WITH the holiday festivities officially over, many of us are starting to think of healthier habits.
If you're worried your December drinking got out of hand, giving up alcohol may be the top of your list.
Kate Mulvey, 61, a freelance writer from London, understands exactly how that feels.
After one particularly bad blackout in her 20s, she decided to go teetotal – and she never looked back.
As she shares her story, Kate also offers some tips for anyone thinking of doing the same at this time of year…
"It was the moment that changed my life. That morning when I woke up, something was different.
As well as the thumping head and stomach churning nausea of my usual hangover, I could feel a searing pain in my leg.
I pulled back the duvet to discover my body and the sheets were completely covered in blood, and there was a deep gash on my left thigh.
Panicking, my brain scrambled for clues. What had happened?
Vague memories of being at a party, taking my top off, climbing into the skip outside and dancing.
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I must have fallen. I had no idea how I got back. But somehow I managed to stumble out of bed and stagger to the hospital.
I was at my lowest ebb. Blackouts like this were happening all too often.
I was only 28 and I had spent the last ten years in a fog of alcohol and bad behaviour.
I knew if I didn’t take the first step to sobriety, I would probably end up in the morgue before I hit 35.
So I did. No AA, no props. I just stopped drinking there and then. And I have never touched a drop since.
For someone like me, there is no such thing as one glass. I am a sober alcoholic, and will be for the rest of my life.
Looking back, the seeds were sewn early on. Drinking seemed a natural part of the party scene.
When I was 18, I remember that sense of excited anticipation as I downed half a bottle of Martini before going out for a night of hard drinking at the various parties and pubs in Chelsea where I lived.
I thought I was flirty and fun.
But by the end of the night, I was often a sweaty mess of tangled hair, my mascara half way down my cheeks, slumped in some after hours dive that sold over priced drink and the floor smelt of sick.
Then came the hangovers, the regrets of things said and the outrageous behaviour.
It wasn’t until that horrific morning, just a few months shy of my 29th birthday, that something in me snapped and I knew I had to deal with the issue.
In the first few months of sobriety, I didn’t tell anyone — I didn’t want to let people down by admitting how bad things had gotten.
But, when I finally told my sister, Louise, she was over the moon.
The last time we’d gone out, I’d abandoned her in a dodgy London club and woken up the next day with a group of strangers in Brighton.
I knew if I didn’t take the first step to sobriety, I would probably end up in the morgue before I hit 35
Fast-forward to today and giving up drink is the best thing I’ve ever done. It is now a part of my identity.
That is not to say I don’t miss alcohol. I do.
But I am not hopping up and down at the first sniff of a Brandy Sour anymore.
As we start off 2023, more and more of us are vowing to be alcohol free.
More than a third of US adults, 35%, took part in Dry January in 2022, a "significant increase" from the 21% who participated in 2019, according to CGA, who research the food and drinks market.
According to consultant psychologist Sue Firth, it is always worth giving yourself a break for a month from alcohol, especially after the festive season.
She told me: "We don't realise how toxic it is for the body.
"Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns and we come to rely on it to wind down at the end of the day.
"This means we need more and more to achieve this, so giving it a rest is a great boost.
"We become healthier, sleep better and give our livers a rest, not to mention reduce the risk of getting hooked on it."
Kate Bee, founder of the Sober School, has some sound advice for anyone thinking about giving up.
She says: "Write out a list of all the reasons why you're doing Dry January.
"There are going to moments when you won't feel like staying on track, so it's helpful to have this stuff written down, in advance.
"The fact is, you're ditching alcohol this month for a reason. Being clear on those reasons will help keep you focused when you feel tempted."
So if you are ready to take up the challenge, here are my expert tips from a fellow quitter:
1. TAKE IT SLOW
It can seem daunting at first, the cravings are still there and you haven’t reaped the benefits yet.
Cutting down gradually may be more manageable.
I always looked forward to wine o’clock, that sigh of relaxation and feel good factor as we take our first glug.
So taper down cutting back a little bit each day, until you can go through the evening without reaching for the bottle.
2. STAY AWAY FROM TEMPTATION AT FIRST
As a teetotal newbie, It pays to stay away from temptation.
Clean out the house of all alcohol, if you live with someone they are bound to understand.
Ditto going to the pub/parties, merry making at this time can make it harder, and stop you keeping focused.
3. HOW TO NAVIGATE SOCIAL EVENTS
Okay, so January is a lean month. At some point, you will be chomping at the bit to socialize.
Be careful, because there is always the pressure to ‘have just one drink’.
Part of me, after all these years, still dreads telling people I am teetotal.
I know they will think: ‘Oh dear, will she will be a bore?’
So why not start off with a Coca Cola with ice and lemon? It looks remarkably like a rum and coke.
The sugar and caffeine will up your energy and give you just enough buzz to get into the spirit
4. REWARD YOURSELF
If you’ve had a trying day, and you normally pour yourself a large glass, then have a ready made supply of alternative treats.
Tucking into a delicious cake/chocolate, the sugar gets the dopamine levels up.
Or take a long relaxing bath with aromatherapy scented bath oils to to soothe away anxieties and relax you.
5. GET HEALTHY
One thing that keeps me the right side of sober is how healthy I feel.
Sobriety Is the best diet there is, and cheaper than any beauty cream.
I wake up with a clear head and my energy levels are sky high.
So why not go for that long walk/run/cycle/gym.
It is easier to prize yourself off the sofa when you feel don't have a hangover.
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Plus, seeing the benefits is a great incentive to keep alcohol free till Spring. Bottoms up!"
Kate previously revealed how she's shamed for only showering twice a week, but doesn't care.
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