Thinking of having a 'Dry January' ? It might be the best thing you ever do...
It’s usual at this time of year to make some New Year’s resolutions. For many of us it’s to do with losing weight, quitting an addiction or getting healthy, but it was back in the summer when I made my biggest lifestyle change yet.
On August 2nd, I awoke from another restless nights sleep- weak and shaking with severe aches and pains all over my body. I had a pounding headache, swollen fingers, itchy skin, a dry mouth, extremely painful wrists and and ankles. I was 40 years old, but felt in my eighties!
Despite weeks of fun, cider fuelled festivals, bbqs and events- my anxiety and mental health were worse than ever, and I broke down in tears before calling 111. A trip to my GP, and a series of tests confirmed what I already suspected. I had liver disease. Alcohol related, liver disease. I knew I could never drink again. You’d think my friends would be supportive, yet, as soon as I mentioned becoming ‘sober’, people recoiled as if I had leprosy!
Initially, most thought I was overreacting, as I ‘didn’t drink that much’. In our society, wine o’clock is normal, Prosecco mums are cool, pubs are a respected social institution and tea-totallers are either religious nutters or filthy recovering alcoholics. Ok, so I hadn’t been drinking whisky in the morning or slurping Special Brew on park benches. But my relationship with booze was unhealthy, and even with just the normal summer daytime ciders added on to the midweek bottles of Merlot - I’d been racking up over 80 units a week.
How much booze did you have over Christmas and New Year? Did you even keep track? I was shocked by all the alcohol normalizations and advertising this year. T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Gin-gle Bells’ and ‘Prosecco-ho-ho’ aimed at teenage girls. Everything must be doused in booze 24/7 - bucks fizz for breakfast, wine with lunch,alcohol laced meats and deserts, followed by Champagne and then off to the pub.
TV advertising glamorizes this unhealthy binge drinking behaviour - and I’m the freak?
In 2015 there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths.There are now an estimated 595,131 dependent drinkers, of whom only 108,696 are currently accessing treatment.
Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages. Liver disease is one of the few major causes of premature mortality that is increasing, and deaths have increased by around 40% in a decade. 70% of violent incidents at weekends, evenings and night are alcohol-related.
Choosing to stop drinking for my health, my family, my relationships and my mental health was brave and It was upsetting to find myself shunned and mocked. If you’re feeling brave - why not try a ‘Dry January’ and even raise money for charity?
Go to www.britishlivertrust.org.uk or join the Cancer Research UK ‘Dryathlon’ www.cancerresearchuk.org. For drink facts see www.drinkaware.co.uk.
I'm a 43 year old, mum of two little boys- currently living in Shepton Mallet in Somerset. I'm the Founder and Creative Director of Radio Shepton, a Stand up and comedian and spoken word performer, and write a regular column for The Wells and Shepton Mallet Journal. Which is the basis for my blog usually. I lived in Swedish Lapland for 7 years until 2014 where my boys were born. My partner and I ran a husky dog sledding business. Before that I was a poet, radio presenter, media lecturer, writer, TV producer, actress and burlesque performer ! I never want my life to be boring :)