Giving Up Alcohol – Fashion Editor Changes Her Life
Giving Up Alcohol– A True Story
Picture the scene: you’ve had a stressful day at work.
Everything that you prioritised to get done today is still lingering in the in-tray; that nagging feeling of unfinished business won’t go away; you can’t wait to get home.
When you finally get there, it’s shoes off, cooker on, dog fed – but not before the cork is off that well-earned bottle of Rioja.
Not all my days were that bad. But for me, and for so many women who work full-time and have busy lives, a glass of wine at the end of the day has long been the light at the end of the Tube tunnel.
Those work stresses seem to melt away within three sips; you can’t beat that warm, fuzzy glow. It signals the start of ‘me’ time.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that anyone who craves a glass or two of wine at the end of the day is an alcoholic or a big drinker.
I despise those words because they conjure up ugly images of alcoholics buying cheap bottles of cider from the ‘offie’.
This is not ‘park bench’, this is about opening a bottle of wine and enjoying a few glasses because it’s far more preferable than going to the gym or finishing off the ironing.
And, these days, it’s considered normal to drink regularly by almost everybody I come across, regardless of education, profession or social background.
It’s not the sole reserve of stressed-out, thirty-something-no-kids-yet-but-have-disposable-income women (that’ll be me).
From frazzled mothers to over-65s, women of all ages are drinking more, more often. I work in fashion, so I know how to spot a trend and there are plenty of statistics to bear this out.
Just this week, a survey revealed that it’s women who buy eight out of every ten bottles of wine drunk at home.
Another intoxicating trend: a third of women are now drinking wine in the bath – proof enough that alcohol is being used as a way to relax and unwind. Threshers should introduce a ‘buy two, get one bubble bath free’ promotion.
Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics confirm the home truth. Sixty per cent of all female drinkers say the week’s heaviest drinking session happens in their living room.
I find these findings alarming. I have always associated heavy drinking with being out with friends and having fun, not sitting home alone. But the refrain: ‘I’m so stressed, I need a drink’, has certainly become a familiar one.
Drinking is a way of life for many women. None of us want to think about the impact this might be having on our health. It’s a treat. It can’t be that bad.
But maybe a recent report published by Cancer Research UK will make us take notice.
A study of more than a million women found that those who consume one or two alcoholic drinks a day have a notably higher chance of developing cancers compared to women who don’t drink regularly.
That aside, I’m about to turn 35 and, for the first time ever, I’m tired of drinking. Over it, kaput, officially done and i’m giving up alcohol.
Apparently, turning 35 causes a chemical change to occur in a woman’s body. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that there is an emotional change happening within me.
I refuse to turn into the crazy aunt who won’t eat wheat but loves a whisky on the rocks.
My heart is also telling me to banish the post-drinking blues for, as well as possible health issues, the days I’ve spent hungover have been some of the most horrific of my life.
Young British women drink around five 175ml glasses of wine a week – Europe’s highest
My hangover behaviour is irrational. Gloomy thoughts flood my mind: work colleagues seemingly conspire against me; my boyfriend has gone off with another, blonder woman.
When you consider the pain of the day after, alcohol creates far more stress than it alleviates.
So why have we got in to the habit of drinking so much? There’s no doubt we are a nation that appreciates alcohol; it’s written in our history books. But how did this very British habit get so out of control – and so widespread?
We can blame our excessive alcohol consumption on stress, the credit crunch or anything you want to really, but I think peer pressure is often to blame.
An American friend, who came to live in London two years ago, works for a London advertising agency and was shocked to find that, on this side of the pond, we spend Friday afternoon in the pub.
‘In New York, I spent my free time with my girlfriends running errands, going to the grocery store, checking out the clothing stores – we never spent the afternoon in a bar – we would think we had a problem if we did,’ she says.
She’s right, of course, we do have a problem. According to NHS guidelines, women should not be drinking in excess of two to three units of alcohol per day. That equates to a 175ml glass of wine or three shots of vodka.
A bottle of wine is about nine units of alcohol, so if you drink half a bottle a night, seven nights a week, that equals 31.5 units.
Add a dash more for the weekend and you’ve got yourself a health-risk cocktail, feel like giving up alcohol yet?
Still fancy another? Figures compiled by Drink Aware suggest 10 million people in the UK are drinking above the Government guidelines.
A total of 34 per cent of women exceed their daily limit at least one day a week and it’s not just young women who are in the high-risk category. More than a million older women drink at unsafe levels, says Alcohol Concern, a figure that has risen by 75 per cent in the past decade.
Money well spent on all those Government advertising campaigns then. We use alcohol to commiserate, celebrate and obliterate. It is entrenched in our society.
The other week, a friend broke up with her long-term boyfriend. The obvious thing to do? Spend an evening in the pub knocking herself out on nasty white wine and calorie-laden nuts and it’s not just the singles who are sodden.
Most of my friends with children drink on a daily basis. One such friend, who has two children under the age of three, semi-jokingly said to me the other day: ‘It’s gone 5pm, surely it’s wine-o-clock?’
For me, a few glasses of red wine in the evening had always been something I did to de-stress, but now I would rather save it for a special occasion. There has to now be a time and a place for alcohol.
I came to my decision before the autumn/winter 2009 fashion shows. This is the busiest time of my working year and the most stressful. For these four weeks, I am the shepherd of the fashion department, wearing Prada, not Country Casuals, obviously.
I have to ensure that I get Team ELLE and myself to every appointment on time – it takes precision timing, and a traffic snarl-up on the Piazza del Duomo can send me into a stress spin.
A trip to a wrong address could mean a missed show and, by the way, missing a show is absolutely not the done thing for the fashion team of a major glossy.
By the end of it all, I feel like I’m sponsored by Accurist: at the third stroke, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown – pass me a drink. This season, though, I said to myself: ‘Something has to give.’
After going through all manner of ideas on how to preserve my sanity during this busy time, it suddenly came to me, with a lovely large glass of Rioja in hand. I am always the most stressed when I have woken up feeling groggy from too much wine the night before.
That’s when I feel out of control of the day ahead, even though I know everything has been pre-planned. So, the night before I was due to take an extremely early flight to Milan Fashion Week, I found myself reclining on a hypnotherapist’s chaise-longue being hypnotised to ‘love not drinking’.
I also happened to have the mother of all hangovers, thanks to a very rock’n’roll Mulberry party the night before.
I discovered Marisa Peer through a friend at work. She lost 20lb by giving up her chocolate and carb addiction with Marisa’s help.
Supposedly the key to her weight loss success was getting to the root of what was causing her to overeat and unlocking bad behavioural patterns that had accumulated over the years by using hypnotherapy.
In one 90-minute session, Marisa Peer managed to turn my colleague off eating sweets, cakes, bread, pasta and dairy products. Three months later, she is super-slim and healthy and hasn’t been tempted go back to her old eating habits.
But could she help me? As I lay on Marisa’s couch, I could feel my fingers and toes curl up; I was fighting ‘going under’.
Hypnotherapist Marisa Peer helped Stacey give up alcohol
I didn’t think for one second it would work on me; I’m no emotional pushover. But sure enough, within ten seconds I was under, and within 30 was acutely aware of my right arm floating towards the ceiling as I held on to an imaginary balloon.
I felt powerless as Marisa convinced me the balloon was lifting my arm behind me, whereas in my left, I was holding a non-existent bucket filled with concrete as my arm sank to the floor.
Weird. A minute later, tears streamed down my face as Marisa took me back to scenes from my childhood. I have never got to know my real father well; those feelings of hurt and upset are apparently the playground within which my mind runs wild.
But was this really related to liking wine? It made more sense in the second half of the session, which is recorded so I can listen to the CD each night for the next three weeks, as that’s how long it takes for the neural pathways in the brain to change, erasing old behavioural patterns permanently.
As I listened to Marisa softly croon: ‘You love not drinking’, I lay there and thought: ‘No, I bloody well don’t.’
She continued: ‘You chose health over alcohol, you love the new you, you love not drinking.’
Running through my head? ‘I beg to differ, lady.’ After the session, she told me I would feel tired and I should go home to bed.
As I left her house, I was thinking: ‘Is this it? Have I given up drinking?’ The litmus test would be Milan. The trip would be tough and I would need to be tougher to get through it without drinking.
I counted every drink that I was offered in Milan; in an average day I was offered around seven alcoholic drinks. That’s approximately 21 units per day; the same amount as the Government’s recommended weekly allowance.
Of course, I would never have drunk all of those, but usually, I would attempt to relax with a glass of something towards the end of a long day. Thanks to Marissa, though, I wasn’t remotely tempted.
I even found the smell was slightly repulsive. Instead, I stuck to sparkling mineral water. Back in London, before I was due to leave for the Paris shows, I was invited to see Tina Turner at the O2 with a group of friends.
I needed a night out with friends who are not in the fashion industry. I always need to regroup, to become grounded again. Tina should have been fun, except I felt as though I was letting the side down by not drinking.
I felt quiet and tiny and I didn’t feel like dancing. Oh God, had I become a parody good time girl incomplete without a glass of ‘sauce’ and a captive audience hanging off my every alcohol-fuelled gag?
I drove home miserable. But the following day, Paris was a triumph. It’s six weeks since the Mulberry party and my last drink.
Coincidently, this is the time it takes for the liver to regenerate. I have started going to the gym; I am eating the healthiest food I have ever eaten; I’ve lost a stone in weight without trying.
Colleagues are amazed at the calmer, more balanced me, although friends keep asking when I’m going to join them for a drink again. I will have a drink, but only when I fancy one and when the occasion feels appropriate.
In the meantime, it’s true, I love not drinking, thanks to my own determination combined with Marisa Peer’s treatment.
Quite frankly, that’s the only peer pressure I’m giving into.
Marisa Peer: psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and author of Ultimate Confidence The Secrets To Feeling Great About Yourself Every Day. www.marisapeer.com
DO you think it’s time to stop drinking?