The last time I had a ‘real’ alcoholic drink was in April 2018. I’ve
had the odd sip of red wine when my husband has had a glass over
dinner, and I had half a glass of prosecco to celebrate our amazing
Teacher Trainers graduation a couple of weekends ago. But even though
I enjoyed the first sip, the feeling of fogginess and headache that
came over me almost immediately reminded me why I stopped drinking in
the first place.
My relationship with alcohol started in my early teens, glugging warm
White Lightning cider straight from the bottle, sitting in the park
with my friends. It would be shared around, each of us trying to act
more drunk than the others, falling over, giggling, being silly. It
felt pretty harmless, and it was what all teenagers do, right?
When I was about 13, I decided it would be a great idea to raid my
mum’s drinks collection while she was out of the house. I mixed strong
Jamaican rum with gin, martini rosso, and whatever else I could find.
After downing my disgusting creation (espresso martini it was not) I
remember trying to watch Top of The Pops, but I couldn’t see or hear
properly. I kept turning the volume up and up, and moving closer to
the screen but my senses failed me. Rather than being concerned, I
found it all rather funny and thought the best thing would probably be
to drink a little more. Thankfully my slightly more sensible friend
convinced me to stop and called her mum, and I narrowly avoided a
hospital trip for alcohol poisoning.
I felt suitably ashamed for a few weeks and told everyone I was ‘never
drinking again’. I groveled and made lots of promises to my mum, who
was understandably livid. But as time went on and peer pressure kicked
in, I was back in the park glugging from that shared bottle, all
promises and shame a fading memory.
As I grew, alcohol was right there with me. A night out wasn’t deemed
a success unless you forgot at least half of it and someone had thrown
up. Every friend had that ‘one drink’ that they couldn’t even bear to
look at, let alone smell, due to it being the main contributing factor
in some hideous night spent hugging the toilet (mine was sambuca, it
still makes me shudder just thinking about it). Bonus points if you
lost an item of clothing or snogged someone you shouldn’t have. I
would regularly wake up the next day with unexplained bruises that I
wore as a badge of honour… “This? OMG I have NO idea!! I was soooo
Inhibitions were lowered, I felt free, and I had a LOT of fun. My
stamina was high and my friends and I would regularly go out drinking
heavily 3 or 4 nights a week. Hangovers barely lasted a few hours, and
in the haze of my youth it never even crossed my mind that alcohol
could be damaging in any way.
As time went on and responsibilities started to creep in (turns out
it’s not ok to turn up to work late, on 2 hours sleep and stinking of
vodka. Who knew?!), our nights out inevitably slowed down. At some
point, I started to become more aware of my health. I’d gained weight,
I wasn’t eating healthily and I rarely exercised other than sporadic
yoga classes. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I had eczema
patches all over my body, and when it spread to my face I knew I
needed to do something.
I went to a holistic doctor, who advised
cutting processed sugar out of my diet, and avoiding alcohol. I did,
and my health improved drastically. However, not everyone was happy
about this lifestyle change. A group of friends told me that they
loved ‘Drunk Polly’, as she was so much more fun. They were
disappointed that they would be stuck with ‘Regular Polly’ on nights
out, and peer pressure was suddenly back in my life as they insisted
that ‘just one drink wouldn’t hurt’. Despite feeling hurt and pretty
worthless, I held strong. Alcohol and me were no longer friends.
But as time wore on and life changed, alcohol quietly crept back in.
After having children, I felt that I needed (and deserved) the
occasional night off, to drink professionally made delicious
cocktails, and blow off steam. The all day hangover felt worth it, I’d
had fun hadn’t I? But soon the hangover started stretching into two
days, sometimes three. Plans were ruined, social engagements missed,
children instructed to ‘leave mummy alone’. My health started to
suffer, but I ignored it. Surely one big night out every few months
can’t hurt, can it?!
When it came to my birthday in 2018, I knew I wanted a night out with
my friends to celebrate, filled with cocktails and dancing. That’s
what I got, but I hadn’t bargained on the toll it would take on my
body. I knew I was booked to teach yoga at an event the next day so I
took it easy, I had 3 drinks and a couple of shots. I didn’t feel
drunk, just comfortably merry. I danced, laughed, had fun and went
home at a reasonable hour.
I woke the next morning to the worst
hangover I had ever experienced. My head felt like it was about to
explode and I couldn’t move without being sick. My whole body ached
and I could stop shaking. I felt sure that my drink had been spiked
but my memory was in tact and I hadn’t behaved any differently the
night before, so that didn’t add up. I had to let down the people who
had hired me to teach, and in that moment I felt worse emotionally
than I did physically. The shame and disappointment in myself was
painful, but it did the job. I finally admitted to myself that I’d
been ignoring my body, and acknowledged that it was time to part ways
with alcohol for good. The hangover lasted for three days, but I’m
confident that the impact is permanent.
So this year will be my second sober Christmas. Last year I missed it,
and felt jealous watching everyone else with their cold beers and
fresh lime filled G&T’s, liquor spiked hot chocolates and fizzing
prosecco. I felt that I was missing out on an integral part of festive
cheer and celebrations. Thankfully there was no peer pressure, only
loving support and encouragement.
This year, I’m looking forward to remembering and enjoying every bit
of my festive season. Sipping on my fresh lime filled non-alcoholic
G&T, and feeling grateful that I am finally consistently putting my
health first, and listening to what my body is telling me it
definitely doesn’t want, or need.
Wishing you a very Happy and healthy Christmas.
With much love,