If we go back to before we were working together. Tell me a bit about how much you were drinking and why you wanted to make a change.
It sort of crept up, a bottle of wine every night and then two on Friday and two on Saturday night. I always waited until about six o’clock in the evening before I started drinking.
I never really had hangovers, I didn’t have headaches, I wasn’t sick.
If I went to parties and got really drunk, then I’d fall over and things like that.
But generally, it was just the volume every week that I’d sort of slipped into.
Probably about 16 years ago I slipped into a bottle a night and then I got a really high-powered job and decided that I needed to knock that on the head to do the job properly. So, I had gone to just drinking on the weekends with willpower. But over the years it slipped severely back into every night.
For some people Maria it can be something that happens, and they just think right enough I need to make a change; and for others it’s like a bit of a slow burn and they just think I’ve had enough. What was it for you?
I had previously done 110 days alcohol free with willpower. I did One Year No Beer, I signed up for 90 days and ended up doing 110. But I then signed up for a year and just didn’t do it at all. So I just needed something different.
I’ve got a granddaughter and as she was due, I was thinking to myself about the influence of my father on my drinking from a very young age. And I just decided I want to be a better role model for my granddaughter and to live a long time and be healthy so I can see her grow up. Because I’m 58 this year, so heading towards 60 rapidly.
I’ve always felt that you can sort of get away with drinking a bit when you’re young. But as you get older, the effects really start to have an impact on your life.
So, your granddaughter being born and your age were really strong reasons for wanting to make a change.
When we first started working together, you had tried other things, you mentioned One Year No Beer and Willpower so were you worried that this was going to be another thing that you tried but didn’t work?
I felt more committed to it, and I suppose investing the money in it has a bit of an impact as well. You don’t want to waste that amount of money. So that has a bit of relevance to it.
Because it’s not about willpower but about mindset. It’s that different approach that I was really looking forward to trying more determined to make it work.
So, you joined the group which is a combination of group and 1-2-1. If you think back when you joined the group and you saw the comments from the other people, and then you join the Zoom call, what was that experience like for you Maria?
I found it really good that we didn’t have to stop drinking straightaway that we could factor in a couple of days or evenings a week to drink. It was it was training yourself and better to be gradual and I had a choice. It is not forced upon you that you’re not ever drinking again. It was that I’m choosing not to and I’m choosing on this day to have a couple of drinks. One night I did have two bottles. It made me realise how that made me feel. Because I wasn’t doing it all the time. And it made me think about how I felt when I drank that, and afterwards ,and the next day. It really focused the mind.
When you were having that awareness. Were you surprised? Some people say “I don’t really get hangovers”. And then when we start looking at it that closely or we have to start drinking less, we notice there’s more of an impact. Did that happen for you?
Yes, very much so because I always said I don’t get hangovers. It’s not a problem. And then when you start to really give yourself a bit of a break and really think about exactly how you feel; even after a few weeks, I had a couple of nights in the week where I had a drink, just that first glass I felt the difference which I’d never felt before because, you know, you drink half a bottle of wine and then you just finish the rest and you’re not even focusing on how you feel; but even that one glass I started to feel a bit sick, it really made me focus on how it made me feel.
So you were reducing your alcohol content over time and giving yourself challenges each week. How did you find the support of the group, hearing other people’s progress, going to the Zoom calls, what impact did that have on you?
It was just lovely to have the best of the group hear their experiences and you just take little bits from everyone and what’s being discussed that fit into how you feel and what you’re going through.
You have got quite a demanding job. When you think back about your drinking did you feel that you had to learn other ways to relax after work? Was that challenging for you?
I did feel I had to do that. It is still a bit of a challenge, relaxing, as I’ve got so much on my plate, from work and horses and everything. That is still a learning curve, but I don’t feel I need to blot out anything. I feel much stronger in coping with things. I’m much stronger myself. I don’t need to have a “crutch”.
Tell me about your like your granddaughter then. I remember we were chatting and we were talking about when your son, his partner and your granddaughter were coming to stay and you’re going to be alcohol free. As we know, looking after a baby is hard work. So what was it like socialising with your family and then did you feel like you have more energy for your granddaughter ?
I used to always stay up late with my son drinking with him. It was a sort of a bit of our time and I was worried that I’d lose that sort of connection with drinking together. But we actually stayed up. I was drinking my alcohol free wine and he was drinking his beers. And we did stay up to one in the morning just chatting and it was nice because I actually remembered the whole evening and the conversation so it was actually more of a connection than previously.
You were worried that you would lose a bit of connection with your son. What does that feel like to have that initial fear but to have the opposite experience?.
It was lovely because you have this niggling fear about certain situations and then when it turns out so much better and that you remember the whole conversation and everything.
I think the alcohol free drinks are a brilliant help, because people forget that you are not drinking and that just helps.
I had a holiday with my other son, we sent skiing together and he rarely drinks and I had spoken to him about hoping that I never embarrassed him when he was younger because of my drinking. But because I didn’t drink until later in the evening and was always there to pick him up and drop him off, he wasn’t affected by my drinking until growing up and that was really good to hear. If I hadn’t stopped drinking, I would never have asked him those questions. And checked that I hadn’t embarrassed him or, you know, been a terrible mother. Because when you’re drinking and you’re blotting things out you just don’t know if you have embarrassed your children or been a terrible mother.
What was his reaction when you were on holiday and you are showing up differently?
I was still cutting down at that stage, so I had one little bottle of Prosecco. And he was really pleased. We had a great time. And we’re so similar, enjoying the same amount of relaxation time, exercise and ski-ing and it was just really good, a really good connection with him. And he’s 27, a nice age. And he literally had four beers the whole week. I had the one little bottle of two glasses and it was great.
When we think about a skiing holiday, it’s typically ski all day and there’s like a real kind of party hard afterwards. Was the ski-ing any different for you?
I was a lot bolder. We went a off piste a bit. I had really clear head and lots of energy went over the mountain into places we’ve never gone before. So that was really cool.
It sounds like changing your relationship with alcohol has bought you closer to both your sons, is that right?
I really believe it has. I want to be a good influence on my granddaughter, to be healthy and live a long time so I can see her grow up. He really appreciates that sentiment.
One of things you were worried about because your husband still drinks. What was the experience like for you navigating this?
I don’t think he really believed I was going to do this because I’ve tried before you. I think he is sort of quite surprised, it did start making him think about what he was doing without me saying anything. But it has made him consider his actions and now he’s actually in hospital with a heart problem he is completely re-evaluating his lifestyle. So I think he’s likely to at least massively cut down or stop when comes out.
That is so powerful.
How long have you been alcohol free for now?
I can’t even remember; it is so weird. Because that 30 days challenge I didn’t know what day I was on most of the time. I wrote in my diary when the end of the 30 days was. But I was totally oblivious to what day I was on and I really don’t know.
You have been in the Upgraded Life group for 2 months.
Yes it must be, so I’ve had at least a week or two before the 30 day started that I hadn’t had a drink.
You were worried that you might feel similar to when you stopped drinking before and it felt like you’re relying on willpower? Like how does it feel now?
The whole thought of it has been lifted off your shoulders, you know, lighter, less weighed down with it. Other methods you are thinking of can’t drink this day. I can drink that day. And I was constantly thinking about drinking. It’s like dieting, another thing I did throughout my life and then gave up, you know you’re obsessed, it just wears you down thinking about it all the time. Whereas once you get to this point, and you’ve stopped it’s just a how big weight lifted off your mind and shoulders.
What difference are you noticing on a day to day basis?
Loads more energy, and I’ve always felt I had inner strength, but it’s a lighter inner strength. It’s not a fighting one. I used to run early in the morning even if I’d had loads to drink and it was like that I felt I had that inner strength to push myself through these challenges.
You know, I did the marathon and everything but it was always a big struggle because of the alcohol whereas now I’ve got the inner strength but it’s a lighter feeling. You haven’t got to force yourself through the fog of alcohol to do everything.
It makes it all so much easier. I still like to challenge and do loads of stuff and push myself but it’s just so much easier.
Were you worried about your health for the long term?
Obviously I knew it was detrimental. My dad was an alcoholic and died from it. So I’ve seen the long term effects and the death through alcohol. And it’s not pleasant. My friends would say “oh, you’re not drinking?” I’d said “Yes, but I drank enough for everyone. I don’t need to drink anymore.”
How does it feel like socialising now, how do your friends and family react to the new Maria?
My friend was my partner in crime and she stayed last weekend to support me with my husband’s illness and everything. And she was still drinking. But I had my alcohol free wine. We went for a lovely meal, she had a bottle of wine and I had my alcohol free drink, she was really supportive and it was really good.
When you look back to how you were before are you glad you have made this change?
Massively, I couldn’t be happier about it. It is such an improvement in my life.
What advice would you give to someone watching this but nervous about making the decision.
It is so supportive and such a massive improvement to life. I think some people might be put off by the cost possibly. But if you start to think about what you’ve spent and what you’ve lost through drinking and if you carry on how much you’ll spend on alcohol, how much it will be a detriment to your health. Then it’s worth every penny it really is.