The holiday season is upon us and if ever there was a time to feel social pressures to drink, it’s now. It can have some people running & diving under their duvets, not wanting to peep out until the New Year has arrived. If this is you, do not fear!…

I used to dread the hangover after a Uni night out, but it never deterred me! Introducing H2O during periods of drinking helped massively with the headaches & sicky feeling the next day, though not so much with the heightened anxiety, destructive thoughts, increased irritability, general lowness and that often desperate end of the world / no way out feeling.

I drank on a couple of pre-planned nights out when I moved back home from Australia at the end of September, and swiftly decided that it was not the best accompaniment for my current emotional baggage. During the months I suffered with PTSD following a fatal road accident, my drinking on night’s out went out of control. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and having previously experienced the aggravating effects alcohol can have on us during periods of extreme stress, grief & anxiety, I knew I had no desire to put myself in that situation again this time round. I recognised that after an unsettling & overwhelming 24 months of life-changing events (both old & new) all coming to a head, it wasn’t an option to cover up what needs tending to, or to delay the healing process any longer.

Hitting that so called rock-bottom, I wanted to give myself the best possible helping hand that I could this time.

I was considering not drinking alcohol for a few weeks after moving back to the UK, but never had any occasions where I actually had to make the decision one way or another until a few weeks later. This photo was taken during what we’ll call the ‘consideration period’. While out on a beautiful walk with one of my best friends, we decided to stop to ‘refuel’. Not being a tea/coffee or much of a fizzy drink drinker, if it’s not H2O I usually have a cocktail (because they just look so fancy & usually taste so good). Having driven & it being the middle of the day, I opted for a ‘softail’. Reading that made me stop & think… some pubs & bars really don’t help non-drinkers out by calling them softails or mocktails… I personally don’t think there’s anything soft or worth mocking about my delicious & perfectly satisfying non-alcoholic beverage thanks very much!

If I’d been ordering this on a bigger social occasion or a night out, I know the pressures I might have felt doing so. I think most of us can be guilty of worrying far too much about what others might think.

The fear & need we often feel to fit in to social conventions is real, even around groups of people we call friends! 

Some people are under the illusion that you have to drink to have the best time possible – I used to be one of them! So much so I used to ashamedly not want to go out unless everyone was going to be drinking – my deluded go hard or go home’ philosophy went something like – ‘Well if we’re not going for it then what’s the point?!’ At this stage in life I now see it all a little differently. I remember discovering a wonderful friend of a friend never drank when we went out and being completely shocked because she was always so much fun on night’s out & stayed until the end! She’s one of my main inspirations at the moment and a great reminder that we really don’t need alcohol to have fun or to be fun. And if we do, perhaps we need to take note of some other areas of our life that might be in need of some TLC!

Not drinking really doesn’t have to mean missing out on all of the fun! 

Unfortunately not everyone will always agree with your decision not to drink, and you might even find yourself faced with relentless questions.

Do not feel you have to explain or justify your life choices to anyone.

If you have specific reasons & you’re brave enough to share them with others, then that’s great and I’m in complete admiration of you! I am currently working on this, but right now I’m just happy with the choices I’m making for me, and my commitment to making myself feel good.

It has actually been a lot easier (and more enjoyable!) than I thought it would be, mainly thanks to supportive & understanding friends. After immersing myself in drink-free weekends I’ve become even more determined to give it a go. If I really fancy a drink & desperately start to crave one, then I’ll have one. I may well be tripping over myself & others to taste that first Pimms of the spring, but right now, I’m enjoying all of the extra time, energy & productivity I seem to have, the extra money I’m saving, and my body & mind are greatly benefitting from the detox. Plus, alcohol is a huge aggravator of hay fever, and that bad boy gets me real bad during the spring & summer months!

Although saying no to alcohol does not fix all of life’s problems, it certainly helps to not exacerbate them.

I think my dedication to preserving space for my writing is the main factor making it an unquestionable decision for me right now. I know myself and my body well, and the day after drinking for me has always been a guaranteed ‘write off’. For now & for me personally, it’s working well, and it’s almost becoming addictive! It feels good protecting my time, mind, energy & productivity, and keeping them safe & sound under sober lock & key.

I’m not saying everyone should do the same – I certainly don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun! – but if you do suffer with anxiety or are prone to feeling a little on edge during the few days after drinking, then you might actually find that reducing your alcohol intake is majorly beneficial to your state of mind & overall wellbeing. Consider avoiding the effects that alcohol can have on your mood & thoughts, especially at a time when you’re more susceptible to them, such as during physically darker times of year, or if & when you find yourself going through some of life’s toughest challenges & periods of grief.

Listen to your body and what feels right for your own physical & mental wellbeing – not society’s, not social media’s, not your friend’s or even your family’s – just yours.
Make healthy choices for you.

Surround yourself with people who will support you. And for those who try to lead you astray – let it only make you more determined to stick with it & see it through, and realise that maybe these aren’t the friends to be hanging out with quite so much right now, and that’s honestly ok! (Read more about healthy habits & the benefits of having support systems or an accountability partner here)

I think it’s definitely been a lot easier for me to make this change, having physically moved locations back home, having to start over with so many other elements of my life, and making the decision before getting dragged back into old ways, and seemingly stuck in them again. I always find a change of scenery & environment helps massively with fresh starts, and our abilities as humans to make changes, because it’s like you have a clean slate in one respect. But it is still doable if you’re in the same old spot…
☆Write it down ☆Become accountable ☆Tell a friend ☆Create a support network.

The first step in making change is actually wanting to do so.

Make the best choices for YOU!

And then own them!

Want to find out more? – Just search ‘alcohol anxiety’ in Google.
Suffering with anxiety, addictions, alcohol abuse, any form of mental illness, or just need someone to talk to? – Help Is Here
Articles & vlogs by Spirit Junkie Gabby Bernstein are a great place to start if you’re struggling with addictions and/or are wanting the inspiration & motivation to make real changes in your life. 

Whether your December is dry or not, I wish you a happy & healthy end to your year!
Whatever version that may be for you, let’s respect & support one another

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