Welcome to The (Not) Drinking Diary Series! I’ll be chatting to people on alcohol and on life; about their sobriety, mindful drinking and/or alcohol free period.
Susie is based in Manchester, UK, & is one of the first people I connected with via Instagram when I first started my Not Drinking journey. She is a wife, mum of three, primary school teacher, yoga teacher and runner – yep she does a lot – and I’m very excited to share her story with you.
Read on for her not drinking diary …
Location: Manchester, UK
1.What led you to think differently about drinking?
I was a heavy drinker for around twenty years. The first ten years was ‘normal’ heavy drinking, I guess. But during the second ten, after I became a mum, it slowly spiralled out of control. I became reliant on booze to de-stress, wind down and escape.
This reached a peak in September 2015. I was drinking every night and waking up most mornings feeling groggy, regretting the amount I’d drunk the night before. I tried time and time again to moderate but I just couldn’t do it. Finally one morning something clicked and I knew I had no choice but to stop. I hadn’t hit my rock bottom but I was definitely hurtling towards it.
My husband and I went out for dinner that night and I plucked up the courage to be honest with him. It was one of the hardest conversations I have ever had to face. He was surprised but incredibly supportive. We agreed that abstinence was the only way forward from that point.
I had no idea if I would be able to stop drinking and if I could, how long it would last but my husband promised to hold my hand every step of the way. He has been so patient, supportive and understanding ever since.
That night we cleared all the alcohol out of the house and I haven’t had a drink since.
2.How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
I haven’t had a drink for over 20 months now and I’d like to think I never will. It was really tough at first, such an emotional rollercoaster, but I was pretty determined so I just clung on.
Now it’s much easier. I still occasionally get cravings and sometimes my mind will play tricks on me, telling me I never really had a problem with drinking, but I’ve learned to ignore it and move on. I always remind myself, “This too shall pass”. On the whole I love living without alcohol. I stay sober because that makes me the best version of me, for myself but also for my husband and children.
3.What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
Just not pouring a drink when I really wanted one was the biggest challenge in the early days. Aside from that though, I have found it difficult to be honest and open about my issues with family and friends. I’m slowly growing in confidence with this though and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by a loving and supportive family.
4.What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
I always thought I needed alcohol to have fun, to feel free, to celebrate, to commiserate, to fuel adventures, to de-stress, to escape. It turns out I was wrong. I’ve learned I can do all of these things, and much more, without booze. I have a ‘never say never’ attitude now. Achieving the one thing I never thought I could do has made me feel invincible.
I realise all the things I thought I knew about myself are not set in stone and I can be who ever I want to be.
5. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
I usually wake around half 6 to the sound of my kids playing in their rooms. When I was drinking, being woken early by the kids used to irritate me. Now when I wake, I smile and think of all that I am grateful for.
6. Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
Running and yoga. I try to do one or the other every day.
I crave the headspace, me-time and endorphin rush they provide.
7. What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free & not drinking) at the weekend?
I live in the centre of a busy town but there is a lot of beautiful countryside nearby. I love to spend time outdoors with my family, walking and talking in the fresh air. I’m also very happy just being at home at the weekends. I love that I don’t lose a day (or two) of that precious time to a hangover any more.
8. When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
In terms of personal development, I have found that supporting others who are trying to live booze-free is really helping to strengthen my own sobriety.
I’m also currently trying to develop a regular meditation practice. I still find it difficult to switch off and ‘tune in’ but I know I’ll get there!
9. What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
Yoga. I dipped in and out of practicing yoga for about 15 years but when I quit drinking I threw myself into going regularly to classes. It definitely helped to keep me focused on my sobriety and just made me feel good generally.
Last year I decided to take the plunge and train as a yoga teacher myself. I’m now qualified and teach a couple of classes a week. It’s such a good feeling to be passing on my love of yoga and helping others to feel its benefits. I never would have done this when I was still drinking.
10. And finally, thinking differently about alcohol can be challenging and isolating, is there any advice you turned to or do you have any words of wisdom for people reading this?
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
In the beginning I read lots of drinking memoirs and books about how to stop drinking. Lotta Dann’s “Mrs D is Going Without’ and Jason Vale’s “Kick the Drink… Easily” were both game changers for me. I also relied heavily on the online community ‘Living Sober’. I logged on every day and benefitted from the encouragement and understanding available there. Gradually I moved on from needing that level of support but I still log on occasionally to see how everyone is getting on.
I have focused a lot of my energy on building and maintaining a healthy and positive, sober lifestyle. I use my Instagram account to share the ways in which I’m doing this and I post on there regularly, mainly to keep myself accountable. Following lots of amazing ‘sober warriors’ on Instagram makes it a really inspirational place.
It easy to feel like you’re the only person in the world who doesn’t drink and its easy to think ‘poor me’ but there is so much support available and so many people out there who understand exactly how you’re feeling. You just have to be really brave, reach out for help and take it one day at a time.
Over time I’ve learned that not drinking isn’t a punishment, it’s a lifestyle choice and one that I’m super proud of.