Alice's Dry January story: "I had a stereotype in my head of what a heavy drinker looks like."

December 2018 | 8 minutes

Alice took on Dry January and hasn't looked back since. This is her story.

I took on Dry January 2018, and haven’t drunk since. I never believed that not drinking alcohol for so long was achievable for me. It will have been the longest period of not drinking since I started in about 1975!

I'm in my late 50s and female, I live in the country and have worked as a manager in the NHS all my working life. One of the things I’ve realised is that problems with alcohol are all individual. I definitely had a stereotype in my head of what a heavy drinker looks like, so for many years I used to tell myself that I didn't have a problem – I didn't tick those boxes, so I was fine wasn't I?

The drinking crept up on me. I don’t remember a particular point when it became something I thought wasn’t ‘normal’. In my first jobs it was accepted that we all went for a drink at lunchtime and straight after work. Social life was the pub, parties, gigs and clubs – alcohol went with the territory, as did the hangovers. It was even seen as normal to go into work the next day with a hangover and smelling of alcohol. I went on holidays with friends – all involved drinking far too much.

My (ex) partner and I met over a bottle or two of red when I was 33 and I never looked back. As his drinking really escalated, I conned myself into believing that it was just him with the problem. I only drank to keep him company and I was the one who had to hold it all together when he couldn’t. We had a nice house, jobs, friends, and although people knew he ‘enjoyed a drink’, he was ‘such a lovely bloke’ that it wasn’t really questioned, and nobody noticed me or my drinking. 

He was severely depressed, massively in debt and suffering physically through drinking to extremes. To cut a long story short, I ended the relationship and, in the end, decided I had to cut ties completely. Through everything I was using him and the end of our relationship as my excuse for continuing to drink – though I never drank to a point where I lost control or couldn’t function at work. 

...no one else thought I had a problem, which meant it was easier for me to ignore as well.

After it was all over, I finally succumbed to a bout of my own depression, a couple of illnesses and menopause. I was drinking every evening and it crept up to ¾ to a full bottle of red per night. I would get anxious if I didn’t have a bottle ready for when I got home. I could always find a reason why I needed a glass of wine. I felt guilty – I would go to different shops on my way home from work. The way I was drinking meant that no one else thought I had a problem, which meant it was easier for me to ignore as well. On the odd occasion when I tentatively suggested that I thought I drank a bit too much, my friends would say ‘no, you’re fine’. But if they’d asked how much I was drinking I would have lied anyway.

There wasn’t anything that really made me decide to do Dry January in 2018. I didn’t plan ahead, I just started doing it - and it was hard. It meant making sure I steered clear of the supermarket on my way home from work and planning my food shop at a time when I wouldn’t be tempted to go down the alcohol aisle. I felt better for it physically, and much better mentally. I used the Dry January app which I really liked. It wasn’t judgmental – if you missed a day you could just try again tomorrow. I got through January and decided to limit my drinking to Friday and Saturday only – a mini bottle of wine each day, which I did successfully for two months. I don’t know why but it got to feel a bit pointless – rationing the wine and almost ritualising it. 

It was about this time that I discovered the Facebook group, Dry January and Beyond, and decided to stop drinking completely. It has really helped me to read other people’s struggles and successes and seeing how non-judgemental and supportive everyone is. I think the hardest thing for me is that no one knows how bad I was, so there is no one to share my achievement with. That’s also why the Facebook group is great. 

...I really don’t want to drink alcohol again – my life is so much richer without it.

The group also introduced me to ‘quit-lit’. I had never thought to tap into this rich stream of self-help reading – blogs, books and so on. I carefully selected two or three of the books and found them really helpful. I also tried some of the recommended alcohol-free drinks and found a couple I liked. If I knew I was going to be in a situation when I might be tempted I’d make sure I had these in the house instead. 

I’m still going one day at a time, and know that I can’t be complacent, but I really don’t want to drink alcohol again – my life is so much richer without it.

If you’re looking for support, you can download the app here. You can also join the Dry January community group on Facebook.

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