Gemma Sandford, a Senior Landscape Architect in New Zealand, stopped drinking 4 years ago. She explains why she decided to quit and how she’s finding life without alcohol.
Why did you stop?
I realised I needed to stop drinking about 4 years ago. I loved drinking, especially wine, it was my way of relaxing, way of socialising and the love of wine ran deep within me, my family and friends.
Having shared a bottle of red with a friend one evening and during the night I had such a terrible physical reaction – stomach cramps, sickness, sweats. The next morning I had the dooms, big time anxiety – what had I said? Had I talked too much? Had I offended anyone? That was just with half a bottle of wine.
I thought, ok wine doesn’t agree with me. So, I tried beer, the same thing happened. I went to the doctors as I thought I may have an allergy – she said, ‘why don’t you just stop drinking?’ I thought she was ridiculous! So then I went to the naturopaths, spent a fortune on natural remedies – by god I was going to drink again!
After a year of bad reactions, the final straw was when I had spent all night in the bathroom and felt so awful the next day that I had to book my 4 year old child into an extra day at nursery because I couldn’t look after her. I finally realised that it was time to say goodbye to my old friend. It just wasn’t worth it.
How do people react?
As it was very gradual and happened over a period of time there was no big announcement. My friends still assume it is just a phase and I will get over it. At a few social occasions when I was asked why I wasn’t drinking, I said I was a recovering alcoholic – it sounded more interesting than the truth!
Do you miss it?
At the beginning it was about the habit – as soon as I had broken the habit I didn’t miss it. I think other people miss me drinking more!
How has your life changed without alcohol?
It all happened over the period that my children were starting school. I had recently moved countries and was in need of new solid friendships – there’s nothing like sharing a bottle of wine to bond with someone. It definitely hindered my ability to socialise as I used alcohol to gain confidence and be a ‘fun’ person.
I felt anxious going into social situations without alcohol, or even suggesting a group go out as then I had to deal with all the questions of why I wasn’t drinking. I still struggle with this and need to realise that the sober me is better than the fun (pissed) me – work in progress!
What alternative drinks do you enjoy?
I drink zero alcohol beer – it’s definitely a ritual, having a cold beer. And a lot of tea!
What’s your view on society’s relationship with alcohol?
I thought once I had children things would change as hangovers and kids do not mix, but every day I hear ‘bad day, you should have a glass of wine’. I think it is often a coping strategy for mums – No judging here honestly!
What does the future of alcohol consumption look like?
Seeing my nieces grow through their 20’s, the next generation have a more balanced view of alcohol and none of them smoke. Maybe we were the last of the hedonists, maybe there is nothing to rebel against? Who knows…