Dear A, 

We need a divorce. Our relationship has been showing signs of being toxic for a long time now. According to all the self-help books I’ve ever read, including the one I wrote myself, this is always the beginning of the end. I used to think I could rely on you, but lately you’ve let me down. In fact scrap that, you’ve been letting me down for years.

It needs to change, which is why I’m asking for this divorce

I don’t expect you to understand at this point. In fact I’m fully prepared for wanting to run back into your tempting embrace. Especially over the weekend, and more so on the weekends that we see friends. I’ve always been a sucker for your lure, since our very first encounter when I was just eleven years old.

Eleven, FFS!

divorceWe were living in Australia, and I drank half a bottle of neat Bundaberg Rum. I was ill, tried to vomit for hours, but can’t because of medical reasons. I was a state, and I’m sure it would have been the sort of classic story that goes on to put kids off you for life.

Not me though, nope siree. Our bond was too special, and wasn’t going to be broken that easily. There were other occasions prior to leaving home at fifteen, but once I was fending for myself, you became my trusted bestie.

You acted like my armour during those tough years, while I was discovering who I was and what direction I wanted to go in. Sometimes people tried to use you against me, and take advantage. Sometimes they got away with it too, but my memories are muddled, which I count as a blessing. You found me and lost me my first boyfriend at sixteen, and at eighteen I ended my second relationship because he loved you more than he loved me.

There were the nightclubs that I used to go to. Dancing to cheesy 90’s music and snogging random boys. Alcopops were my favourite back then, I used to love Hooch and Mad Dog 20/20. Oh the fun we had, until I overdid it, which I did frequently. I’d either pass out or end up lying on the filthy club toilet floor waiting for the waves of nausea to pass. I have too many memories like this, which is making me question whether you were ever my friend.

It solidifies my gut feeling that this divorce is going to be a great thing

Even when I went through my hard core, up all weekend, clubbing phase, you were always a feature. When everyone else was drinking water and gurning, I’d have a glass of something stronger in my hand. I used to think I was clever, playing silly games and often winning against the boys. Drinking Tequila shots watching the sun rise, or making healthy juices laced with you for my flatmates. I said that I would write a book one day called The Vodka Smoothie Diaries, and maybe I still will.

Going to work on a few hours sleep would be nothing for me, and even on a Monday night my rubber arm could be twisted to go out for a few sherbets. As long as you were with me, I could get through anything. The toughest of times were never that bad after drowning my sorrows.

You were a huge part of my persona – I was the Renster – bringer of fun!

divorceThen all of a sudden, it wasn’t just fun fun fun anymore. The darkness started featuring, and at twenty two it all came on top. My counsellor, Nina, tried to make me see that you were a bad influence, but I wasn’t ready to listen.

Four more years of hard core partying followed. Including meeting my husband, and living in one of the most rule free places on earth. Rather fitting really, to end up being drawn to Cambodia. With it’s shocking history and deep sadness at its core.

It’s fair to say that along with the back-then readily available pharmaceuticals, you almost killed me. Several times. You would have thought the night I fell off an actual bed and onto a bed of broken glass bottles would have been enough of a wake up call. But even the cut fingers, steri stripped and tightly bandaged hands that weren’t able to wipe my own arse couldn’t come between us.

A horrendous year followed. My personal annus horribilis. Too many things that I’m not proud of happened in 2006, and you were by my side every single time.

Rock bottom occurred in Reykjavík, eleven years ago to the day

I was on a work jolly, and overdid it as per. The mini bar bottle of white wine whilst having a shower is the thing I remember most vividly. I can’t really recall fighting with my then boss, falling off my bar stool, or taking a taxi by myself to the hotel on the other side of town in a strange country. I do know those things happened though, and I also know that I woke up the next day and felt truly ashamed.

For the first time ever, I could clearly see that you’re no good for me. I should have filed for divorce back then, but instead, after three months of abstinence, I vowed to learn self-control around you. I did well, but I was in a different zone. I was going to rule the world, one jar of chutney at a time. Even business failure and bankruptcy couldn’t break me. We had holidays and weddings in 2008, and although you featured, I was in control. Or maybe I was just kidding myself? I honestly don’t know anymore.

A new chapter started at the end of 2008

divorceBabies. During pregnancy number one I didn’t touch caffeine, let alone you! You’d been well and truly kicked to the curb. Pregnancies two and three were different. Your lure was a lot more tempting, and most Friday nights involved a glass of red.

I’m pretty sure guidelines have changed recently, and they are now advising pregnant ladies to steer completely clear of you, and I think that’s sensible advice.

Us parents are bombarded with the idea that we need to drink all the booze to survive the horrors that our little darlings throw our way. Whilst it’s definitely true that you are able to take the edge off the witching hour, or a birthday party, I’ve come to see that I’m not like most people.

Most people can have a glass of prosecco and get on with their day, but me?

Once I’ve fallen for your charms, I find it hard to let you go. One or two drinks is never enough, and all I can think about is having more. Which is not fair on my children, because when I’m under your spell my attention is no longer being given to them.

My kids need me much more than you do. Which is why I need you to agree to this divorce and not try and tempt me back. I can’t carry on like this. Things needs to change, and that change is not going to happen while you’re still hanging around.

It’s early days, and I’m not so naive that I don’t expect tough times. I am fully expecting them, but already without you, I’m feeling strong enough to tackle them. I’ve even set up a new Instagram account solely to help me stay on the wagon.

I wish you well in life, I really do, but please don’t knock on my door again.

the-trouble-with-alcoholAfter seven years of pregnancy and parenting, I decided that this would to be the year I got my social life back on track, and it’s been amazing. I think I’ve seen my friends (without the kids in tow) more in 2016 than I did in 2009-2015 put together.

The trouble is, that with socialising comes drinking alcohol. My ultimate nemesis!

I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m not afraid to admit that I recognise alcoholic traits in myself.

When I hit rock bottom after my second mental breakdown in 2006, I knew that it was time to sort my life out, and top of my priority list was getting my alcohol consumption under control. I started binge drinking at the age of twelve. My first experience was neat rum, which led to me passing out in a park. This pretty much sums up my relationship with the bottle back then. I was always pushing the boundaries, and never knew when enough was enough.

dont-be-afraid-to-admit-you-were-wrongIn my late teens and early twenties I prided myself on being able to keep up with the boys. I’d be the only girl standing (more like wobbling) come seven, eight in the morning when the hardcore were still awake putting the world to rights. I’d be the one walking to the dodgy off licence in the middle of the night for more supplies.

I have plenty of funny anecdotes from those days, but I also have horror stories. One involved a taxi driver, and ended up with me running down a dual carriageway in the early hours of the morning. I put myself in serious danger on numerous occasions, and I genuinely look back and wonder how on earth I’m still alive.

It’s incredible how much of a hold the booze had over me back then, which isn’t hugely surprising given my alcoholic step-father

Going teetotal for ever is a big deal though. Apart from not wanting to be ‘that’ person, who everyone starts avoiding because they can’t be around booze, I think it’s a huge statement to make at such a young age. I’m also inclined to believe that it can lead to ‘falling off the wagon’ in spectacular fashion, which then leads to a whole host of other problems.

I find abstinence easy. Having a few and calling it a night has always been my problem.

After rock bottom, I didn’t have a single drink for three months, after that I learnt control. I taught myself how to enjoy a drink or two, and not feel the need to get obliterated. It was a complete revelation, before then I would only ever drink to get drunk.

untitled-design-2Two years and a whole load of self-reflection later, I found myself pregnant with Polly. It was a shock after being categorically told that I was infertile, but that’s another story. I was a saint during those nine months. I didn’t even drink caffeine let alone alcohol (apart from a glass of champagne on my wedding day). 

By the time Clara was born – when Polly was two and a half – her sleep problems were in full swing. Life was super stressful and I turned to the bottle for solace too many times. When C was a year old we went out for a big group lunch with my husband’s uni friends. I got plastered, the way I used to get plastered. It wasn’t my finest hour.

I was a complete embarrassment. To him, to myself, to our children.

So I took a few months break from the booze, once again, and it helped me learn to control it, once again. Shortly after this I fell pregnant with Freddy, and when he was eight weeks old I embarked on the GAPS Intro diet, and didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for almost six months.

I have never felt as good as I did when I was on GAPS. I had an abundance of energy, and clarity of mind, despite only getting three or four broken hours sleep per night. I truly believe that GAPS was how I managed to write my first book Become the Best You. In it I talk about all the things I did to change my life, and become the version of myself I once dreamed of being.

It’s time to take my own advice

I’ve had a lot of fun getting my social life on track this year, but I’ve been absolutely useless at knowing when to stop.

“…but you deserve a night out!”

“…you have such a stressful life, and need to let your hair down!”

“…everyone has a few drinks as a treat, it’s fine!”

I can try and justify my behaviour all I like, but I know it’s unfair on the people who love me the most. Ultimately, I know that it’s totally out of order on my husband. Who, in his own words, carries emotional scars from the early days of our relationship. Unsurprisingly.

rdlukewarmGoing out also means that I’m not parenting to the best of my abilities for a day or two afterwards. Sometimes I suffer from anxiety or depression following a big night. It’s simply not okay to put myself in that position when I have children to look after, one of whom I’m home educating. I don’t aim for perfection, but being a lukewarm mama isn’t good for any of us. 

Yes, my life is hard and stressful, and I need a release every now and then, but I know deep down that my life is made worse by getting hammered. The consequences last much longer than the fun. 

Plus, it’s beyond ironic that someone who eats as healthily as I do, can tune out to the health pitfalls of drinking to excess. We’ve heard lots about the health benefits we can gain from having a couple of glasses of red wine, but no amount of antioxidants can counteract the after effect of drinking two bottles of the stuff. I view junk food as pollution, and this is no different. 

It’s not good for my body, mind or soul. So here’s where it stops!

I’m not feeling ashamed of myself, the way I have in the past. Yes I partied in Ibiza, yes I’ve had some raucous nights with besties, and yes I had to stay in my friend’s hotel room on Friday night, but I don’t regret any of it.

I guess I have learnt a lot from my life lessons. 

I’m not saying that I’m giving up alcohol altogether, because I still don’t think that’s the solution for me. Perhaps I’m wrong, only time will tell. I definitely need another break though, so I can try and get back to a place where I can have a few sociable drinks and quit while I’m ahead.

Wish me luck ❤

I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. It's an act of survival