I turned 40 a few weeks ago and I’m feeling great. Earlier this year I set myself a goal of being fitter at 40 than I was at 20 and I think I smashed my goal! I can run further, run faster, lift more, my weight’s the same, my asthma is better, my blood pressure is the same, my cholesterol is perfect… All the body systems I have some control over are running fantastically!
This is not an angsty ‘teeth gnashing’ blog post – although I’m going to write about my experience drinking on my birthday.
I was in a social situation and accepted a glass of champagne. One lead to another – and then a few more. I didn’t drink nearly as much as I used to although it was still quite a lot – it was like when one of my moderate drinking friends has a big night.
So what did I learn from the experience?:
• It reminded of things I don’t like about drinking: holding my breath while snuggling in bed with my partner (so he wouldn’t smell my breath); waking up with a dry, claggy mouth and a blocked nose; having a mild hang-over; feeling lethargic all day. Generally I felt flat and a bit bleurghh.
• I still can’t moderate my drinking – after I started drinking I kept going until I was buzzed. It’s easier to turn the tap on and off than it is to reduce the flow.
• It wasn’t as good as I remembered. I let myself get pretty buzzy – but I stopped earlier than I used to. The warm, disoriented feeling wasn’t as pleasant as I remembered – and I was too aware and focused on observing the experience to actually enjoy it.
• Weirdly my alcohol tolerance was still quite high. I thought that my tolerance would have dropped after 10 months. It still took a similar amount of booze to get me drunk.
• I compartmentalised the incident and ‘got back on the wagon’ quite easily. The following day I just woke up and told myself that it happened because it was my 40th birthday – but now it was over. I didn’t beat myself up or wallow in ‘I’m such a loser’ self-talk like I used to.
The last point is the nicest one. Sober days used to be a rare abnormality which I squeezed in between amongst my drinking routines.
In my (nearly) 10 months since I decided to stop drinking I’ve done a good job filling in the empty spaces which were left by alcohol. I’ve become really passionate about some things and created new sober routines. A practical example is running: I love feeling light, free and energetic while I’m running and the smug satisfaction afterwards. All my senses get activated – I’m outdoors looking at the world, paying attention to my breathing, feeling the impact in my legs, tuning in to my energy/stamina levels, having time out, thinking about my day…
Now that I’ve built new routines it’s easier to draw a line under an isolated drinking relapse. I used running as a specific example but it’s much broader than that. I generally feel clear-headed, get good night’s sleep, have a full tank of energy, am able to focus and stay in the moment, and I’m not getting that empty/anxious feeling. I also like the spare time which sobriety gives me.
I won’t pretend that it felt fun and a bit naughty to have a few drinks on my fortieth but I don’t have room in my life to keep drinking anymore. I’m just not willing to quit running.