wellness

'At 32, my relationship with alcohol started to change. Here's why.'

Queensland Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Health

This post deals with alcohol consumption and might be triggering for some readers.

Lying wide awake at 3am on a Tuesday night, I thought to myself: I can’t be the only person who sleeps horribly after drinking.

I'd only had a few wines, but in that moment, it had been enough to jerk me awake with anxiety, long before my alarm was due to wake me. I tossed and turned, and my mind raced. I wondered if I'd been drinking a little too much lately.

I searched "how many drinks should I have in one week?" and was immediately shocked by what I had read — 10 standard drinks for adults, and no more than four in one day. 

Side note: Here are just some of the effects of being alcohol-free for one year. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

I did a quick calculation of how many standard drinks I'd had over the past week. 

Doing the math in my head, I was clearly drinking well above the recommended guidelines... and I didn't even realise it. I couldn't believe the lack of mindfulness with my drinking. Needless to say, I couldn't get back to sleep that night.

The next day, I skipped my gym session and dragged myself to work, exhausted, with bloodshot eyes. 

I started to realise that I had been feeling more and more tired — I was skipping the gym, which had once been a top priority. 

My face was puffy and my skin didn't glow like it used to. My anxiety had really ramped up and, more often than not, stuck around until I had a drink. 

I had felt less confident at work and avoided looking at myself in the mirror. 

It suddenly became crystal clear: all of this was likely the result of my drinking and if I didn't do something about it, it would keep affecting me more and more. 

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Image: Supplied. 

Not only was I sick and tired of feeling and looking horrible, I was finding it harder to keep lying to myself about the serious health risks, like breast cancer and cirrhosis, I was exposing myself to through my drinking.

Before bed that night, I pulled out my journal and started to put some of my jumbled thoughts on paper. I wrote out a goal: "to become more mindful of my drinking".

I then wrote down my 'why' for this goal: "to be my healthiest and happiest self", and I set a weekly drinking limit to be only the recommended limit of 10 standard drinks per week. 

The simple act of acknowledging that something needed to change and putting a plan in place felt so empowering. I worried about how this change would affect my social life. All of my friends knew me as the one always up for a drink. I was concerned about how it would impact my relationship with my husband, as we often used wine to connect. 

Image: Supplied.

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And what if I failed and couldn’t be a mindful drinker? Where would that leave me? 

I remembered the Anais Nin quote that I had placed in the middle of my vision board: "life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." I decided to put my fears to the side and move forward with my plan.

For the first few days, it was easy not to drink.

I loved my newfound motivation, and the energy that came from feeling like I was back in control. That Friday, we had dinner plans with a group of our 'big drinking' friends. I’d done some research on how to prepare for social events when cutting back on booze and called the restaurant ahead of time to confirm they had alcohol-free drink options. 

I also texted the girls in the group to share my mindful drinking goal with them and, of course, they were all supportive — my bestie even decided to join me in my challenge. 

I had set myself a limit of two glasses of wine and was ready to go. I had written my 'why' on the palm of my hand to remind myself my goal. 

That night, despite pacing myself, my two wines had gone down very easily. I was at a fork in the road: stay the course, or succumb to old habits.

I decided to 'play the tape through', and visualise the evening, playing out both scenarios. I looked down at my reminder and chose mindful drinking.

Waking up the following morning, I was smiling ear to ear. It was one of the best nights I'd had in ages. 

I'd stuck to my goal, and enjoyed the company of my friends without needing to lean on alcohol as a crutch. I got to wake up feeling energised with no anxiety or regret, without worrying if I had embarrassed myself the night before. 

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I rewarded myself by going for a beautiful sunrise beach walk and coffee, feeling more alive and high-vibe than I had for years. I realised this was how life was meant to be lived. Not in a fog of guilt, shame, and exhaustion.

Image: Supplied.

Over the next few months, I experienced improved mental clarity, deep nourishing sleep, and a zest for life. My self-esteem improved and so did my productivity at work. 

I hadn't known how much my drinking had been holding me back. I navigated my way through the early months by keeping a diary of how much I drank and always rewarding myself for how well I’d done.

Learning to drink more mindfully was the first step in a long journey of learning how to love and care for myself. Eventually, I removed alcohol from my life permanently. Fast forward three years and I am now fully alcohol-free and I've never been better.

More information on the guidelines and harms of risky alcohol consumption can be found here, alongside the benefits of reducing alcohol intake.

If you think you may be experiencing a problem with alcohol, you can access free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 or check out Adis for other support services and resources.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Queensland Health
Many of us enjoy a drink now and then, but when it comes to alcohol, it's important to know how many is too many. As drinking alcohol is so commonplace in Australia, you might not notice you're overdoing it. Drinking more than 10 standard drinks in a week, and 4 standard drinks on any one day can lead to anxiety, depression, poor sleep, weight gain, and a weakened immune system. Queensland Health is committed to the health and well-being of all Queenslanders. To help you make better choices, get the low down on alcohol at yourdrinking.initiatives.qld.gov.au