I had been feeling good; really bloody good, by my multiple sclerosis standards. Following targeted physiotherapy, five weeks into a six week exercise programme, and on a new 2-in-1 nerve-pain-reliever-come-serotonin-supplement (not scientifically accurate) courtesy of a consultant who knows his stuff, I was feeling sublime. Seriously, the best I have felt for a while; even warranting comments and compliments on my increased energy and vitality, decreased leg-dragging and mood-swings (alleged mood-swings) from my perpetually patient partner.
I had been feeling good – really bloody good – up until this morning.
I’m loathed to say that I am hungover. I am not hungover. If I am, twenty-two year-old Evie would be ashamed of such light-weight behaviour. I had two glasses of wine last night, over the aeon that is a good three to four hours. Two glasses of wine. That’s all it took to disrupt my sleep, leading to increased mental and physical fatigue, brain-fog, lethargy, weakness. That’s all it took to turn up the volume of my tingly-legs, numb left-side, uncomfortable and heavy muscles. That’s all it took to impair my fine-motor skills, meaning I spent ten whole minutes putting an earring in this morning. That’s all it took to encourage me to bring a walking stick when I left the house, for the first time in weeks, thanks to my weak-feeling, unstable legs. That’s all it took to dampen my mood, my enthusiasm, my re-found zest for life.
And why? What for?
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for a while now. Years, actually.
Why do I still drink alcohol, however infrequently that may be these days? Why do I continue to willingly force my body to work even harder than it already has to? Why do I invest so much time, energy, and money, into doing everything I can to keep myself feeling as well as possible, only to disrupt all of those efforts for reasons that are becoming less and less clear to me?
During a teetotal nine months in 2019 I reaped rewards far exceeding any of my expectations. Reduced anxiety, reduced social anxiety, most surprisingly of all, being a lovely bonus. But perhaps the most affirming experience I had was with my zero per-cent pints watching Rod Stewart (yep) sing his little heart out; coloured lights, roaring music, joyous atmosphere all un-filtered by the haze of alcohol. And did I feel inhibited by my sobriety? Nope. Did I enjoy myself any less? Quite the opposite. I felt more uninhibited happiness in my mental-presence than I ever have under the artificial high of drink. I realised then that even the mildest state of tipsy tints the lens through which we experience the world around us. Taints the lens.
But during those teetotal nine months I was also met with enough comments and questions about my decision not to drink to rival those about my mobility aids. I was “jokingly” asked if I am an alcoholic by a (former) colleague at a staff Christmas party. I was told that I’m “more fun when I drink” (to which I wish I’d replied, “well it’s a good thing I’m not here to entertain you then, isn’t it?”). I was informed that the alcohol-free beer option available to me in a west-end bar was water. As with my disability, I was once again expected to justify myself to others. Explain why, share information about my body and my health, put on a show in desperate attempts not to be immediately written off as dull, boring, sooberrrr.
Apparently people have an inexplicable interest in the alcohol intake of others. On more than one occasion I have lied about my soda water being a G&T, in what is actually a pretty twisted game of “societal expectation”: you must drink, but not too much.
On so many occasions it would have been less exhausting just to accept a fucking drink.
And so I started to.
And every single time I find myself thinking, why? What on earth is this adding to my life, that out-weighs what it takes?
There was a period in my life, many moons and a different Evie ago, when drinking did add something. An escape that I still understand, but no longer need. I used to believe that alcohol enhanced. Enhanced the fun, enhanced my personality, enhanced my mental wellbeing – however momentarily. I didn’t care, when I was drunk, and I didn’t want to care.
I am fortunate that my unhealthy desire to drink subsided with time. I stopped wanting to feel drunk, but it wasn’t a conscious decision to stop. It just no longer appealed to my body, or my mind. A combination, I think, of neurological symptoms, and finding a deeper, truer, contentment.
And so today, Saturday 19th June 2021, I made a decision. I am finally confident enough within myself to recognise that anyone else’s “issues” with my sobriety are only a reflection of themselves, and often their own relationship with alcohol. It is also a decision that has been years in the making; not a knee-jerk, unsustainable response to a heavy night filled with despair and regret. In fact, I can probably count on my fingers how many times I had a drink last year. And that is precisely why I am stopping; because if infrequent, light drinking can have such a detrimental impact on my physical wellbeing, and I don’t even have any hilarious anecdotes to show for it, then really – what is the fucking point?
I have had a glimpse of the fullness of a life without alcohol, and that is the life I want.