I Gave Up Drinking Alcohol

In three weeks time I will have been sober for 11 years. That time has FLOWN by.

Binge drinking was hitting its peak when I went to university and although I wouldn’t say I was dependent on it, there was a certain euphoria that came from letting all your insecurities go and strutting your stuff on the dancefloor. At my worst, I was going out to the clubs four nights a week and binge drinking on every single one of them.

My sudden ‘change in lifestyle’ resulted in the start of my journey with epilepsy in 2006 when the doctor explained to me that it was probably the undue stress from poor eating habits, poor sleep and binge drinking that triggered the seizures.

I continued to drink and eat badly throughout my time at university. I refused to have a ‘different’ experience to my peers and often paid the consequences. However, as I approached my graduation and getting a job became a reality, I took my last sip of alcohol on my 22nd birthday.

For the first few years it was hard. As I mentioned, I wasn’t reliant on alcohol and didn’t experience withdrawal, but the social stigma put me through my paces.

These were the days before mocktails became mainstream so it was always pretty obvious when you weren’t drinking. I started to notice that people stopped inviting me out, friendships were lost and I became the ‘boring’ friend.

Being the stubborn person I was, I persevered. Generally I am quite sociable and so I became the friend who wanted to live vicariously through her friends. I was forced to let my insecurities go whilst being sober in order to be invited ‘out’.

I’ve had conversations with ‘unique individuals’ that asked me if I’d die if I had a shot of vodka. I’ve been told by a bartender in Soho that I was in the wrong place if I wasn’t going to drink. Even a date cancelled when he found out I’d be sober on it and that ‘there was no point going to a pub’.

It definitely can show peoples true colours.

Of course we live in a slightly more health conscious society now. It’s much more common for people not to drink and there are certainly more options in pubs and bars for the non-drinker.

There are also a million more benefits to not drinking:

Liver health – my liver is very thankful for me no longer putting it through its paces.

Financially – I begrudge (and refuse) to pay £1.50 for a bottle of Pepsi Max, so I can’t even imagine paying £4-£5 for a bottle of wine (is that even the going rate for a cheap bottle?!) I remember nights out sometimes costing me £50-£60 (this was 10-15 years ago) which I can’t even imagine spending now! I save on taxi fairs because I have the freedom to drive when going out and can drive home when I want to. People also buy my drinks when going out and expect nothing in return (I have offered don’t fear!) People who are under the influence often think a soft drink costs 2p, not £2 and will happily buy your drinks. There have been nights out where I haven’t spent a penny.

Weight – Your waistline will thank you – the drunken munchies are a much less likely occurrence. If I’ve had a good old boogie then I may be slightly peckish but the portion size is much smaller. There’s also no need to spend on food the next day for the ‘hangover cure’. And of course, alcohol has calories in it too.

Mental health – I don’t know about you but I could go from being one of the most popular people in the room to being convinced everyone hated me in about 10 seconds flat. I was an absolute liability some nights and I’d like to apologise to all my friends!

Some of my friends have stated that they can be quite depressed for a few days after a night on the booze. Alcohol is a known depressant so it makes sense as to why you feel down in the dumps.

Sleep – a night wining (and sometimes dining) would not only result in a late night but also a very early start as I was never one to be able to sleep through a hangover. Even now a night out always results in a slightly shoddy sleep but at least I’m not fighting the side effects of alcohol.

I won’t sit here and say you should give up alcohol. As long as you don’t make the mistakes I made and drink responsibly then I think it’s okay to relax with a glass of wine every now and again. But if you’re weighing up whether you should quit (or just reduce), hopefully here’s some reasons as to why it’s worth a try!

Am I ‘Over’ My Career Choice?

For the past 3 years I have been questioning my career choice. That’s a LONG time, and it does affect my wellbeing. It wakes me up at night as I desperately try to think of ways to ‘get out’.

Now this may seem like I’ve got confused and written this article for the wrong blog, but I promise I haven’t. Hear me out.

For the past 3 years I have been questioning my career choice. That’s a LONG time, and it does affect my wellbeing. It wakes me up at night as I desperately try to think of ways to ‘get out’.

When I was in my last year at school, Facebook was just beginning to rear it’s head and YouTube was a novel thing where you’d upload videos you took (primarily) on your Blackberry.

We were encouraged to consider our ‘options’ whilst subtly being guided to make career choices in medicine, law, education or engineering. That was it. Entrepreneurs appeared to be few and far between and we certainly weren’t provided with a skill set in how to pursue business.

My interest laid within psychology and I still spend my days psychoanalysing (Chantelle’s version) of why people act the way they do. I freak people out with my observation skills. I ended up qualifying as a different type of healthcare professional and I spend most of my days frustrated with poor management and misuse of resources. My clients aren’t the problem but the bureaucracy is.

I still hold a substantial interest in health and wellbeing, especially the ability to empower others to look after themselves but I want to combine it with my love for social media.

I remember trying to set up a blog back in 2009 but didn’t have a clue how to go about it. It was on celebrity gossip and I was absolutely convinced I was going to get sued for some sort of slander (I’d be lucky to have 1 view a day) so I shut up shop.

Yet here we are, 11 years later and I’m still entertaining the idea of trying to set up a business and run a blog. But it’s incredibly hard when all your time and energy goes into disliking your job (although I try SO hard not to do it).

In light of the recent pandemic and the stark reminder that life is short, I’m forcing myself to put my big girl pants on and step forward. It’s so scary to express opinions when the world is keen to tear you down, but nor am I achieving much by trying to commit to a career for the next 30 years that no longer does ‘it’ for me.

Having to socially isolate and consequently the opportunity to work from home, has only cemented the fact that I need to do this for me. Not only have my productivity levels shot up in my job (that I dislike!), but I’m not tired, I’m exercising daily for an hour, I’m cooking good food (and as a byproduct reaching for less sugar) and I feel so free. All because I don’t have to walk into that office.

Now I’d like to confirm that it’s not my current role that’s the problem. I’ve had 3 different jobs in the past 3 years (same role, different locations) and the same problems keep coming up. Whether it’s me or the sector in which I work – I’m not sure. But nor can I pretend that it’s bearable.

I have tried to talk this out with ‘real people’ AKA my Mum, my husband and my friends but I feel like I get a lot of judgement for wanting to throw in the towel.

“You’ve worked so hard. Don’t give up” is a common phrase I hear.

And yes I have worked hard… I now have a BSc (Hons) and two MSCs. But what’s the point if I don’t enjoy it or get any job satisfaction? The money is okay but I’m most definitely no Richard Branson.

Minus this article being a much needed counselling session for myself, it’s also a reminder to anyone else that a job does have the potential to impact on your health and wellbeing. I am INCREDIBLY grateful that I even have a job to go to (please don’t think I’m not), but going to work is our main occupation and it forms part of your identity. It’s okay to ‘call time’ and look elsewhere and most likely the answer you are looking for won’t come from an online career quiz.

YouTube and the internet in general will most likely encourage to ring your boss right now and tell him/her you’re not coming back on Monday. That impulsive decision isn’t really going to help. We all still have bills to pay and responsibilities to adhere to. But instead of coming home at night and spending the WHOLE evening moaning about your boss/colleagues/seating/lighting/screen time/customers, split that time between having a good old rant and thinking about what you’d like to do next.

I wish I knew if this was the right decision for me. I don’t know and it’s not like a website can become successful over night (unless you’re Megan and Harry), but it’s a start.

But fundamentally it’s perfectly fine to admit that the career choice you made when you were 16, 18, 25 or 40 is no longer the right one a decade later.

A Weekend Dedicated to Self-Care

On the face of it I have most certainly had a ‘lazy’ weekend. I’ve binge watched on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion, indulged in some tasty food and spent more time on the sofa than I care to disclose. I also downloaded some new songs of iTunes and bopped around my house til my heart’s content.

On the face of it I have most certainly had a ‘lazy’ weekend. I’ve binge watched on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion, indulged in some tasty food and spent more time on the sofa than I care to disclose. I also downloaded some new songs of iTunes and bopped around my house to my heart’s content.

In fact I was actually taking some time out from the world to regroup. Last week was hard – a couple of colleagues were experiencing quite significant mental health problems and I ended up involved with that (and I was already feeling overwhelmed with work). On Friday night I woke up and shared the remains of my dinner with the toilet. I was absolutely exhausted on Saturday with big black circles under my eyes and today I managed to develop a full blown cold within about 30 seconds. Clearly some things aren’t right.

One thing that I pride myself on (most of the time) is my ability to stop. One of the perks of having epilepsy I guess… My health is my priority. It’s not to say I don’t have my own mental health blips because I most definitely do… but I feel that despite being deprived to the core of Vitamin D, I’m doing pretty well on the whole.

I am also pretty good at being able to hand peoples problems back to them… I rarely take home what they disclose to me. But it’s a draining process (and I dread to think how draining it is for them), but I’m no good to anyone if I don’t look after myself.

So yes, it’s a ‘lazy’ weekend. Yes I’ve got square eyes and feel a bit rounder than on Friday but it was 100% worth it. We don’t always have to be productive ALL the time.

Health Is So Much More Than What You Weigh

I’m a little bit over ‘health’ being quantified as how much you weigh, clean eating and whether you have abs.

Like, so over it.

You see, we only get one life. ONE LIFE. And I truly can’t get on board with dedicating that one life to just lifting weights, doing crunches and eating chicken and broccoli.

Now, kudos to you if that’s you. And I am in no way anti-exercise – after watching Cheer on Netflix I’m currently trying to work out if it’s too late for me to start gymnastics! But for many it’s not their main goal in life and social media would have them believe otherwise. It then becomes a vicious cycle because it’s hard to be motivated for something that you don’t truly believe in.

I have a love/hate relationship with influencers. It’s good that ‘health’ is now on the radar, but sadly the content that is being promoted isn’t always that healthy.

I remember being ‘introduced’ to the wellness industry and my first thought being ‘wtf, this isn’t healthy’. Having just finished a course in nutrition at the time I was completely baffled about the variation in content. I certainly wasn’t consuming as a viewer what I’d just learnt in a text book and I sat there thinking ‘well that was a waste of money’.

Almost 2 years later, I’m back to where I started. I have been on quite the rollercoaster but I like to think I now have a true understanding of what healthy is to me.

I like to think my mental health is pretty decent. Because that’s what I truly spend my days working on.

I am on a medication that technically is classified as a depressant. In order to control my epilepsy, I need to be a tad depressed. But I refuse to be depressed because as mentioned above… one life.

Now I’m not superhuman. There are days when I cry, there are many days when I’m anxious but I have the strategies to be able to cope.

You see if I get too stressed, my oesphagus goes into a spasm. I can’t swallow and experience a pain like no other. If I get REALLY stressed I’m at a high risk of having a seizure.

I think it’s fair to say that not many things are worth getting into that situation for.

Now my ability to recognise my stress is something I have spent the past 13 years working on and is something I have to continuously work on. And I don’t always get it right. But I try.

My biggest mental health project at the moment is working on comparison. I don’t have the thoughts of ‘I want to look like her’ but I do have the thoughts of ‘I seem so boring in comparison’. And I do live a quiet life. But for the most part I like it that way. Once we have *finally* bought a house, I will plan more weekends away and holidays as they are my favourite, but we can’t have it all all the time eh.

As for food, I’m all about balance. I know that my confidence grows when I feel good about myself so fat loss is still necessary at this time. I know that I’m definitely NOT about cutting out food groups. I know I have a sweet tooth that I have to watch. I know that as much as I’d love to be an intuitive eater, now is not the time.

Exercise… to move is effort for me and this is an area I need to work on. At the moment I’m trying to just focus on moving more in general. The old tricks like parking further away, deliberately leaving things upstairs… you know the kind. I’m particularly conscious of my glutes and my shoulder girdle at the moment as they are quite the hot mess.

Hobbies/Career – I’ve learnt that I love cooking. I have highs and lows with my motivation but I find nothing more satisfying than recreating something I could have bought in a shop for 3 x the price.

I still REALLY want to have some kind of social media platform. I love the idea of creating content and I need to figure out the best way to go about this. I spend far too much thinking and not enough time doing. It’s weird because I’m not usually such a procrastinator but I guess I don’t want to ‘fail’ at it?!

Anyway the moral of this story is that it’s okay if you’re not keen on chicken and broccoli, you hate the gym or you’re not fussed about the weight you can squat.

Growing up my ultimate goal was to be financially stable because that wasn’t always the case for my family. However, between a mixture of meeting Tim and experiencing unemployment for 4 months, that goal has changed. I now just want to look back and say I enjoyed my life.

On a daily basis I work with children with complex disabilities and not many of them have a tomorrow. It has been a truly eye opening experience to work with these wonderful children and their families. And so although I will always advocate for living a healthy life, I will advocate harder for living a life that you enjoy.

Health is holistic. The healthiest thing you can do is be kind to yourself and treat yourself with respect.