‘You don’t have to be an alcoholic to be a problem drinker’ Megan Montague, 31
“When I was drinking, I couldn’t wait to get the kids to bed,” says Megan Montague, a freelance business consultant and single mother to children aged six and four. For, awaiting her in the fridge, would be a rather nice bottle of wine that, over the course of an evening, she would steadily drain, alone. “By mid-afternoon I would get the craving. Every day I’d say to myself, ‘No wine today,’ but every night I’d cave in, thinking, ‘Oh, it’s been a tough day.’ I was stuck in a cycle thinking that drinking was alleviating my stresses.”
Last March she reached a point where she thought, “I can’t live like this, always feeling hungover.” So she signed up to Sober Spring, a three-month alcohol-free sabbatical devised by Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. “I joined an online group of 10 of us, which was helpful in terms of accountability,” she says.
Montague survived the “tough” physical impact of the detox without falling off the wagon, and as the benefits started to kick in, she was able to see the “negative impact” of alcohol. “It’s not as if I was drinking cheap cider on the park bench. But you don’t have to be an alcoholic to be a problem drinker — the line is different for everyone.” Being tired all the time had had a knock-on effect on her patience. “The mornings would be really difficult,” she says. “Trying to get two kids ready for school had become too much for me to cope with, and I would always avoid morning meetings at work. Now that just doesn’t happen — things are a lot more stable, and my relationships are much better.”
There are still the same ups and downs, she concedes, but she is less affected by them: “Having a clear head helps me think more rationally.” Sobriety has enabled Montague to get to know herself better: “I had been drinking to cope with loneliness and anxiety, without realising that it was actually heightening the anxiety. It was an itch that I couldn’t scratch.”
To replace the toxic old routine, she had to create a new one, and so fills her evenings with pampering soaks, cups of herbal tea, good books and early bedtimes. And instead of meeting her friends in a bar and “shouting at each other over the music, we go running or climbing. It’s just as fun.” It is, essentially, a good dose of self-care, and that has also had an impact: “Spending more time being kind to myself has changed how I treat everyone else.” Montague is no longer “shouty mummy”, she says. “I value the kids much more now — that’s been one of the biggest shifts.” She is keen for it to be a permanent one.
Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington (HarperCollins £20, out on Wednesday) Warrington charts her personal journey with alcohol, from a hedonstic habit to being “sober curious”.
The Sober Diaries: How One Woman Stopped Drinking and Started Living by Clare Pooley (Coronet £8.99) A mother’s honest memoir of achieving sobriety after resorting to the bottle before noon.
Alcohol Explained by William Porter (CreateSpace £9.99) A handbook written by a recovering alcoholic that explains how alcohol affects us on a chemical, physiological and psychological level, with tips for quitting.
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray (Octopus Publishing £9.99) Sobriety isn’t just good for you. Gray, a journalist who started drinking aged 12, found she had more fun, too.