January is a beast of a month, and it has often bested me. Given that December was a disaster, and my usual method of dousing the whole month in alcohol and downing it along with a kilogram of chocolate, wasn’t helping, I decided on a different approach.
I stopped drinking on the 27th December. I spent Christmas Day with my estranged (ish) husband and my daughter, and drank a bottle of Amaretto. I regretted the bottle of Amaretto so much that I decided to stop drinking immediately (well, as soon as I had finished the rest of the wine in the fridge).
Far from being the nightmare of craving and boredom it is advertised as, being teetotal turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. A holiday from hangovers, with the benefit of better skin.
‘With everything that’s been going on in your life, I’m surprised you haven’t gone under,’ said my lovely, if lugubrious, neighbour at work, as we tapped away at our keyboards. I have to admit, this was a difficult month in which a bullying issue at my daughter’s school escalated to the point that she is no longer going in to school and only the fact that I live with my long-suffering, retired parents has saved me from losing my job.
Which is why I went one better than mere teetotalitarianism (which sounds more like evil dictatorship than abstinence, but my daughter will vouch that I couldn’t dictate a full stop at the end of a sentence…) I decided that if I could not control what was going on around me I would control how I felt about myself – and what quicker and more drastic way to do that than to join a gym and get a personal trainer?
I have spent this month lifting weights instead of drinking wine. I am a little bit thinner – not very much so – but I feel stronger than I can ever remember feeling. It’s amazing how the physical strength somehow transfers to my brain, so that problems seem less overwhelming. As my brain slowly rehydrates from the shrivelled up nut that was left from 2014’s daily bottle of wine, the days seemed to pass much more quickly and painlessly – yet still contain enough time to do everything that needed to be done.
For the first time in my life, I questioned the theory that drinking was fun. I also questioned the logic that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights in case they got ‘too muscley’. I wondered, in what other areas of my life had I been holding back, trying not to become stronger, trying not to grow – in case I got ‘too muscley’, too strong.
Are all women afraid of their own strength, I wondered?
For possibly the first time in my life, I reached unashamedly and wholeheartedly for the strength I needed, built it from within – and wrestled that beast of a January by the horns.