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'I used to spend whole days waiting for their bedtime': The surprising results of giving up wine o'clock

Kate Gunn on how she became an accidental teetotaller – and what it changed for her.

Image: Shutterstock/Lolostock

THE RECENT STORY about Anne Hathaway giving up alcohol until her son turns eighteen caught my attention. I have to admit that I succumbed to a major eye roll – another celebrity going to extreme lengths for their precious offspring. And then I remembered that actually I’m playing for the same team. My reasons for joining were just a little different.

In October 2016 I gave up alcohol for 30 days in sympathy with my partner who was going through some health issues. This soon became two months, then ninety days, then a year. My little ‘I’m done drinking’ app on my phone tells me that it’s now been 857 days since I last had a drink. It also informs me that I have not consumed 1,700 alcoholic drinks that I previously would have during that time, that I’ve saved 262,213 calories, and that I’ve pocketed €8,500 into the bargain.

I’m an accidental teetotaller and the hidden benefits as a parent are just as thought provoking as the obvious ones.

Parental bliss

When my kids were very young I used to spend entire days clock watching, waiting until they went to bed so that I could have an hour of precious adult time. A glass (or three) of wine and silence. Parental bliss. This was my time to just switch off. Like most other adults, weekends would always involve a few drinks to celebrate the break in the stressful week.

However, as so many of us know – kids and hangovers do not mix.

I spent many Saturday mornings dragging myself around parks or ordering double espressos behind dark glasses in local coffee shops, the noise of the milk being heated hurting my delicate ears, let alone the sound of a full-blown toddler tantrum in aisle seven.

And as the kids got older, inevitably so did I, and the hangovers became worse. On occasion, I would spend an entire day lying in a darkened room while others picked up the slack, sometimes unable to move until the early hours of the next morning. There would be no rhythm to when these hellish reactions would occur – at times deserved after a big night out, at times unjustly bestowed on me after just two glasses. Always a whole weekend wasted.

Source: Shutterstock/Dragon Images

So I was ready to give the 30-day trial a go – but that didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous. I spent the first couple of weeks hibernating – swapping my usual Friday night drink for a cup of peppermint tea in front of the TV. The first social night out with friends felt awkward, and by midnight I was exhausted. But each outing, each party, dinner or festival was another box ticked, and before long I realised that yes, I could actually do this.

When I gave up drinking all my wasted hangover time was given back to me – with the added bonus of ten times more energy. Sometimes, in the early days of being alcohol free, it was even too much energy. My eyes would blink awake at 6am and my toes would start twitching – what are we going to do today? Instead of dragging myself out of bed to moaning children, I would run down the stairs to make blueberry pancakes before forcing them all into the car for a five mile hike up a mountain. I was like Tigger on speed. Fortunately, I’ve calmed down a bit since then.

‘Life and logistics are so much easier’

In those early days I also noticed my anxiety levels drop, my confidence increase, my productivity go up, my skin improve and my bank balance look healthier than it had in years.

The other unexpected benefit of not drinking as a parent is planning. Whatever day or time is put forward for football matches, hockey training, drop offs or collections – I know already that I will be available. For parties, discos, sleepovers and unexpected hospital trips, I know I will always be able to drive. Life and logistics are so much easier.

Then there’s the knock on psychological advantages. Since I stopped drinking we’ve had some really interesting family discussions about alcohol. ‘Grown ups are scary when they’re drunk’ said one child. ‘They become like different people’ said another. We’ve talked about why people drink – ‘to have a good time’ or ‘to not be stressed’ or ‘because they are shy’ – and we’ve discussed whether it actually helps with those things.

I’d like to think that my children have gained a greater insight into the choice available when it comes to drink. That it’s not just an ‘everybody drinks’ world that they will blindly sleepwalk into.

They will make their own decisions when the time comes, but a little bit of a balanced view is never a bad thing.

Patience?

Giving up alcohol does come with some challenges. You get urges to drink that take you by surprise. You get awkward looks and reactions from friends and family. You have to relearn how to socialise and, yes, you may miss out on some wild nights, and the all-important next day debrief with friends. As for me, I was ready for the challenge.

I do think giving up alcohol has made me a better mother, but the one benefit I had actually expected never came about. I thought my patience levels would rise to superior peaks – that I would become the calm and zen earth mother I always aspired to be. But I’m still madly yelling at them for spilling Cheerios all over the floor, and why are there muddy footprints all up the stairs? And can we please, please all just get in the car on time today.

Maybe I just need a drink to calm down…

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More: 7 ‘joys’ of pregnancy that most definitely weren’t joyful for me>

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About the author:

Kate Gunn  / Author of Untying The Knot

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