It is the 22nd of the month good people, which means that I am halfway through my Dry January challenge. And I am feeling, wait for it, yes CHIPPER! I know, not a word one would normally associate with a sour wee bastard, but there you have it. LSB is off the quare stuff too, and this has made the experience infinitely more doable. We can be a poor influence on each other, and it all goes a bit Craggy Island round here when it comes to the booze. ‘Sure you’ll take a glass of wine. Just the one sure, a wee drop in your hand. You will, you will, you will.’
I feel I must add here, (just incase you’re about to lift the phone to social services) that we are not a pair of drunks. To use Father Ted as a point of reference again, remember when he offends the Chinese family on the island and looks like a Neo-Nazi? And he has to show the slideshow and the words ‘TED, NOT A RACIST’ flash up to subliminally enter the consciousness of his audience? In a similar vein then, let me stress, ‘SWB, NOT AN ALCOHOLIC’ and ‘LSB, NOT ONE EITHER.’ We took on Dry January because we realised we were drinking a bit too much, a bit too often, and when you have a go counting up the weekly intake in units, they add up so quickly that it’s a bit, well, scary.
So we downed our glasses and channelled our energies into getting healthier, feeling better and saving some money. And this, we thought, was an ideal time to do it, since January with all its cold and bleakness, can test a person’s resolve. And here is the most interesting thing I’ve found. Because I’ve taken on Dry January and the #LearnuaryNI, I’ve committed to making small changes every day and sticking to them. In short, I have eliminated vagueness. Indecisive by nature, I often resist wholly committing to things, because then I don’t have to fail. Then I can backtrack, telling myself: ‘I hadn’t really committed to it; it was just an idea.’ This time I have cut the bullshit and am actually doing and learning new things. It feels good to be succeeding at something.
I also came to a realisation, or epiphany, if you will. If you are prone to the PLOM (Poor Little Old Me) syndrome, you may find yourself whining: ‘Oh life is sooo hard, I am sooo tired: pass me a drink to get me through this Godforsaken winter.’ When I had this notion in my head, I often felt listless and rubbish. It was the mind-set which had to change; then I addressed the habits which allowed me to indulge it. (Forgive me if I sound preachy but I’m directing this entirely at my own behaviour patterns.)
I’ve started being a bit tough with myself if I find my thoughts going down these particular avenues of doom. ‘SWB,’ I say firmly: ‘Are you currently residing in a refugee camp in Calais?’ No. You are stuck in a traffic jam on the Boucher Road. Your kids will be late for swimming. Big deal.
Or: ‘Are you a Rohingya Muslim who’s been driven from their home?’ No. You’re in good health with a lovely family. Now make a donation via Concern and while you’re at it, have a side order of perspective with your latte.
Tough love is easier when you’re treating your body with respect. We’ve both been reading more, practising yoga and as a result, sleeping better. We’ve made fewer forays out to dine at the weekends where it would be hard to resist a glass of chilled white loveliness. (We are stony broke, so this was somewhat forced upon us.) Instead, we’ve eaten steaming bowls of curry with candles lit and the wood-burner going to create ambiance, in front of BBC 4’s Spiral. (I can’t say the severed heads in the current series do much for my appetite but it’s one hell of a show nevertheless.)
I’m training in preparation for The Roe Valley triathlon in May, and I know it’s probably psychological but I already feel leaner. And in my head I feel better: less introspective and A LOT more patient. I can be narky enough without having a hangover to boot, and I have a low tolerance for alcohol these days. (You can read some of my advice on how to manage children and hangovers here.)
I wonder if any of these positive vibes come from what Helen Foster suggests in her book Quit Alcohol (For a Month). The feeling of wellbeing when you have completed a challenge is, she says, because ‘success begets success when it comes to making change, do one thing and you become more confident in your ability to change a second.’ I can definitely relate to this.
LSB and I are planning a meal out in February to celebrate his birthday and our completion of our month of sobriety. I’m looking forward to a glass of Malbec, but I’ll cap it at two. I’m starting to like this fresher version of me. I might try and keep her around a bit longer.