Her Story: What it really means to give up alcohol
Updated: May 9, 2019
Most of us love a few glasses of wine on a night out and have battled through our fair share of hangovers. More often than not drinking leads to harmless fun, but what if you feel alcohol is starting to occupy an unhealthy place in your life?
Kerrie-Anne, a mum and pilates teacher in London, found that drinking was becoming just that: unhealthy. 18 months ago she decided to take a different approach, and she has shared her journey to living alcohol-free with us.
I've had quite an eventful life in my 35 years... I grew up in Jersey, and lived in Durham, France, Australia, Birmingham and now London. I worked as an economist for 10 years before becoming a pilates teacher. I met my husband Tim about 10 years ago at work (he was my boss - he got a bit confused about professional boundaries). About 18 months ago I gave up alcohol.
When most people ask me about giving up alcohol they assume it is because I am a pilates teacher - seeing private clients and using pilates to advise on wellness in the workplace - and that I want to be healthy. If I said "yes" to this that would be a lie. The truth is I used to drink too much. You know the girl everyone is cringing about because they are absolutely wasted and refusing to go home? That was me. Every week.
I grew up in Jersey and drinking was a massive deal there. I think that I was already drinking on a regular basis when I was 11 (and first 'got drunk' under a table at an even younger age at a family friend's birthday party). Alcohol was a big part of my life growing up. I hope my dad won't mind if he reads this but he was a (let's just say) very keen drinker and so I guess it was kind of normal. I thought it was cool, it made me way more confident, and then when bad stuff and anxiety came my way, it became my way of squashing my feelings down. I would deal with all my problems by drinking vast amounts.
I was a frequent and heavy drinker and that was a problem. I could see that I was on a slippery slope and I couldn't stop that by moderating how much I drank. I would do crazy things like go off by myself to nightclubs and not go home. I would lie in bed the next day too hungover to hang out with my little girl and I was just a bit of an asshole to my family. My relationship was in a really bad way, I was depressed and self-medicating with booze, and I was tired and unwell all the time.
The last time I drank was on a school night. I went to a pub quiz. Drank way more than everyone else, argued with my husband, he went home and I stayed out with my friend. I don't remember much from that night but the next day when I woke up I decided I was never going to drink again and I haven't (my friend retrospectively filled me in on the events: I peed in the street, refused to go home and tried running off; lost my jumper and fell asleep in the taxi, putting myself in danger).
The reason I gave up is because I knew that I was on a slippery slope. I wanted to be the best version of me, I wanted to be a better wife and I wanted to be a better mum. I was sad growing up because of my dad's drinking and my parents' relationship and I could see that potentially my daughter, Ivy, would experience what I had. I absolutely did not want that.
Also, my dad gave up drinking 5 years ago and hasn't looked back. I am so proud of him and we now have a much better relationship. I thought: well if he can do it, surely I can.
These last things are the things that keep me in check.
Since stopping drinking, I know what feelings are. Before I couldn't distinguish between a whole lot of feelings. I only really knew anxiety and excitement. I never used to cry unless I was drunk and I really didn't know how to express things. Now I cry all the time, have learnt a hell of a lot about myself and have worked through some deep-rooted sadness and high levels of anxiety. My best friend died when I was 18. I never properly grieved for her until this year (I went to see her on my lunch break in the chapel of rest when she died and I didn't even cry, instead I went out after work and got wasted).
I am way more confident too and not hiding behind the booze. I am not as anxious or down in the dumps, or embarrassed by my behaviour. I am no longer sick all the time either.
My relationship is the best it has ever been and I am definitely a better mum. My daughter (even though she is only 7) seems proud when she says "my mummy doesn't drink alcohol' and that makes me happy. My husband doesn't worry about whether I am coming home anymore and we go out and do lovely things together without arguing.
I've also started the new corporate part of my pilates business (Pilates At Your Desk) a year ago - I couldn't have done that if I was still drinking.
People ask me if it was hard to give up. It was hard to get to the point of giving up - I had quite a few attempts and always caved. I had hypnotherapy to moderate how much I drank. It didn't work. I had counselling. I ended up in an ambulance one night after passing out outside a nightclub. That didn't work. And then that random night after the pub quiz, something just clicked. And I would say that since then it has been much easier than I would've expected for someone who had drank continuously (with only a break while pregnant) for over 20 years. Actually what is creepy about that night is that months after the event my friend sent me a photo of me wasted against a wall which said, "this is the night I will open my eyes forever" and I bloody did. How spooky is that?!
I made a decision to embrace life. To be fun and still go out and dance. To stay up late with friends and basically to be the fun side of drunk without the booze. So I am doing well at this. I even do sober dancing and sober karaoke singing these days!!
I do get periods where I am feeling very down and I don't know what to do with myself, but I find that writing positive things like a gratitude list, doing yoga or pilates, hanging out with friends and sleeping really helps get me back on track. I do still struggle with anxiety but I deal with it in a positive way.
Giving up drinking is not for everyone, but it is worth considering if you feel you have a problem with alcohol. I'm an all or nothing person so for me stopping completely was the only option. I would say that if you are going to quit you need to first work out why you're doing it and keep that in mind if any temptations arise, and try to embrace life as best you can.
Still go out but go to places with good music so you can just dance and you don't need to have conversations with drunk people if you don't want to: dark clubs are good for that, haha.
And if I ever do waiver, or doubt my resolve, I just think about my daughter Ivy, my husband and my dad.