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2 Years of Alcohol Free Living: What I Learned

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It seems like it was only yesterday when I wrote about being 36 days alcohol-free and now, here I am, two years alcohol-free as of the 29th of January 2021. It’s exciting and it is possible for anyone to do it if you put your mind to it. It’s one of the best decisions I have made. But still, the most common question people ask is, “Don’t you crave it?” And I say, “No, I don’t.”

And I haven’t craved it, since I was beyond the first month of quitting alcohol.

When I was drinking, I was drinking about two to three generous glasses of wine most nights and sometimes I’d finish a bottle. And, quite frankly, it completely messed with my being, and particularly with my bipolar and anxiety. So, I was always tired, I found it hard to get out of bed and get going in the morning, I found it really difficult to focus and gain clarity, and a bugbear was that I couldn’t lose weight.

I had bloating, stomach and bowel problems, I had memory loss, I needed to drink to socialize, and I also know for a fact that the alcohol and my bipolar and anxiety medication didn’t mix either. Back then I was dependent on alcohol; I couldn’t just have a little bit and stop there. I needed quite a bit. It was my crutch. It was my crutch for times that were hard and that was almost every day.  It was my crutch for, well, feeling good and soI craved it, I’d sit and think about it. I’d look forward to five o’clock and when five o’clock came, it was awesome because I could open a bottle of wine and feel less guilty about it.

2 years alcohol free

Moods, Medications and Mental Health

So, why did I stop drinking those two years ago? This is another question I am asked all the time. The main thing was because it mucked with my moods, my medications and my overall mental health. It was a complete rollercoaster, and it was pretty ridiculous. I knew for a fact that my medications didn’t work like they should, just like my doctors were telling me they should.

The biggest wake-up call for me was when, on two occasions, I’m pretty certain I experienced lithium poisoning. Lithium is one of the medications I take for my bipolar. The reason, I believe, it happened was because I drank too much alcohol, but not enough water. Alcohol is a diuretic, and when you’re on lithium, one of the most important things that doctors tell you is that you need to keep well hydrated.

So, when I had these… these sort of poisoning attacks, I remember being in so much pain and discomfort, I thought I was going to die. They were really, seriously bad. I knew I had to make changes after the second attack happened.

I Was The Only One Who Could Change What Was Happening

Obviously, everyone else’s experiences are different in terms of the symptoms they experience with alcohol addiction, how they feel and why they use it. But I’m hoping that me sharing my journey to two years alcohol-free, might help you on your journey to quit.

But, you see, before I quit I had to come to terms with the fact that, yes, I did abuse alcohol. So, I didn’t just drink alcohol and, you know, have one glass of wine when we went out to dinner and or a glass of wine at night – I abused it. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was the only one that could change what was going on.

2 years no alcohol

I Had a Reason To Quit Alcohol

So, how did I stop drinking? I stopped drinking… I actually did it cold turkey, but this isn’t for everyone. I came to terms with the fact that, yes, I abused alcohol, I needed to quit, and there were some serious things happening with my body that I did not want to happen anymore. So, I got to that point. That’s where my journey started – having this belief.

What I have learnt is that alcohol addiction is a disease of the brain which is why mindset is the key to quitting alcohol.  But it wasn’t just me having a reason to quit that helped me get over the line,  I relied on an awesome book called “The Easy Way for Women to Stop Drinking” by Allen Carr.

I listened to the audiobook version, but it has a paperback as well. It was packed full of wisdom on how to tackle the voice in your mind that pushes you to drink. It was a huge mindset thing and the lessons I gained from this book ended up becoming my inner self-talk. When I went through those tough times in the early stages of quitting alcohol, the words from the book would repeat in my head, and the realities would repeat in my head when my cravings popped up.

Lessons Learned

I want to share with you a couple of lessons from the book that are still etched in my mind two years later.

Alcohol is of no benefit to us.

We feel it gives us some sort of pleasure and we believe that it takes away our pain but, in the end, alcohol is the pain.

Societal conditioning

The other point that is etched in my head is that there’s so much conditioning happening in our society. What I mean are images of people drinking and smiling; memes on social media saying that to fix stress all you need to do is have a drink. This conditioning draws you back; it draws you back in if you’re not aware of it. Unfortunately, we live in a drinking culture and it can be really hard to identify if someone has a drinking problem or not. It’s usually the people who are closest to you that notice but it’s really not up to them to make you stop. It really comes down to you.

The Perpetual Image of Alcoholic Mothers

Now, I’d like to expand on the point of societal conditioning. When I was drinking, I was also a mum to two young children. I was in various parenting and motherhood Facebook groups and it was the norm to see memes popping up in the groups about alcohol. “Oh, you’ve had a hard day being a mum, you know, you’re gonna hide in the cupboard and discover a bottle of wine or drink a glass of wine…”.

I would share these memes and I would comment on them. But now I see them from a completely different point of view and it is quite damaging to see these images on Facebook with everyone treating them like they’re okay when they’re really not. We should definitely not use alcohol as a crutch when life gets hard and parenting gets hard.

The Importance of Support When Quitting

The next thing I used to stop drinking was support; it’s a critical part of quitting alcohol. You’ve got to surround yourself with those people who are supportive and who understand what you’re experiencing.

I had a friend, she was on the same journey as me and I could call or message her. I’d share my experiences and she would know exactly how it felt. Whether it’s a friend or it’s a support group , I highly recommend having that support.

alcohol free drink

Need a Drink?  Find a Satisfying Alternative!

Alternatives are really important and what I mean is alternatives to your preferred alcohol. In the early weeks, I still had cravings and I always made sure I had an alternative drink in my hand. I opted for sparkling mineral water with slices of lime simply because it had bubbles, and it had flavour and had no sugar, because I didn’t want that sugar to be around.

I recommend you pick a non-alcoholic drink that you actually enjoy, otherwise, you’re not gonna want to reach for it.

Everyone’s Journey is Different

The way I quit alcohol isn’t necessarily a good fit for everyone – I did it cold turkey – and it depends on how serious your addiction is, of course.

Other ways to quit drinking are:

  • Seeing a counsellor or psychologist.
  • Attending a group like Alcoholics Anonymous, and they also have online therapy, which is good to know.
  • Medication can help with withdrawals if you see your GP.
  • You might want to start with something like dry July.

Two Years On – Successful Management

Two years later, people ask me, “Do you crave it? You’ve got to crave it, don’t you?”

And honestly, I do not think about it at all. It’s just no longer part of my life. Most of the issues I was experiencing before I quit alcohol are gone. I have to say, it’s the best feeling to jump out of bed with a clear head.

Actually, one of the best improvements has been to my mind, which is awesome.

I came across an interesting study published in the Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research Journal that found that brain matter can shrink and cerebral spinal fluid can increase in those people who abuse alcohol. These then act as a cushion for the brain. The shrinkage can then lead to memory loss, loss of concentration, and increased impulsivity. Participants in the study underwent brain scans 24 hours after detoxification and then two weeks after alcohol abstinence with findings confirming a rather rapid recovery of the brain from alcohol-induced volume loss.

“Eva, how have you managed to stay sober for two years?” is what people ask me. Yep, they’ve been stressful times – everyone has stressful times – when I would have previously used alcohol as my crutch. There were times when I still experienced cravings and that would have been in the first 10 weeks or so, but I can honestly say that I have not once caved in. I have not once had even a sip of alcohol.

So, how did I manage it?

I remember the teachings I learned in Alan Carr’s Easy Way book and;

I make sure I’m not hungry

I remember I always felt like drinking alcohol when I was hungry, and I wouldn’t eat because I knew that the alcohol wouldn’t have the same effect. I would always start drinking on an empty stomach because the alcohol took effect quicker.

I make sure I manage my triggers

Like my anxiety and depression and stress, I try my utmost best to manage these because those are the triggers that would always make me want to drink. As I mentioned before, I always have enjoyable non-alcoholic drinks on hand that I actually want to drink and that don’t taste ghastly.

In social situations, I still sometimes find it a bit hard. Particularly with my bipolar, if I’m in my depression cycle, the last thing I want to do is go and socialize. But, I just have to remind myself that I do not need alcohol in order to be an interesting, funny or relatable person – I just need to be myself.

I always remind myself that alcohol has no benefit to me whatsoever. It’s more of a pain in the arse than a good thing. I also remind myself that I don’t need alcohol to be a good Mum, to be a good business owner, to be a good wife, to be a good friend – no one does, no one at all.

Alcohol makes us feel good for a short time and horrible for a long time. So, it’s like short term gain for long term pain, Long term pain being monetary, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Admit To The Problem, Lighten The Load

The term alcohol addiction or alcoholic is confronting and it’s one of the reasons many people find it really hard to quit. People find it hard to admit they have the problem. Admitting you have a problem is what has to come first.  When this admission comes first, and you make that admission and show that you’re strong and determined, then it gets easier from there.

When you know what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol, which is one of the reasons I’m discussing it in this blog post and on my podcast, then it can have a profound impact on your life and on your loved ones as well. It’s a huge motivator if you need one.

Is quitting alcohol hard?

It’s not as hard as I thought, but remember, everyone’s situation is different.

Without the tools I had in place and the belief I had in quitting alcohol, it would have been much harder. You’ve really got to set yourself up with the right tools, be in the right mindset, remove your triggers and have the right support.

Welcome to Episode 2 of the Two of Me Podcast . Join me as I talk about my journey of ditching alcohol and becoming alcohol-free for two years. I share why I did it, how I did it, how it helped me and how I have stayed alcohol-free.

Enjoy the episode!

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Eva Lewis