Why I chose to stop drinking?
Louise Jamieson, from Newbiggin by the Sea, is sharing her story to raise awareness of the effects regular drinking can have on your mental health and wellbeing and to encourage others to get help.
Louise, 38, started drinking in her late teens and initially it was as a social activity with her friends. However, she struggled with her mental health and soon began to use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with her anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, so it was having a negative effect on her mental health.
She said: “I started drinking to try and cope with my mental health problems. I used to go to the pub with my friends on a Friday after work and drink pints of lager, and when I got home, I would continue to drink. I would buy alcohol from my local corner shop, as it was cheap. “I was also taking medication to help with my anxiety, which was interacting with the alcohol and having a negative effect. My Mum was really worried about me, as it was affecting my behaviour. I would sometimes get nasty and violent because of my tablets and the drinking.”
The day after a drinking session Louise would often receive messages from her friends to tell her about her behaviour the night before. Some friends even stopped getting in touch.
“I knew my drinking was becoming a problem. I was worried I was going to lose everyone I loved – my husband, my family and friends. My GP also advised me to stop drinking because of my anxiety medication. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone, that I needed support to stop drinking.”
Louise’s life changed when she met Claire Owen, who runs the blog The Soberholic, at a party, through her mum’s friend. They got chatting and Claire offered to help Louise, so they agreed to meet up regularly and worked out strategies to help Louise to stop drinking.
“Claire was brilliant, she was really encouraging and made me feel like I wasn’t alone. We met up for coffee, dog walks and muddy adventures and she introduced me to some new friends, which really helped as I get nervous when I meet new people. She also encouraged me to talk to my old friends and to be honest with them about my drinking. I’m really pleased I did this as they are now back in my life.
“Claire helped me to work out strategies to help me stop drinking, such as going to places without alcohol to keep temptation at bay, spending time outdoors – going for walks, and tending to my allotment. I also noticed that being out in the fresh air benefits my mental health. With Claire’s help, and the support of my husband and mum I made the decision to stop drinking and I’ve now been alcohol free for more than six months.”
Since stopping drinking, Louise has managed to make more time for the things she enjoys. She can now walk her dogs for much longer because of the energy she’s gained and spend more time at ReDress, a co-operative textile shop offering training opportunities for people with disabilities, like Louise, who has Klippel-Feil syndrome and a learning difficulty.
“I’m so much happier since I stopped drinking. My mental health has improved, and I haven’t had a single panic attack. It wasn’t easy to stop, but I’m so proud of myself for achieving my goal. I have made a lot of progress since I first met Claire, and I could have never done it without her or my family. I really hope that by sharing my story, others will realise they can change their relationship with alcohol too – no matter how hard it feels.”