In our new series 'Reformed Characters® – Conversations around Sobriety & Mindful Drinking', we will be meeting people from all walks of life who have changed their relationships with drinking. From blackouts to hangxiety and everything in between, we'll be discussing the challenges and possibilities that sobriety and mindful drinking bring along.
This week we speak with Carmela – self confessed Essex girl, Mum, sober blogger and Event Manager navigating her second year alcohol free.
Thanks for joining us Carmela – could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?
Hi my name’s Carmela I'm 39 from Essex and work as an event manager.
What was your starting point in deciding that you wanted to take a break from alcohol?
For the last 3 years I have been really exploring my relationship with alcohol. I have a family history of alcohol abuse and it has always been a topic that’s never been far from my mind – but never stopped me glugging copious amounts of Sauvignon Blanc! My drinking style has always been hard and fast, no off switch and certainly not able to moderate.
From party girl in my 20’s and early 30’s – hitting bars and clubs most weekends (and a fair amount during the week too!) evolved into the glass of wine of an evening to help me unwind after a stressful say at work. I say glass but it’s not hard to build a tolerance so let’s say that glass of wine turned into a bottle with the occasional gin thrown in. And when I did go out, I would make up for lost time and I can say there wasn’t many nights that didn’t end up in blackout.
It took a friend being diagnosed with breast cancer a few years back that made me look at my lifestyle. My friend has 4 beautiful children and made it her mission to raise awareness on how our lifestyle can bring on cancers and ill health, it really struck a cord. I didn’t want to be battling diseases like breast cancer young, I don’t want to battle them full stop. I have a little boy and I want to see him grow up and have kids of his own. There has always been a little voice at the back of my mind telling me that the lifestyle I was living would catch up with me.
I don’t choose to label my relationship with alcohol but I know that it caused me a lot of problems – blackouts, poor decisions, poor health and crippling anxiety. I realised I was lucky, I still had time and choices unlike my friend so started trying to change my relationship with alcohol. After a couple of false starts I am now here, 19 months sober and it has really been such an incredible experience to date.
Sadly my beautiful friend lost her battle with cancer last year. I found out on day 2 of my sobriety. I have realised that life is so very precious and I want to live mine free from shackles that don’t serve me like booze.
How might your weekends have looked before, and how do they look now?
Weekends would always involve booze, from wine of an evening in-front of the TV, friends over for boozy dinner parties or nights on the town. Sounds glamorous but it was repetitive. The same hamster wheel. Everything social revolved around booze. I would constantly be hungover, irritable, moody and unmotivated. When you're hungover, even mildly – your body is tired, lethargic and you crave junk food.
My weekends now are totally different. I try to keep things varied and try new things. I love keeping fit and spending time outdoors, I enjoy being a present and active part of my family. Oh and I love getting dressed up and going on a big night out (well I am an Essex girl after all!). Only difference now is that I am less of a liability and can remember everything the next day!
What would you say the challenges are of choosing to drink less, or not at all when you live in a place like London?
I live in Essex and spend a lot of time in London, I know – Party central! The challenges are no greater living here than anywhere else. In the UK society almost expects us to drink. You feel like an outsider when you don’t drink (at least that’s what I used to think) in the UK socialising is often centred around drink, and drinking to excess. It's glamourised and pushed upon us. We need to wake up to cleaver marketing and social conditioning that’s lining peoples pockets whilst slowly destroying our bodies and minds. I am not anti-booze and don’t see booze as the devil. But I do think our culture has a big part to play in our abuse of alcohol as a society and our decline in good mental health. The challenge is to re frame your thinking., educate ourselves on what booze actually is and understand that it isn’t the epicentre of the universe.
What are the Top 5 things you've gained from cutting back on booze?
- Myself, whilst drinking I truly no longer knew who I was...
- Good mental and physical health
- My love for life
And what would your advice be to someone else who may be reading this article hungover, wishing that they could get out of the binge drinking cycle?
There is nothing to be scared of. You don’t have to put a label on wanting to take a break from drinking. Just start. Follow sober accounts on Instagram and get inspiration. Give yourself the chance to feel the benefits of a period of time without alcohol and educate yourself on what alcohol is and what it does to you – it’s a massive eye opener. If anyone is reading this and looking to make the change, feel free to drop me a message on insta – you’re not alone!
What are your plans for your own sobriety and life goals moving forwards?
To keep challenging myself to try new things and keep pushing myself out my comfort zones. I am really passionate about changing the narrative around drinking and showing people that you don’t have to drink alcohol to live your best life. I love sharing my story with others on Instagram, I want to help people change their relationships with alcohol and set them on the path to living a more fulfilled, happier and liberated life.
And how can anyone reading connect with you?
Give me a shout on instagram @womanonasobermission