health

'Everyday I drank at "wine o'clock". It almost destroyed my mental health.'

This post deals with alcoholism and may be triggering for some readers. 

I thought alcohol was the solution to my anxiety – turns out it was the cause.

As the clock approached 5pm, I could feel the physical changes in my body begin as the anticipation of pouring that first glass of wine began to take hold. It had been another busy and highly stressful day of juggling work deadlines, meetings, two young kids, after-school activities, fitting in time for the gym and making sure there was food in the fridge to put something together that vaguely resembled a passable meal that evening. 

Fueled by caffeine, protein shakes and adrenalin, I had almost made it through another day. 

I felt tense, agitated and overwhelmed. The only thing in my toolkit that I knew would calm me down and ensure I could fall asleep, was my wine.

Watch Your Body After 1 Year Without Alcohol. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

I’d always been a binge drinker before kids. I loved a party and while it did register somewhere at the back of my mind that I seemed to love a party just a bit more than my friends; I brushed it off and dismissed it as me loving to have a good time. 

However, after settling down and having kids, my relationship with alcohol changed. Previously I had never really drunk much during the week or outside of social occasions, but I found my drinking habits creeping into my evening routine most nights. 

I was struggling with managing the demands of two young children alongside managing my own business, running a household and having no family close by (we had emigrated from the UK just a year after our son was born and had no family in Australia). 

As my daily stress levels kept rising, so too did my drinking.

However, at no point did I register the correlation in the increase of my anxiety alongside the increase in my drinking. I simply thought my worry was all part and parcel of the daily stress I, along with many others, were experiencing and that wine was the answer. My evening wine was my ‘me time’. It was what I had to look forward to after a stressful day. It was my switch off and my distraction from worrying about all the things I hadn’t done, didn’t have time for and felt I was failing at. 

As someone who had never suffered from anxiety before, these regular feelings of worry, overwhelm and constant ruminating were all new to me. I obsessed over the smallest thing and previous situations that I would have not blinked an eye at, began to overwhelm me. As someone who was naturally bubbly and outgoing, I began to feel like a shell of my former self and I couldn’t understand why things had changed so much. 

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Feeling helpless and lost, I went to my GP but at no point did she ask me about my drinking (which at this point, was anything from half a bottle to a bottle most days of the week), and simply wrote me a prescription for antidepressants. 

While I wasn’t opposed to the tablets, I did feel there was something else going on and out of nowhere (call it fate...), I saw a post from someone in my Facebook running group about a book they'd read that had changed their relationship with alcohol. Something in me was really drawn to this, and I ordered the book. I devoured it in days. 

That moment was the start of the rest of my life.

I took a prolonged break from alcohol and just couldn’t believe the difference in my mental health and wellbeing. Gone was the negative self talk, anxiety, brain fog, self deprecation and lethargy. Instead, my mind was clear, positive, optimistic and such a calmer and happier place to be. 

After some time dabbling with moderation (didn’t work), in April 2019 I removed alcohol from my life altogether and with that came the feeling of complete and utter freedom. My mental health has never been better.

I have since re-trained as a ‘Grey Area Drinking’ coach (Grey Area Drinking is the murky area where someone doesn’t identify as being an alcoholic, but does identify as having a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. However, they find it hard to stop). 

I now work with women all over the world to change their relationship with alcohol through my 1:1 coaching, group coaching and regular alcohol free challenges. I also host a free community online ‘The Women’s Wellbeing Collective’ for women to connect and share with each other. 

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The most common feedback I get from my clients once they have taken a chunk of time away from alcohol, is the change in their anxiety levels. Which is ironic as we always think of alcohol as being the solution to anxiety when in fact, it’s often the cause.

Studies show one in five women with anxiety report using alcohol to cope with stress and 20 per cent of women diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, suffer from anxiety or a mood disorder. 

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The link between women, alcohol and anxiety has never been stronger. 

Yet it is so rarely talked about. In my opinion, it’s the missing piece when it comes to talking about the impact alcohol has on our overall health. 

We know the physical impact – now let’s start talking about the mental impact.

This October, Mental Health Awareness Month, I am running my last alcohol free challenge of 2021 with so much support and resources to help women to take a break from alcohol and see the difference in their mood, energy and anxiety. 

For more information, go to Sarah Rusbatch's website. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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