The Great Drinking Conundrum

I went to really interesting live podcast recording this morning- Alison Perry talking about boozing and parenthood. Clemmie Telford and Rosamund Dean (Author of Mindful Drinking) were talking about giving up drink or being more mindful about when you drink and how much.

I've had an ambivalent relationship with drink. I find it hard to drink in moderation so am either all in or all out. I gave up before I got pregnant with Greta and then continued not drinking after she was born, then I started about three months ago. Now I probably have a glass of wine twice a week -usually in front of the TV (Peaky Blinders- I came to the whole thing late but am addicted). When I'd stopped boozing I found it quite hard in social contexts to justify why I wasn't drinking. People became defensive when I said I didn't drink and said things like -Oh I don't have a problem with alcohol so I don't have to give it up or I can stop whenever I want but it's fun right? It was as if me NOT drinking made them nervous about their own booze habits. I felt like a bore. Like I wasn't much fun to be around. The reality is often quite the opposite. The more booze you have, the more you tend to repeat yourself but sober it can be hard to keep up the momentum on a night out. Around ten I'd want to crawl into bed (this was also because of a small person who didn't sleep at all).

I've watched a lot of people get very pissed in my time. In the noughties, it was common to drink at work events and someone would get off with someone else or there'd be a fight or a drama and I was part of that whole thing- usually sinking pints of lager. I'd have rows with work colleagues. Get involved in mean gossip. Slag people off. I would also smoke about four hundred cigarettes. I liked to think I was being cool and hedonistic but it became very boring and predictable. The same chats, the same territories, the awful hangovers the next day.

Then with fellow Mums it seemed to be a race to see who could get drunk the quickest. It was brutal. Mums often tend to be drinking in a limited amount of time and in that time they're trying to squeeze in a all the resentment and sadness and tiredness and frustration of child rearing. I've done that too, then come home with a youngish child and staggered about, just about managed the bedtime routine but also felt guilty. It's not a good feeling when you're so drunk that you know you'll be hopeless in an emergency. Then the ensuing fear and waking up and feeling awful and knowing that you've got a whole day of parenting ahead with a hangover and feeling grumpy and shouty.

I've always had bad hangovers. And when I say BAD I mean BAD. First the headache, then the self loathing, then the fear which stays with me for days. This fear is often related to absolutely nothing but gives me a strong sense that I've done something wrong or have lost something important or am just a bad person. All through my twenties and thirties I suffered the worst hangovers. I'd often be sick and not be able to stop vomiting. At no stage did I ever consider not drinking. It was just part of the culture. Everyone did it. Then the 'trying for a baby' years which were a dark time and I stopped drinking. That was hard. I would go to parties and people would tease me about being pregnant because I'd turn down a drink, and I SO WANTED to be pregnant, and would be sober and miserable.

I firmly believe that you shouldn't drink if you are feeling miserable. Or anxious. Or worried. Or are going through relationship problems. Or feeling like a crap parent. It will give some temporary relief but will ultimately just make you feel worse. The early parenting years are dangerous in that you really need to calm down and have some kind of relief and booze can feel attractive- a short cut, a way to cut out the relentless chatter. I've found that when I'm struggling with parenting, drinking is actually the worst thing I can do. What I need instead if a hot bath, an early night, a bit of pampering, a good book- anything that provides some escape but doesn't give a big come down afterwards.

Now I can take booze or leave it. I've been alcohol free and felt a lot better (and skin looks amazing when you don't drink) but I still enjoy a glass with food or a really cold white wine in front of the TV. I don't feel the need to to quit completely. So it's the boring middle-ground of MODERATION. It seems that booze is one of those things that allows you to flee from your real feelings. Clemmie described it as - 'shape wear- it just shifts the problem elsewhere.' I liked that analogy. It basically gives you more shit to deal with later on.

Like shopping, like drugs, like sugar- it's one of those things that makes you feel great in the moment but there's always some negative fall out. The older I get, the more I understand myself and what I can tolerate. I still find the peer pressure and the fear of being boring is there but I get my thrills watching Cillian Murphy drinking instead.

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