I was speaking to a colleague from another company today and the conversation turned to alcohol. After a short while it occurred to me I hadn’t had a ‘drink’ in over a month. This is probably the longest time alcohol free in as long as I can remember. I had consciously been avoiding alcohol in the short term whilst I was allowing my body to tolerate my medication due to some scary side effects to do with Liver failure… However, the deliberate avoidance of alcohol has actually turned into a happy choice the past few weeks, and this is unusual and important to me for a number of reasons.

From young adulthood, I have been using alcohol as a social crutch, something to allow me to relax enough to be as ‘zany’ as I like, and to have enough courage to interact with people. In my ‘eager to please’ capacity, I have always been known as the life and soul of the party, and I have been in situations where people have deliberately got me drunk to provide entertainment for the evening. And I was quite happy for them to do that so that I could please and provide laughs.

Problem was that it then became something I felt I needed to have a decent night out – driving and staying sober was never such a good night out in my eyes. It was an easy way to escape the shackles of the millions of thoughts running through my mind, slowing it down and relaxing me, allowing me a way out from troubling thoughts. The other problem was that I was never really a very ‘sad’ drunk, only sometimes would that side surface, mostly I’d revert to ‘clown’ or ‘joker’ so no one would see any problems. I would never drink enough to pass out or get into too much trouble, and I certainly didn’t drink every day. I know what it constitutes to be an alcoholic after working in a substance misuse centre for a short while, so perhaps I was consciously controlling my alcohol intake so I could deny all knowledge of perhaps being or becoming an alcoholic.

Shortly before my second round of Medication, it was starting to become an issue. Again, I wasn’t drinking every day, however I could easily drink a bottle of wine a night on a Friday and Saturday, and large glasses of wine during the week after particularly stressful days at work. It was my other half who pointed out the fact that there were too many empty bottles in the recycling bin to be a healthy consumption, and he voiced these worries over and over again. But I didn’t listen. I was self medicating and I was scared that without this, I would not cope. It had been my fall back for many years, I knew how it felt to be drunk, it was a comfort, a known quantity. How would I feel if I had to face my most difficult emotions without this familiar cushion?

But I did. I stopped. I took my medication. And I find myself sitting here, wondering how I ever managed to think like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love alcohol, I love decent Real Ale, Lager, Wine, Vodka, Spirits, Cider, Perry, the taste is enjoyable, and yes, I still enjoy the feeling of being drunk. But, now I don’t need it anymore. It’s a choice I can make if I fancy the taste, not because it offers oblivion.

So at the moment i’m everyone’s best friend, offering lifts left right and centre as an excuse of ‘detoxifying my body for Christmas’ to those who aren’t a party to my medical reason for avoiding alcohol, or those who do now are also grateful for the chauffer taxi service. For the moment I have a very good reason for avoiding alcohol, and to boot, i’m feeling very good, waking up without a mild hangover is always a great feeling on a weekend, and it certainly allows me to think more creatively and do more around the house…

Now I just have to find the courage to be me socially, to not fade into the background through lack of alcohol, but to embrace that side of me which comes out when my confidence is assured. Not such an easy task, but it can happen, with time anything can happen.