Around four years ago, I stopped drinking alcohol for the sake of my health.
Yet I am not a recovering alcoholic, nor did I have an emotional attachment to it.
The reason may surprise you.
When I was younger, alcohol played a big part in my weekends partying with friends. Getting tipsy (sometimes trollied) was how I let go and had some fun. At the time, I was a hardworking student, athlete in training, and very focused. I think having a drink and letting my hair down was how I could escape such focused and controlled behaviour. It gave me a good excuse to let go.
I realised by my mid-20s that I had become reliant on having a drink to “have a good time” when I met with friends in a social setting. I decided there and then to change the habit. I started occasionally going out and not drinking (making excuses about getting up early or being unable to afford taxis so driving was the best option).
It wasn’t every social occasion. Now and then I would still allow myself to have a good time with a drink. But my habits were changing. Most of the time I would have a glass of wine with a meal and a couple of drinks in a social setting. I started to understand I could have fun without alcohol and that I didn’t really like it that much.
What I haven’t mentioned so far is that my body has always rejected alcohol. I just chose to ignore it. Ninety-five percent of the evenings when I would have a drink, I would be violently ill—all night. I’d end up sleeping on the bathroom floor. Sometimes this would happen after just two small drinks!
I used to brush it off as part of a hangover, and as I got older, telling myself and everyone I was just becoming a “lightweight.” What I didn’t know (or should I say “chose to ignore”) was that my body was struggling—turns out I had an allergy! I also believe my light body doesn’t like the frequency of alcohol and how it affects me spiritually.
Now this is where it gets interesting. When it comes to wellness, no one size fits all. I would never demonise a food or drink group as we all react differently to different things. So I’m going to set this straight by saying I do not think alcohol is necessarily bad for you and think we should all quit it. My relationship with alcohol and my journey to sobriety is personal to me. I’m sharing to highlight just how personal and complex our own well-being journeys are. How we need to listen to our inner wisdom more to find out how we individually react to certain foods or drinks.
Only you know deep down if you are truly happy and healthy. No one else can determine that. Even health professionals can get it wrong as they don’t really know what’s in your head, heart, life, and social circumstances. They only have access to scientific stats, which are valid on this journey, but they can’t paint the whole picture. Holistic practitioners are the same—they cannot paint the whole picture. They also have wonderful knowledge around health and well-being—but you are the master of your ship. Support, knowledge, and guidance from health professionals (medical and holistic) is important, but it’s not everything. The only thing you need to make sure of is that you are in a good place to listen and trust yourself and your own inner wisdom.
Back to my journey to sobriety. After 2011, when I’d undergone major surgery for spinal trauma, I experienced the neurological effects and emotional implications that come with such a life-changing challenge—and my body fought back. I’d used the “power” of my mind to push through severe pain for years. It’s what I was good at and conditioned to do.
My body had had enough of my BS. I noticed I had become quite sensitive to certain foods. As I was on a healing journey, I started looking into my nutrition and how my body was reacting. The most obvious for me was alcohol. I just couldn’t handle a single drink anymore. I would get crippling fatigue after just one drink and feel dizzy.
I do not know the exact date I stopped drinking. I know dates are important to people who are recovering from addiction. As that wasn’t my story, I don’t remember, but I believe it was around four years ago. I had gone on a lunch date with my hubby. I love a Sangria with tapas so I ordered one. The sun was shining and I was super happy to be eating my favourite food. I took just two sips of my drink and my speech started slurring. My left arm went numb and heavy and I struggled to move it. We had to leave our lunch and head straight home. I cried (I was frustrated that my neuro condition had ruined a lovely day!) and went to bed to rest, meditate, and allow my nervous system to calm down.
That was the last time I touched a drop of alcohol. I owed it to myself to give my body a fighting chance of healing through a complicated condition. I loved myself enough to do that. I loved those closest to me enough to stop doing something that affected my health so much they had to step in and care for me. To stand firm and say “no thanks” when offered an alcoholic drink. To ignore the intriguing looks, remarks, and curious judgements about the fact I no longer drink. To accept that friends stopped socialising with us as I was the “boring sober” person now (I’m not boring by the way—I hope?).
My health was and is more important to me. My body had been telling me to stop. I decided to listen. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me. I am the master of my own ship.
A few months later, I had an appointment with my neurologist and I shared my experience. He was supportive and confirmed to me that it is not unusual for anyone living with neurological conditions (these include Parkinsons, MS, FND) to reject alcohol. Most people assume it’s due to meds, but I am managing mine with no meds so that was ruled out.
I had no idea that was a thing, but when you delve into researching our neuro systems, it makes so much sense! Did you know that whenever a professional athlete has an injury (it doesn’t matter how minor), they are told to avoid alcohol completely as it hinders the healing process?
Even one drink!