Lockdown in Melbourne felt like it dragged on for most of 2020 with two stages of heavy restrictions including limiting our movement to 5km from home, no childcare, and mandatory mask wearing. The first few weeks were a novelty as everyone came to terms with the new working from home lifestyle. For those of us with children that also meant homeschooling. My son’s kinder also rolled out an online platform with video meetups each day without great success, to be expected for a four-year-old’s attention span! This meant full-time work and full-time childcare for me and the beginning of what I like to call juggle street for the next 6 months.
Drinking alcohol each day crept in unconsciously. I think it first began with my neighbours who would suggest we meet ‘through the fence’ at 3 pm for a chat and a drink, most days. And as you know once you start drinking it’s easy to continue throughout the evening. It felt good to relax each night with a glass of wine and smoothed out the edges. Everyone remarked that all businesses except the essential services and Dan Murphy’s (our national retail alcohol chain) were now shut, a well-considered move by our Government.
One thing we were permitted during the lockdown as single parents was a ‘bubble buddy’. Someone that could exclusively visit you to prevent loneliness and offer companionship. My buddy was an old friend who I’d known since our early adulthood and we’d recently reconnected online. The visits were exceptionally fun and an escape from the reality of this harsh lockdown. Nights spent cooking beautiful meals together and consuming multiple bottles of fine wine in front of the open fire. The wine then led to whiskey and many laughs into the early hours of the morning. The following day hangovers were not so great though, and I felt like I had returned with him straight back to our 20s. Fitness was cast aside and I made the excuse that we were just surviving this lockdown together. It was fun, almost too much fun. I had nagging guilt in the back of my mind that this was excess and although short-lived wasn’t the best for me.
Christmas came and the excess continued as it often does each year… it was not long after that I made the decision to give up alcohol for January and get some control again over my consumption which was in fact consuming me. I would start with one month and depending on the outcome and my mental state, reassess then if I could continue to complete 100 days alcohol-free.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster the first week of detox would put me through. Having clarity for the first time in many months (potentially years) forced many repressed thoughts and memories to the surface. I’ve never been one to shy away from facing the darkness but the first week presented quite the challenge even for me who I know to be very resilient and high functioning.
The main issues that were appearing revolved around the death of my husband almost 4 years ago. Interestingly, I’d thought a lot of that had been resolved but cracks were appearing in the well compartmentalised and shelved areas in my mind. There was no guilt left in how I managed his death, rather the pressing need to speculate what life would have been like were he still alive today. A futile exercise at best but one that kept surfacing. His love for me so deep and pure and honest. I’d started to compare him, my soul mate, with the man I was currently in a relationship with, and the outcome was so different it was unnerving.
Exercise helped a lot. It’s one thing I would definitely recommend should you also decide to embark on a period of abstinence. Not only does your sleep improve but your energy level skyrockets, and this has to be channeled into something, exercise is a great solution. And it felt great to sweat again, really sweat. There’s a saying in cycling that sweat really is just fat crying. Pushing my body again to the edge on the bike and treadmill brought up not only a physical purge but more emotions which I wasn’t prepared for. A lot of the training sessions I was holding back tears and relying on music to keep me sane and stable in front of my son. The memories and thoughts were flooding back uncontrollably and I was racing to process them and keep up.
This may be a somewhat melodramatic description but the best I can liken the first week of alcohol-free to is to the ocean and the waves that repeatedly flow in then crash on the shore; some days definitely better than others and the need to control the mind and reframe essential to function and move through the emotional state. I wasn’t prepared for the mental onslaught, but I am grateful I’ve had the strength to move through it. Day 10 today and I feel like I’ve broken the back of the month and am sharpening my focus on what is really important in life. I’ve set my intentions and goals for the new year and most importantly I feel like I’ve done more essential work on myself. I’d be interested in reading any comments of others who have given up alcohol and the impact that decision has had on their lives. Stay strong.