Louisa's story: "There wasn't support for a grey-area drinker like me"

Louisa | October 2023 | 8 minutes

In this blog, Louisa tells us how taking control of her drinking has made her feel happier and healthier.

In a society that promotes alcohol and places it on a pedestal, I felt alone

I first wanted to go alcohol-free a decade ago and there just wasn’t the awareness or support out there for a ‘grey area drinker’ like me, i.e. someone drinking between moderate and risky levels. It takes a strong will and determination to stop drinking alcohol especially in a society that promotes it and places it on a pedestal, and I struggled. I felt alone. No one was talking about alcohol being an issue and, when I faltered, I was reassured by friends that it was perfectly normal to drink most days because that’s what they did. There is a perceived safety in numbers.

I spent the next 10 years trying to moderate and failing, feeling weak and my mood was suffering. I knew I needed to do something, but I simply didn’t know anyone who was alcohol-free… let alone happily so!

Far from being something that you had to do without, going alcohol-free gives you everything back

Over the years, I had fallen into a pattern of drinking most evenings and weekends. I was rarely drunk or hungover and I never let anyone down. I could take the odd day off here and there, but it was always hard fought and I’d sulk on those occasions. I really had fallen for the marketing around alcohol that it was essential to enjoying life which I know now is rubbish. In fact, the opposite is true. I wouldn't have classified myself as ‘an alcoholic’ so when I heard the term grey area drinker it resonated with me.

I had begun to worry about my health, I had bruises that I couldn’t explain and that weren’t from getting drunk and not remembering but rather bruising so easily which I knew could be a sign my liver wasn’t happy. My husband and I had started to bicker and squabble which wasn’t like us and I knew that alcohol was becoming the third wheel in our marriage. Far from being something that added to celebrations, it was clearly detracting from them.

So, in 2022, after a summer of holidays and excess, I found a sober community and it was like a whole new world opened up to me. I saw people enjoying being alcohol-free and thriving in their lives without alcohol. I realised that far from being something that you had to do without, going alcohol-free gives you everything back.

To begin with, even with all this inspiration at my fingertips, my journey wasn’t a smooth one, with many resets and disappointments. My mental health was really suffering and this was when someone suggested that I download the Try Dry® app to record every dry day as a motivator rather than seeing each reset as a failure. Then, as the sober days clocked up, my confidence built that I could do this.

I saw it as a challenge and one that I was going to win

In my day job, I’m a therapist and hypnotherapist who helps others with habit change so the irony of me not being able to help myself was chipping away at my self-esteem. I knew how important mindset was but alcohol had wheedled its way into my life in such an inextricable manner that I had to unpick all of those beliefs about it being needed to have fun, to celebrate, to commiserate, to destress and to unwind. At the start, I had the mindset of ‘I hope I can do this’ which left room for doubt so I shifted that to being 100% committed and to a mindset of ‘I KNOW I can do this.’

I saw it as a challenge and one that I was going to win and the more distance I now have from alcohol the more I can see how the messaging around it needs to change. There really does need to be more awareness around the fact it isn’t a harmless way of letting your hair down or that you have to have a ‘a problem’ to walk away from it. Although I never expected or asked him to, my husband decided to join me in going alcohol-free and quite honestly it’s been the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s changed our lives.

I’m now in my eighth month of continuous dry days and have no plans to ever drink alcohol again. My marriage is the strongest it’s ever been… oh, and I haven’t bruised once since quitting!

*Editor's note: You can read more about the language used to talk about drinking problems, including the word 'alcoholic' here.