Amazingly, today marks 500 days since I last had a drink. 500 days sounds like an awful long time, and I guess it is when one thinks about it. That’s like a year and quite a bit more, to those of you who can’t count properly. And, as many people try to get through dry January, I thought it would be a good time to write some stuff about all of the things (or at least some of the things) about living alcohol free. The hows. The whys. The what the fucks. You know?
Reasons I didn’t stop before:
I didn’t have a problem. Apparently. Or at least that is what I kept telling myself. Everyone likes a drink right? Doesn’t everyone have a beer after work? Or two? Or a few more once you get started? I would justify my drinking by searching facebook, tv, books, movies, memories of school night piss ups, whatever I could find really, for validation…
“Look! They’re drinking! And it’s only Tuesday but they don’t care! Now. Where’s my whisky chaser?”
And I would say to myself that I wasn’t that bad because I hadn’t lost everything. Like, I wasn’t homeless or cast aside by my family or society just yet. So what’s the problem? But that’s a fairly low bar to be honest. The fact I was hanging out of my arse most mornings and spending large chunks of each weekend drinking or sleeping didn’t seem to matter. I wasn’t a tramp. So let’s drink to that.
Once I’d kind of realised that my drinking wasn’t what could classically be described as normal (what the fuck is that anyway?!), I started to wonder how on earth I would be able to stop. From my constant waking at 3am with heart pounding anxiety, worrying about anything my poor brain would grab on to. To panicking in the evenings as I would approach the end of my sixth beer and wonder if a quarter bottle of whisky would be enough to last the night, I was in a bit of a pickle (pun intended). But the thought of somehow not having alcohol in my life was quite frankly terrifying. How is that even possible? Isn’t sobriety BORING? What the hell would I drink in the evenings after work? Fucking TEA?! Nah. Just a big fat no. I can’t do it, and I won’t be able to do it.
Which leads to the third reason…
Why should I stop?! All that fear, all that denial led to a massive, toddler-esque dose of pure stubbornness…
“It’s not fair! I won’t stop because it’s just. Not. FAIR!’ *stamps feet, scrunches fists and face, and wails*
I deserve to drink. Everyone else can so why can’t I? I deserve that beer after work. I deserve to go to the pub and do nothing but get drunk and talk bollocks. Why should all of that be denied to me? Why?! I am going to drink because I have a right to. It is my RIGHT! *shakes fist triumphantly.
I had very little knowledge of what being sober was like because I had no experience of life in this world. Other than my little sister who had stopped drinking 6 months before I did, and a friend from school who I only ever really chatted to on facebook, I didn’t know anyone who had stopped drinking. And I had no idea what sobriety actually felt like. The only people I ever really spoke to about it were people who drank. Which is kind of like getting an idea on what running feels like from someone who barely makes it off the couch each day.
“Well, people who run say it’s great but it seems like an awful lot of work to me. Nah. Fuck that”
The truth is I was ignorant to it. And even with my little sister, my best friend, telling me how much better she felt, I never really listened. But I’m certain that her influence must have had a drip drip effect on me, eventually steering me towards sobriety with an invisible guiding hand. And her experience and knowledge about what to expect were invaluable to me when I finally decided to stop.
So. How? How did I stop?
Well I had spent many months, years even, in the knowledge that I was drinking too much. Although I wouldn’t let this realisation show to those around me, I knew it. Deep in my heart. In those waking moments every single night…
“Man, I fucking did it again. I need to slow down. This is ridiculous (sad face emoji)”
But despite me knowing this I still didn’t stop. I tried, unsuccessfully, to moderate my drinking. Only drink at weekends (fail), only drink 1 beer a night (fail), 2 beers, 3 beers, fuck sake stay away from whisky (fail, fail, FAIL!). And over time I became addicted and then it was basically impossible to moderate. Instead of getting better I was getting worse. Instead of drinking less I was drinking more.
Until one day, 500 days ago, I stopped. I had quite simply had enough of feeling like this. I knew the only option was to stop completely and I knew that if I didn’t, then drinking would kill me. Therefore in the end, after all that pain and turmoil, the choice became glaringly obvious. The decision became easy to make. I had to stop. And I wanted to stop.
How to stay stopped
If I knew the answer to this I would be a very rich man. The truth is there is no definitive answer because we humans are all different. What works for one person will not work for another. The one piece of advice that I can give is, if you are considering it yourself, for however long, then be positive. DO NOT feel that you are depriving yourself because if you do that you will likely fail. Even if you are only doing dry January. And if you do manage to do it in spite of feeling deprived then by God you will feel miserable about it. Dive right into it, with *an annoying morning DJ kind of* positivity. Because there are many reasons to be positive about it…
Mental health will improve – The crippling anxiety I suffered with daily is now barely noticable.
Physical health will improve – I have never felt fitter.
Your eyes look bright and alive, and your skin looks better – Really important for blokes right?
You sleep like a baby – Alcohol really fucks with your sleep and I can’t remember sleeping as well as I do now
You save a fortune – No idea where it’s gone but I have apparently saved £4,500 since I stopped
I’d be here all day if I listed every reason on how becoming sober has benefitted me. It has quite literally transformed my life for the better. When I was a few months in I wrote a few benefits down. Such as: proud, healthy, happy, spiritual, calm, productive, hopeful, bright, confident, grateful, joyful, peaceful and energetic.
I have seen stories of hundreds of people who have tried sobriety. And the ones that succeed at it are the ones who are positive about what they are doing. They are the ones that OWN it. As far as the internal doubting voice is concerned, they do not drink. They see it as a blessing and not a curse. Because that’s what it is. A blessing.
Give it a try yourself, whether you feel you have to or not. You never know, you might like it.
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