I struggled with cravings for a very long time. The ‘Wine Witch’ loomed large in my life – that little voice in my ear every time life became too stressful, my plate overflowed, and family worries began to bubble over.
She was hard to ignore – and harder to fight, because I had embraced her ‘solution’ for such a long time.
Once my friend and ally, the ‘Wine Witch’ eventually became my daily adversary. That poor old witch (like so many of her species before) was held responsible for the things about myself I didn’t understand and didn’t much like.
But now I realise, she’s not my enemy. She was always just the messenger.
That deeply misunderstood little lady was just the part of me that had been denied a voice. The insecurity and anxiety, the people-pleasing and the overwhelmed. All those uncomfortable bits I’d pushed down and tuned out, as I tried – so frantically to be a whole, rounded person kicking all the goals.
My Wine Witch didn’t pop up just to tempt me with a chilled Sauv in my direction – she was just a woman, like any other, tangled up in complex thoughts and feelings and desperate to be heard. ‘Help me’, ‘numb me’, ‘save me.’ But I drowned her out. Glass after glass, bottle after bottle.
By labelling those parts of myself as a ‘Wine Witch’, I had conjured up a dark and malignant persona with very real thoughts and feelings. Shoved down, without a hearing, I denied them time and time again.
But denying (or dunking!) the witch isn’t a solution – it’s a stop-gap. Because negative feelings don’t just go away when the booze wears off.
Which means I actually had to stop, listen and learn. It was uncomfortable and it opened up a whole new can of worms – all the real sh*t I actually needed to deal with. But it was, oh so worth it. Take it from the woman who had to learn to sit with some really gnarly discomfort; the fizzing nervous system, rampant anxiety, petrified people pleasing, wobbly boundaries and exhaustion – all of it.
But once I learnt to regulate myself, there was no need for the wine.
Because negative feelings
don’t just go away
when the booze wears off
Being kind – to my ‘witch’ and myself
The other issue I have with the Wine Witch concept, is the sense that she must be slayed. Since when did anyone’s challenges with alcohol stem from not having enough sh*t in their lives? I (and I believe I’m not the only one) didn’t lean on booze because life was too good, I leaned on it because life wasn’t good (on whatever scale), or because things didn’t feel good.
Instead of leaning in with compassion, I could have brought in the torches and pitchforks. I could have beaten myself up for all the choices that brought me here and told myself that the witch – that bright red flag above my real feelings and worries – must be slayed. I could have set out to fight my pain; a lifelong battle between willpower and those inconvenient truths that demand to be heard.
But I chose a more nurturing way forward. I tried my hardest to wrap my arms around those tricky, and maybe even scary, bits of myself, so I could create a new, full and honest way of being.
If I approached this process as a battle, I would be telling my nervous system to get ready for a dirty great fight. There would be a winner, and there would be a loser – and the only way to be the first one was to keep fighting every single day. Exhausting!
By viewing my personal process as an exploration and a journey of understanding and self-care, I took the emphasis off ‘white-knuckling’ and instead set my sights on all the good stuff that’s ahead. I had trained my mind and my body to rely on alcohol, so now it was time to un-train them. Those new habits took time, but because they were backed by a genuine belief that what was in front of me was better than what was behind, they began to stick.
Alcohol-free living was no longer
a daily victory,
a punishment, or a loss.
It is freedom.
I stopped punishing myself (and my poor old ‘witch’) because, when I started seeing her as a red flag, rather than a ‘devil’ on my shoulder, I discovered real potential to heal.
And when that happened, alcohol-free living was no longer a daily victory, a punishment, or a loss.
It was, and is, freedom.
As a mum of two, navigating the choppy waters of pre-teenagedom, Emma Gilmour ditched the booze in favour of a journey of discovery. That journey led her to retrain in counselling and psychotherapy – with a bit of recreational running, yoga and meditation thrown into the mix. Originally from the UK, and now living in Melbourne, Emma remains a proud ally of, and advocate for, women in mid-life. You can follow her journey on Instagram!
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Fantastic article, Emma, thanks. I have a difficult relationship with my WW but feel she, like many, is complex, multi-faceted & generally misunderstood! I’ll try your recommendations 🙂
Totally agree Cath, I’d love to hear how you get on
Fabulous!! Love your witchy allegory, think it will resonate with many of us here. Lots of things to think about now………thank you so much!
I am so pleased Lou
Such a good perspective to take – I like the idea of seeing it as a journey of discovery rather than going into battle.
Oh what fabulous imagery! It’s absolutely perfect, and it will stay with me. Yes, it seems that compassion is the way to go, and allowing yourself to “feel” cravings/feelings and think about them instead of purely distraction has been working for me too. I’m wondering if, like me, you’ve read “This naked mind” which is an advocate for both too? Life changing for me. Thank you so much for your story Emma, I really enjoyed it (I can PICTURE her!) it will stay with me. All the very best!
I am so pleased, yes I to adore Annie Grace and practice her methodology in my work. She is the best x
I just downloaded ‘The Naked Mind’. Thanks for the tip! I just finished ‘The Sober Diaries’ and was looking for another resource.
The very first sentence made me laugh.
It’s exactly when I woke last night, despite being AF for 2 weeks. It hardly seems fair.
I can only hope the digits on the clock stop lining up soon.
Cheers to you BigEars!
Thankyou for sharing wonderful encouragement for me working with mums who daily live with the witch. much love helen
Thanks for your beautiful feedback Helen. Here’s to us mums doing our best
Oh Emma.. you just slayed me as well, with your honesty. As I sit at a sushi train with terrible food but a surprisingly good pinot gris wondering how the Fk I got here
Shellhasnotgotthis . White Wine witch 🧙♀️
I hear you sister. That unconscious drive, it’s a terror. I am very familiar with the what the hell are we doing here feeling. Sending love for you on your journey to working it out.
What a fantastic and positive way to work through this change. This “alcohol-free living was no longer a daily victory, a punishment, or a loss” is key.
I really appreciate your kind feedback Kirsten
Thank you! Such an insightful article. I can relate as the journey I’m on is about my embracing all ‘parts’ of me and understanding them… being kind to myself!
Well done Emma and again thank you 😊
Parts work is so helpful on this journey I find, thanks Aiden
This was a really inspiring read. Thank you for sharing
That is so kind of you, thanks Kath
That was such an inspirational story and one that I will certainly bring to mind when navigating my daily choppy waters.
Thanks so much for reading Alison
I really like the perspective of seeing the desire for wine/wine witch as a red flag 🚩 an indicator that something isn’t right in your life and to time to take care of yourself.
Thank you, this really resonated with me this morning. I just turned 56 and mid-life is really when you realize you can’t screw around anymore. You embrace all facets of yourself. Well done you!
I so agree, Brene got it right about mid-life, it’s not messing around!
What a powerful message. It is giving me more insight for my journey to freedom. I still struggle with sleeping at night. My mind doesn’t shut down.
I too have made peace with the Witch. If only i could say the same for the Sugar Monster!
Thank you for an awesome read. I can certainly see myself and relate with my Wine Witch in your article. It has helped me to look at my alcohol problems in a new light 🙏
Brilliantly expressed, thank you. I’m slowly working through this myself, reframing the self that drank everyday and did regretful things, not as alien or deserving to be punished, but as valid part of me that can be integrated in healthier ways. X
Emma I totally related to your story and the journey you took yourself on. Thank you so much for sharing.
Absolutely LOVE this article! I see so many parallels to my own journey and it gives me the strength to keep going. Thank you!
Wonderful and true Emma. You have helped me so much in my journey to freedom. I have complegely changed the way i see alcohol and why i drink. I loved every signle on of our chats.
By fessing up you faced up to the things which were dis-empowering you and the photo above shows the result. Good on you mate.
I absolutely love the pic of you walking with coffee in hand looking so happy, I want this so much, my doubts set in….Is she really this happy, had the drink got a hold and this is an old pic???