Falling Out Of Love With Alcohol

Me and drink have had a long, mostly happy, relationship. I can’t remember when it first started – I suppose I was around 17 or 18, so I was late to the party in some respects, and it was far later than my early stumblings with boys.

I loved alcohol right from the start. Yes, there were a few nights where I drank too much and regretted it, but generally it was a party from the word go. I lived in London until the end of my twenties and drinking was almost a daily thing. Things did take a more sinister turn in my last years in the city – there were more than a few episodes of drinking to excess in a way I hadn’t done before. I partied harder, and felt worse in the mornings, but I managed to reign it back in (there’s only so many times you can go out and vomit horrendously before a) you get fed up of it and b) you start to feel ashamed of your behaviour).

Then in my 30s, drink became something I turned to at home. Going out all the time was getting old, and alcohol was about a thousand times cheaper to buy in a supermarket. Nothing could beat that glugging sound of a fresh bottle of nice wine being poured into a glass after a long day at work.

That carried on until after I was married and got pregnant. But even then, I still drank a little. A glass of shandy now and again was one of the few things that seemed to settle my morning sickness in the beginning, and then later in my first pregnancy as long as only had half a glass of wine I didn’t see the harm in it.

I had a long period of not drinking after my son was born, but I felt so utterly broken and crap and exhausted that I would not have noticed any difference.

Once he started sleeping better I was back to my nightly glass of wine.

This repeated with my second son, and then while I was trying for my daughter I found that not drinking was something I resented. I didn’t drink as regularly as I was afraid it was affecting my fertility, but I never completely stopped. I craved it all the time, and as soon as my period arrived it’d be a nice bottle of wine open and a sigh of relief that I could drink again.

I’m still on the border of getting my sleep back after the birth of my daughter over two years ago, as she is not a good sleeper, but the wine has gradually crept in regardless.

Last summer I reached a point where I knew it had a hold over me that I didn’t like any more. It was the first time that I’d admitted to myself that I needed that glass of wine at the end of the day to relax. I remember driving with the three kids in the back of the car on the way home from the school run and realising that there was no wine at home. Panic! I drove them all to the shops and took them all in, just so I could pick up a bottle – because the thought of not drinking that evening was terrifying. My life was miserable. I was tired, exhausted, unhappy in my marriage, and it was the one thing that blotted everything out. It made life fuzzier and less arduous.

That was the day when I knew it had to stop. I didn’t want my kids to grow up remembering me as the mum that always had to go and buy wine, and the mum that was always drinking wine in the evenings. It wasn’t the role model I wanted for my kids and it wasn’t making me happy either.

The next morning I tipped away all the alcohol that was in the house. It was the 6th June and I remember it well because I cried. I actually cried in the morning. I never drank to excess at home – it was a glass or on some nights two. Never more. But I couldn’t manage without it – the thought of not having it made me realise that it was probably only time before one glass regularly became two. And three. And then what?

The first two weeks were awful. I had a constant headache and I couldn’t sleep. I was surprised at how much of an effect on me stopping drinking actually had. And the cravings – my god I wanted it so bad between the hours of 5pm and 8pm – the time when I would usually pour my first glass.

And then came anger. I hated alcohol. And I hated the fact that I wanted it still.

And then, slowly, it got easier.

I lasted 28 days before going back to it. At first it was in moderation – not every night. But then my uncle passed away and left a mess of stuff and emotions. And then my mum ended in hospital with psychosis again because she couldn’t cope with the grief. And I drank every night again, as I had done for the best part of 20 years, to make it all easier to bear.

On the 10th September I stopped again. I wasn’t enjoying it like I did when I was younger. It used to be associated with fun, going out, flirting, dancing and generally having a ball. Now it was false comfort for a middle-aged woman who should know better.

I lasted 69 days, and I felt great. The cravings were less, I didn’t get the headaches and the insomnia this time around. But I still missed it.

It was a pub lunch that broke my streak. I had a large glass of white wine and boy was it great. A few days later I bought a bottle for home. And that was it. Christmas was coming and you know what it’s like. I bought Bailey’s, port, wine, beer, the lot. I drank every day and at Christmas I started on the sherry in the morning.

Hurrah for alcohol!

But it made me feel like crap. The mornings were awful and my skin broke out horribly. I decided to do dry January, and got really drunk on New Year’s Eve. Things at home had been difficult and I had partly been drinking to forget about it all. To ignore the big decisions about separation and how badly our marriage had deteriorated. I lasted 6 days and then my husband moved out. So I started drinking again, but it was suddenly different.

After the initial shock of the change in the status quo, I realised that now I was on my own I could really focus on what I was doing and I didn’t really enjoy anything more than the first couple of sips. Everything else just made me feel crappy. I got a mild headache if I had more than a glass, and I slept terribly whenever I drank anything at all.

So on 28th January I stopped again. After 24 days I bought some wine experimentally. It wasn’t that I really wanted it, it was more curiosity. I had a glass for two nights, but it made me feel horrible, so I left it in the fridge. I finished the rest a week later. I decided I was done. And then a client gave me a bottle as a thank you, so I drank that over three nights just because it was nice wine and I am not the kind of person that can keep wine in the house and not drink it. I was glad when I finished it. That last bottle was like a message. It told me that I have finally fallen out of love with alcohol.

Will I drink again? I probably will.

Will I go back to drinking every night? I hope not.

I find my quiet peaceful evenings on my own (when the kids aren’t waking up), to be restorative in a way that alcohol has never been. I’ve had to find alternative ways to relax and reading is something I have started doing at the end of the day. It’s nicer than drinking.

I am surprised to have finally gotten here. What started in June as a desperate attempt to release the hold that it seemed to have over me has taken nine months to get a handle on. And I’m sure there will be more bumps in the road ahead. But for now, I can say that I am really glad to not want to be drinking any more. It was always the longing for it that worried me, not the amount I consumed. It was fun while it lasted, but in the end it wasn’t fun any more.

I sleep better, and feel better, without it.

Nutrition & Vlog

Medal! 10 long miles for that bit of bling

My uncle died suddenly at the end of the school holidays. I get very maudlin and depressed when someone passes on – it was the same with both of my grandmothers. For weeks I was just miserable and all I could think was that we are all going to die and someday it will be my turn and maybe that day is coming soon. Time eases it, thankfully.

My oldest son went up to a new school so the start of the school year brought heaps of form-filling, new school run routes and buses, new clubs, homework and routines.

Work started back up almost immediately and I booked in three new projects to take me up to Christmas.

I ran the Great South Run (10 miles), for the first time in 7 years. I did it in 1hr45, so I was pretty damn pleased with that ?.

Thankfully, in some sort of miracle, unprompted transition (we didn’t do  anything different), baby F has pretty much started to sleep through, because without that I’m not sure I would have coped (just don’t mention daytime naps because that is a world of pain and overtired toddlering).

Taking better care

As you can imagine, self-care went somewhat out of the window in the midst of all the emotion and busy-ness. I was back to drinking wine every evening to take the edge off the day and eating sugary food all the time as comfort.

In the second week of September I decided I’d really just had enough of the wine (it’s only taken 26 years). The number one reason was that although baby F often woke only once and sometimes not at all, I was still waking every couple of hours. I knew it was drinking wine before bed every evening that was the issue. I wasn’t drinking enough to knock me out for the night, but my innocent habit of a glass or two was ruining my sleep.

It’s been seven weeks since I had any and it has been eye-opening how much I craved it in the first month. It had become a method of dealing with stress, which I know is a destructive path. 

Quite how much I wanted to drink at the end of some of the days I had both scared me and made me sad that I had decided to give it up!

Unfortunately, the wine in the evening has been replaced with chocolate in the day. Despite still running regularly my weight has slowly crept up to what it was a year ago. I constantly crave sugary food – especially when stressed.

I don’t enjoy the relationship I have with food so much these days. I used to be a functional eater and I just didn’t eat unless I was hungry. Now it’s got a lot less to do with how hungry I am and a lot more to do with how nice it tastes.

Which brings me nicely to where I am now. I’m going to be working with a nutritional therapist over a 12 week period. I had been thinking of booking her for a long time, but I needed to be ready.

Now I am. Really I am. I feel old and podgy and tired and listless.

Keeping track

I really love reading about people doing this sort of thing, but I have so little time to blog. Instead I’m going to try something WAY out of my comfort zone and vlog it.

I am an introvert who far prefers writing to talking, but video is so speedy. Even editing out all the “er”s on my phone only took ten minutes. But not only that – you can’t beat video for showing how things change. I’d like to hope that I will get to see some changes, so it’s mainly for a personal record of the changes (if any?!), I experience. I’d love to be able to look back in 3 months time and see real, visual results.

You can see my first video here:

https://youtu.be/pMO7x0ikqAY

Sugar and Alcohol

sugar

I confess – things have been quite hard over the last week or so. I always seem to waver in my commitment around ovulation time. I’m not sure if it’s the psychological acspect of the impending significant event, or a hormonal thing that makes me crave bad things.

I’ve had more alcohol in the last two weeks than I have had all year. And I’ve gotten a taste for white chocolate and eaten miles too much of it.

The alcohol amounts to a glass of red wine on five separate occasions in the last fortnight. I guess it’s not really that much, but I feel like I’m slipping into old habits. I used to drink every day. Day in, day out.

So I need to hold my head up and remember why I stopped.

Because

  • It affects my sleep
  • It affects my skin
  • It makes me miserable and prone to tearfulness
  • IT AFFECTS MY FERTILITY!!

Deep breath.

But sugar.

Man, this is the hardest, hardest thing out of everything to quit.

I’ve stopped caffeine, cut out gluten, increased raw food, cut right back on all processed foods, cut down alcohol (except for recently, ahem), but can I stay away from sugar??

No I can’t

It is so difficult.

How can I break this habit?

How can I kick this addiction?

I know excess sugar is bad for you all round – glucose is turned to fat by the liver, it destabilises your blood sugar levels leading to cravings for more and it affects your hormones and messes with your fertility.

I need to find the key to getting sugar out of my diet.

The smallest amount of it just makes me want more and more.

How can I break out of wanting it all the time?

I’m sabotaging my own efforts and it’s got to stop.

Cleaning up My Diet for Fertility

healthy eating apple

Given my three miscarriages and my two chemical pregnancies, I think it’s acceptable to say that recurrent miscarriage is a term that could apply to me.

I have seriously contemplated stopping and just moving forward without another baby, but somehow I can’t leave it behind yet. It just feels like we’re one person short :-(.

I’ve decided to give up thoughts of giving up (for now) and instead (since I won’t see a doctor), I’m concentrating on making myself as healthy as possible.

Since I know that I’m ovulating, and my cycle is almost textbook perfect, with a good bi-phasic pattern and a 14 day luteal phase, and I’ve just had two chemical pregnancies (proving that the sperm is finding the egg), it must be something to do with my body as a whole. And I suspect my immune system is over-zealously rejecting the fertilized egg.

I’m no doctor, but here’s my reasoning:

I have several low grade, niggly health problems that seem to point to inflammation and an over-active immune system.

The most prevalent of these is the joint pain I have been suffering from over the last year. Three months back it was so bad I would sometimes sit up in bed and cry because I couldn’t sleep. In the day time it was just aching wrists and elbows from moving the boys around and the physical care of two children, but at night it would feel like my whole body hurt.

These restless, exhausting, painful nights are what prompted me to stop alcohol, and then caffeine. And then cut right down on sugar (I still eat some, I haven’t been able to give that up just yet). Since then my joint pain has subsided – no more restless nights. My toe joints are still sore if I put pressure on them, but they don’t ache all the time like they used to.

Another symptom was bowel problems – bloated, constipated, alternating with diarrhoea, wind and occasional pain. I tried a home coeliac test blood test, which astonishingly came back positive (coeliacs tend to suffer from recurrent miscarriage before they are diagnosed). However, when I went to the doctor the lab blood test didn’t confirm it.

I was confused and upset, as I was hoping I’d found the “reason” for all my problems and my previous miscarriages. I’m wary of eating too much wheat now, so I’ve also cut right back on bread and pasta (my two main culprits). My digestion has been much better since, so coeliac or not, I’ve made a positive change.

Next is blepharitis – inflammation of the eyelids, around the eyelashes. This tends to affect older people, but my optician picked it up a couple of months ago at a routine eye test. My eyes had been feeling sore and achey for ages, which I’d put down to missed sleep with two small children, but actually I had a low grade inflammation.

I’ve also suffered a lot with sinus pain over the last year – around the base of my skull at the back, where I didn’t even know you had sinuses. It is incredibly painful and the pressure can get so bad I have to take painkillers to get through the day.

Finally is the horrible skin rash I tend to get around my waist. It itches like mad and looks like psoriasis or eczema, but it’s only a patch as big as my palm on both sides, so again, I’ve just lived with it.

As many of you know, all of these health niggles are things that are dismissed by many GPs, so I’ve never sought medical advice. Can you imagine:

“Hi doctor, I’ve got sore joints, a small rash, uncomfortable bowels and blepharitis. I’ve also had several miscarriages – can you please diagnose me?”

My doctor would just send me home with reassurances.

So last year I decided I’d had enough of feeling crap all the time and I started to clean up my diet.

Everyone knows the big 4 are drugs, smoking, alcohol and caffeine.

I’ve never done any drugs, and I’ve never smoked, but I’ve cut my wine-every-day habit and my tea-all-day-long habit and honestly – I feel great for it.

In addition I’ve cut my intake of wheat and sugar – down, but not out.

Result?

I sleep better, my mood is more stable, I’m happier and I have more consistent energy levels.

All of my problems listed above are improved.

Now I’m moving onto stage 2 – I want to increase the amount of raw food I eat 🙂

The Convoluted Path To Healthy Eating – What Doesn’t Work

I’ve been interested in nutrition and its effect on your health since I was around 10 or 11.

26 years later and I’ve tried (and failed) countless times to have what I consider a good, healthy diet.

However, with 2 children to run around after, the hopes of creating a third, and the fact that I feel the beginning of old-age twinges in my joints, motivation to eat well is much higher now that it’s ever been.

I’ve had no sugar (save one breakfast style biscuit that I ate without thinking) for 7 whole days. Today is day 8 and I feel smaller – my jeans have a teeny bit of extra room over the hips. I feel happier – my mood and patience have levelled out and I am in control, even dealing with a vomiting baby and manic toddler. I feel calmer – the highs and lows have gone, and have been replaced with a more steady, measured approach to everything. I feel physically softer – my skin feels smoother and my joints are not aching as much as they usually do.

I’ve tried to cut out sugar so many times before, but this time I think I’ve finally got all the pieces of the puzzle in place to make it work.

Before I talk about how I’ve finally got everything to come together, I want to first run through all the things that have failed and my take on why.

1. Focusing on exercise, not food

I’ve tried this millions of times. I think: “I need to be healthy, I need to get fit!” so I plunge into a new regime, or join a gym, or buy a heart-rate monitor, or sign up to a new class, or buy a bike, or buy some exercise DVDs (notice how much buying takes place, compared to doing?).

Two, maybe three weeks in. It grinds to a halt. I make excuses. My muscles are sore. I’m more tired than when I started.

Why is this doomed to fail?

Someone wise once said “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”

If your intake isn’t what your body needs, you are never going to get decent performance out of it. Your muscles won’t be able to build strength, your body will protest with exhaustion because it doesn’t have the protein, the fuel, the vitamins and minerals to adjust to the increase in physical activity. Result? Failure.

2. Going cold turkey on everything

No caffeine. No sugar. No bread. No meat. No milk. Er… what the hell am I gonna eat?

I’ve cut out all sorts of things from my diet over the years, and a couple of times I have tried a full-on Gillian McKeith style detox. Oh. My. God. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about how shit you feel for the first three days? The headaches, the tiredness, the grumpiness. And then the cravings start – wine, chocolate, burgers, ANYTHING with some sustenance.

No – this is never gonna work. Yes, you can make changes, but 99% of us can’t do it overnight like that.

3. Trying a “diet”

This is something I’ve only really done since I’ve had children – the baby belly drives my purchases of diet books promising you’ll never need another diet plan again.

I’ve tried a couple but seriously – following someone else’s plan of what to eat? I can’t get past the first few days. Your shopping bill trebles and you end up throwing away half of everything because the recipes don’t account for all the leftovers. And then there’s cooking separately for me, the kids, the husband (or leaving him to fend for himself, which isn’t very sociable)… I end up in the kitchen all day long.

Nope – this isn’t gonna work because it’s not my eating plan, it’s theirs.

4. Meal planning a week’s worth of healthy meals you’ve never eaten before

I’m guilty of doing this a lot. Meal planning is great – it focuses your shopping, clears your mind of constantly thinking “what are we all gonna eat?” and helps prevent desperate takeaway dinners. However, the way to do meal planning is to plan to eat things you would normally eat.

Using it as a tool to improve your diet takes time.

By day four of a brand new menu plan, you’re sick of cooking and at least one meal was awful. Do you really want to plod through three more nights of cooking dinners you don’t know if you’re going to like? Nope. You order a takeaway pizza instead because you’ve used up your weeks worth of meal energy in four days.

I repeat – meal planning is great, and is something I really want to master (I’m working up to it).

But meal planning IS NOT healthy eating. They are two separate beings. Meal planning AND eating healthily is one change too many for most busy people to stick with.

So.

These are my big four – the things I have tried over and over, with tweaks and additions and alterations. But they haven’t really worked.

I just need to find what does.

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