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Oh, how I love cheesecake.
I take a mouthful and think, this tastes great, I can’t wait for the next mouthful of cheesecake. But when I go for the next one it’s all gone. And I’m like, WTF, where’s my cheesecake!? It was here the whole time. Just me and my cheesecake. And yet, poof, it’s gone!
I ate the whole damn piece without even noticing.
Life is like a cheesecake: it’s a New York-style, thick and creamy, slightly scorched around the edges circle of joy—but it won’t last forever. Oh so delicious but oh so easy to eat on autopilot, and before you know it, poof, it’s gone.
Why I gave up alcohol:
Okay, let’s stop saying cheesecake. Last year, I gave up alcohol. Not because I was pouring vodka on my cornflakes (I wasn’t!), but because I drank in the way that many British women do nowadays: like a fish—a classy fish who never appears drunk and fits right in with all the other prosecco mums, but a fish nonetheless. For me, a day without a glass of wine was incredibly rare.
I have two teenage sons, a business, a great marriage, and a Pinterest-perfect home. (You hate me, don’t you. I hate myself for writing Pinterest-perfect, and yet I did it again.) My life is good, so what the hell was I doing? I was eating life as if it was bottomless. I needed to go from mindless living to mindful living.
Want to know what life is like without alcohol?
It’s friggin’ awesome! It’s the best cheesecake you ever tasted.
Why do any of us drink? For fun, for pleasure, to party. Also, for comfort, to commiserate, to de-stress. Out of boredom, habit, and social conformity. But look at all those reasons and you’ll see that a common theme is escape. Maybe you don’t think you drink to escape, but I did—and in subtle ways.
I didn’t need to escape something horrific—my life was great—I just preferred the buzz of wine to boredom. I preferred feeling excited and up to feeling a little miserable and tired. Chatting enthusiastically was easier if I’d had a whiskey and coke, and bad news was always more digestible with a drink. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.
What’s wrong with drinking alcohol?
Well, nothing if it’s occasional. And by occasional I mean once a week, maybe even less. But if you reach for a drink any more than that then you’re not just anesthetizing yourself from the immediate sensation—boredom, stress, whatever—you are also numbing the life around it. It’s like having a filling in your tooth: the dentist can’t just numb the tooth, she needs to make sure you’re numb all over that side of your face (and dribbling for ages after).
Any amount of alcohol affects your mind and your body, not just when you drink it but the day after too. Obviously, a hangover can be crippling if you work hard enough at it, but it can also be a much more subtle thing. You may just feel a bit tired, slightly hazy, not on your “A game.” If you have a drink every night, then a large slice of your week was undertaken mindlessly.
A large slice of your cheesecake.
Life is so much better without alcohol.
Without the crutch of alcohol to lean on, I have developed something miraculous: self-reliance! When I feel stressed, I deal with it. I look at what’s pushing my buttons and I either remedy the situation or I accept the stress as a choice. After all, the one thing I can control in my life is how I choose to react to the sh*t that comes at me.
When I’m bored, I shake boredom by the hand and consider my options. I have embraced so many new hobbies in the past year—kombucha making, yoga, daily writing, coloring, gardening, mocktail making, photography. Boredom is an opportunity to me now.
If there’s something to celebrate then I celebrate it just like everyone else. The genuine taste of achievement doesn’t need a vodka chaser. A sunset doesn’t need wine. Good music doesn’t need gin.
Life just gets better and better.
My confidence is greater than ever because I have discovered all these personal resources I never knew I had. I also lost weight, I gained a glowing complexion, became a better mum, my business is the best it’s been, and my relationship is thriving.
The mindfulness I have discovered since I quit alcohol has given me a deeper respect for life. I live every day free of fear because I reckon I can now cope with most things. If I’m wrong about that, then I’ll face that too. And nobody is going to secretly eat a piece of my cheesecake without me noticing because I’m not going to take my eye off it!
Life won’t last. One day it will all be gone. Savor every mouthful.