What a difference a year makes....
This time last year I was struggling with yet another hungover Monday morning. I'd slept really badly (as always), and had been tossing and turning since about 4am, thinking about how much I hated myself.
Somewhere along the line, my life seemed to have shrunk.
I'd gone from being someone who was always out and about pushing boundaries, taking risks, and grabbing life by the short and curlies, to being a stay at home Mum, who did little other than stay at home (and drink).
Ironically, while my life had got smaller, I'd expanded.
The lithe, gorgeous girl I'd once been had been blown up with a bicycle pump. I'd gained two stone, a huge wine belly, and jowls.
I wasn't even a good Mum. I spent most of my time trying to avoid my children - in favour of sinking a glass of vino. In fact, I spent most of time drinking in order to avoid life.
I also seemed to have left my balls somewhere. I was constantly anxious and fearful. Even the smallest tasks seemed like mountains to climb, and necessitated a drink 'to take the edge off' as soon as it hit 'wine o'clock' (which was creeping inexorably earlier).
I thought, vast alcohol intake aside, that I was generally healthy. I still exercised a fair bit, and ate well. But all those toxins were silently wreaking havoc, and I was secretly harbouring a malignant tumour in my left boob, which I didn't find for another eight months.
I blamed some of this on the booze, but not all of it. I thought much of it was down to age. Don't we all get a bit stuck in a rut over time? Jaded? Fed up? Lacking in energy and enthusiasm?
Then, 365 days ago, I decided to stop. I realised that I'd stopped controlling the booze some years previously, and it was now controlling me. I'd had enough.
I thought that quitting booze would change me physically. I hoped I'd lose some weight and sleep better. I also hoped that, after a while, the infernal internal monologue in my head (I called her the Wine Witch) would disappear.
BUT I feared that life without booze would be flat. Featureless. Boring. I tried to reconcile myself to being dull and sensible, not the wild, hedonist of my youth.
I had no idea.
I had no idea that quitting booze would change, not just a few things, but everything.
I had no idea that life without booze is more thrilling, more exciting (yet also more peaceful) and more colourful than ever before.
I had no idea that, along the way, I'd find a person I thought I'd lost.
I feel like, over the last twelve months, I've come full circle. Slowly, slowly all the layers of stuff I've hidden behind have been stripped back (the process is painful - like being rubbed raw with a cheese grater), and underneath it all is the girl I was in my late twenties.
She's still there! That kind, brave, adventurous, optimistic and funny person I vaguely remember. And, like she did back then, she greets every day with enthusiasm, and small things - like the changing of the seasons - with wonder.
I've got my body back (I've lost 21 pounds). I've rediscovered my self respect and my courage. I'm a better wife, mother and friend.
In the last year I've beaten the wine witch, and I've kicked cancer's butt too. So bring on year 2, because I'm on a roll. I've been given a second chance, a clean sheet of paper, and I'm not going to waste it.
Thank you, all of you, for sharing the last year with me, and holding my hand through it all. I honestly don't think I'd be here without you, and here is a mighty good place to be.
(To read my story from the beginning click here).