Hello! I’m Owen and I work here at Carers Leeds supporting people impacted by someone else’s alcohol and/or drug use. I’ve no idea where the time has gone, but in March I will have been here four years!
Last year my colleague Kai took part in Dry January, the annual event organised by Alcohol Change challenging people to go a month without drinking alcohol, and this year I thought it only right that I take on the challenge too. You can read about Kai’s experiences from last year here.
I must admit, taking part this year feels a little like cheating; for me, drinking is generally linked to socialising, and there isn’t a lot (or really any) socialising going on at the moment, as we are in the middle of Lockdown 3.0. However, this would be the first time in nearly 20 years that I have gone more than a few weeks without an alcoholic drink, so I still approached the challenge with a little apprehension.
As I write this (20th January), I’m two thirds of the way through the challenge, and so far, so good. No alcohol has passed these lips. However, it hasn’t been without challenge.
The toughest parts so far have been the weekends. Throughout COVID and Lockdowns, I have tried not to drink through the week, but Friday evening I would almost always have a few beers – a sign that work is over for the week and the weekend is here. This seems all the more significant while I’ve been working at home and the separations between work-life and home-life are more blurred than ever. Drinking alcohol has come to mean rest and relaxation. I went into the first weekend trying to be prepared; I had a fridge stocked with alcohol-free beer and we even had a bottle of ‘Nosecco’. And, to a certain extent these did the job; something cold, fizzy and with a vague taste of beer did feel like it helped me relax. There is also something about the ceremony of opening the can, pouring it out and taking that first cold sip. However, last weekend the shop I went to didn’t have any alcohol-free beer, and so I bought fizzy pop instead, which didn’t quite do the same job.
I’d like to think that I would still be completing the challenge if we weren’t in Lockdown and everywhere closed, but it has certainly made it easier. I struggle to be around people who are drinking/drunk if I can’t have a drink, and it would have certainly made things more difficult if there were lots of social occasions happening.
This month has also made me reflect more on people who have a problematic relationship with alcohol and how hard it must be for them to make changes. If alcohol is a part of everything you do, then it takes a huge effort to change your drinking. It can also mean having to change all your routines and sometimes even your friends or work. Replacing your drinking with something more positive seems to be one of the keys to sustained recovery.
If you are struggling with your own drinking and want to cut down, support is available. Forward Leeds are the alcohol and drug service for Leeds and provide 1-1 and group support. If you’d like to check your own drinking, Alcohol Concern have an online tool to help as well as tips for cutting down.
If you are impacted by someone else’s drinking (this could be a partner, child, parent, sibling, friend etc.) and would like some support, please contact the Carers Leeds Advice Line on 0113 3804300. There is also information and resources on our website. Adfam, the national charity supporting families and friends impacted by alcohol, drugs and gambling, also have loads of really great resources on their website.