How Lucy Upgraded Her Christmas
It’s 6.30am on the 26th of December 2018. I am lying in the upstairs spare bedroom alone, fully clothed in my cigarette smoke infested Christmas Day dress, my mouth is as dry as a desert, the sun is already pouring through the cracks in the blinds. I am sweating, my head is pounding and my heart is racing at a million miles per hour. I have a large, tender bruise on my shin and I am completely riddled with shame, guilt and anxiety.
I can hear my kids beginning to make noises, yelling out to me, I pull myself out of bed and begin the normal routine of the day after a big drinking session, which includes trying to erase the previous 24 hours, checking my husband (now ex-husband) isn't angry with me, working out if there is anyone I need to apologise to, and sculling a potent concoction of aspro clear, hydralyte and berocca all in one litre of water. How bad I felt the day after a big drinking session always came down to how good I was at lying to myself that day. Lying to myself about the fact that everyone drinks like I did, lying to myself about the situation not being that bad and lying to myself about the fact that it's the last time I will ever drink like that. Big fat lies to try and make myself feel better. What kind of way to live is that?
The lead up to Christmas that year had been quite rocky and stressful for me. My marriage wasn’t great, I was so unhealthy and overweight, struggling to get back into shape because of my drinking, eating and chain smoking. I was stressed about money (we never seemed to have enough) so had decided to put our house on airbnb for the holidays while we were away on holiday to earn some more cash which took a lot of work to get the house ready. I had noticed my drinking had really ramped up in the lead up to that Christmas. I was starting to go through the bottle shop more regularly, and started to feel like one bottle of wine alone wasn’t enough. Slowly but surely, a bottle plus a G&T or a bottle plus a couple of beers was morphing into two bottles of wine. A clear sign to me that my drinking was becoming a real problem and was progressively getting worse was when I noticed the craving hitting me earlier in the day. It wasn't a night time craving any more, it was early afternoon. My drinking was spiralling. I was spiralling.
Christmas Eve was no longer what it had been for me growing up and into my 20’s and 30’s; catching up with my family to go to the Christmas Carols, a beautiful dinner then home to bed to get ready for the big day. Christmas Eve had turned into a party for one with a bottle of Champagne and a packet of Peter Stuyvesant’s. Waking up Christmas morning I was slightly hungover, but nothing to rock me too much. After a morning of opening presents with my kids, we headed over to my sisters house, where upon arrival I took my first Aperol Spritz of the day at around 10am, and the rest of the day is pretty much a blur. My horrible frame of mind, low self-worth, constant feeling of slight depression and anxiety, heightened stress levels, plus the fact that I had become physically dependent on alcohol, all mixed together and caused an eruption on the most special day of the year.
I embarrassed myself in front of family and friends, I barely ate any of the beautiful food as was too drunk, I was a horrible wife and absent drunk mother, I caused an argument with my now ex-husband and after lunch I insisted on going to a friend’s party even though I was clearly in no state to go anywhere but bed. I snuck away and took an Uber to my friend’s party, only to be put back in an Uber by those friends and sent straight back home. Everything after 2pm was wiped from my memory apart from a few embarrassing moments like falling in a bush, and being horrible to my Uber driver. What a mess!
Thankfully, that was the last Christmas (and actually the second last time ever) I drank alcohol. As much as it still makes me cringe, I don’t regret that day. It was a very necessary evil on my path to getting where I am today. It was a huge wake up call, to think I had abandoned myself completely, to wipe myself out like that, on one of the most cherished and special days of the year was exactly what I needed to really make a huge shift. You can read more about my story and sobriety journey here.
Fast forward 12 months from that day to Christmas Eve 2019. I was a completely different woman. Although the year ahead was still going to bring me so much more growth and change, I don't know that yet, and I just feel so proud of myself as I drift off to sleep sober, so excited for Christmas Day.
My first sober Christmas since I was an early teenager was pure magic. Watching my kids open their presents and Santa stockings completely hangover-free, feeling energised, happy, fresh and so excited for the day ahead. Being super organised heading out the door to go on holidays, instead of running late and forgetting things. The stress levels in my life had nearly disappeared compared to the previous year. I got to really enjoy quality family time, savouring every mouthful of my mum's incredible Christmas Day spread, enjoying just being present and calm. Paling by comparison to Christmas day only 12 months earlier.
As I sat there at the table, wrangling the kids to the table and laughing at the silly jokes in the bon-bons, I had a big realisation. Like all social events we go to in life, it is the company of the people you’re surrounded by, the experience, food, energy in the room that is so wonderful. Alcohol only dampens (and often ruins) these really beautiful moments in life. I realised that by quitting alcohol I had seriously upgraded my Christmas!
Fast forward to today. Another 12 months of sobriety under my belt and I honestly find it hard to even remember how it felt to be so trapped in my alcohol hell. All I feel now is a consistent, high-vibe, happiness and excitement. I do get pangs of anxiety and a day or two a month of low level sadness, however I am, really enjoying the process of understanding these emotions and linking them normally to hormones, rather than drinking my way through them to numb myself out. Waking up the following day, without a hangover and no memory loss.
My first sober Christmas was honestly my best and I can’t wait to have this experience all over again this year. If you have only just begun your sobriety journey and you’re fearful I encourage you to really work through all of the tools Jen provided in her awesome blog Your Sober Silly Season Survival Guide and to remind yourself that it’s not the alcohol that makes Christmas special. It’s all of the wonderful people, food, things, energy and love you are surrounded by.