This piece was written in Dec 2013 after 4yrs being sober; for a website called Soberistas.
I have never shared it other than on that website.
Its a long read but you might enjoy it.
And if it now helps one person then my job is done….
4 years. FOUR years. At first I never thought I would make 1 week without drinking never mind talking about years but here I am with 4 years alcohol free. Now it’s just life as I know it; I just simply don’t drink. But things weren’t so simple to begin with that’s for sure. There are so many challenges to face when you throw away the comfort blanket of the booze and try to change the habits of a lifetime.
So this 4year milestone has just made me feel like writing down my thoughts and sharing my tale with others who may be travelling down a similar road. If I can do it, anyone can.
It is possible to change; you firstly have to have the will to change and want to improve your life, then it’s down to good old will power, discipline and breaking all those bad habits you have that revolve around drinking and when you’re going to get your next one. Get rid of the idea that you need alcohol to function in life; we’re programmed to think that alcohol is a multi-purpose necessity in life; birthdays, Christmas, weddings, christenings, funerals, anniversaries, leaving do’s, any social event you can think of, or just if we’re stressed, happy, sad or plain bored – roll out the booze and turn that frown upside down; chuck in the booze and it turns a good party into a fucking great party. Well that’s just bollocks.
I used to love my booze. I’d plan my life around it. From any social event or family gathering to just the basics of life; like a shopping trip on a Saturday, well let’s get a pub visit into the schedule and make sure there’s beers in the fridge for teatime. Coming home from work knowing there was no alcohol in the house was a disaster.
But now I don’t drink. To get to this point wasn’t easy at first but now it’s much like cigarettes are to me; I’ve never been a smoker so when I see people smoking, or see them on shelves in the shops, I just don’t think about it because it’s something I don’t do. Drinking is like that now; I see it everywhere but I don’t do it so it goes over my head as cigarettes always have.
I try not to demonise it but I can’t help but consider alcohol as a poison now. Much like smoking which is going to massively increase your chances of getting lung cancer so why do it. Why put a substance in your body that can harm you or even kill you. It doesn’t make sense to me now. Well alcohol is going to make your life extremely miserable if you’re not careful, as well as the obvious long term health risks of course. But we aren’t bothered about that really; it’s not going to happen to me is it. But I did become bothered about my quality of life and the relationships with my loved ones; my life was suffering due to my drinking and deep down I wasn’t happy.
“I’m not an alcoholic” – I said this all the time. I still don’t think I was but I did have a big drinking problem so does that not fit the definition of an alcoholic – a dependence on alcohol? Albeit my problem was mostly massive binge drinking on weekends!! During the week I never got drunk due to my job which I loved my career, I always strived to do well at work and I did. During the week it was no more than 3 pints on a work night. My routine was always to have a beer as soon as I got in from work; on an empty stomach, a quick beer gave that lovely beer buzz. Then another one but drank more slowly, then another with my food and that was me; a nice little beer buzz after work was the reward for any working day; be it a good, bad or indifferent day. Occasionally I may have had more during the week but I was pretty much in control. But then came the weekends and it was binge o’clock baby!!
There were starting to become occasions when work was affected though. As I got older into my late 20’s and early 30’s, a weekend binge would still have me feeling off colour on a Monday and Tuesday. And if I had to attend an overnight event for work, I was always the one to be relied upon to “unlock the fun” and be the life of the party; then next day I’d sit in a meeting or a conference feeling awful and regretting staying up in the hotel bar til 4am. I sort of had a bit of a reputation for it which I kind of liked and it didn’t seem to affect my career progression as I always worked hard; I liked the “work hard, play hard” moniker which I used a lot to excuse my behaviour; “Oh I’ve had a hard day/week so I’m letting off steam” so I’m going out all weekend to get arseholed.
Looking back I just have to laugh. For example, when you’re pissed it makes perfect sense to wake up in any of the following places I have:-
- On the floor of the living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom (most rooms of the house)
- In my car
- On the office floor
- In a police cell
- In my front garden
- In a field
- In random girls’ beds
- On random floors after parties I’ve ended up at
- Random hotels that I’d checked into
And then there’s the number of times I’ve woke up with a black eye, a split lip, bumps & grazes, torn clothes, covered in puke and I’ve even shit my pants on a few special occasions!
One time I woke up wearing someone else’s clothes; make’s sense to swap clothes when you’re pissed – fortunately they were a man’s clothes; though he must have been a big lad because I looked like Tom Hanks in Big.
Life without drink doesn’t make it all like a magical Mary Poppins perfect world; I thought it would fix all my problems; it doesn’t. But what it does do is make the challenges of life far easier to cope with and gives you a balanced sense of wellbeing, a clear head and absolute focus. Removing the mask of alcohol actually makes you initially feel very vulnerable and exposed; you’re stripped back to just YOU, warts and all; there’s no crutch to rely on, you have to learn to cope with all the things life throws at you and all your anxieties and insecurities that you’ve dulled with the booze all your life, well they come back to kick you in the goolies too.
But you can truly discover your true self once you’re not clouded by alcohol and you can take a good look at your life and make the necessary changes to improve things; be it your health, your job, your relationships, your hobbies – anything.
I’m an all or nothing kind of bloke so I decided to change the following things:
- My relationship
- My job
I knew these 3 things in my life were not making me happy, so they had to go. But I didn’t do them in that order; I suppose I was still in denial about my drinking so I firstly ended my relationship with my then fiancé who I had spent 3 years with and I did love her but she wasn’t a big drinker and I thought she was the problem in trying to control me (she quite rightly hated my drinking habits). So I ended this relationship, we both cried and then I spent the next 5 months feeling like a free man and going out all the time and getting as drunk as possible; in complete denial about my problem.
For a short while I thought I had it all; freedom, nights out, seeing as many girls as I wanted etc but then I stopped caring about work and the drinking on the weekends extended into doing the Sunday night too and Monday was off sick with a hangover (not a good example of the manager). I was drinking more during the week too. So I knew the alcohol had now become an even bigger problem; with no loved one there to go home to every day, I could see how easy it would be to become a raging alcoholic.
So after a mega-binge, I woke up fully clothed on top of my bed one Sunday morning feeling like utter shit. I’d spent £300 in a lap-dancing club that I had no memory of even being in; just the debit card receipts in my pockets. So with the drinks elsewhere that night I had spent the best part of £500 and all I had was a bad head and misery for it. I got up and checked that there were no other humans present throughout the house that I might have invited back for a party or something; the coast was clear. It took all the strength I could muster to make a cup of tea and then I lay on the sofa all day and I cried a lot that day. I knew then that this wasn’t what a happy life was all about. I was all alone. I knew I had to give up drinking. I had said that I would a thousand times before but I knew I actually had to this time.
So that day I tipped all remaining alcohol that I had in the house down the sink. That was easy I thought; though I was tempted to have a beer to ease the hangover but I didn’t. I spent the next 5 weeks avoiding most people apart from my parents. I avoided friends and going out. Just went to work and came home and drank milk and cups of tea. It was really difficult to break the habit of those after work beers I loved so much. I found a glass of milk would help a lot, I just thought of beer and milk curdling in my stomach and that put me off. Weekends I just stayed in and watched my favourite films or ‘hung out’ with my parents feeling like I was missing out! So after a long 5 weeks with no alcohol I thought I’d cracked it; I was “cured”.
I now thought that I could drink in moderation. How wrong I was; epic fail coming up here. It was 3weeks before Christmas 2009 at this point and I went out for the works party with the intention of having no more than 4 pints. Within the first hour I’d had said 4 pints and proceeded to get shit faced, make an arse of myself, tried to shag anything that moved and lost my wallet and phone. I didn’t get into a fight though so that was a bonus! I cried the whole next day with my hangover to nurse. (I did get my wallet and phone back though; one of my work colleagues had seen what state I was in and put them in his pocket to save me from losing them). So I was back to square one; I now knew I had to stop for good this time. I think everyone needs to fall off the wagon though; just once mind.
Me and alcohol are the most destructive relationship I have had in my life from the age of 16 to the age of 33. But it was always there to help me cope whether I was happy or sad, it was there for me. The people who were actually there for me got burnt along the way; twice divorced by the age of 25 says a lot. And I got engaged again later in life. I chose drinking every time though. My ex-wives now tell me that my drinking was a far bigger issue than they made out at the time but they thought I would perhaps grow up and grow out of it. My ex-fiance doesn’t speak to me; I was a twat though so I can’t blame her at all.
My family and friends now tell me how much of a twat I was at times though my friends say they did enjoy and still laugh about some of the stupid things I’ve done over the years. Their wives and girlfriends are the ones who mostly thought I was bad news and say they dreaded their fella’s going out with me but they now consider me a ‘good egg’.
You certainly discover your true friends when you give up drinking; those ‘friends’ who I only drank with are no longer in my life now as we have no common ground anymore and they probably think I’m boring. But that’s fine by me.
Four years later though and looking where I am in life now just amazes me. I’m happily married to a wonderful woman and have a perfect daughter (with another on the way). And I like myself a hell of a lot more than I ever did.
Remove the mask of alcohol and you take a good look at yourself; there is nothing to hide behind anymore. Now I have had terrible anxiety issues, a lack of self-confidence and poor body image all my life. Of course, drinking does not tackle or solve these issues; it masks them and allows you to stumble through life in a never ending cycle of “I’m great” then “I’m not happy”.
It was a weird feeling to have to face up to being just me. But I slowly learnt that being me was indeed good enough. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m perfect at all in fact I’m still actively trying to improve my appearance by going to the gym but at least these days I can look in the mirror and actually like what I see now.
I did go to see the Doctor and was enrolled on some counselling sessions however I found the NHS sessions very stale and unhelpful so I found a private counsellor that I paid for myself and had 1 session per week for about 9 months or so. We talked about anything and everything; from the typical things like childhood and growing up; school, parents, siblings, relationships, friends, food, sex, drinking, drugs, work, major life events etc etc. It’s difficult to explain but I can say that I did find the process extremely helpful; sometimes it was just nice to talk to someone independent who wouldn’t judge. I was assigned ‘homework’ too which got me thinking more about myself and also started putting myself back out there in social situations without alcohol and reviewing how it went.
I struggled to cope sometimes; I remember having a panic attack in my local Sainsbury’s and just abandoning a trolley full of shopping and quickly leaving as I thought the whole world was watching and knew my secrets. I had similar attacks when out socialising where I had to go outside for some fresh air but each time became easier; you’ve just got to face the world and put yourself out there. Locking yourself away in the house won’t get you anywhere quickly.
After 10 months booze free; I did the ultimate test. A week in Magaluf with my mate. Everyone thought I was punishing myself. Admittedly there was only once where I thought ‘I’d love a beer like’; we’d just arrived, mid-afternoon, sun shining, went to a beach bar, surrounded by beautiful people, waiter comes over, my mate orders a pint. It took a lot of strength to order my diet coke! And when my mate’s pint arrived in its frosted glass, it looked so nice. But I resisted it. Easy. And for the whole holiday I was surrounded by your typical Brits drinking all day/night and behaving like utter wankers that it just served as a stark reminder of what I used to be and that I didn’t ever want to be like that again.
I’ve always been quite shy growing up too and I used alcohol to get over this. I’m a fair skinned bloke too so I always used to think my cheeks were red; I used to blush really easily in my youth and I used to think I was perpetually red. I carried this into adult life. I used to check my face in every mirror and in every reflective surface I could throughout the day. At one point in my life I actually carried a pocket mirror with me everywhere. Being drunk took this feeling away and I could look in the mirror and think I was awesome; like Brad Pitt (a slightly ginger one!)
But it was all just in my head. I do still blush of course but we all do for fucks sake; it took me a long time to get over this. Sounds silly when I’m typing this. I spoke to some close friends about it and they simply said they’d never associated me with being a blusher so it just goes to show you what rot can set in your head and massively effect your life.
I joined a gym 2weeks after stopping drinking; I wasn’t a fat bastard but years of drinking and bad food had taken its toll and I was out of shape; a sort of fat skinny man with a beer belly so I needed to get in shape. I also now had time to kill so I went 3 times a week and became quite addicted; it is true that people end one addiction and start another but the gym is far healthier (if it’s done right). But even this went wrong at first; from the ages of 15-18 I kept a food diary and was anal about calorie intake; it’s a control thing I suppose, so this all came back, I used an App on my phone, tracking calories every day. Really it was tracking the lack of calories as I dropped 2stone to 10.5 stone which made me look like “an Aids victim” as one of my clients so politely put it one day. So this gave me a kick up the arse to stop this madness, eat properly and go to the gym. But I then took it the other way though; I started eating 4000 calories a day to bulk up. I eventually controlled this too and for the past 2years I’ve got it under control to just eat normally, have a cheat day once a week and eat anything and go to the gym 3 times a week. The gym does help keep me sane I think; I get anxious if I miss a session. But I think it’s a healthy obsession now; 3 x 40mins sessions a week – I’m more interested these days in getting home to my wife and daughter and spending quality time as a family unit.
I read a lot of books on alcohol addictions to gain a sound understanding of it. I also read about depression as it is in my family so perhaps I had some in me. I discovered a condition known as ‘body dysmorphic disorder’ (BDD) and read books on this; for a time, I was convinced this is what I was suffering from as I had (and still have) many of the symptoms. But I think it’s like OCD, like most of us do, I show symptoms of OCD too but not to the extent that it makes my quality of life suffer. I just think that because of the feelings/symptoms of BDD that I had, that I used drinking to help mask them and allow me to cope with life. I always used to say that if I permanently felt like I’d drank 2 pints then life would be so much better/easier and I would like myself more!
I sometimes wonder if I will ever drink again but I know that I won’t because me and drink just don’t get on. I sometimes have dreams where I have been drinking and getting pissed and for a second when I wake up, I think it’s been real and I’m wounded by the feeling but then I remember it was a dream and I’m so relieved.
Each to their own but I can’t fathom out why you would give up and then want to re-introduce alcohol even in moderation. I know Alistair Campbell now has the odd drink; after the life he’s had with drink you’d think he’d never tempt himself again but each to their own isn’t it. I also know a guy who quit drinking and to celebrate his 5 years sober, he had a bottle of Budweiser – what’s all that about! He even said it tasted like shit. But again, each to their own.
But I now actually have feelings in my alcohol free life that make me feel like I’ve had a couple of pints! This is from the joy of living a contented sober life and having wonderful family and friends around you.
Life will never be ‘perfect’ – what is perfect? Life is still full of many challenges and still brings highs and lows but the difference with me now is that I can cope with it all. Being alcohol free means you are clear and focussed on what needs to be done, you can learn to love yourself and embrace life and the loved ones around you. And remember every minute of it.
Serenity, Courage and Wisdom (as AA say).
Thanks for taking the time read if you made it all the way through.
Gary, a happy 37 year old.
Focus on what you have TO GAIN.
8 years ago today, the 13th December 2009, I made the one decision that dramatically changed my life for the better.
On that day I was 33 yrs old and extremely hungover. I felt broken, lonely, angry and full of self-loathing. Unfit in mind & body, twice divorced, in a job I hated and just in a vicious cycle of sedation and escapism. Spiralling deeper. Never dealing with the real issues. I sat and cried.
So I decided to give up alcohol for good.
It wasn’t as easy as I thought but it’s been so worth it to get to here today. It got worse before it got better; it took a year’s worth of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy; I got to know the real me and my real friends and supporters.
Today I have been alcohol-free for 8yrs. I am happily married with two kids. I have a thriving asbestos business with an excellent team who make me proud. I am the fittest in mind & body I have ever been at 41. And I continue to learn, improve and make progress.
In 2017 it even led me to public speaking about men’s mental health issues and addiction. And also doing business coaching to help others overcome the struggles I have in life and business.
The domino effect of just one decision is incredible. Literally, life-changing.
My point: if you’re unhappy about anything in your life, YOU have the power to change it.
Don’t make excuses or blame; just do the work and get on with creating a life you deserve.
Delayed gratification is the game.
Easy choices = Hard life
Hard choices = Easy life
Here to help if you need it.
People often talk about being Overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed with life, with work, with people sapping our time, energy, confidence or money, with having no time and too much to do, or emotional overwhelm for things that have happened in the past, or things you worry about now or about future events.
We allow ourselves to become overwhelmed and drown in “stuff”.
With some simple decision making, you can change everything you are overwhelmed about.
You decide what overwhelms you, you allow it to, so you can decide to not let it overwhelm you. Of course, it’s not easy at first; you’ve only gone and conditioned yourself to be you and you know no other way. You can’t just re-condition yourself with the click of your fingers. But you make that one decision that you are not going to allow yourself to become overwhelmed and you seek the knowledge and help you need to change.
I was once overwhelmed with lack of confidence, poor body image and low self-worth. I suffered panic attacks and couldn’t look in mirrors. I coped by drinking. A lot. But at age 33 I made that one decision that this was not a healthy happy life. I stopped drinking, I failed. I stopped again. I read books, started exercising, got some cognitive behaviour therapy and radically changed my self and my life. On 13th December 2017, I will be 8 years clean, sober and happy.
Overwhelmed doesn’t have to be the norm.
The other “whelmed” that I think people don’t recognise enough or take enough action to change, is feeling Underwhelmed.
If you feel underwhelmed with life, work, people, events or you lack positive emotions about life in general or your self, then you need to recognise this and take action so that you’re stimulated and interested in living. Sleep-walking through life is not a fulfilling life. We need to be fully engaged in living this magical thing called life.
Underwhelmed doesn’t have to be the norm either.
Remember you have created the life you are currently living. Even the things that are outside of your control, you control how you think and react. Overcoming your biggest pains, struggles and challenges can become your biggest strength. This strength empowers you and you can use it to help others going through similar struggles.
Which whelmed are you? And what decision are you going to make to change it?
There’s a statement and a half for all the LOA believers.
I can almost hear the shouts of “Yes it does, I can prove it, I wanted a cat in my life and a stray turned up at my door, or I just went and bought one from Pets At Home”.
Now, let me clarify exactly what I mean when I say the Law of Attraction doesn’t work.
What I actually mean is…..
The Law Of Attraction doesn’t work ON ITS OWN. It has two best mates.
It firstly takes some effort, some work, some thoughts, beliefs, some energy and some ACTION. Some action on the specific outcome/thing/result you desire. Knowing what you want and having a plan of action to get it. And doing the work.
So Mate 1 is the Law Of ACTION.
Then once you have started taking said action, things start to happen, you start to feel the potential, then start to see results, so you keep taking action, you increase the focus and intensity. Then things get easier and almost take on a life of their own. You have gained traction.
So Mate 2 is the Law Of TRACTION.
It’s all there. Attraction is made up of Action and Traction.
So don’t just wish for something and expect unicorns. You need a plan; to actually go out and buy a horse, strap a horn on its head and there’s your unicorn. Then hire it out for children’s parties and it gains traction and your new business of hosting children’s parties takes off.
The Law Of Attraction is more than wishful thinking.