Once upon a time, I was deeply in love with red wine. The kind of truly, madly deeply, cannot wait until wine o’clock to switch my brain off kind of love that might have spoken of future addiction but thankfully, never got out of hand.

But oh how I loved it. My body yearned for it in the same way that it still yearns for the first sip of warm tea in the morning. The cup of coffee I drink at elevenses. The glass of warm lemon water I want after half an hour of Curvy Yoga. 

Drinks of all kinds punctuate my day. They mark the transitions between routines and rituals and they provide the kind of pleasure food doesn’t give me. They are an “oooh” moment. And at the end of the day when I was freshly scrubbed and in my pajamas, my glass of red wine became an “arrrrr” moment. A moment of relief. A settling down of the busy brain that rules my work ethic. Time for Ste and I to reconnect at the end of the day, all conflict smoothed by the sharing of a bottle of wine (well that was the plan anyway…).

And then all of a sudden it started to frighten me. I became aware that people I loved dearly were not using alcohol as a moderate way of switching off: of enjoying wine (or gin: or beer) for the pleasure of its taste, but as a crutch for their very survival. I became possessed by imaginary health worries I spoke of with no-one at all. Watched Ste starting to struggle with the kind of depression that could so easily have tipped into the alcoholism that killed his brother and ruled his Dad’s life and when after a long, boozy evening with friends I fell into a bush (and thought I had tumbled into the seventh wonder of the world, so lovely was it to find oneself suddenly stuffed inside nature!) I decided to get a grip of my drinking before it got a grip of me in the way it was so clearly consuming those I loved.

So I threw down a gauntlet: I told Ste we needed to stop and he, who would tell you that he felt that he was walking a very thin line between acceptable consumption and alcoholism, astonished me by announcing his attention to do One Year No Beer and to thereafter assess whether alcohol of any kind was something he wanted in his life. He is a wise, slightly bonkers man.

And so we stopped drinking. Overnight. While I could have merrily carried on sipping at a single glass of red wine each night for always, Ste did not feel he could and so at the end of July last year our drinking days were over. Just like that. I want to tell you that it was life-changing and that all the things you read about are true. That life becomes a giddy round of weight loss and clean-living. I want to say that all the people we know supported us and considered giving up drinking to be A.Good. Thing. But that wouldn’t be true either. In fact, while there are many benefits to becoming tee-total, in my experience they are not the ones much touted by the soberistas trying to sell us a lifestyle.

If the truth be told, life simply presents new challenges. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the stomach so what was once sweetened by wine started yearning for chocolate. People stopped inviting us on nights out. Best friends looked aghast and frequently admonished us with the same line “You aren’t still NOT drinking are you?” as if we had admitted to developing a life-threatening heroin addiction they couldn’t quite get on board with. Even our own kids said we had become “boring”.

I did not lose weight. Not a single pound. (Though let it be known that my thyroid seems rather fond of every pound of flesh I possess and according to my rather useless consultant, may just be a battle I might never win – look out for my next challenge in the coming weeks). Though Ste did initially. And if we were honest, neither of us truly felt like giving up something we loved was life-changing. It just felt like a death of sorts. Something we might just be in mourning for, for always.

On the other hand, life IS different. Mornings are easier because once we fall asleep we STAY asleep. Evenings are longer because they don’t revolve around settling down to pop a box-set on and unscrewing the wine. Conflict is resolved in a more rational, less emotional fashion (but of course, hasn’t gone away: we are teetotal, not robots). We have saved money. I am more focused. I feel more sensible. Which should not be underestimated, because at the age of nearly 47, sensible has been a long time coming! Ste’s depression, significantly masked by alcohol over more years than he cared to count following the trauma of Hillsborough, has risen to the surface and is finally being addressed and though that is horrific in itself it speaks of both progress and hope.

It has taken me seven months to understand my relationship with alcohol and how very much it had become something I was deeply frightened of. How it was fuelling a kind of hypochondria I am only now at some distance, able to admit to. And more than that it has shown me how prevalent alcohol is in our society and how very often it is standing between those I love and a life less ordinary.

Do I feel smug? Not a bit of it. I miss wine. I have replaced the glass in my hand with a nightly Russian tonic and I look forward to it, but it isn’t wine. Damnit.

Is it for life? Probably. I am a better version of myself for not drinking and while I am not saying “never again”, I am saying that I like this version of me more, and liking ourselves really matters doesn’t it?

My Teetotal Resources...

The little somethings that have helped us along the way...