This is the post I did NOT want to share with you, which means I know I’m meant to. So here goes….
During Lockdown I became slightly obsessed with looking for the Joy, for ways to feel good, as a way of navigating lockdown and keeping my head on straight. If you were my Facebook friend during this time, what you won’t know is I wrote a great big long post about alcohol and its role in this little house party of mine, which none of you saw. I did post a safe little half arsed version of it, which didn’t trigger my shame and I shuffled away and quietly deleted the rest.
In this long lost draft I admitted that at the time I was drinking about 2 bottles of Rosé a week, by myself (well, Bob doesn’t drink, does he?). I was terrified of sharing this as I feared people would judge me for it and that someone would call social services (perhaps it was having Bob’s water bottle sat snuggled alongside the bottles of wine in the draft’s photo which got to me).
I loved buying those peachy pink bottles with romantic Beaux de Provence vintage labels and magical “Whispering Angel” names as they allowed my brain an escape route to Summers in France whilst I unwillingly remained confined within my same four London walls… It was about escape. It was about that moment of “ahhhh” in a stressful “I’ve just got to get through this” day.
Now, having some grace for myself at least I wasn’t re-enacting 19th century London and creating an opium den at home to survive Lockdown (THAT would have been a real problem). But still, all that glitters (or is pretty and peachy) isn’t gold. As in reality for me the real after taste, which lingered long after the buzz of those peachy Provençal sips had gone, was an enduring fuzzy head, angry bloated body and a downward swirling mind… Alcohol was not fuelling my joy, it was blocking it.
I actually think the whole Lockdown experience made me far more sensitive to how alcohol made me feel inside my mind and body after it has washed through me. In the “normal world” I would regularly go out for dinner and probably consume the same volume of alcohol in a week. But here, stuck at home, it was very clear I was the only consumer and I had nowhere to hide from how it made me feel. Usually I could just get out and get busy with an almond croissant and a gigantic coffee to clear my head (or perhaps, more accurately, to distract myself!). During lockdown I just had to sit at home and face how it feels (unless that is, I chose to dive into it again).
So I started cutting back: buying half bottles of Rosé (which are still cute and pretty), but still had the same effect on me. And then cutting again to a couple of glasses a week. But I noticed “just 2 glasses” had a similar effect on my body as 2 bottles. I really didn’t feel good within myself: my sleep was awful; my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders; and I was definitely carrying an extra inch around my waist (helped by the crisps which accompanied the wine). I eventually realised what I really needed at that time was no alcohol in my life; I just felt like I had no life force left in me as my mind and body were already processing quite enough without pouring in a bottle of alcohol on top.
But alcohol is a funny thing for me. It creeps back into my life like becoming addicted to a bad sequel on Netflix of a show you only watched in the first place because it was the only fun thing to watch at the time and, somehow, 4 episodes later, you’re still watching it past 10pm. You don’t quite know how you got there. It’s also so intertwined in our culture as being part of a happy, free, fun filled life. It’s what we do when we’re together with others, we “share” a drink. So, one of the very first things I did when London’s Lockdown lifted was go to the pub for a pint of shandy! To enjoy dinners out again with a shared bottle of wine. It – WAS – fun, AND, the uncomfortable lingering tail of how it made me feel was right there again: the red puffy face, the bloated body and a loud monkey negative mind.
Life remains different today “than before” and I’m still looking to lean towards Joy as a way of being. Which in turn means I really care about how I feel and what feels good to me. So, I’m being drawn to explore my relationship with alcohol in my life. But this isn’t my first rodeo with this subject: the other day I tootled over to Amazon to order a book called “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace (which is all about exploring our relationship with alcohol), I was pretty perplexed why it was showing up as £0.00 … because, Lauren, you had already bought it (forgotten about it) and NEVER read it?!!? See, looking at alcohol is not new to me….but, facing up to it and consciously creating my relationship with it, is.
What’s been holding me back? I was just saying to someone the other day: I feel like it’s only acceptable in London not to drink when you’re pregnant, you’re driving, training for some extreme sport event or doing it for charity (like Sober for October). You need a good, plausible, acceptable excuse not to drink! Many moons ago a Ukrainian boyfriend told me of a proverb from home (as he tried to convince me to drink shots of vodka whilst we sweated together in the local sport centre sauna!): “don’t trust the one who doesn’t drink for he remembers everything!”. Do we not trust people who don’t do as we do unless they have a “good” reason not to, perhaps because it triggers a fear in us? Does this lead to a fear in me of not being part of the gang if I don’t drink? Or is it just the habitual draw to those pretty pink bottles and the anticipated moment of “ahhh”?
10 days into my little experiment of being curiously sober, here’s what I know for myself today:
- I still like the taste of alcohol,
- I can have fun and not drink,
- I KNOW it doesn’t make me feel good; and
- Feeling good is REALLY important to me.
I don’t think this is about me never drinking again. What I think it’s about is my caring more today about how I want to feel, more of the time. What are my priorities today and how do I want to feel tomorrow? And also knowing that I can tell other people without fear (and so addressing my FOMO mind monkeys). In fact I just told someone I’m arranging to go out with that I’m currently doing Sober for October (as I noticed I was dancing around in my head avoiding meeting up with him in the evening and pushing for coffee instead ONLY because I didn’t want to mention I’m not drinking?!?!) and he said “cool, I’ll do it too”. See, that wasn’t so hard! Cinderella can still go to the ball (and I’m learning to have more trust in other people too!).
So I’m being curiously sober right now to see what kind of companion alcohol really is in my life today. Is it still a friend with benefits for me? I’m 100% for diversity of being and for each of us having the freedom to do what feels uniquely great for us each day. If you drink a bottle a day (or more) and love it, cool. If you happily haven’t drunk for decades also cool. Being a reformist “all or nothing” kind of girl I think it would almost be easier for me to say “I’ll never drink again” but I know that’s not true for me. So I’m learning to navigate life up the middle and regain my power to choose! To stop using alcohol unconsciously to escape and instead consciously decide how do I want to feel and what choices do I want to make right now as a result. So maybe I’ll still have the odd glass of Whispering Angel or maybe I wont, but I get to decide.
Cheers (with Love),
P.s. I’m a big fan of Heineken “00” and Seedlip (although how some London restaurants can charge £10 a glass for it I don’t know…). I’m happily a psychosomatic sucker so cracking open an alcohol free beer with my dinner still makes me relax.
P.s.s I’m also a BIG fan of CBD oil. Relaxation with no alcohol and no side effects (that I know of). Win/win. I love The London Botanist. Not cheap but neither is gin!
P.s.s.s Comically I’ve just been invited to a Whispering Angel wine tasting. Hilarious!
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Love this post. And I’ve had the same relationship with alcohol too. (And thankfully now I’m pregnant so I’m in the category that gets a alcohol free pass! Ha!)
One the one hand, I know I can have fun without alcohol – I know I don’t need it and I feel better in my body and head without it. But also I know I don’t want to be someone who denounces it entirely. If I want to have a glass of wine (or 3!) with friends I want to be able to without judgment or shame – and I will! Because a few glasses of wine with friends is undeniably fun! (Obv not right now though! 😂)
Oh thank you Che! Yes, EXACTLY I think once we solve that “need for it” we can truly freely regain control and choose when and if we want it! Can’t wait to share a glass with you when the baby comes (and maybe a cup of tea before then!) x