Like telling yourself you’re on a diet, or that you’re giving up smoking, when you know that you can’t have something it’s amazing how that thing seems to gravitate to the forefront of your mind. In recent weeks that thing for me has been drinking.
Whether it’s a glass of red wine in front of the fire on a chilly winter evening, an Aperol Spritz over game of cards on a lakefront in Italy, a shandy in an English country pub after a long walk, a glass of champagne at a book launch, or a gin and tonic with the girls at the end of a busy week, I’ve come to realise that alcohol plays a part in many elements of my life. Being someone who is invested in a healthy lifestyle this may seem quite surprising and indeed there have been many times – often when training for a particular race, or else the morning after the night before, when I’m trying to drag myself through the day on a mixture of bananas, paracetamol and coffee – when I’ve sworn myself off alcohol. But this is a promise that I’ve been at liberty to rescind at any point, be it a day, week or month or so later, whereas at the moment I’m afforded no such liberty.
That said, being pregnant has provided a good opportunity to enforce sobriety for a prolonged period. While I know that recommendations vary, and I believe everyone should follow the path that feels most right for them and their baby, I have made the decision not drink at all throughout my pregnancy. If I was mildly concerned to reflect on how integrated into my lifestyle drinking is, I’ve also been comforted to see that I can live a teetotal life. I’ve proven to myself that I can navigate dinner parties, private views, holidays and even the odd wedding or two alcohol free. And five and a half months into my newly found teetotal lifestyle I’ve found myself asking, once the pregnancy is over, will I go back to drinking?
In all honesty, my feelings in this regard have fluctuated wildly. In the early weeks of the pregnancy, the constant ‘morning’ sickness meant that I couldn’t think of anything worse than drinking. This not only made getting through the Christmas and New Year period without the usual lashings of mulled wine and Prosecco much easier, but also saw me thinking how easy a dry future would be. Since the nausea has subsided there have been times when I’ve lamented not having a glass of wine in my hand on a supper date with my husband, or found myself gazing longingly at a newly opened wine bar in town, with the look of a Dickensian pauper child staring into a toy shop window. Later, on these same evenings, I’ve caught the night tube home and, surrounded by vomiting and leery crowds, I have found myself feeling quietly pleased, and often slightly relieved, about my sobriety, and on waking the next morning, have felt so grateful for my clear head and nauseous-free stomach.
In terms of training, weight loss, sleep quality and avoiding those lack-lustre post-booze days, it would make sense to give up drinking for good. The frustrating thing is at the moment I’m not seeing these benefits as I’m getting larger and slower. And there is something about the social element of sharing a glass of something with my husband or friends that I’m reluctant to relinquish completely.
What this period has made me reflect on is how eminently possible it is to enjoy events without a drink in my hand to counteract my natural introversion. And now I know that I don’t really need a glass of wine to unwind after a killer week – a gym session or run can actually do the job quite nicely.
While I hope (all being well) we will be wetting the baby’s head with champagne come August, what I hope to return to is a more moderate approach to my alcohol consumption and the freedom and knowledge that I don’t need a glass of anything to enjoy the company of my brilliant friends. Besides, between the lack of sleep and potential breastfeeding that will come from having a new baby, I imagine those nights of inadvertently drinking one too many may be behind me…for a while at least.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you drink? Would you give up drinking? How has this impacted on your physical and mental health and athletic performance?
3 thoughts on “To drink or not to drink? It’s not really a question…right?”
Great article Lizzy. I too find alcohol is a big part of my life (last 3 insta posts are somewhat of a giveaway). The psychological aspect of both alcohol, and other “addictions” such as coffee, is really interesting though. Why is it that Monday to Friday picking up my morning coffee on route to the office is sacrilege, I’d never find myself at 9am without it. Yet the weekend comes and I can quite easily go without one, it only really features if I go out for brunch, which may be 11 or 12 o’clock. Aside from fine wine that I’ve truly grown to love for its taste, it’s the comfort of holding of a coffee cup during a meeting or the satisfaction of having a glass in my hand at the end of the day or week that I think I’d struggle with if it was taken away. If and when I’m lucky enough to have an enforced hiatus from these vices, then I’ll see whether the placebo effect is real. But I hope over the next few months you continue to enjoy whatever substitutes you have found and do whatever works for you 🙂 We’ll be ready and waiting with a glass of whatever you fancy in August xxx
A very interesting debate. Through both my pregnancies I had the occasional glass though had no appetite for anything other than water, so like you, found giving up very easy. That all said post baby the taste did come back, but as you say with less free time generally post baby, even if you do decide to go back to it, you will drink far far less and enjoy drinking much less!! I think if I had a quiet Friday evening without child to just sip on a good glass of bubbles I might, but those treats are limited to bi yearly weekend away and the rest of the time it doesn’t matter what’s in the glass it neither gets finished nor does it get enjoyed