Rachel Black

I don’t drink. Never. Not at all. None. One year ago things were very different and a set of circumstances led to me deciding I had to make this change: basically, I was drinking too much, too often. I embarked upon a path that I thought would be all about giving up, doing without and suffering from self-deprivation. I thought alcohol was the solution, rather than the cause of my problems and discontent. I did not consider how much I would gain when it was removed from my life.

One of the biggest differences is time. I have loads of it. Now that my evenings are not truncated at 6pm, my productivity disappearing along with the wine, I can concentrate to do online banking reliably and shopping sensibly. I have started a Spanish class as I am no longer reluctant to drive. I have actioned my lifelong ambition to learn piano, with lessons on Sunday mornings no longer wiped out by hangovers. As my brain kicked back to life I started to write and published my first book: Sober is the New Black.

I have a lot more time and space in my head too: much of life seems so much simpler now I am not pre-occupied with drinking or its effects. There is a lot of planning when drinking most nights: organizing nights out, taxis, getting to the cash point, buying wine for nights in, how much to buy, how hungover could I afford to be given my commitments the following day, requesting annual leave or ‘not on call’ as required, and dealing with monster hangovers which left me fit for nothing until they passed.

It’s a cliche but life seems so relaxed now. There is no rush to get to wine time. There is no anxiety if things run late. Life just happens.

My mood and personality have improved considerably. 18 months ago I considered leaving my home and family as I was making their lives miserable with my constant irritability, antagonism and over-reaction. I was ‘stressed’ about everything from making packed lunches to putting up the Christmas tree. Now I am calm, measured, pleasant and my moods are appropriate. I am a better wife, a better colleague and a good mother who happily drives her kids to clubs and has time for a chat at bedtime.

I need to continually remind myself that my life is now as good as it always looked on paper only because I continue to choose not to drink. I was so reluctant to give alcohol up, worried I would miss all the fun, yet here I am, relieved to be free from its clutches knowing I need never drink again. Why would you?

Here is an excerpt from my book. Enjoy!

Chapter 1. I want wine.

‘What would you like to drink?’

The question hangs innocently in the air. What would I like to drink? Around me I can see cocktails being mixed at the bar, I can hear the glug glug of wine being poured at the next table and I watch someone take that first refreshing sip of beer.

I want wine. I want lots of wine. I want it quickly and I want it now while my stomach is empty and it will rapidly reach my bloodstream, quickly course to my brain and fulfill the ever-present need.

Yes, I want wine. I want wine very much, yet at the same time, I don’t. Should I or shouldn’t I? I want what I cannot have, yet here I am, all grown up, surely I can do as I please? I am torn between the options, exhausted by the mental gymnastics going on inside my head. This small decision of huge magnitude is the first crossroads at the beginning of my journey into the unknown. From today I am adopting an alcohol-free life. I am unsure if I can succeed, but know that failure is not an option.

How can it be so hard not to do something? Just don’t do it. It should not be difficult. But it is. So, so difficult. Can I make the short term sacrifice of what I want right now, for what I want most of all? Can I bear the immediate hardship in the hope of a longer term gain? It should be a simple decision but making the correct choice is so hard.

It is 6pm and I am sitting on a beautiful terrace watching the sun set. I am on holiday. I arrived this afternoon at a luxurious all inclusive hotel in the sun. It was an early start and now I am tired and need to sleep but I am also hungry and must eat first. The restaurant opens at 7pm. There was an hour to wait when the waiter asked that simple question.

Today was to be my new start. My 48 hour hangover from the last boozy episode had receded and I felt better. I’d learnt from my mistakes and my many failed attempts at moderation. My hangover mindset had changed from never wanting to drink again to realizing that I could not, must not drink again. I had come to the conclusion that becoming completely alcohol-free was the only option for me in the long term. But. I could just have one tonight. In fact, I could just drink tonight then start stopping again tomorrow. Or start stopping after the holiday. What difference would an extra two weeks make? Or would it be easier to stop once back to the routine of work and the hum drum of daily life? Probably not.

In the days prior to this holiday I had felt anxious about the lack of control I would have over my drinking in a resort with plentiful, all inclusive bars: all normal restraints absent, no driving, no work, no pub closing time. I was acutely worried that the bar service would be slow, the drinks would be small and inadequate and I’d feel embarrassed to keep asking for another. I didn’t want a hangover in the baking heat the following day yet I wanted an alcoholic drink now. The two were mutually exclusive and I felt panicked by my lack of conviction.

This time was supposed to be different and failure was not an option. This time was supposed to be It, yet here I was hesitating at the first hurdle. Twice previously I had ended my attempts at abstinence when the first hurdle presented itself. A social function, a night out, a birthday, a Friday, whatever. These events were part of life yet seemed like impassable barriers, completely blocking the path and bringing each journey to an end. I know that to succeed I must negotiate a way around these obstacles. I could not afford to fail at the first one. Where would I end up? How much worse would life get? What would it eventually take to make me stop, if not this time?

About the Author

Rachel Black is typical of many women in their 40‘s: managing a career, a family, a social life and a list of commitments. She relaxed in the evenings with a glass of wine to ease the stress of the day, to forget about her problems for a while and most of all, because she deserved it!

Over time her wine drinking increased and went from being a treat, to becoming a need. She began to drink more and more purely to cope with life, firmly believing that wine was the solution to her problems, never imagining it to be the cause.

When finally acknowledging wine was now a problem, she tried and failed to moderate or control her drinking, for a long time. Reluctantly, Rachel realized she had to stop drinking alcohol completely. Forever. Before she lost something of true value in her life.

As she embarked on her journey to sobriety she recorded her observations of life. It evolved with such different dimensions, no longer continually damped down by daily dosing. Published in a ‘Then and Now’ format, Sober is the New Black recounts these discoveries and gives insight into how much one woman gained when she thought it was all about giving up.

Rachel Black lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. For more information

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Sober is the New Black is available on Amazon:


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 April 2014 11:15 )