In June 2021 I chose to quit alcohol, and I decided to share my journey as I know it will be some encouragement to others who have been grappling with the same thing. A number of people have approached me about this – turns out more of us are struggling with alcohol than I realised.
I cannot begin to explain the mental and emotional clarity I feel since I have stopped all alcohol. In social settings, I now feel so confident in who I am. Instead of trying to bat away flashbacks, I can sip a non-alcoholic drink, with complete freedom of guilt and weakness and fear. It’s been a great big sigh of relief. I am just so much happier.
The strange thing was, I was not in a position of struggling with alcohol as such, when I gave it up. But, after making that decision, I was faced with just how much of an internal battle I had become accustomed to. God knows me, He knows my heart, and he knows the life ahead of me. If we ask Him to help us in our walk, He will. Always.
Some questions I was faced with:
- But you barely had one or two drinks?
- We never saw you drunk, or at least in the last three years anyway?
- What is wrong with having a few drinks?
Each of us is vastly different; our exposure to alcohol growing up, our body’s capacity for alcohol, our mental/emotional reaction to alcohol. This makes it a very personal journey. I do not think there is anything wrong with drinking alcohol, as long as there is a healthy relationship with it. Something I, unfortunately, do not possess!
When is alcohol a problem? Is it when it affects your work, when you cannot get through the day without it, when you are fall-down drunk every weekend, every day?
Yes, that is when it is a heart-breaking problem, not just for the drinker, but for their family, friends, colleagues, and often their wider community who are influenced by witnessing their lives.
Other times it is a problem when we struggle to say no, when even just one or two drinks alters the way we view or treat others, as well as how we treat ourselves. Sometimes those one or two drinks can create an internal battle with our past. This was a big part of my problem.
I started my tumultuous relationship with alcohol when I was still a teenager – getting drunk for the first time at 15.
In my early 20’s, it was perfectly normal to go to work with a hangover, and every weekend spent in the pub. I had a nasty tongue when I had a few drinks, it really brought out the worst in me.
In my late 20’s, during times when I lived on my own, I was perfectly comfortable going to a bar on my own, to drink with less guilt. I had convinced myself that it was healthier than drinking on my own. Because it was the drinking on your own that was a borderline problem, wasn’t it? There were seasons when the drinking time would slip earlier into the afternoon. Then, wracked with guilt and a desperate desire for a peaceful life, I would stop completely, never for long.
At 31, I decided to move back to South Africa, in search of a “new life”. I was very sick at the time, and was hitting a personal low. In my naivety, I had not realised that no matter where you go, you take yourself with you. How ironic, to end up in my hometown, in the country club where my father used to drink. I remember sitting on the veranda sipping a gin, feeling torn but resigned to the “fact” that this was just how life would be for me. What road was I choosing?
You see from the outside everything is fine. 31 year old woman just having a few drinks having a fun time. On the outside. On the inside, a woman fighting the endless battle of staying sober, fearful of who she is and will become, but also just living up to the very low view of who she always assumed she would be and what she deserved. I had so long lived with and accepted the “fact” that I was always going to struggle with alcohol, because my dad had, and that was just the way it was. So I lived out my low view. Ridiculous isn’t it.
There were many occasions where I had fun times, enjoying a few drinks, but was always left with a vast emptiness. There were other times where I experienced physical traumas that can never be undone, cruel words spoken and heard, that have now been forgiven, but will never be forgotten.
At 32, I met my husband and chose Christ.
At 38, in June 2021, after a completely sober and wonderful dinner with some friends, I woke up with the worst hangover, which made no sense, as I was completely sober. Through my tears and crying out to God, I just felt Him telling me it was enough. No more. None. None? The thought both terrified and relieved me. I knew it had to be all or nothing. No more trying to fight it, trying to convince myself of another way. Thanks to Jesus, in His strength, he pulled me in all my weakness, out of that pit. I am so grateful for that encounter, and from that day I have not touched a drop of alcohol. 7 months now.
Step by step, as each year has gone by, Jesus has been bringing me to this place. This place of pure relief and freedom of not having that battle any longer. He took it away, completely.
I have tried to stop drinking many times before, and it never worked. I now know it never worked as I was attempting to do it in my own strength, and possibly for the wrong reasons, but I needed Him. I also tricked myself, as did Satan, with …
- I’ll just cut down to 1 or 2 drinks, I don’t want people to think I am boring. Fear of man.
- I won’t totally give up all alcohol otherwise people will think I am trying to be holier-than-thou. Fear of man.
- Giving up all alcohol is just extreme, everything in moderation is healthy. Satan tricking me.
- How is it possible to witness a sunset without a gin & tonic? The treasure of my heart.
I will say again; I do not believe there is anything wrong with consuming alcohol. As long as the one consuming it is 100% happy and confident in their healthy relationship with alcohol.
After a rough few days of being a new mom, I realised that God knew, He knew that I had to surrender before becoming a mom, thank God I did. Last week , with Theo giggling in his high chair I stood looking out the kitchen window feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and physically sore, and feeling resentment, self doubt, longing and just not good enough – Satan might have tried to tempt me, but Jesus had His arm around me. Satan can try all he wants, because the Holy Spirit in me is stronger.
Never has Proverbs 31:25 resonated with me as it does now.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
As long as I keep my eyes fixed on Him, and walk closely with Him all my days, I may stumble, but He will pick me up.
Take some time to think about this area of your life. Ask a trusted loved one for their opinion. Even better, ask God, and pray this Psalm.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24
God has opened the door to some encouraging conversations, both online and in person. I am always happy to chat, both openly and privately. Contact me via email or via my Instagram account.
To the smarty-pants that I know is out there … for me it doesn’t count as alcohol if it’s in food or a cake! 😉
I have stumbled upon many resources online through social media, articles and podcasts of many people giving up alcohol. What encouraged me was that many of these people, like me, were not alcoholics, but realised that alcohol was not right for their character types and the lives they wanted to live. One resource is This Naked Mind, and you can find her on Instagram too.
So very precious! So open and honest, and God-honouring. I pray that this testimony will lead to soooo many others, set free. Bless you, Colleen
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Thank you Ilne.
You are champion Colleen! So happy to hear you are now a mum!
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Thank you for the encouragement x
Wow Colleen I am in awe of what I just read! I have prayed for you, not aware of the battle u were going through, but always seeing the alcohol. Sorry, I wasn’t judging just obeying the Holy Spirit. Because my parents abused alcohol and I saw what it turned my mother into, I vowed as a young girl not to touch the stuff! But marrying Corrie who was an alcoholic and all I went through with him I just hate all of what it does to people.
That’s why when I noticed u always talking about a gin n tonic and whatever else, I just prayed God’s will.
But what a journey u have been on and it’s such a courageous thing to do to make it public🤭 You have all my admiration and respect and God is amazing to lead you this way before Theo arrived, as u said. I’m in awe of God and your journey ❤️
Lotssss of South African love
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Gosh Marcelle, that is so encouraging to hear. I’m touched that you were praying for me, and thank you for sharing. x
Thank you so much for your openness. You always help me with the things that you write.
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I’m so glad to hear this x
[…] keep pushing on, and look at all that I did achieve that I just didn’t happen to write down! Like quitting alcohol … I never saw that one […]