After a particularly indulgent weekend away in Paris with her partner, returning to a frightening week spent in hospital after her youngest child was diagnosed with a rare but serious illness, Jessie decided to overhaul her lifestyle and become booze free.
Now tempted to make it a permanent change, this is her story…
I’ve never described my relationship with alcohol as unhealthy or problematic, I never had a falling down moment of despair – no rock bottom ever happened. I was like most of you reading this. I enjoyed a glass of wine once the children were in bed, I loved choosing an expensive bottle to have with dinner, and letting my hair down with my friends occasionally. Though the truth is that I’ve always been a party girl. The first one to say yes to a night out, the last one standing. Only now, looking back, can I see that alcohol doesn’t have to be a problem to be a problem. I can see it’s toxicity, and how we’ve romanticised and glamorised this substance so far that we can’t even see it any more.
My journey started after a champagne and wine fuelled weekend in Paris with my boyfriend. We drank cocktails in The Ritz, watched the snow fall with red wine in hand and ate a mountain of delicious French food. Then I became poorly on the last day – I flew home with tonsillitis and took a miserable week off in bed whilst my ex looked after the children. My world turned upside down when they came home. My son was quite clearly very unwell. He’d been suffering from various viruses for months and my mama instinct knew something was up, but I kept being reassured by GP’s that he was just picking up different bugs and was probably still suffering the after effects of having had Scarlet Fever previously.
But when I took him in my arms that day I felt well enough to have them home, I could see he had taken another turn. His hands and feet were peeling, he had a rash all over his body and his temperature was raised. After being rushed into hospital he was later diagnosed with Kawaski Disease (the leading cause of heart disease in children in the UK). I spent a long week lying next to his hospital bed watching him being prodded, poked, tested and monitored. The food was horrendous, the air felt heavy with sickness, and by the time we were allowed home all I wanted to do was live the healthiest lifestyle I possibly could.
The illness shook my world, so, at the same time as my boyfriend, we decided to give up alcohol. No time limit, no cut off point, no pressure. Just stop.
It was easy at first if I am honest. I’d been ill, my child had been ill, and we were on high alert. I threw myself into exercise and healthy eating, and wasn’t remotely interested in going on a night out. But then time passed, my son had the all clear from a heart specialist, and I was facing almost normality, my cravings for drinking returned.
I’m not talking about first thing in the morning alcoholic habitual drinking as we think of it normally – I mean that pang of desire at the end of the day for a cold G&T or a large glass of wine on the sofa. Take the edge off. Relax. We all do it right?
But why? Why do we need a harmful substance that affects our hormones (far more as women than it does for men), contributes towards depression and contains cancer causing chemicals? I looked back fondly at all the good times alcohol had afforded me over the years, but I was also suddenly more aware of the bad ones too. The drunken arguments, the reckless behaviour, the emotional outbursts, the ghastly hangovers. So I pushed through and decided to research and commit to a booze free life for as long as it felt right.
I sought out and experimented with low (0.5%) and zero alcohol substitutes to help me feel “adult” at the end of the day and when on nights out. I invested more time in my hobbies – walking, reading, exercise – and started to practice more mindfulness. I downloaded apps to track my progress and made it one big competition with myself. I talked openly and publicly about my journey, in order to help me commit to it and be even more determined.
Just over 6 months ago I drank my last drink.
Now I’m not sure I will ever drink again.
I feel healthier, happier, clearer. My skin is glowing and my sleep has improved. My relationship is stronger than ever. I spend time doing the things I love and not hiding under a duvet eating take away food at the weekends.
I don’t drown out a bad day or a difficult time with alcohol now, instead I embrace my feelings and emotions, because I have learned that negative ones are necessary too. I move through it in a more productive way.
I’ve realised I am still fun in social settings, that I can dance until 4am without tequila, that my friends don’t suddenly think I am boring or strange. I can still celebrate without champagne, get dressed up and actually remember every special moment without it ending on a low. Because it almost always does doesn’t it? I’ve saved almost £2000 in the 6 months I’ve been sober. Spent it on things that actually mean something to me – travel, new experiences and time away with the people I love.
Is it easier being sober now? Yes, absolutely. The longer you abstain the easier it becomes. It really is that simple.
My advice is not to give yourself the target of one month ‘Dry January’ ‘Sober October’ – you’ll only be counting down the days to that first drink and you won’t learn all that much about yourself. See if you can use it as an excuse to make a start with sobriety instead. Make the changes.
Say out loud “I don’t drink” rather than “I’m not drinking”. See how it makes you feel. Because maybe, like me, you’ll almost certainly realise it’s not so special after all.
We don’t know what is around the corner, and I would never say never. Right now though, I am more accepting and happier of who I am, and I know that I will never need alcohol to help me feel good ever again.
-Bloom From The Darkness
Author Bio: Jessie Westwood is an entrepreneur and leading UK luxury event planner and designer at Studio Sorores, living in the Cotswolds with her two children Flora and Augustus. Instagram @jessiesorores & @studiosorores