"Drinking initially made me feel better"

My daily drinking habit started just over 10 years ago after I stopped breastfeeding my youngest child in 2006, and I got into the habit of having a glass or two to unwind at the end of a day with the children. I suffered from post-natal depression and found relentless child care challenging, with no local family support to provide respite. Drinking initially seemed to make me feel better. I realised it was becoming a habit but at first I was unconcerned - I was only having a couple of glasses a night and didn't feel too bad or guilty about it. When I realised it was definitely becoming a daily habit and the glasses were becoming larger, I tried a couple of times to quit. 

Struggling to quit

I managed 257 days sober but then a neighbour persuaded me to have a small glass of prosecco at an 18th birthday party - I was horrified to find I was straight back to daily drinking immediately. I tried again in 2012 but once again only managed about 6 months alcohol free. It was a terrible time - if I drank I felt guilty, and if I didn't I felt deprived.  Between October 2012 and December 2016 I drank every single day and at higher levels than before. By the end of 2016, at my worst I was drinking on average approximately 1 bottle of wine a day.

Motivation: Dry January and the marathon 

I used to be a cross country and distance runner at school, university and in my 20's (when I didn't drink) and had completed several full marathons. I had decided to apply for the 2017 Virgin London Marathon, and amazingly in October 2016 I learned that I had a place. I knew that I would have to quit daily drinking in order to train for it seriously. I decided in the last month of 2016 that I would try and steadily taper down the amount I was drinking each day, in case it was dangerous just to stop, with the intention of going totally alcohol free from January 1st. Around this time I heard about the Dry January campaign and decided I would register as I thought this would help motivate me.

"Going dry for a month really does help you reassess your relationship with alcohol"

I found the concept of Dry January so motivational. I know it has come under criticism because it is just for a month, but going dry for a month really does help you reassess your relationship with alcohol and start to see the benefits, and then it is up to you whether to continue alcohol-free or attempt to moderate your drinking (which I knew I couldn't ). Anyone who has tried to quit an addiction problem will confirm that the early days are the hardest. What I liked about Dry January was that it was a popular campaign at that time of year that wasn't just for problem drinkers, so I wasn't ashamed to tell people I was doing it. 

Dry January gave me the best start at the toughest time - I particularly liked the App and logging up my alcohol-free days by posting the little tea cup icon at the end of each successful day, the inspirational support emails, and the added support from the Facebook group (particularly the Dry January and Beyond group which continued from February onwards). There I "met" a great bunch of people who all supported each other with the same struggles and goals and it was the camaraderie of the group and the accountability that kept me going in the toughest times. 

Beyond Dry January

Once I'd got 31 days out of the way, it was always my intention to keep going. I managed to remain alcohol free, and train for and complete the Virgin London Marathon 2017. I also ran my second marathon at the end of May. I raised over £1300 between the two events for my chosen charity appeal thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues and also some of the people who I'd "met" on the Dry January Group, who surprised me by tracking down my charity page and making donations.

One day at a time

As of mid-December, I'm now on day 348 alcohol free. The alcohol free way of life comes fairly naturally for me although because of my past struggle, I am never complacent. I still have to get through Christmas but I'm feeling fairly positive and starting to dare to look towards my 1 year anniversary at New Year where I will join in and support the Dry January campaign once again. Ultimately though, I just take one day at a time.