health

'I drink every night. I never thought I had a problem with alcohol, until now.'

As told to Shona Hendley.

Recently I’ve noticed more and more articles about women who have stopped drinking, how doing so changed their life, how drinking was ruining their life and how they turned it all around. 

While I'm happy for them, reading these stories generates feelings of failure in me.

The stories and the alcohol-free lifestyle that’s gaining popularity makes me feel anxious, even though I know it's a positive thing overall.  

Watch: Your Body After 1 Year Without Alcohol. Post continues below.


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It fuels my worry and sets up an unattainable expectation for me to achieve. While this is all pressure I'm putting on myself, it doesn’t make how I'm feeling any easier.

The truth is, I have been dependent on alcohol for around twenty years. 

Announcing that makes me feel embarrassment, shame and absolute frustration at myself for allowing it to get to this point.

If you looked at me from the outside, you’d never know. My drinking isn’t a physical scar I bear or even a habit or behaviour that impacts multiple aspects of my life. It is a way that I manage, and I do manage — well.

I am a successful manager at the company I work at, and I have a husband and two amazing children — a life that could be envied by some. On the inside, it isn’t any different, except for one thing: I drink too much and too often, according to the current health standards. 

While I don’t view myself as an alcoholic because I can stop, I know it's still a problem because it takes a huge amount of motivation or a serious reason for me to stop.

When I was pregnant and when I breastfed my two children, for about three years in total, I didn’t drink. I have also stopped drinking for a few nights here or there when I have really built myself up to it, although the latter happens far too infrequently.

For the majority of the time, though, over the past two decades, I have had a drink every single night. Usually, it's two or three glasses of wine. Sometimes it's only one. Every so often, it's an entire bottle.

I don’t do it to get drunk; I rarely have enough to get drunk. If ever I get to the point of feeling like I've lost control due to the alcohol I stop, because I don’t like that either. That’s not what it’s about.

I do it because I enjoy it, but the main reason is to unwind, to curb the anxiety that is always bubbling inside me during the day and would continue to simmer into the evening if it wasn’t for alcohol taking the edge off.

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When I became a mother, I felt the noise of competing demands, of worries and stressors, get louder and louder and my reliance on alcohol to help me stay on top of these escalated.  

Without it, I find myself overwhelmed easily.

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I drink in the evening when my kids have been put to bed, so they don’t see it.

After I wish them goodnight, I go into my kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine and sit down with my husband and relax.

As soon as I have a sip, it's as though my brain switches off from the usual buzzing of my to-do list, of all the pressures or tasks I have to do or worries I have. I'm able to just tune out the noise that deafens me during the daytime and get the closest I ever get to a state of... peace.

When I first started doing this, in my early twenties, I didn’t even realise that I was becoming reliant on alcohol. It just crept up on me until one day I thought back to when my last alcohol-free day was, and I couldn’t remember. 

That was when I first tried to take a break. It was also when I realised how much I was relying on alcohol to help me relax and that without it I had issues quietening my mind, and sleeping.

My initial attempt to stop drinking lasted about a week. By the end of it, I was tense, tired and irritable, so I went back to the system that worked for me.

The only time I found it easy was when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. The fatigue from the pregnancies and having a newborn was enough to take the edge off that nervous energy without alcohol. 

This was the only time I have made it through an extended period without drinking since I was a teenager. But once I stopped breastfeeding, I found my anxiety rising again, and I turned to wine to help. 

Most mornings I wake up and feel fine. 

I am rested and am present and engaged with my kids, my husband, my work and commitments. There have only been a handful of times it has impacted any of these things, but I’d say that's normal — isn't it?

However, I also know that what I am doing isn’t healthy and I do have the desire to stop for the sake of my overall health, at least for a period to allow my body a chance to recover and, hopefully, for me to combat my anxiety in another way.

But it’s hard — simple as that. And in the end, I am not sure if quitting alcohol outweighs the benefits it provides me in being able to parent and live my life effectively.

Feature Image: Getty.

If this post brought up any issues for you about your drinking, you can contact Drug Aware, Australia's 24-hour alcohol and drug support line. You can reach them on 1800 198 024.