Thoughts on the world, homeopathy, mindfulness and food...
A collection of blog posts - feel free to respond with your thoughts and comments - I love to have feedback - thank you!
Alcohol has always been a problem for me, way before I even realised. At the tender age of 8, my dear Gran gave me my first sip of sherry at Christmas & I was hooked!
Growing up I used alcohol to fit in, to be part of the gang, you weren’t cool if you weren’t swigging from a bottle of white lightning or puffing on a joint.
I always sought out other big drinkers, I wouldn’t trust people who didn’t drink, there must be something wrong with them!
I met my (now) husband, Dan, in 2005, he too enjoyed a drink, we’d wile away the hours in the bars in Edinburgh drinking & drinking & drinking some more. I loved life back then; it was extremely hedonistic & I look back with fond memories even though way too much alcohol was consumed.
Once I became a mother in 2010 my relationship with alcohol changed. I now had more responsibilities; I stopped going out on the lash & settled down into family life, but I still drank more than is healthy & still on a regular basis.
Over the years I’d occasionally address the problem but always go back to regular drinking. I’d take a week off, a month off or even 9 months off when I was growing my babies, but still, I’d go back to it. I told myself that I deserved it, don’t we all deserve a treat at the end of a long day? Don’t us mums deserve a reward for all the hard work we put in to raising our young? This is the line we are fed, from the TV, adverts, social media…mummy needs gin, is it wine o clock yet? and various other alcohol related memes.
Dan had often spoke about taking a year off the booze, I never thought that he actually would, I thought he must have been mad to even consider it. There’s no way that I could. How would I survive without my cheeky glass of rum whilst I cooked a meal, or a bottle of wine to relax on an evening, or without a beer in my hand on a sunny day? How would I cope with social situations without alcohol? Christmas? Birthdays? It was too much for me!
January 2022, I decided that I needed to make some changes. I read ‘This Naked Mind’ & ‘The Alcohol Experiment’ by Annie Grace and I realised that the amount I drank was not sustainable. I began to recognise the harm that it was causing, not only to my physical health but to my mental health too. I’d read about how alcohol significantly disrupts your brain chemistry & how it destroys your cognitive functions, and about how it depresses the mind & dulls life. Once I’d learned these facts, I couldn’t unlearn them. I’d put off reading the alcohol experiment for months as I’d had a feeling that it would completely destroy my relationship with alcohol & I was right, it did! I now couldn’t drink without shame, without questioning myself as to why I was willingly pouring poison down my throat. I made the decision to take a couple of months off. Those 2 months evolved into an entire year!
A couple of weeks into the first month I saw some noticeable differences, in the way I looked, my skin tone was better, my eyes were brighter, I didn’t feel as creaky in my joints. I started to feel fitter. I used to have a beer as a reward for going running, I figured that if I was well enough to run then I was ok to drink. Funny how the mind works.
I slowly started to become faster, I’ve never been a ‘runner’ as such, more of a ‘plodder’ but once alcohol was out of my system, I started to feel stronger. I shaved 5 minutes off my 5K time & started regularly running 5K in around 26 minutes, after 6 years of sticking around the 30-32 min mark this was a huge improvement to my fitness levels.
When I was out, the smell of wild garlic & the bluebells in the woods filled my nostrils, I saw the colours in the sky, the reflections in the water, I started to really notice these things & appreciate them. It was like I was looking at the world through an Instagram filter! My senses were alive! This was such a great feeling & I wanted more of it!
If I felt the urge to drink, I would reach for a Becks blue instead, I started drinking Kombucha & to signify the start of the weekend I’d make myself a fancy drink in a goldfish bowl glass, packed with ice & fruits. I missed the warming sensation initially, but the ritual was just as important & definitely filled the gap.
I imagined that life would be boring without alcohol, how wrong could I have been!?
I’ve always loved the great outdoors, but now I started to really love it, I developed a deep yearning to be outside, up a mountain, in the woods or beside a waterfall. The previous year I’d started wild swimming, very tentatively at first. I loved the feeling that it gave me afterwards, the warm glow, the silly smile, the giddiness, a real natural high.
2022 was my year to fully experience the real high that wild swimming gives. There’s nothing better than feeling the sting of the cold water against your skin, feeling the power of the water, the spray from the fall on my face, the salmon pink skin after a winters dip. This was where I was supposed to be, as up close & personal with nature as you can get, trout leaping before my eyes, dippers dipping on the rocks & ducklings swimming alongside in the river. I was a part of the landscape & the feeling was incredible, way more pronounced than it was the previous year when I was drinking.
The year 2022 was full of ‘new’ experiences. Those I’d had before were always alcohol fuelled, this time it was different, sometimes awkward at first but definitely different & always better. I’ve never regretted not drinking, in contrast to pretty much always regretting drinking (even if it was just for the dull headache in the morning) & that’s a pretty stark contrast!
I felt like I could really connect with people in social situations but once they started dribbling, that was my cue to leave. Being amongst people whom I love & respect, I realised that I didn’t need alcohol to socialise with them, the buzz was already there, in fact, previously I was numbing that buzz.
Highlights of my year were….
Climbing Scafell Pike with my bestie; we were incredibly lucky to have picked the most stunning May bank holiday weekend, with clear views from the summit & perfect weather conditions. We also found the most breathtakingly beautiful swim spots the following day. No alcohol needed!
Wild swimming with my boys in the summer. We went to lots of local beauty spots & splashed about & ate picnics on the banks of the rivers & the rocks by the falls. I loved seeing the joy on their faces & the feeling of being connected with them & with nature. No alcohol needed!
My little sister’s wedding, I was maid of honour which really was an honour, it was a lovely day & even better for not drinking. Earlier in the year I expected that I would indulge on the wedding day. I couldn’t imagine a wedding without booze, but the reality was that I was present throughout, I really felt the love, I soaked up every moment of the day & I remembered it all afterward. I was still able to raise a toast & join in, but now one of the main perks was driving home sober & waking up with a clear head the next day!
Christmas – another event that I couldn’t imagine enjoying as much without alcohol, again, the opposite was true. Christmas is a time for family & connection, for fun & laughter. We enjoyed playing games together, baking & eating mince pies, hot chocolates by the fire. We indulged in alcohol free mulled punch, Christmas films & lovely winter walks in the country. None of it dulled by alcohol, no after dinner sleepiness, no Christmas eve anxiety… just pure happiness.
Now 2 weeks into January 2023 & over a year off the booze & I have no desire to go back to it. Alcohol used to bring me comfort like a warm blanket, but over time it became suffocating & itchy like a wool jumper that I longed to peel off so that my skin could breathe in the refreshing cool air.
I once read a quote from the wonderful Billy Connolly that really resonated with me: “I decided to give up drinking while it was still my idea”.
I’ve always been a bit of a rebel & I see my sobriety as the ultimate act of rebellion, in a world that puts drinking on a pedestal.
‘The act of being alcohol free is so much more than not drinking. It’s an act of establishing true freedom. You don’t just become free from alcohol, you become free from the illusion that you needed it’
I am continually thankful that I have finally found true freedom.
[I'm grateful to share this guest blog post from Laura Byrne]
I'm a Homeopath working in the Skipton (North Yorkshire) area. I am also able to offer food intolerance testing using Kinesiology and advice around diet and lifestyle.
Em Colley Homeopath
Practitioner of Classical Homeopathy
BSc(Hons) Psychology and Neuroscience
Laughter Yoga Leader
Focussed Mindfulness Practitioner
Dip (SNHS) Kinesiology
Dip (SNHS) Holistic Nutrition
Certificate in Whole Food, Plant Based Nutrition