I’ve never thought I have a problem with alcohol, yes I was a big drinker at Uni (I don’t know many that weren’t) and in the years that followed my weekends were usually based around nights out that ended in much merriment and a hangover, but it was ‘normal’ behaviour of people my age and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Nowadays, wine is a weekend norm, and occasionally pops into a weekday too, but quite often that "one with dinner” turns into more than one, and the sleep which follows is rubbish and the next day becomes harder. It impacts on everything; how I react, my productivity, what I choose to eat, the list goes on and on!
I started thinking more about my alcohol consumption when my perimenopause symptoms started, and alcohol seemed to affect me differently and to intensify some of my symptoms, the study I subsequently embarked on showed that at this time of our lives we should really be aware of our alcohol intake, particularly in light of its affects on sleep which is a well known problem area for the menopausal woman. The introduction of my Ōura ring really highlighted and confirmed the effect alcohol has on my sleep, recovery and readiness. Even one glass of wine raises my body temperature and my heart rate, making it harder for me to get enough restorative sleep which then affects my readiness for activity the following day.
I spoke at length with a client who has gone alcohol free and found myself thinking about so many other issues related to drinking. The scary stuff - alcohol use can lead to the development of so many chronic diseases and serious health problems; high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and digestive problems to name a few. Jeepers! Alcohol is a known carcinogen and yet we imbibe on the regular with very little thought for what we are putting into our bodies and what it is doing to us!
I decided to go sober for October, figuring that a month off would be enlightening, and perhaps start something more long term. The hard thing is I like drinking, I like the taste of it, I like how it makes me feel, I like the social connection through a shared bottle of wine, I feel more confident with a wine on board and like I’m more fun! I found myself fearing giving it up, could I even have fun without it? And most importantly does the fact I’m having these kind of thoughts mean I have a problem with it?
And so the reflection on my relationship with alcohol was born, and the first of my sobering thoughts...
One of the things that has shocked me most is that scrolling through my memories on Facebook, I have regularly posted memes making light of alcohol consumption, and there are soooo many pictures of me with a glass in hand, or photos of my pretty drink with captions like “wine o’clock!” and while it can be all be deemed perfectly normal I’ve actually started questioning myself, “is it?”
The kids playing with water squirters on the deck in the afternoon sun, me with a glass of Rosè (because it’s a rosè kind of day). Kids bath time and I’m sitting on the edge watching them play with a glass of red in my hand (it’s been a long day). A photo of kids toys strewn all over the floor artistically taken through a Gin and Tonic glass (…but first gin) and more recently a photo of my son filling up my wine glass while I sit in the spa. (Service is good round here) I cringed and I actually feel ashamed. I don’t drink a lot but I do drink fairly regularly and it’s something that my children see as normal. Shit, we even have a “ring for a drink” bell (bought as a joke stocking filler) that the kids love to be the one to rush to help.
They see us drink with friends, they’ve seen one or two becomes more and while the kids are off in another room playing, the grown ups have a few drinks, is this healthy? Is this how I want them viewing alcohol and its effects on the people closest to them? What messaging am I giving? And at 10 and 11 years old, have I already made my mark? Can I change my relationship with alcohol and hope I haven’t ruined the way they view it and its usage?
I don’t want to give up entirely, but I need to get back to a place where wine doesn’t happen every weekend and in all honesty I think the only time that has been my norm in the last 30 years is when I was pregnant or during my Ironman days.
So here I am, mid October, and feeling the benefits of alcohol free me and blogging my thoughts and learnings so far, its certainly been more confronting than I'd expected....
Health + Happiness