The last time I spent a birthday sober was (surprisingly) my 18th. I can’t remember why I wasn’t drinking, I just remember that I wasn’t. I turned 36 this year so I’ve had 17 years of drunken, partially forgotten birthdays. This one was always going to be different being in lockdown, but if anything that would have given me the excuse to start drinking at lunch time. But not this time!

The evening before I felt quite anxious. Nothing to do with getting a year older, just knowing that I wouldn’t have that comforting first glass of wine once the kids were in bed made me a bit sad. It obviously would have moved onto many more glasses, but the first glass was always the best. Probably not even the first glass, the first sip or even the sound of the crack as I opened the screw cap on the bottle of wine could send waves of relief through my body.   

My thoughtful husband and girls put so much effort into the day. I had breakfast in bed; my own Joe Wickes workout designed by the girls; Zoom calls with friends from Australia and Canada who I hadn’t spoken to for months, all meals cooked for me; Zoom calls with family and a film to end the day. Admittedly ‘The Wizard of Oz’ would not have been my choice, but the girls love it. The whole day was so fun, it was genuinely one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

I’m not going to lie, I did think about drinking, but I made sure I had my favourite alcohol free drinks to hand. I realised that I used to spend my day waiting for the point when I could have that first drink. Waiting to put the girls to bed so I could ‘properly get on it’. It makes me sad to think I felt like that. It was never a conscious thought to ‘get rid of them’, but now I’m not waiting for that drink, I realise essentially that is what I was thinking. Instead the girls stayed up until 9pm with us watching the film and playing Twister. I went to bed that night feeling incredibly loved content and so happy with my life.

The day after, NO HANGOVER! That was the best late birthday present ever.