I read that when you give up alcohol, you sleep better than you have in years but you’re also more tired as well. Well hello! I practically leap up to bed every night, excited to snuggle under the covers and read before succumbing to the cosiness. AND THEN I DON’T WAKE UP UNTIL MY ALARM GOES OFF. Unheard of. I was always a classic 3am worrier, lying in bed and catastrophising over every element of my life, heart racing, until I nodded off approximately 20 minutes before I had to get up. And that would happen whether I’d had wine or not (although I usually had…)
So great, the sleep is brilliant. But I’m yawning all day long and fantasising about bed until I can justify heading upstairs. Is 8pm too early for a 40-something to be hitting the hay? No? Good. I guess my body and mind are re-adjusting to their new alcohol-free state and that’s fine by me, even if it does mean I’m surreptitiously yawning in meetings, on the train, during presentations, when I’m writing my blog…
Oddly, and in spite of the yawning, my concentration is much improved. I’ve always been an avid reader – once working my through 17 books on a two-week holiday, boom! – but after Joe died I couldn’t focus on anything for more than a few seconds. My brain was flitting all over the place and if I tried to sit down with a book, I’d get flustered and shaky and have to get up and DO something.
I was drinking a lot at that point, and not really eating. It felt as though there was a huge lump in my throat and my stomach for months and the only thing that slipped down easily, was my trusty Sauvignon Blanc. Wine numbed me and I wandered around in a daze for much of the time. I was functioning, but always felt one step removed from reality, which was exactly what I needed because reality was too overwhelming to comprehend.
Now, with no alcohol in my system, I’ve started reading again. I can highly recommend Blackout by Sarah Hepola and The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley. These women’s honesty is staggering and their journeys to sobriety are hilarious, heartbreaking and enormously inspiring. If you’re considering giving up, or just taking a break from alcohol a few days a week, do read them. They aren’t at all preachy, just incredibly enlightening.
I also have to recommend another book, unrelated to finding sobriety. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa was a gift from my dear friend Lizzie when I lost my precious 12-year-old cat, Luka, in November. It’s a beautifully written tale (pun intended) about friendship, love, memory and loss, narrated by a cat called Nana as he travels around Japan with his human. An absolute delight and a book I’ll always treasure. Thank you, Lizzie.
Talking of friendship, I had the most wonderful treat last weekend when I arrived for dinner with my darling friend Claire, only to find three of my other closest friends waiting for us at the restaurant for a surprise birthday dinner. I was beyond happy that night, surrounded by my inner circle. These incredible women who are all so different and yet who all have such huge hearts and generous spirits. They have wrapped their arms around us since we lost Joe and it may be a cliché, but I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. So we sat over dinner, laughing, crying and remembering, while they drank wine and I sipped Perrier. Happy? You betcha.