Updated: Jan 24
My middle of the night anxiety was awful. I had catastrophic thoughts about highly unlikely potential events that gripped me in the darkness while the house was silent. It felt like my brain was shouting at me to pay attention - like there were no other moments in the day free for processing my worries. In the end ditching the one thing I thought was helping me to relax actually banished the anxiety for good!
When you have kids, life changes unrecognisably. I know that now!
But before we had kids I was one of those slightly hilarious pregnant Mum’s that the fully fledged Mum’s would smirk at knowingly. I was all, “oh our lives won’t change much after I have had my baby, I can’t wait for all the free time off work I am going to get.” Little did I know, my days would be filled to the absolute brim with breast feeding, stinky nappies and a feeling of pride if I had managed to brush my hair.
I am now a Mum of two beautiful daughters who are ten and seven and over the years I have always just worked part time as I was juggling childcare and work. Having two young kids is amazing but tough at the same time, right? You feel permanently tired and like you are at the very bottom (actually no, you are underneath the bottom!) of your own and your family’s priority list. I totally feel that this wasn’t a big deal as my kids were tiny, and after all, that was and still is my responsibility as a Mum and I didn’t want to miss even one tiny, sticky hand filled moment.
The thing is, I am also crazy ambitious and full of ideas on how I can improve our lives. I love to set personal and business goals and I have worked part time as a teacher since 2010 while also moving to our farm, setting up a thriving bed and breakfast business and trying to bring up my kids. There never seemed to be one spare moment in the day for me to get right into developing my big personal dreams, ambitions, or writing.
As my kids have got older they can do plenty more things for themselves, which is great – I am all about developing their independence and self-reliance! But I still didn’t feel like I had any time. My daily routine included going to work, or managing my B&B, trying to squeeze in a run or a gym session (which only ever seemed to happen like once every fortnight) and then just opening a bottle of wine with my husband in the evening as a “treat” at the end of the day. I really “needed” that treat after a while. It felt like that moment marked the end of a long, hard day and my only small reward was that glass of wine or if I really felt adventurous… two glasses!
I was never ever a big drinker, well, asides from the amount I consumed at university where I gained three stone! I have always been known to have ridiculously bad hangovers and especially in my thirties, my friends would tease me about the fact that I was such a crap drinking buddy. But I did like the daily glass of vino as my treat and it became such a habit that I would be wondering if it was ok to have a drink at 5 or 6pm. You may have seen my post about the different faces of alcohol and how society portrays alcoholism as the person who has a critical addiction, who has lost their friends and who drinks ALL day long. But this never me…I just loved having a drink at night to help me relax.
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed that I frequently woke up in the middle of the night worrying about the most horrendous things that were highly unlikely to come true. My night time anxiety was crazy high, even though I found it super easy to fall asleep. I was still exercising (relatively frequently) but the anxiety and the feeling of drowning beneath my ever massive to do list was a real ball and chain in my life.
I knew that I had to do something to change as I HATED constantly waking up around 2am like my brain had an in-built alarm set. I also knew that this was lifestyle related. Having sadly lost my Mum last August to alcoholism; in fact we lost her about five years before that to alcoholism if I’m honest – her death was the end of a really tough five years - I have always been aware that I didn’t want my one or two relaxing drinks to spiral in any way. My 2am wake up calls were literally that; a mental health alarm that alcohol was causing and fuelling my anxiety. So, I decided, once and for all (having failed a couple of times before to limit wine to weekends/do dry January etc) that I would ditch the alcohol for 30 days and kick start my better lifestyle with intention. I went for a short run that day and decided to rope a group of friends in with me. I set up a facebook group and we cheered each other on to reach our Alcohol Free goals… whatever they were. It was inspiring to see each other achieving something that had felt so hard in the past. The first 12 days were pretty tough but certainly not crazy hard and much easier than I thought they would be, the multiple strategies we had come up with as a group to avoid the desire for booze definitely helped a LOT!
At around day 12/13 I noticed a turning point, suddenly I didn’t think about it as much and my sleep ability had completely turned around, I was sleeping nine to ten hours a night straight and felt like I had a bundle of energy to deal with my day to day. That gripping anxiety has totally gone and I have only had one night in weeks where I have woken up worrying. I feel like I have hours in the evening to be with my kids or go out and do something as a family after school because I am not just finishing my day at 7pm with a glass of red. Who knew that it made me so sleepy! I have been running a heap more which is my go-to relaxing strategy, and I feel like I am in this upward spiral!
Friends who have done the same say that they feel like they had kept themselves in the dark before giving up booze for a while and they feel like they have been let into a secret! It really does feel like that! One friend says she feels liberated and completely different now that she has taken a break from alcohol for just a few weeks.
So for the time being I am planning on continuing on with my own AF goals…. I have also set up a blog, podcast and facebook group with a free 7-day AF challenge to tempt and support other women to do the same. There are daily strategies to help you avoid temptation, motivational stories, an active facebook group and delicious “treat” AF drink recipes. We’d love to have you join one of our challenges or just join our community and start reassessing your relationship with alcohol, I'd be willing to bet you it'll be worth it.