From month off to New York Marathon

Sarah | November 2018 | 8 minutes

My daily drinking habit started just over 10 years ago after I stopped breastfeeding my youngest child. Dry January gave me the best start at the toughest time. But I had a major aim I wanted to achieve that kept me going long after Dry January ended...

"My daily drinking habit started just over 10 years ago after I stopped breastfeeding my youngest child in 2006, and I got into the habit of having a glass or two to unwind at the end of a day with the children. I suffered from post-natal depression and found relentless child care challenging, with no local family support to provide respite. Drinking initially seemed to make me feel better. I realised it was becoming a habit but at first I was unconcerned - I was only having a couple of glasses a night and didn't feel too bad or guilty about it. When I realised it was definitely becoming a daily habit and the glasses were becoming larger, I tried a couple of times to quit.

"I got into the habit of having a glass or two to unwind at the end of a day with the children. Drinking initially seemed to make me feel better."

"I managed 257 days sober but then a neighbour persuaded me to have a small glass of prosecco at an 18th birthday party - I was horrified to find I was straight back to daily drinking immediately. I tried again in 2012 but once again only managed about 6 months alcohol free. It was a terrible time - if I drank I felt guilty, and if I didn't I felt deprived. Between October 2012 and December 2016 I drank every single day and at higher levels than before. By the end of 2016, at my worst I was drinking on average approximately 1 bottle of wine a day.

"I used to be a cross country and distance runner at school, university and in my 20's (when I didn't drink) and had completed several full marathons. I had decided to apply for the 2017 Virgin London Marathon, and amazingly in October 2016 I learned that I had a place. I knew that I would have to quit daily drinking in order to train for it seriously. I decided in the last month of 2016 that I would try and steadily taper down the amount I was drinking each day, in case it was dangerous just to stop, with the intention of going totally alcohol free from January 1st. Around this time I heard about the Dry January campaign and decided I would register as I thought this would help motivate me.

"Dry January gave me the best start at the toughest time."

"I found the concept of Dry January so motivational. I know it has come under criticism because it is just for a month, but going dry for a month really does help you reassess your relationship with alcohol and start to see the benefits, and then it is up to you whether to continue alcohol-free or attempt to moderate your drinking (which I knew I couldn't ). Anyone who has tried to quit an addiction problem will confirm that the early days are the hardest. What I liked about Dry January was that it was a popular campaign at that time of year that wasn't just for problem drinkers, so I wasn't ashamed to tell people I was doing it.

"Dry January gave me the best start at the toughest time - I particularly liked the app and logging up my alcohol-free days by posting the little tea cup icon at the end of each successful day, the inspirational support emails, and the added support from the Facebook group (particularly the Dry January and Beyond group which continued from February onwards). There I "met" a great bunch of people who all supported each other with the same struggles and goals and it was the camaraderie of the group and the accountability that kept me going in the toughest times.

"Going dry for a month really does help you reassess your relationship with alcohol."

"Once I'd got 31 days out of the way, it was always my intention to keep going. I managed to remain alcohol free, and train for and complete the Virgin London Marathon 2017.

"Over the next 18 months I continued running and ran three more local marathons and other long distance running events. Running really helped my recovery and I was finding it mostly relatively easy to remain alcohol free.

"I was pleased to celebrate my one year sobriety date in January 2018, but did have one more ultimate goal. In 1998, when I rarely drank, I had completed the New York City Marathon, which was definitely one of the greatest days of my life. I decided I really wanted to do this once again and so applied through the ballot and was delighted to learn in March 2018 that I had successfully gained a place. This gave me further focus for the year.

"On 4 November 2018 (day 673) and 20 years on, I successfully ran the New York City Marathon one more time. I think I enjoyed it more this time; as before it was a truly amazing day but I think it meant that much more to me this time because of all I had overcome to achieve it.

"Today, as I write this, I'm on day 680 alcohol free. The alcohol-free way of life comes fairly naturally to me now, although because of my past struggle I am never complacent. I am looking forward to my two year anniversary at New Year, when I will join in and support the Dry January campaign once again. Ultimately though, I just take it one day at a time."