to understand how far from happiness I was, and therefore had no idea about what I was missing out on in life.

Every day spent as a non-drinker is magical; better, brighter. Life has taken on an exciting quality again, as I remember it from my childhood. Everything is there for the taking and there are no barriers anymore preventing me from enjoying it. There really is nothing to fear from embarking on an alcohol-free life, and much to gain. It is so worth taking the leap.

The Very First Soberistas Meet-Up, London, January 11th 2014

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to meet some of the Soberistas community for real, and it was a fantastic day which I was thrilled to be a part of. It was only 13 and a half months ago when Soberistas.com launched but over the last year and a month, what started as just a small group has grown to be a very large community of truly inspirational people.

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I think to all those who attended, Saturday’s meeting felt like a group of  good friends coming together – there was no sense of us all only just having met one another, rather we slipped into hugs and conversations as if we had known each other for years. For me, being united in the flesh reinforced the notion that Soberistas is a community built on the foundations of kindness, love, compassion and solidarity.

What did I take away from me on Saturday when I left that very special group of people and ventured back out into the bright but cold January day? I took with me the knowledge that alcohol is one hell of a sneaky drug which can take a hold on ANYONE, no matter their background, personality or class. I took with me a reinforced belief in how the support of those who have endured the same kind of difficulties is the best kind there is. And I left with a warm feeling in my heart and a strong sense of belonging.

I also left the London Meet Up convinced that we are on the cusp of change. The fact that a group of women (and one man, thank you Dr Andrew Langford, CEO of the British Liver Trust) from all over the UK made the effort to travel far and wide to spend the day with one another, sharing their stories and strengthening the community spirit of Soberistas, gives me hope that many more people will come to realise what we already have; that alcohol dependency is a trap from which one CAN escape, and that life without booze can be a wonderful, eye-opening, fulfilling and exciting adventure which anybody can partake in if they are only willing to alter old habits.

I know there are many more Soberistas meet-ups scheduled over the next few months – I will be speaking at the one in York in March, and I can’t wait to meet even more of the fantastic people who have helped build Soberistas. I hope you can make it too.

Lucy x

When The Going Gets Tough…

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” – Dalai Lama

I’ve not had the best of weeks. I’d even say that in the odd, fleeting moment I have come close to feeling depressed, a place I’ve been lucky enough to avoid for the last couple of years. I have doubted myself, felt powerless and without hope. I’ve struggled to find sufficient energy to deal with my problems.

For much of the last few days I have been overwhelmed with a desire to keep to myself, to tick along quietly without being bothered by anything else.

It has felt alien and unpleasant, largely because I had nowhere to run, no place to hide. There was no bottle of wine (or 2, or 3) to numb these feelings with. I have simply had to sit it out.

Tonight, some of the perspective has returned and I wanted to share some thoughts with you on how to deal with sadness when sober. Here’s what I came up with (and which has helped me);

Don’t bottle it up. When you feel down it often makes you want to avoid people, but talking to someone who you trust and who cares will help. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Find some humility. Discovering that you are, in the eyes of others (or maybe just one other), flawed in some way, is not always a bad thing – even if it hurts like hell when you find out. Use it to your advantage and learn from it; it’s a good thing to reassess who you think you are. Understanding that you’re going wrong in certain areas of your life gives you the opportunity to work on yourself, and ultimately to be a better person. Swallow your pride.

Go for a walk. Being outdoors offers a new perspective on a problem. For me, being in the open countryside (especially where it’s wild and rugged) makes me see myself as a tiny part of a vast universe. Nothing shrinks my problems faster than being somewhere that’s been battered by the elements for millions of years, and is completely unaltered by humans.

Be strong and dig deep. If you have been a heavy drinker then it’s likely you have not developed a comprehensive ability to self-analyse. Drowning problems out with alcohol for years can result in you struggling to pinpoint exact feelings, recognise emotions and to subsequently act accordingly. Learning this skill is at times difficult, and frequently painful. It can really hurt to accept certain truths about yourself but doing this means moving on and following the correct path in life. To know yourself inside and out is to be in charge of where you are headed.

Take a back seat. When you feel down and the bottle is no longer an option for obliterating the darkness, concentrate on muddling through the worst of it by really taking care of yourself. Pamper yourself, indulge in whatever makes you feel happy, eat well – consider yourself to be in need of extra care, and ensure that you provide it as best you can. Take the pressure off wherever possible and allow time for plenty of rest. Tiredness makes everything look a million times worse.

Trust in the following maxim; this too shall pass. It will – things will settle down, the storm will drift slowly overhead and clear skies will return. And when they do, you will have reinforced your emotional strength and there will be no regrets or ill-advised decisions that have landed you in further misery or complications.

There will just be you, as you were before, only a little bit tougher.

Finding Your Way Out Of The Darkness

During my alcohol-fuelled past life I was so ashamed of my little boozy secret, particularly the lonely drinking and the inability to stop once I’d begun, that I covered up the negativity with a hefty dose of bravado and a tenacious refusal to let my hangovers get in the way of life.

Behind the runs I would force myself to go on the morning after a binge, beneath the smiles at work and the heavy make-up to conceal the facial signs of my hangovers, I was completely beset with  agonising emotional pain and heartache caused by what I perceived as my failure to ‘drink like normal people do.’

I couldn’t admit to myself that I had a problem so I was never going to offload my awful secret to anyone else. And so I continued to drink to help forget about the inner turmoil, and I refused to fully acknowledge what I now recognise as a serious dependency upon alcohol.

At my lowest ebb I could barely look another human being in the eye. I stopped caring about the level of harm I was inflicting on my physical self, and conversely I harboured thoughts pertaining to hurting myself and the pointlessness of my life.

For a long time since becoming free of alcohol I haven’t experienced any real depression or sadness as my life has tended to go from strength to strength ever since I put down the bottle. But I clearly remember the weighty burden of depression and how it made making even the simplest of decisions a frightening and exhausting task of epic proportions.

This is why it can be so incredibly hard to make the choice to stop drinking – the short term relief from the feelings of sadness and depression that can be found in alcohol is so tempting in its false ameliorative quality that to find the strength to rebuff it in your darkest of hours is challenging to say the least. And even if you are aware of the negative repercussions of alcohol, when depressed and consumed by self-loathing it is often the intention to inflict further misery on yourself, as opposed to seeking a way out of your depression and into happiness once again.

The thing with all of the above is that if you can find the motivation to stop drinking whilst feeling so low, fairly soon you will notice a lift in your mood and will gradually witness the rejuvenation of your self-esteem. And when this happens, you will no longer have the intense desire to hurt yourself, rather the opposite will be true; you will want to look after yourself and live a happy existence. In not much time at all, the negative blinkers will fall by the wayside and the world will open up to you as a place filled with possibilities and potential, the restrictive, bleak future that you had mapped out for yourself fading into nothingness.375054853_e59b8191cb_z

It is a hugely difficult and brave thing to take the first step into a new life of which you cannot see or even imagine, but it is only the first few footsteps which you will have to navigate in the darkness; once you have made it so far, the sun will come out and shine up a path right before your eyes – a path which you will truly want to follow.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

The 4 Emotional Stages of Sobriety

I stopped drinking in April 2011, embarking on a journey that began in the early hours of one spring morning and which has taken me on a convoluted and emotionally turbulent ride, finally allowing me to climb off into a place that resembles contentment and emotional stability. For anyone who has recently ditched alcohol, I have written the following; it outlines my experiences of the different emotional stages I travelled through in the 23 months between my last drink and today, and I hope that it might help those of you who are new to sobriety by giving you a bit of a heads up of what to expect in this new and exciting chapter of your life.

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Stage 1 – the joys of the natural high

As an alcohol-dependent person who had felt terribly out of control of her own life for many, many years, the first few weeks and months of living as a non-drinker were a breath of fresh air. The joy of waking up each day and not immediately running through a mental checklist of who I had insulted/let down/hurt the night before was beyond compare. I literally jumped out of bed each day, a massive weight of anxiety removed from around my neck. Gone were the fears of developing breast cancer or dying of liver failure; the dreaded guilt and shame that I suffered as a result of doing something stupid and/or irresponsible when under the influence were gone – I felt free as a bird. Going out socially was a wonderful experience, as previously I had always felt butterflies in my stomach as I feared how the night ahead would unfold, never knowing how drunk I would get and where that state of mind would take me. Instead I knew that I was finally calling the shots – I would decide who to talk to, what I said, whether or not I chatted someone up/allowed myself to be chatted up; this was me, and not that idiot who I became after too much wine. This first period was characterised by a sense of freedom, lightness and joy.

Stage 2 – boredom and why me?

OK, nothing lasts forever. After a couple of months, I became beset by a black mood and the doubts began to creep in. The little devil on my shoulder grew in his boldness and whereas the angel had definitely ruled the roost in the early weeks, the voice of addiction became louder and more assertive in this second phase. The following are examples of the conversations I had with my devil; what if I’m not addicted to alcohol? What if I just need to learn how to moderate? Could it be that my boyfriend would prefer me to be more under control to suit him better, and that’s why he professes concern at how much I was drinking?

Who is he to think he can control you? Doesn’t he see that you are a free spirit – you don’t run with the crowds, you are different, untamed; alcohol is a part of who you are. Everyone else in the world is allowed to drink and get drunk – why the hell can’t I? It’s not fair.

In the midst of this period, I initiated a blazing row with my boyfriend (now my fiancé) and told him in no uncertain terms that I was planning on drinking that night. He tried in vain to convince me that it was the addiction talking, but how could it be? It was so convincing and powerful – that was me talking, the voice was coming right from within me. We stormed up to the pub together and he ordered himself a pint and sat outside. I scuttled up to the bar after he had taken his seat, my heart beating ferociously and my cheeks burning.

I ordered a lime and soda.

Every tiny piece of me wanted to buy alcohol except for the tiniest voice, hidden somewhere deep inside me. It told me that I would never change if I bought a glass of wine now; this moment was definitive – it would determine whether I stayed on the road to self-discovery and a better life, or if I returned hell for leather to that old path of destruction. I couldn’t let myself down, and I stuck to my guns.

Stage 3 – resolute but bitter

I turned a corner that night and all doubt was removed. The devil fell away from my shoulder, but nothing replaced him for a long time. There followed months of falling in a vacuum; I accepted my lot as a non-drinker but I wasn’t happy about it. I missed alcohol terribly – I wanted to sit outside pubs in the summer, laughing gaily over a big glass of icy cold white wine. I wanted to get glammed up and drink cocktails in a fancy bar, enjoying the sense of relaxation, of throwing caution to the wind and forgetting my cares for a night. At times, I hated other people for being ‘allowed’ to drink. This was a very difficult stage.

After several months of this, I read Jason Vale’s book, ‘How to Kick the Drink…Easily!’ and my life changed. I suddenly saw alcohol for what it really is, and I knew that all those voices and cravings I had felt over the last year or so were as a result of slowly weaning myself off a very powerful and prevalent, socially acceptable drug. I gave myself a break – began to let go of the regrets and shame that I was still carrying around with me. The bitterness slowly dissolved into contentment; the sun began to shine once again.

Stage 4 – understanding me, as a non-drinker

The final stage is the best. Over the last couple of years I have worked through many emotions and feelings of regret, sadness, anger, bitterness, sorrow, remorse, jealousy and fear. After a good year and a half, the negativity became noticeably reduced; as my self-esteem grew and my appreciation of the world and everything in it was heightened due to the clarity that comes from not poisoning your body with alcohol on an almost daily basis, it was as though the bad thoughts were mopped up one by one by my new found positivity and optimistic take on life.

I stopped experiencing wine envy when I walked past a pub full to bursting with drunken, loud revellers, but I didn’t huff and puff either – drinking is their choice, just as not drinking is mine. I love my life and I am grateful every day that alcohol no longer plays a part in it. I never have moments on a Friday night like the ones I had in the early days – DVD, nice bottle of wine, oh how wonderful it would feel to just kick back and slowly feel the alcohol ameliorating all my anxieties. It simply isn’t a part of my consciousness any more – I drove it out and replaced my addiction with happiness and good health.

It would have been perhaps easier to jump straight from Stage 1 to Stage 4, but the journey has allowed me to learn so much about who I really am, minus the veneer of alcohol, and I wouldn’t have missed it out even if I could have. I had no idea that when I stopped drinking it would be necessary to undergo such emotional turbulence; to feel as though my old self has been through a seriously intense recalibration before being reinstalled with a new lease of life, eventually leaving a turbocharged version of me back in the driving seat of my future. I didn’t expect any of that, but I am 100% happy that it happened.

Drinking/Not Drinking

Why did you used to drink so much?

Because I thought it was a fast track route to forgetting stuff and relaxing.

Why didn’t you just stop when you’d had enough?

I couldn’t – when I drink, my brain doesn’t compute the fact that I should stop when I’ve had enough; instead, my desire to drink went into overdrive and it became all I cared about.

Are you an alcoholic?

I used to be addicted to a substance that alters my behaviour and mood, and which I craved on certain occasions because I misguidedly believed that it would help me get through a given situation. Since I stopped drinking, I never have those thoughts anymore as I am now fully aware of the fact that my body and mind operate at their optimum when they aren’t subjected to alcohol.

Is it difficult being teetotal?

I am more aware of the fact that we live in an alcohol-mad culture than I was when I drank. As a drinker you slot into the norm, but when you give it up you become part of the minority. That bothered me at first but now I feel very proud of being teetotal and I wouldn’t want to drink alcohol, even if I knew that I could drink it without all the negativity that occurred as a consequence back in my boozy days.

What are the benefits of not drinking?

I could say that the benefits are more energy, better sleep, easy weight management, brighter eyes, clear skin, even moods, no depression and no anxiety – they are all fantastic and valid benefits to be found from giving up the booze. But the really amazing thing is that I have discovered who I am; I didn’t need to go on a 6 month trek round India to find myself; I just had to put down the bottle. I love the world and my life, I care about my surroundings, and I’m passionate about things outside of my immediate goings-on. I have remembered how to engage properly with people and how to love others with my whole heart, instead of just the bit that isn’t thinking about alcohol.

Giving up alcohol has given me back my mind. That’s the best thing about it.

End of Dry January – Get the Beers In?

As today is the 1st of February, there will be a fair few people looking forward to a good old piss up following a month of abstinence for Dry January (or something similar).

As you will know if you have been following my blog, I am an ex-drinker of fairly epic proportions. For many years I would never have considered for a minute that I would give up alcohol, never mind start up a website to help others who are in need of some support in that area. But where do I stand now, after 22 months of sobriety? What does alcohol mean to me today? Drinking woman 2

When I gave up the booze, I unwittingly sparked off the beginnings of a virtuous circle. Fairly soon after pouring away my last bottles of Pinot, I also gave up smoking – and without much ado I have to say. Without a glass of wine in the other hand, I soon lost my enthusiasm for sitting outside pubs in all weathers puffing away on £7’s worth of fags, teeth chattering and fingers slowly turning blue. As a non-smoker and non-drinker, I then stepped up my exercise, signing up for a boot camp (losing many inches) and increasing my running.

I stopped being quite such a moody sod too, once the alcohol had rid itself from my now temple-like body, and my anxiety attacks disappeared overnight. I saw the good in everything and felt overwhelmed with an urge to do wholesome things like go fruit-picking at farms and baking cookies. I started to write about my new-found sobriety on this blog. My vision of the future gradually began to unfurl, hitting me with all manner of suggestions as to how I could shape it with all this clarity I was now experiencing.

In short, giving up alcohol made me love life and learn to like myself. I discovered through abstinence that there is so much more to the world we live in than sinking your soul into a bottle of wine each night, and muddling through the daylight hours with a sore head and a bad attitude.

There have been critics of Dry January who purport that those who take part are fooling themselves into believing they are helping their livers recover for a few weeks, before jumping back into old boozy habits as soon as the calendar has been turned to February, but I disagree. I think there are so many positive effects of abstinence, that even if the Dry January-ers go back to drinking after their month is up, I believe many of them will do so with a view to moderating, purely because they have proved to themselves how much better they look and feel as a result of laying off the sauce for a while. Some may even decide to give up for good.

Personally, 22 months of sobriety is nowhere near long enough for me – I’m in it for the long haul!

Bad clothes bought when hungover, off to a new home.

You definitely think more clearly when you don’t get drunk every night. I know that sounds like the most glaringly obvious statement that I have ever typed, but sometimes I notice how differently I go about the business of living now that I’m not cracking the Pinot at wine o’clock each night.

I’ve sorted out my clothes over the course of the last week, flogging a load on eBay and chucking the rest to a charity shop. Clothes that made me wince every time I opened my wardrobe door, and clothes that I weighed up with one eyebrow cocked, pondering when, if ever, I might dare to wear again, and clothes that resembled the sails on windsurfs, worn during weightier times. 

These were garments that I mostly bought in moments of frantic indecision after roaming the city centre for hours on end, growing increasingly desperate and finally grabbing something that I would never normally wear in a month of Sundays, telling myself during those last moments of hasty ‘retail therapy’ that the outfit/top/jeans looked great. Until I got it/them on in front of my own mirror, that is, and the truth could no longer shield itself from me – I looked hideous.

In times gone by (the dark days of drunkenness) I did not have the energy for attending to such matters; clothes got stacked up in my wardrobe like a Boxing Day sales rack in a department store. Stuff that I simply never wore, shoes left in their boxes, tags hanging off labels, outfits never put together.

I used to buy an awful load of crap too, when I was hungover. Patience wasn’t a noticeable virtue of mine when faced with the task of shopping for new threads amongst the heaving masses, all the while nursing a throbbing head and an unnatural craving to consume yet more greasy food and frothy, extra-shot lattes. Town on a Saturday afternoon is not the place to be when one is beset by an attack of hyperglycaemic sugar cravings, forced to dawdle along behind hordes of casual browsers, when the only thought on your mind is locating food with an excessive degree of carbohydrate content as quickly as possible, in order to ram it down your throat.

Given that I no longer shop in this way (I am attempting, in my 38th year, to master the art of ‘capsule wardrobe shopping,’ thus making just a few well thought out investment buys that can be mixed and matched in a cohesive and stylish fashion), I decided to overhaul my bulging expansion of unworn clothes, in order to make room for a few garments that I might actually enjoy wearing.

And so yesterday, I found myself experiencing a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as I bundled off a few of my old ‘rushed’ purchases in the post office to a buyer somewhere in the West Midlands, resulting in a bit of extra money in my bank account and about half a foot more space in my wardrobe. The cash is being spent on my eldest daughter’s bedroom makeover, that in itself giving me a positive feeling of doing the right thing and making one of my beautiful girls very happy. (The other one is happy too, but her needs are met a little more simply at the moment; milk, clean nappy, cuddles, sleep).

Aah, the joy of knowing that you are back in the driving seat of your life!