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Wednesday 29 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Opinion Staying sober is really hard but life without booze is magic
Are you sober-curious? It can be hard to say no to drink but my life is so much better without it, writes Elaine Benson.

AS I STARE down the barrel of a night alone at home without my son, I can’t stop thinking about drinking wine.

My son is staying at his dad’s. We are separated and my drinking was a big contributory factor in that separation. 

I’m off the drink six long months and it’s still hard after all this time, the temptation never goes away. But I have a few strategies now that help me through. 

The first thing I had to do was acknowledge that quitting alcohol is hard for lots of reasons. 

Alcohol changes your brain

Alcohol had become my only mechanism for coping with stress. 

A University of Oxford study found that the amount of alcohol you consume is directly related to the amount of shrinkage in your brain, specifically, the hippocampus, associated with memory and reasoning. 

Years of continuous alcohol consumption starting at age 13 has definitely impacted my brain and it will take time for my brain to adjust back to normal. 

Whether or not you are a mom, if you are growing tired of the way alcohol has you in its clutches, you could read or listen to This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. I listened to it, and it was a game changer.

Dragging myself out of the cycle of having a drink to de-stress, or celebrate, or relax, was remarkably hard. Remember that I had been drinking for as long as I could remember.

For me, the motivation was wanting something else more than a drink – and that was a relationship with my son.

Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?

I was such a bad ‘drinking’ mom. From the outside looking in, I felt other moms were able to have those evening wines and be ok the next day.

I felt I was alone in being so unable to cope with looking after my son when I was hungover. Since he was born, on almost every occasion that I drank, I had to call on his father to pick up the pieces the next day.

That included asking him to leave work early because I found it so stressful, often after just a couple of glasses of wine the night before.

Alcohol just does bad things to my body and brain and although it felt good at the time, because I didn’t have any other coping mechanisms, it really wasn’t worth it at all. 

Then when I separated from his dad, I didn’t have a choice anymore. Staying in bed for the day, vomiting, or crying in the corner feeling overwhelmed on a hangover, just weren’t options once I was parenting alone. 

I had to show up for my son and in showing up for him, I have shown up for myself in a way that has been unexpectedly life-changing.

Society labels non-drinkers

No fun or boring or fun police, you name it, I said it to people and have heard these ‘labels’ said to me. Of course, none of this is true.  

What’s fun about the morning after the night before?

Vomiting in the toilet bowl while your one-year-old watches and you beg his dad to come home from work because ‘it’s an emergency’.

As a mother, there is really nothing funny about that.

Of course, it wasn’t always that extreme. For me, it was usually a subtle agitated, anxious, tired feeling that never went away.

It was the feeling that I needed a break constantly from my son, my life, my work – you name it, but the break never came. Of course, what I really needed a break from was the booze. 

It all really hit home once I had my son, drinking combined with and the lack of sleep that comes with having children was an absolute recipe for mental breakdowns.

I stopped drinking six months ago and you would not believe how much my life has changed since. It’s magic. I’m never going back. 

I had to find other ways to treat myself, relax, let my hair down and cope with stress.

It can feel boring at the beginning when you are trying to avoid the booze and you just can’t face staying out late with loud, spitty, drunk people.

The Challenge

Are you sober-curious? If you are finding it tough to say no, that is normal and if you have wondered what life would be like without the focus of alcohol but can’t seem to stop, you are not alone.

Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be writing on my blog soberhood, exploring ways to change beliefs and perceptions around alcohol.

That means figuring out why we drink, sharing tools and strategies that helped me and exposing the myths around alcohol.

I’ll be making suggestions for better ways to treat yourself, that might mean blowing the money you used to spend on booze on pampering sessions or hang gliding classes instead.

Living alcohol-free could be the key to set you free. 

Elaine Benson is a freelance writer from Cork living in Sydney, Australia.

She is a proud mother of one lovely son and is on a mission to helping humans live hangover-free lives that ROCK! 

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