Mandy shares her experiences with Dry January, which along with support from the Soberistas community, gave her the motivation she needed to experiment with abstaining and moderating her drinking.

"A powerful tool to numb pain"

I started drinking when I was 14. The first time I abused alcohol was at the age of 22. I had had some traumatic experiences as a teenager that I hadn't dealt with and when I ended the secure two-year relationship I was in everything that had happened in the past overwhelmed me. I would go to the shop and buy a bottle of red and drink it in one go. This was the first moment when I realised that alcohol could be a powerful tool to numb my pain. A year later I met a man and we fell in love.

Dry January: A first attempt

In January 2005 we did Dry January (before it was 'Dry January') and it was fantastic, so fantastic that we decided to carry on and not drink for a year, and I have such fond memories of that time. We got pregnant, and decided to change our lives and move to Europe.

I had my second child in 2008 and I started to get depressed. I was alone a lot of the time, I was a stay at home mum, I was sleep deprived and, having not dealt with a lot of my history, consumed with overwhelming fear.

"I used drink to punish myself"

I hadn't stopped partying either. I was only in my late 20s and that lifestyle was all I knew. I went back to work and was very successful but I drank every day. I had blackouts, I had accidents. I made a fool out of myself; I had lost my sense of self.

I knew I didn't want to be that party girl anymore, but I didn't know how to change. I wanted to be an adult, but I was terrified of the responsibility. All I wanted to do was be a good parent, but I felt I was doing everything wrong. I felt guilty, ashamed, anxious and depressed all of the time. So I used drink to punish myself.

"My behaviour was out of control"

In September 2013 I had a massive panic attack. I went to the doctor and was told I was clinically in burnout and put on antidepressants. But I didn't stop drinking. By Christmas 2013 I knew my behaviour was out of control but I couldn't stop it, I didn't feel worthy of being well. On 27 December 2013 in the middle of the night as I had constant insomnia I searched, "Do I have a problem with alcohol?" and stumbled across Soberistas. I watched Lucy Rocca's interview on This Morning and I knew - this is me. I am a habitual/problem drinker.

"I have no off switch, and controlling your drinking is exhausting"

So I tried to stop. At the beginning it was extremely hard, I had lots of slip-ups. I went to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I wrote a lot. In February 2014 I stopped and didn't drink for a year. Again it was fantastic; I went through a rebirth of strength, positivity and possibility. I lost weight, I quit my job. I was so positive that after a year I deemed myself fixed and convinced myself that I could drink moderately.

Between 2015-2017 I drank on and off. I knew that I was better without booze, but I wanted to be "normal". I would drink until I could not drink anymore, then I would have three months off and start again. I wanted to be a chic drinker with a fine wine, but it didn't work: I have no off switch and controlling my drinking was exhausting. 

"I have chosen sobriety for my body, my brain and me."

This summer I sat on holiday, again exhausted by a summer of drinking. I went on Soberistas and saw the download for Annie Grace's Naked Mind, and reading it made me realise that I was truly done, that being sober is something worthy and strong and inspiring. I also read Bryony Gordon's Mad Girl which gave me the reassurance that my struggles with mental health were nothing to be ashamed of.

I realised that if I shared my story, it could help, so I engaged with the sober community on Instagram and Facebook and listened to podcasts and started going to Club Soda events, and realised that there is a really wonderful community of sober people. I don't feel my sobriety has been forced upon me: I have chosen sobriety for my body, my brain and me.