We all have our reasons for stopping drinking. It can be for our mental health, for our physical health, because we will lose our jobs maybe, or our families. Perhaps we are facing financial ruin and are at risk of becoming homeless. Maybe every time we drink we get ourselves into serious trouble with the boys in blue and have had just about enough of spending the night at Our Majesty’s Pleasure, nursing a broken hand, a broken nose and a bruised ego. It’s possible that we have simply had enough.
We’ve had enough of the daily lies, to ourselves and to those around us. We’ve had enough of the conversations we have to ourselves about easing back, promising to take a few nights off the asbo juice only to break that promise as afternoon rolls around and finding ourselves watching repeats of Family Guy, laughing manically to ourselves at 1am on a school night, wondering how you’d managed to get through another 6 strong beers and half a bottle of whiskey again.
We’ve had enough of waking up at 3am, each morning, with a sense of crushing anxiety strong enough to wake the dead from their eternal slumber. We can’t take many more feelings of exhaustion as our poor bodies, valiantly but with ever increasing difficulty, continue with their constant fight against us willingly poisoning ourselves with a toxic legal drug. God we want to stop. We really REALLY want to stop. So we try again. And again and again and again, but we keep coming back to it, in spite of everything we know. Why?
It’s possible we are addicted, I mean why else would we keep doing this ourselves? But we don’t necessarily have to be addicted to then decide to stop drinking. You might just decide that it isn’t for you. You can decide to stop drinking before you get to the stage of addiction and your world won’t suddenly stop turning. We give ourselves as many reasons as possible to put off that decision don’t we?
“What can I do to wind down?” (i)
“How will I get to sleep at night?” (ii)
“I love the feeling of being drunk!” (iii)
“It’s part of who I am. It’s my identity” (iv)
“I don’t have a problem” (v)
“I deserve it” (vi)
“My social life will be OVER and I will lose all of my friends” (vii)
(i) : There are countless ways to wind down after a stressful day. Exercise, meditation, quality time with your family, a hobby that you’ve maybe forgotten you enjoyed, a walk, some music, a movie. Alcohol will of course initially help you feel more relaxed because it is a drug, a depressant, a sedative. But morphine, valium or cannabis will have the same affect. Would you happily take those every night? And because your body and brain strive for homeostasis, any drug you introduce into your system will create a reaction in your body, which will then produce natural hormones and chemicals to counteract said drug. The initial feeling of calm will give way to an increased heart rate and feelings of anxiety and a fight or flight response in the nervous system. The more you drink and the more often you drink, the higher your tolerance becomes. Meaning more alcohol is needed to achieve the same feeling of calm and, equally, the more naturally produced chemicals created to counteract the alcohol imbibed.
(ii): Your body is incredibly clever and will go through a series of processes through the evening to achieve the ideal conditions for sleep. It will release chemicals in its own daily rhythm, the circadian rhythm. Adenosine is released throughout the day and as this builds it will signal a shift towards sleep. Melatonin is then released as it starts to get dark, letting your body know it is time to start winding down. Alcohol completely disrupts this pattern, and over repeated use will create a dependency in our bodies. In time our bodies will rely on it, and not our natural patterns, to initiate sleep. However, because of its sedative nature it will also disrupt the sleep itself. It shuts down the brain, but for us to achieve restorative sleep our brains need to be active in sleep. During REM sleep for example, our brain waves are as active as they are in waking moments. Alcohol will effectively anaesthetize us in sleep. It’s why we always feel so tired with a hangover, often after many many hours sleep. When we stop drinking our bodies will, after time, achieve the most restorative sleep we can remember. If we are used to booze getting us off to sleep then the first few nights without it can be tricky, but the payoff is well worth it.
(iii): Of course you do! It’s a fucking drug! That doesn’t necessarily mean you should carry on doing it. I was prescribed morphine for back pain before and I loved how that made me feel too, but I wouldn’t take it every day. Just because alcohol is legal it doesn’t mean it’s good for you (see also tobacco)
(iv): Who are you anyway? Are you defined by what drink you put in your glass? Our identities aren’t set in stone. We can change, we can evolve. In fact the most interesting and inspiring people you’ve ever met have probably constantly evolved. And some of the most boring likely never have. Don’t allow your identity to be shaped by something as harmful as booze. Be brave. Step out of the shadows.
(v): Oh yeah? How’s that working out for you? Denial can be very dangerous. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re drinking too much, you are probably drinking too much. Someone with no problem with alcohol never even comes close to asking themselves that question.
(vi): But at what cost? Maybe flip that statement and say you deserve to give your body a break from it.
(vii): The picture on this blog was taken in Central London yesterday with two people I have met since I got sober. As you can see, we don’t look like your stereotypical alcoholics in recovery. It was taken in a pub (those are alcohol free beers we have) and the atmosphere was happy and hilarious. I regard these two guys as very good friends, and I have met scores of other people since I stopped drinking who I value just as much as any other friends I have made in the past. Your social life does not stop when you stop. It will likely change but mine is richer now than I can remember it ever being in the past. I still have a core group of friends from my drinking days, it’s just I don’t get pissed with them anymore. If your social life revolves around a pub and your friends are all drinking buddies it is possible to maintain those friendships. They will just look different to what they do at the moment. Your true friends will still want to hang out with you. And you can still hang out in the pub if you want to. I know someone who has now been sober for 5,000 days and he still sees the same friends he did before, in pubs, as they travel around the country to support their football team. He just chooses not to drink alcohol. That option doesn’t just suddenly disappear the moment you stop drinking. Personally, I don’t go to pubs that often. But then I didn’t when I was a drinker either. If I do go to the pub, like I did yesterday, I still have a great time. I just don’t drink. And I don’t stay in there for hours either. I see my friends, we talk and laugh like we used to and then I leave before it gets messy (that’s if they are drinkers). You have to accept that your social life may change, but will it be over? Nothing could be further from the truth. I have found so many new friends since getting sober and I meet them in pubs, in cafes, in restaurants, for walks at the beach, the forest or the parks. And they are honest and true friendships. They are real. They aren’t lubricated by booze, fashioned in false egos and forgotten promises.
Don’t lie to yourself if you want to stop drinking. Don’t believe the narrative that you need alcohol to live. To shape you. Alcohol will only mould you into what it wants you to be, while the real you suffocates under its spell. You are so much more than the liquid you choose to put in your glass. Just be brave and see who that person is.
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With much love❤️🙏