Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Let’s not get over excited, I only quit drinking about 2 months ago. It’s not a long time so I don’t have any grand statements to make or pearls of wisdom to offer, but when I think about it apart from the 18 months I have spent pregnant, I probably haven’t done two months in a row entirely booze free since I was about 15. A slightly sobering thought in itself, maybe 2 months is more impressive for me than I first thought!
There were so many things I expected to happen when I stopped drinking. Read any blog on quitting booze and you’ll find 101 tales of people transforming into some form of super human. So I waved bye-bye to my last glass of wine and waited with baited breath.
I expected to lose weight (I haven’t), I expected to start looking younger (I don’t), I expected to have the boundless energy of a puppy (I suspect that one’s off the cards until my kids leave home). Sadly I haven’t experienced any of the above and even more sadly I haven’t suddenly reverted to my sprightly 22 year old self, but what have I have noticed is a lorry load of other benefits I really wasn’t expecting. Maybe 22 year Helen is slowly making her way back to me, but while I wait for her to pitch up I thought I’d write a blog post on my top 5 unexpected gems of wine withdrawal.
I’ll start with the most superficial and vain, and therefore the one that gives me the most joy, naturally.
1. My teeth are whiter. 3 of my front teeth are fake thanks to a run in with an elbow whilst dicking around drunk on a beach as a teenager. After years and years of painful dental work I’m happy with my teeth but it’s always slightly irked me that, because they are fake, they can’t be whitened. Well, it turns out my dentist and hygienist were correct the whole time and all I ever needed to do was stop drinking red wine. My teeth are getting pearlier by the day and, thanks to a cleaner liver, so are the whites of my eyes. These little droplets of white adorning my face are making me look a whole lot healthier, with the added bonus that you won't lose me in a disco; in the words of Vanilla Ice ‘...turn out the lights and I’ll glow’.
2. I’ve discovered I’m a really good sleeper. For as long as I can remember I have considered myself a bad sleeper; I would wake up many times a night and hear every bump and creak, it only got worse when I had kids. I slept badly even on the nights I didn’t drink so it never occurred to me that poor sleep could be due to booze. I’ve since learnt that it can take up to 10 days for alcohol to fully leave the body, so even a cheeky vino on a Friday night could have been wreaking havoc with my sleep days later. Two months down the line I am sleeping like the dead, night after night, and wake up with that lovely heavy feeling you get when your body has been restored. I’m not a crap sleeper after all; I’m queen of sleep – who knew!
3. My bullshit radar has levelled up. I’ve always been reasonably good at spotting bollocks when I see or hear it, but whereas I used to be able to spot it from maybe 100 paces now it’s more like 200. In recent weeks I have been able to tell before someone even opens his or her mouth that a whole load of bullshit is about to come tumbling out. I’m not really sure what’s caused this phenomenon, but I can only attribute it to feeling sharper, far more alert. We all know that booze leaves us feeling sluggish and zapped of energy the next day, but now I think that it probably extends way longer (that 10 day rule strikes again). As a regular drinker I was living my life under a veil. Lesson here? Sober up and smell the BS.
4. I feel more. Booze must have been muting my emotions somewhat because all of sudden I feel so much more. I used to feel a bit flat…not in a sad way, but more in a ‘bobbing along not fluctuating much one way or the other’ kind of way. Alcohol free I have a much wider spectrum of emotions; I’m happier when I’m happy, I’m sadder when I’m sad, with a plethora of nuances in between. I’m more confident with what I feel, because I can feel it more keenly, and as a result I feel more rational. Life also feels a bit more colourful – as hippy dippy as that may sound I don’t have any other words for it.
5. I have shed loads more time. I’ve realised alcohol uses up a great deal of time; both in man hours wasted sitting on a sofa slowly working through a bottle of red, and in time lolling about feeling sorry for myself the next day. Being more alert also means I am more efficient, so what I do do is taking me far less time. Contrary to what I might have done in a previous life, I’m not filling this extra time being busy with something else, I’m using it to chill the hell out. I’m busy enough teaching and being a mum, so when I’m not doing those it’s ok to just sit. Chilled Helen is a happy Helen, a happy Helen equals happy kids, happy kids lead to an easier life; everyone’s a winner!
So there you go, my top 5. Genuinely unexpected, genuinely an eye opener, genuinely making me a happier and healthier person. When 22 year old Helen arrives I’ll be sure to post photos of her all over social media for posterity (and because social media wasn’t really a thing when I was actually 22!). See you on the flip side back in 2002.