By One rock bottom
In 2012 I stepped out in front of a speeding car and spent the night in hospital. Four years after that I woke up with the shakes. Both were consequences from dangerous levels of drinking, but I barely gave them a second thought at the time.
Yet it wasn’t until I ended up homeless at Christmas 2017 that I began to question my relationship with alcohol. My boyfriend had grown sick of my lies and bad behaviour. He’d also begun to find the empty wine bottles that I’d snuck into every nook and cranny of our London flat. Our life had been saturated in alcohol and understandably, he kicked me out.
I lived on my brother’s sofa, wondering what it would take to:
-Win back my boyfriend
-Become a nicer human
– Stop hating myself
Perhaps it was the Pinot?* I hesitantly bought a copy of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and devoured it from cover to cover, whilst gripping a glass of wine as I read it. Booze was my crutch and I couldn’t do anything without it. The irony of drinking alcohol whist reading quit lit wasn’t lost on me so I made a pact with myself to not drink for 100 days. Just to prove that I wasn’t dependant on alcohol.
For those first few months I didn’t join any online sober communities, nor did I attend AA meetings. I was too scared to publicly discuss my problems so everything got written down into a diary instead, including my running progress. I’d read in numerous places that just 10 minutes of exercise can zap a craving, and I was thrilled to see it was working.
Let’s be clear. I’m not new to cardio- my competitive fencing went hand-in-hand with my excessive drinking for several years. But what truly floored me was just how easier it was to exercise when I wasn’t hungover.
Before I quit booze I used to run most evenings too. Except my runs consisted of jogging a couple of miles to the various off licences of Greenwich. I’d purchase the cheapest plonk available and then stroll home with a bottle of wine in hand, to reward me for the cardio. I’d drink until blackout and then the cycle would repeat the next day. And the next day. Et cetera. I would never visit the same off licence regularly, just in case they clocked up how much I was drinking. Far better to spread my trips between a few different shops, I thought.
The speed at which sobriety made me fitter was incredible. For the first time in my life, I was able to run more than a few miles without needing to glug from a water bottle. My body was finally hydrated again. I began to extend the mileage and signed up to parkrun. I never identified as being an actual runner and was intimidated at first but the runners there were incredibly welcoming, much to my relief. No one cared if I stopped for a breather or chose to walk parts of it. They cared because I showed up.
The concept of “The Pink Cloud” hit me hard when I quit. I was elated from the most mundane activities. Being able to visit a supermarket without obsessing over the wine aisle is still the most wonderful feeling. I began to see joy in nature, life and every day occurrences. I felt grateful to be alive so I set up a blog, its name derived from the pink cloud feeling I couldn’t escape: Pink Cirrus.
By day 100, I’d ran my first ever 5km without stopping. As my sober time increased, so did my mileage. I ran my first half marathon within 11 months of getting sober. At month 18 I ran a marathon.
That makes it sound very simple but when you’re not guzzling 100+ units of alcohol every week, it’s fairly easy to increase fitness. Drinking would rob me of any motivation to get up and about and it’s easier to run further when your’re not gasping for water. Since inadvertently becoming a running enthusiast, I’ve started my own running club and on top of all that, was made a Run Director for parkrun at the end of 2018.
I have lust for life again. Since quitting the sauce, I’ve learnt how to swim, ride a bike and even fly a plane. I’d reached a point where I was spending more on booze than my salary accounted for, so it’s amazing to be investing in myself AND have spare cash left over.
Whilst quitting drinking hasn’t fixed all life’s problems, it has certainly equipped me better to deal with them head on. For me, being present for my own life is what sobriety all about.
* It most definitely was the Pinot. Because:
-I won back my boyfriend. He proposed to me when I reached 7 months sober.
-I’m far nicer than I ever was (but not a pushover anymore either!) I see my best friend every week, instead of bailing on him for months on end.
-I’ve never been more content with myself. I make eye contact with people more, my confidence has increased and for the first time ever, I don’t get anxiety when having to use a communal changing room.