I am not a fan of New Year’s Eve parties and nights out. I find all that hugging and Happy New Year chanting a bit much and incredibly uncomfortable. In my active drinking days, I would rarely remember midnight as I almost always blacked-out – either awake or asleep.
What I do love is New Year’s Day. It is by far my favourite day of the year. I used to see it as a symbol of a fresh start, I could put all the horrible things I had done behind me and move on with great intentions and resolutions (that I was sure to fail).
A Brand New Start with a Dry Challenge?
I would embark on a health mission. By the summer (I would tell myself) I will have perfect abs and I will be so much happier. And my alcohol consumption will be under control. I had a romantic ideal that if I could get through a period of abstinence, I would not have the same cravings and self-destructive behaviour of previous times. And thus, be able to drink with dignity and manage my intake.
Five years ago, I decided to embark on a Dry January Challenge for charity, knowing that if people sponsored me I could not let them down.
I even had a colleague challenge me to extend my dry challenge to 6 weeks. He said if I were successful, he would donate a substantial additional amount. Desperate to prove I could easily do this, and that I didn’t miss my glasses of wine at night, I agreed – and succeeded.
I Felt SO Much Better…
People would ask me how I felt. I got accolades and incredible support, which did make me wonder if maybe they were more aware of how difficult this was for me than I thought? I even attended a 3-day work trip, which traditionally could be quite boozy, and managed to abstain. In previous years I had always been the last to go to bed, stinking of alcohol the next day and so tired and hungover that I couldn’t focus on our daily activities. So, I was incredibly proud of myself.
During my Dry January I felt so much better. I was sleeping well and had a lot more energy. My eyes were brighter and my skin was a lot healthier. I could concentrate and focus on what I needed to do, and I had a lot more disposable income.
This was the year I swore off alcohol for good, but it was another 2 years before I actually did…
The Opportunity to Drink Alcohol…
My 6-week challenge passed and I had no cravings or desire to have a drink, until the opportunity arose. My husband and I had booked a holiday and we decided to stay overnight at the airport as our flight was incredibly early in the morning. At dinner that night, I succumbed. I genuinely believed that we could share one bottle and would go to bed with no further thought or concern about alcohol.
As soon as I took that first sip I was repelled from the taste. I never really liked the taste of alcohol… But the need to have more kicked in immediately. No matter what common sense told me, I could not resist the rest of the glass. Then another glass and then I got a bottle, then another and another. Even now it shocks me how quickly the craving hit me and how unprepared I was for it. And as my defenses were down I had no resistance…
When the Holiday Descends…
The holiday descended into a drunken mess and I was drinking to blackout every night. During the day I was unhappy and restless not really wanting to be where I was. I wanted to be on my own with alcohol and the light had most definitely gone out in my eyes.
When we got home I just carried on where I left off and my drinking escalated – much worse than it had been before.
Facing my addiction…
When I finally gave in to my addiction and faced the fact I was an alcoholic, the glamour of a night out just stopped being appealing. I am not comfortable in crowds. It’s one of the reasons I drank – to calm my nerves, ease my self-consciousness and tolerate the evening.
Now, I don’t want to drink. I also don’t want to endure anything that makes me uncomfortable. I am happy being on on my own New Year’s Eve and that is fine. The success I have with my sobriety to date, is being okay with who I am and what I do or don’t enjoy. I have not changed – its more that I feel like I am being true to myself and who I really am. I don’t need alcohol anymore to help me through social situations that I don’t enjoy. I just don’t attend them. The ones I do enjoy, I don’t want to spoil by taking a drink.
Sober New Year’s Eve
I am about to embark on my fourth year in sobriety. And this New Year’s Eve will be low key. Or I’ll find some fireworks for my son to enjoy. I no longer set resolutions as I used to do. Because I will be setting myself up to fail and that can lead to resentment (which can lead to relapse). I still look forward to New Year’s day, but that is more down to how quiet the outside world is – no bustling shops or cars on the street. Just peace and quiet, a little how I want my life to be now.