by Kelly Mercer
Alcohol-free me began on 12th August, 2023 whilst on holiday in Spain of all places. I woke up with yet another hang-over and hazed memory of how we had made our way back to the apartment. I rolled my eyes, forced myself to get up and pretended that I had full recollection of the night before to my youngest daughter (age 9).
As a wife and mum to two children, this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I had become less and less aligned with my core values of what family life should be, and I was beginning to really dislike myself. "Who even are you, Kelly?"
To the outside world, life looked great. I had a successful career in mental health services, and my husband was one step away from becoming a director in his line of work.
I exercised frequently, ate relatively well and had a good circle of friends and family around me. Yet I still felt a sense of discontent, a sense that I wasn't quite 'me' and had somehow lost my shine. I enjoyed drinking alcohol, well, I enjoyed my first glass, I should say. The subsequent re-fills led to me becoming more self-centred, sleepy and overall, just dull. I would endlessly scroll on my phone or watch mind-numbing TV, which I could barely comprehend. Conversations in the home were minimal because once I poured the wine, I began to shut down.
Life was a boring cycle of repetitive routine, which I rarely questioned.
For me, drinking wasn't a form of escapism, it wasn't used to mask feelings of sadness - ironically, alcohol was causing the sadness.
I had always had quite a strong-willed mindset and could go for periods of time without drinking. These, however, had been strategically planned not to conflict with anything that may resemble fun and were always time-limited to a maximum of around four weeks. This reinforced that I was in control and that, really, I needn't worry. But yet this niggle continued, was this really how my life at 37 was intended to turn out?
There wasn't a specific incident that led me to stop drinking alcohol, I was simply fed up with failing at moderation. Moderation is something I just can't do. I'm an all-or-nothing type personality, and I don't tend to do anything by half. I drank to get drunk and feel that comforting bubble of warmth - until the next day, that is. Then the turmoil of guilt and self-pity would return. So, enough was enough.
I flooded my brain with 'quit lit' and read many stories of people (mainly middle-aged mums) who had travelled down a similar shame-filled path of incongruence. I listened to alcohol-free podcasts at any opportunity and decided to find constructive pastimes. Yes, I admit that I am that cliche who threw herself into exercise, but in addition to this, I also ventured down an academic route.
Being made to seriously think about who the real 'me' was, I dug out my old Psychology books and reflected on my earlier life expectations. I recognised that I was living a life far from how I had expected it to turn out. I had lost my shine within my relationships, work and personal growth and something needed to change. I invested my time in producing material that would help me stay on course.
Then, I realised that this may actually be able to benefit other people. I had never created anything like this before, but I felt so enlightened by what I had discovered I was compelled to share it with others. And so, Coach and Shine was born. I designed my first workshop, aptly named 'Becoming More Me' and set out to find everyday people who may also benefit from this.
Fast forward 122 days, and I can't put into words how motivated and energised I feel now that I am no longer functioning at only 50% of my potential.
I still work within mental health services and am completely dedicated to my plight to educate and empower others to make more positive life choices. I have teamed up with local wellness services to embed Coach and Shine further into my community and have plans to roll out six further enhancement workshops, which will be accessed both in-person and online. I'll also offer one-to-one coaching in the New Year.
Whilst I am aware that I'm still in the very early stages of my alcohol-free life, I remain determined that I won't ever return to drinking. Lots of my wider family and friends can't comprehend a life without alcohol.
Whilst a part of me is envious that they can seemingly maintain the upper hand with moderation, I am also saddened that they won't get to experience the clarity that an alcohol-free life can offer. For me, though, I can now happily say that I have regained my shine.
About Kelly Mercer:
Who am I? I’m Kelly, I’m a wife, I’m a mum, I’m a mental health professional, but most importantly, I’m me! My bio has changed many times over the years, but my latest one is my favourite because it’s more than just a title.
I would also really recommend the Over the Influence podcast. With weekly guests opening up about their struggles with drinking and advice for ways in which you can live a life free from alcohol. There is also an online community and meet-up events that people can attend.
Coach and Shine on Facebook