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Feeling less alone is so comforting, talking with people who understand what you are going through is important. We should not suffer in silence, invisible illnesses are very hard to deal with and getting support is vital.

This forum is to help and support sufferers of vestibular disorders and mental illness. Sharing tips and advice and success stories is a great way to get on the road to recovery. Positivity and giving people hope is so important and a fundamental part of a treatment plan.

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Dry January!? Try 6 years being alcohol free! Best thing I ever did!

If you would have told me 11 years ago before I got ill, that I would be alcohol free from 2013 forever, I would have never ever believed you! Pre-illness and in fact pre-children, I was a big drinker! The party animal in fact! Out of all my friends, I was the one that probably would drink them under the table....

I used to LOVE drinking, wine was my tipple, but to be quite honest anything with alcohol content would suffice! I loved white wine, champagne, vodka lime and sodas and going back to my 20's Diamond Whites, I used to polish off about 10 of those on a night out! Looking back did I need alcohol? No way, I have always been a very energetic, happy person, alcohol turned me into a complete nutter but a happy one!

I am now thankful for the many wonderful alcoholic fuelled nights I spent with my group of girlies, very fond memories and lots of hilarious stories! My 20's and 30's were filled with lots of extremely fun night outs, alcohol making the star role. I would go out and start on wine, then champagne/prosecco would feature, then we would end up on the B52's or Zambucas! The hangovers were rife in those days. I now know that even the worst of hangovers were nothing compared to what I have felt over the last 9 years with my vestibular conditions! A hangover doesn't even come close!

I fell ill at the beginning of 2010, having just had twin girls, it was a horrific time to have symptoms! It took 2 years to get a concrete diagnosis from my wonderful consultant Dr J, now retired. My first diagnosis was Chronic Vestibular Migraines (MAV/VM), it was devastating and had a profound affect on my mental illness and got severe depression even more after that. Over the years I have had to give up pretty much everything I enjoyed in order to find healthier days again. Back in 2012 my consultant did warn me that alcohol was definitely something to consider giving up as it as a 'stimulant' and they do not go very well with vestibular conditions! So to seriously consider giving it up altogether. Who was I to argue with one of the best vestibular consultants in Europe at the time! Over the previous 2 years I had reduced my alcohol consumption greatly anyway as I had young twin girls and also was experiencing some terrible vestibular symptoms and just naturally had lessened my intake.

So I had half heartedly considered it after my VM diagnosis in October 2012 but I thought, well I will just see how things go and also trying to hold on to one of the major hobbies in my life!.... I did continue to drink, not as much as I had been, but always drank on a night out and sometimes in the week when Mummy needed a drink after looking after children all day!

After my Tonsillectomy operation in the February 2013, I unfortunately still had terrible vestibular symptoms and getting worse by the day. However I still was drinking, I remember there were a couple of friend's birthday parties in the March which I drank at and had fun.

Then in the April 2013 the day came (13th), I had a horrific series of vertigo and dizzy attacks on the M25 on that afternoon whilst driving, which lasted a couple of hours, it was the day after a Hen do and I was very sick too. Ambulance called to the roadside and motorway police involved. Little did I know that it would be the last time I would drink forever. What was odd is I actually did not have that much alcohol, 'for me' anyway, but I seemed pretty hungover that day and also suspected the meal I had eaten the night before had not agreed with me at all making me feel so much worse. But that was the nail in the coffin, it was a big enough attack to cause an influx of panic attacks and panic attacks thereafter. I had suffered from anxiety since 2010 after my vestibular symptoms starting, but had never had a full on panic attack until after 13th April 2013 and they have been rife ever since.

So yep, its been 6 years exactly today, since that fateful day! Unfortunately that day also caused bad PTSD for me too. Since that day I have not drunk one drop of alcohol. It was very difficult for my friends to understand why I had given up so suddenly, although my close friends knew my consultant had pre-warned me anyway about the negative affects of alcohol on vestibular sufferers. It took a long time for people to accept it, even years on at parties/gatherings people were still asking me what I wanted to drink. I actually do know that some people still find it a bit odd that I do not drink.

However if they lived in my body for just one day, they would realise, they would completely understand why I gave up. Even though I am a lot better now with my symptoms after finding my treatment plan that works well for me, I still am dizzy 24/7, its just at a lower level. Funnily enough since I gave up, lots of people around me have reduced their consumption, my husband being one of them!

I know for a fact its been very hard for Nick, my husband, to accept not just my vestibular conditions but going alcohol free was a blow to him. We used to really enjoy drinking together and having a right laugh, kind of a date night once a week with our wines/beers and it used to be lovely. However I do now think he has realised that I do not need to drink, I can have fun without it. An example.....we went to a wedding down in Wells, Somerset and I was the last one dancing/standing until the early hours! But there have been many examples besides that night. I do thank him so much for his support with me giving up.

Lets face it though, not only is alcohol a bad stimulant for vestibular sufferers its also not very good for your insides! So I am not only better with my symptoms but also healthier inside and out too. Better skin, hair, gut etc my tipple is now water and I do not miss alcohol at all! In fact when I now go out or we have people over, it does not bother me that they are drinking, the drinks are invisible to me, somehow my brain has managed to block it out completely! What is bad for them though, is I am the main camera person for the night and evidence of their frivolities is in the photos which somehow find their way on to Facebook!!

The 13th April used to be a very hard day for me, it was the day that I had to say goodbye to the old me completely. I also found it very hard due to the PTSD, however I have had extensive CBT and Hypnotherapy to rid that traumatic day out of my mind which has helped me so much. So now I see this day as a milestone, an achievement, I have immense gratitude that I was able to give it up and not look back and be a better person for it.

I am not saying give up alcohol if you have a vestibular condition or symptoms and on the diagnosis path. I just wanted to share my story and show that you can live without things for the better. Alcohol was not good for my symptoms, my anxiety etc but that is just me, we are all different and I know plenty of sufferers that are ok still drinking.

Will I ever have a drink again? I very much doubt it! Why would I want to put that risk back in my life, no way, I certainly do not miss the hangovers, although not as bad as vestibular symptoms! The other positive thing that has come out of my alcohol free journey, has been my children's attitude to alcohol, they are very tuned into the fact that I do not drink and actually tell Daddy off for having too much wine/beer! Not a bad thing really, although I certainly do not push that on them and when they are old enough, if they want to drink, I will let them freely do so! I had great fun with it when I was younger and would never change those days!

I do find it funny when people do Dry January or Sober October, its just one month and some people really struggle with it. I completely get that though as if you had asked me to do 30 days of no drinking 11 years ago, I would have laughed in your face and said no way! I get how hard that must be for people. Although some do it for charity, some do not which I cannot quite understand as I think its definitely an opportunity to raise money. What does make me chuckle is when people say they feel much healthier after doing it just after 30 days, try doing it for a few months then you will know what better really feels like, 30 days is no time at all and trust me after 6 years you feel so healthy inside you wouldn't know yourself!

If anyone else has given up alcohol due to their vestibular symptoms/conditions or to simply better their health, I would love to hear from you and would love to hear your story. Please either comment on this blog, or put a comment on instagram/facebook on this post or email me at dizzy@mummyseeingdouble.com

I am off to drink my water! Have a lovely weekend!

Lara x