Three and a half years ago I had a pivotal moment. I had woken up from a 3 day's booze bender, feeling like absolute rubbish it was the Christmas holidays and I still had about 5 days left off work so naturally the hazy fog of hangover land started to descend upon my brain I did what all addicts do and started planning my next drink.
This process would typically start with me dissociating myself from my present self and instead fantasise about a future Lou, the best version of myself. Future Lou didn’t have a drinking problem, future Lou would feel or be lonely, and future Lou would be happy. This version of myself would roll around my head long enough for me to get showered, get to the shops get booze and get back. But this time was different, instead of my mind easily rolling into that fantasy a new voice, a small but distinct voice that sounded suspiciously like my 14-year-old self said ‘but you’ve been fantasising about the future Lou for 15 years and she’s not here, you are.’ This little thought took my breath away and I was rooted to the spot, very quickly my brain connected this was Einstein's definition of madness;
‘Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’
I also suddenly felt my age, I was 37 at the time and it suddenly dawns on me that I didn’t want to be alone when I turned 40. I didn’t want to be sitting in my living room by myself nursing a glass of wine feeling desperately alone.
Something had to change, I couldn’t carry on like this and I always knew what I needed to do. I knew I needed to stop drinking and this is the thing. My drink problem started in my teens as a coping mechanism for how shit my childhood was. My dad was a narcissistic and my mum left when I was 15. My sisters and I were left with him. We felt abandoned and for whatever reason, I seemed to get the brunt of his coercive manipulation. Ripples of which are still alive today, I couldn’t cope with what was happening and before I was 17 had had multiple eating disorders attempted suicide and had regular visits with an eating disorder specialist that just got me to write a food diary.
I took to drinking to numb the horrors of my mind and it only ever made it worse but it wasn’t until I went no contact with my dad that I realised that part of the reason I was still drinking was to deal with him and when it was out of the picture I could finally face my past. I had reached a point where facing my past was less scary than drinking myself into an early grave.
I was overweight as well and since I wasn’t ready to tell people I was giving up drinking I decided to do a sugar detox and run another (my third marathon) with the goal of a sub-4-hour race.
The sugar detox lasted 3 months, I lost 42 lbs in those 3 months and another 42 across the following 6 months. In total, I went from a UK size 20 to a UK size 8. The thing is I wasn’t aiming for weight loss I just wanted to become healthier mentally and physically.
The first run I did was hilarious, I did 2.43 miles and probably ran about 0.30 of that and walked the rest, I had squeezed myself into my old running gear, I looked like a sausage, waddled like a penguin and was breathing like an asthmatic walrus but I preserved.
The moment I decided to make that change my mind became clear and I for the first time did something positive for myself and that feeling was powerful. I had never felt so empowered in all my life and it was addictive. I started learning about well-being, boundaries and how to say no to people. The more I did this the stronger I felt, and the more confident I became.
My mind was also my own again, you see for me when I was drinking the actual drinking part was only half the problem, the other half was how preoccupying addiction is. It took up so much of my mind, ‘shall I drink this evening?’ ‘No, because I drank last evening.’ ‘But I only had one glass so I could have another.’ ‘just because you only had one glass that doesn’t mean you need to make up for it.’ ‘but I didn’t drink the night before that.’ And on and on and on.
I had always had these ideas of writing fiction, learning a new language, drawing more just doing stuff and yet I never did any of it because it always seemed too tiring, and I was almost always fantasising about a future me, but once I had taken booze out of the equation I had my mind back.
The original goal had been to run the Brighton marathon in under 4 hours and become healthier both mentally and physically so that by the time I turn 40 I wouldn’t be sitting on my feeling desperately lonely.
Today is for 40th birthday and I am sitting on my own. I still haven’t achieved my sub-4 marathon but I am getting closer, last year I finished it in 4 hours 29 minutes, and this year in 4 hours 16 minutes so next year fingers crossed (plus lots and lots of training). Even though I haven’t run my goal time yet, I have run x2 Beachy Head marathons, two half marathons and the first-ever Brighton Trail marathon, I’ve got my first ever ultra-marathon in 2 weeks, and I’ve now completed my the first year of my Criminology degree. So even though I am now sitting on my 40th alone, I am not in the slightest bit lonely.