Dry January *recoils in horror😱

Aaarggghhh! Those words! It feels like a punishment doesn’t it? A penance for being a naughty boy over the Christmas period, or even the whole year. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that is? Why are we made to feel so shit about stopping drinking? Even if it’s only going to be a temporary thing?

Many of you may well have already done a Dry January in the past. Or a Sober October perhaps. And maybe you found it to be a massive struggle, swimming against the current, the societal tide of booze sloshing against you as you paddled against it upstream. There would no doubt have been some people encouraging you on your brave task, but I would hazard a guess that there would also have been a fair few friends and family saying,

“Fuck THAT! Are you insane?!” *whilst helpfully attaching a selfie with a pint and a big smile.

The facts of the matter are that alcohol companies are powerful. The alcohol industry as a whole is worth around £40 billion to the UK economy, while tax revenues from the sale of alcohol are roughly £11 billion in England alone. That’s a decent chunk of money going into the public coffers so lobbyists have a decent bargaining chip when it comes to government decision making around booze and public messaging. The fact that estimates of the total cost of alcohol to the economy when taking into account healthcare and crime costs, on top of productivity and hours lost in the workplace because of sore heads, run in at anywhere between £21-£52 billion, is kind of lost in all the noise of popping champagne corks, chinking of glasses and sirens of emergency vehicles. *Figures obtained from The Institute of Alcohol Studies. Any time there are protests about its wider effect on society, those running the show provide us with helpful statements to keep us in check…

PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY

The WHO have recently recommended that there is no safe level of drinking at all, but to placate the industry the UK Government is sticking with its advice of 14 units of alcohol per week, for both men and women. With a caveat of not exceeding this “on a regular basis”. Oh and to also spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you are at that limit to avoid binge drinking. And binge drinking is classified as 4 drinks or more for women and 5 or more for men, in one sitting. Then you have to learn what is classified as a single drink and a single unit. Fucking hell, it all gets a bit much doesn’t it? Anyone would think that they are making it deliberately confusing so people just end up saying “Fuckit. I’ll just be careful”

The problem with that is that alcohol is a drug. An addictive drug given half a chance. Over time your one drink a night may turn into two. Then over more time it may turn into three. And then you’ve nearly finished the bottle so you may as well have another. You become more tolerant of it so, again, over time, you need a little bit more to get the same kind of effect. Which increases your dependency as your brain struggles to regulate the disruption these chemicals are having on its normal balance so it asks you to drink more. Before you know it you’ve slipped into nightly drinking, breaking all the rules you may have set yourself when you watched that advert for whiskey and it told you to ‘Drink responsibly’.

So you decide to try to stop and do Dry January but everyone else has been programmed in the same way that you have, that drinking is acceptable, as long as you’re ‘careful’. That drinking is normal. That we all have a drink and anyone that doesn’t is just a bit weird. Or boring. Or weirdly boring. It seems such an alien concept to us as a society. We say we get it, but really we don’t. Why should we stop fucking drinking?! We don’t have a problem!

But maybe we do. Maybe, secretly so no one hears us, we say we’re a bit worried about it. We’re not quite sure how it’s happened but compared to a few years ago we find ourselves thinking about drinking a little more than we feel comfortable with. We are drinking in the week now, when we said we’d NEVER do that. Or maybe we just feel like we need a break, that it isn’t really doing anything for us anymore.

Here’s the thing though. We, personally, don’t have to have a perceived problem with alcohol to be given permission to stop. No matter what anyone says. We have the power to just stop. Just like if we’re a social smoker, not a twenty a day kind of guy but someone that has a smoke when they’re out with friends, we still know that it would be ok to stop if we want to. But, unlike with alcohol, society doesn’t think us weird if we stop that social smoking habit. However, we need to be absolutely on our arses, homeless and destitute for it to be acceptable to stop drinking, on a societal level. And that is fucked up.

Alcohol causes cancer, linked to seven types in fact. It destroys families, friendships and loving relationships. It is a massive burden on our health and emergency services. So why the hell should we be made to feel so shit if we want to stop drinking? Because that’s how the majority of people have been conditioned to feel. And the majority rule right? Wrong! We can still be rebellious. Stopping drinking is a rebellious act. It’s a big FU to society, who think they can tell us how we feel and what we should do with our lives. So if you’re planning on giving society the middle finger and stopping drinking in January, or now even, then here are a few tips to get you started:

1: Own it! Be proud of your decision, don’t be afraid of it. You’re a rebel remember?!

2: Join a group. There are loads of groups online where you can find like-minded people doing exactly the same as you. Community is really important so as not to feel alone in a world of drinkers.

3. Read books and blogs all about alcohol and stopping drinking. Like this one! There are thousands out there. Learn about your enemy, learn to look at it as a pain in your arse and not the friend it keeps telling you it is.

4. Alcohol free substitutes. There are countless AF options out there now and some are absolutely incredible. Especially the beers. Give them a go to satisfy your habit of having a grown up drink after work or on a Friday night.

5. Be honest. To your loved ones but most importantly to yourself. Don’t bullshit. If you’ve thought that maybe you’re drinking a bit too much then I can guarantee that you are drinking too much. For you that is. Not everyone else. You. (See below…)

6. Don’t compare yourself to others. It doesn’t matter for shit what others drink or how much. Or whether they think you’re being over dramatic by thinking about your consumption. The fact of the matter is that you aren’t comfortable with it. And that is ALL that matters.

7. Ask for help. Tell your GP if you’re worried. They should offer support. Message a friend who you know can help too, we all know some weirdo who’s stopped drinking right?

8. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about it. What’s done is done. Just look forward. The best apology if things have gone bosoms north is changed behaviour.

9. Practice self-care. An extension of being kind. Eat well. Drink lots of water. Rest well but don’t be surprised if your sleep is all fucked for the first few nights. Just stick at it and keep looking forwards.

10. Enjoy it! Don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. You’re not. You’re just made to feel like that because everyone else is drinking. Fuck everyone else. You know how that road looks for you. And you have no idea what everyone is thinking anyway. They may well be looking at you and wishing above all else that they had the balls to do something so brave and radical. Stopping drinking is quite possibly the best thing you will ever do. Every single person I’ve encountered since I’ve stopped (of which there are hundreds, if not thousands) say it is the best thing they’ve ever done. It is incredibly empowering and it will change your life if you let it.

Good luck if you’re re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol. And well done for making such a fantastic decision. The only regret I have about stopping drinking is that I didn’t decide to do it earlier. Like any abusive relationship, it will try and tell you that you need it, that you’re nothing without it. But like any abuser, it lies. Don’t listen to it and just wave it goodbye!

Thank you for reading and please share if you know someone that may need to read these words. And subscribe for more content!

Much love🙏❤

Just do it.

I am generally and historically not one of those people that sees things through. Throughout my entire life I have run away. From responsibility, from commitment and from ambition. I think it’s important to reiterate this fact because when I’ve read these kind of blogs, or quit lit books in the past, I have felt a slight disconnect with the author. They are (not always but normally) successful. They have, or had before addiction took hold, a very good career, or since they have stopped drinking they have created (what society perceives at least) a flourishing and thriving life. Book deals, growing businesses, perhaps they have retrained as a therapist or counsellor working closely with addiction and recovery. They are incredibly driven.

I, on the other hand, am not. I write a blog obviously, and I am writing a book. But other than that I am just a bloke who works a normal job, pays monthly rent on a small flat in a small town, flits between relationships like a honey bee between beautiful flowers and worries about normal things. Like a normal bloke. I could count on one hand the things I have fully committed to. Learning the guitar, a couple of my romantic relationships, my young nephew and niece, veganism (yeah, that happened a couple of years into sobriety) and I learnt to juggle once. The juggling doesn’t sound like much of a commitment I agree, but have you ever tried to juggle? That shit needs commitment and practice to get right. I underachieved at school, I underachieved in my work life, although that’s taken a more positive turn in sobriety, I don’t own a house or have 2.4 children, a medium sized dog, a large family car and a white picket fence. Admittedly I don’t buy into these superficial status symbols of success anyway, but you get the picture. 

This is why I’ve been as surprised as anyone that I’ve managed to stay sober for as long as I have. Sometimes, however, something comes along that I fully dive into and go all out for. Learning guitar, getting sober and going vegan are the obvious contenders here. But other than that, I really am just like your average kind of guy. You don’t have to be one of ‘those’ people to achieve sobriety you see. Of everyone that I know I was probably the least likely if I’m honest. I would normally have given up on it because it takes too much commitment. It would have been other people that would have done it. Other people that are good at other things, that see things through. But not me.

The fact is, anyone can stop drinking. Like I say, you don’t have to be one of ‘those’ people, but you do need to commit to it. It is not something that you should be scared about though. It is seen as such a difficult thing to do, and if you overthink it, it is. Equally though, on a purely basic level (and I understand that addiction is far from basic and is a very complex issue) it is the easiest thing in the world. You just don’t pick up another drink ever again. That’s it. I believe the mindset is the most important starting point of stopping drinking. Stopping any addiction actually. At the very start at least, before you dive into the reasons behind your addiction it must start with the admittance that you have a problem, and then from there you should have the firm belief that you will do it. That you want to do it. That you can do it. If you go into it tentatively it will be much more difficult. If you have the mindset that you’re going to struggle, then you will struggle. When a craving arises you will look at it with fear and dread, rather than how it should be looked at. As something that happens when you are addicted to something. And if you are armed with the knowledge of why it happens you will know it’ll pass. So many millions of people overcome addiction so why can’t you? It’s much better to focus on the positivity of the millions of people that have beaten it, rather than the negativity of the millions that haven’t. Do your homework obviously. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. Make it the most important thing in your life and you will succeed. Of course there will be times where it feels really fucking difficult. That’s normal. Just like life can feel really fucking difficult, so can sobriety. Actually so can addiction though right?

Choose your difficult.

The right mindset is absolutely vital though. You must start with the right mindset.

When I learnt how to play the guitar I stuck at it, I practised for hours every day. I had told myself I was going to learn how to play the guitar so that’s exactly what I did. And that was fucking difficult to start with as well but I just kept going because I wanted to be someone who could play the guitar. And then, over time, I became someone who could play the guitar. Because that’s what I wanted to do, more than anything else at that particular time in my life.

And so it is with sobriety. Say it to yourself firmly, before you say it to anyone else. Until that time that I did that, I was struggling. I was flapping around, assuming that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Setting myself wishy washy goals and rules, failing and then telling myself that of course I failed, just like I’d failed at so many other things throughout my life. I was splashing around in what I perceived to be very turbulent waters, looking to other people to throw me a life-raft and help me out of it because I couldn’t keep my head above water. Until one day I realised that the waters were only turbulent because I was flapping around so much. All I needed to do was stop flapping and the calm water would carry me itself . I didn’t need anyone to throw me a life-raft, I didn’t need to be looking around me, waiting for someone to come along and save me. In fact, no-one would. Because no-one can other than yourself. All I needed to do was stop. I had everything else already in me to take care of everything else. I just had to say no. Firmly. No more.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the movie The Matrix. If you aren’t then are we even friends? Anyway, towards the end of the movie in a dark underground station, our hero Neo is trying to get back to his friends, and the girl he is with, Trinity, manages to get out of there. Away from the dreaded Agents who are in hot pursuit.  Normally if the Agents are after you, you run. But Neo doesn’t run. Neo turns to face the Agents. More specifically, he turns to face the main antagonist, Agent Smith. His friends all watch in shock horror.

“What is he doing?!” one of them asks Morpheus.

“He’s starting to believe” comes the reply.

And so begins the final act of the movie. Neo has spent the whole movie being told that he is ‘The One’. The One to take down the Agents and The Matrix itself. But he has never truly believed it. The moment he does believe it some amazing things start to happen. Instead of getting his arse kicked by Agent Smith, like anyone else would have, he fights on an equal footing. He eventually gets chased down because the Agents can effectively cheat (not fair), and he gets shot. It seems like it is all over. He’s been killed and the Agents have won. But he resurrects somehow (because love apparently?!) and as he rises and turns to face the Agents, they fire a barrage of bullets at him. But he believes now. He is reborn. He puts up a hand, palm out to face the bullets and simply says,

“No.”

The bullets drop to the ground and the Agents look on in shock as Neo swiftly defeats them and flies off into the sunset, because, yeah, he can fly now.

I watched this movie so many times as a drinker and loved it then, but when I watched it through sober eyes I couldn’t believe how many parallels there were in it to achieving sobriety. It suddenly became one big sober analogy. That moment Neo said “No” felt like the moment I had when I decided enough was enough. I had put up my hand, palm out, to my addiction and simply said “No”. My moment of belief, just like Neo’s, had come just before then. Admittedly I didn’t get killed and resurrected, although it felt exactly like I had gone through a resurrection when I got sober. I had been reborn. Stronger and with a certainty that I would achieve exactly what I set out to achieve.

That’s the kind of belief that you need to get sober. You can get sober without that firm belief but fucking hell it’s hard work. And it remains hard work every single day. It doesn’t have to be like that. Just get your head in the right place and believe that you can achieve the impossible. Because you can. You’ve just got to do it. And this comes from someone who hasn’t achieved very much in his life at all, and has often failed. Apart from a few things. And juggling. Don’t forget the juggling. That shit is hard to learn.

Thank you for reading and please subscribe if you would like to read more. Feel free to share as well.

Much love🙏❤

This will be better if I have a drink…

You’re at a party. Everyone around you is having a blast but you’re just not feeling it. And when you look more closely you notice that some, if not most of them are drinking. So the thought enters your mind,

“This will be better if I have a drink…”

Or…

You’re at home. Your anxious mind is racing and you’re thinking about absolutely everything that is wrong in your life and you just want it to SHUT UP for a minute. You need some peace so the thought enters your mind,

“This will be better if I have a drink…”

Or perhaps,

You’re on holiday. You’re lying on a beach with the scorching sun beaming down onto your skin, and you’re right next to a bar, filled with beautiful people sipping fancy looking cocktails. Everything is perfect. Well, everything is almost perfect because the thought has just entered your mind,

“This will be better if I have a drink…”

Maybe the thought enters your mind when you get home from work. When you watch a footy match on tv. When you’ve put the kids to bed. Or when it’s the weekend, when it’s the good end of a Monday, when you’re out having a meal with your partner, when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re tired, when you’re angry, when you want to celebrate, commiserate, smile, laugh, feel sexy, feel confident or just SCREAM!

“This will be better if I have a drink…”

But! You’ve made a commitment to stop drinking. You were worried because that thought popped into your head far too often. You’d read somewhere that drinking causes cancer. A friend told you that you were a bit of a dick when you’d had too much to drink and they were worried about you. Or you’d woken up too many times in the middle of the night racked with anxiety and you just knew deep down it was connected to alcohol, but you were too scared to say it out loud. Yet still the thought persists,

“This will be better if I have a drink…”

What do you do? Well, obviously you have two choices. You can take a drink, or you can ride it out. If you take a drink, and you have committed to staying sober, then you will then have to deal with all the guilt that will inevitably follow. And then go through it all again. And for what? So you can fit in at the party and lose your mind and your inhibitions? What about those people at the party who aren’t drinking? Why are they so relaxed? Because they are at peace with the decision they have made about not drinking to enjoy themselves, that’s how. They have seen through the bullshit that our society insists we believe. They know that they are immeasurably happier not being chained to booze and to this belief, and that the rewards of living a sober life far outweigh the momentary ‘benefit’ of taking a mind altering drug to let loose.

You could take a drink to calm your anxious mind at home if you so choose as well. Or you could come to the realisation that it is quite possibly the alcohol that is causing the anxiety in the first place, as your brain desperately tries to find balance after you introduced a depressant into your system. And if there is a deeper cause to your anxiety then drinking to self medicate will be about as effective as putting a sticking plaster onto a severed jugular vein. Additionally, any therapy or treatment you undergo for mental health issues will be completely undermined by alcohol.

And the only thing that alcohol will bring you in the hypothetical holiday scenario is less presence to enjoy the moment for what it is. The sun will still shine if you stay sober. The beach will still be there. And because alcohol increases your heart rate, taking a drink will make you feel less relaxed, not more, especially as it wears off.

As for all of the other situations I listed, if you feel like you need a drink for all of those then perhaps having a break is exactly what your body, mind and soul require at the moment.

To try to limit the amount of times that voice in your head tells you to take a drink it is important to remember that we have been conditioned in this society to believe it is all true. Since a very young age, we have had messages of “Alcohol is good!” thrust into our subconscious mind. From those around us in our family, to most of our friends, to articles we read in newspapers and magazines, to news reports on the tv, to television shows, radio shows, movies, novels and even healthcare professionals.

But the truth of the matter is, as more and more scientific studies are showing, alcohol is not good. At all. It is a poison. We dilute it down and sweeten the fuck out of it to make it palatable but the simple fact remains. It is a poisonous, addictive and deadly drug. It DOES cause cancer. It WILL kill you if you’re unlucky enough. It tears apart families. It puts an enormous strain on our health and emergency services. And life without it is just as fun and even more beautiful than you can imagine, if you let it be so. Don’t pine for your old life, commit to and embrace your new one.

If you have decided to stop drinking then well done. Perhaps you are doing Sober October and you can’t stop that voice chiming in as you navigate your way through life. Maybe even your friends or your family are echoing that voice. Don’t be surprised if they are, they have been programmed by our society in exactly the same way our own subconscious has after all. And don’t listen to them, or to that voice. Distract yourself if it persists because it will fade over time. Just remember, you can choose to get through this month, or the entire length of your sobriety even, by embracing the new life you have been given, the fresh mornings, the lack of hangovers, the reduced anxiety, the weight loss, the clearer skin, the increased drive (including sex), the increased bank balance, the happy liver, heart, kidneys, brain and guts. Or you can choose to feel like you are missing out. In spite of everything that you now know to be true. Or, God forbid, you could choose to listen to that voice. The one that says,

“This would be better if I had a drink…”

But you should remember…

That voice is a liar.

Thank you for reading, don’t forget to like and subscribe, and please share far and wide.

Much love 🙏❤️

Alcohol free drinks. Shit or awesome?

Beer.

I love the stuff, I’ve got to admit. And even now I’m sober and have been for nearly three years, I still drink it. Except I drink alcohol free beer, and not nearly as much as I did when I used to get pissed nearly every single night of the week. In my previous life as a pisshead I would still make sure the beer I drank was of good quality. And more than 5 percent because what’s the fucking point of drinking beer if it won’t get you pissed right? There would be none of that Fosters or Carlsberg crap in my fridge. My personal favourite was full of flavour, and coming in at 5.9% alcohol content, packed a fair old punch. Any time I wanted to get pissed more quickly I would rely on my good friends Mr Empty Stomach or Mr Cheap Blended Whiskey. But beer really was where it was at for me.

I liked the complex flavours of an IPA or the honesty of a real ale. And in my drinking days I wouldn’t have EVER considered drinking an alcohol free beer. Because what’s the point of that? Not only do they not get you pissed (correct!) they taste like crap. Like a really shitty watered down version of the worst beer you could possibly imagine (incorrect!) Thankfully we are well into the 21st century now, in case you needed a time check, and the idea of undrinkable alcohol free beers is about as outdated as a pager. Or a facsimile. Or only having 4 channels on a television set that you were only able to change if you got up off your sofa and PRESSED BUTTONS ON THE BOX ITSELF! *shock horror! *

So. As someone who wants to address their drinking, or someone who wants to never imbibe in The Devil’s Piss ever again, is it OK to drink them? Well, that can be a complicated question, surprisingly, and just like whether your drink of choice is usually a Pinot Noir or a Snakebite and Black, it is a completely personal choice. For me, they were the difference between me getting sober or not. Or to put it in a more expansive and dramatic fashion, between completely transforming every aspect of my existence or ending up dead in a ditch after a slow and tortuous demise. Therefore, let us address some common questions and misconceptions about alcohol free drinks.

Do they taste nice?

An obvious and important question! Depending of course on how desperate you are to get sober, you’re unlikely to drink something that tastes like it’s been filtered through an unwashed stocking. I mean, that may be your thing but I would guess that it isn’t. Taste is obviously very important. And truthfully the answer is both yes and no, just like it is for every other foodstuff or product in the marketplace. Some of it is fabulously divine, and some of it isn’t.

There is an ever growing selection out there however, and sales of alcohol free drinks are increasing by 20 or so percent (sometimes nearer 50 percent) every single year. More demand means more products, it means more investment in product improvements and of course, it means more choice.

As a beer drinker there is an incredible array of alcohol free tipples. There are well known brands providing alcohol free versions of their best sellers and brand new beers on the market that only brew alcohol free beers. Some you will have heard of and some that you won’t. I have tried many different crisp and refreshing lagers and some that taste like shit. I have enjoyed beautiful IPAs with such depth and originality they have won awards at festivals that would only usually champion the alcoholic varieties. There are stouts and wheat beers, in fact there is every type of beer that you could possibly imagine, and they have often passed blind taste tests where they were indistinguishable from their alcoholic cousins.

I was not really a wine drinker but I know lots of people who are/were, and the choice of wines available is also growing exponentially. And if that is the case (it is) then with growth of choice comes quality. I have had some wonderful sparkling wines, a popular choice is a Prosecco alternative called Nosecco. When I would normally have drunk a wine I now prefer to drink a kombucha, which can also be alcoholic but most often isn’t. A couple of good friends of mine now brew and sell their own kombucha, Boucha Kombucha, which is a fantastic alternative to a white wine.

There are incalculable varieties of alcohol free ‘spirits’ out there as well. Whiskey alternatives, gin, vodka, rum and even some stand alone ‘spirits’ that are unlike anything I ever had when I was a drinker.

In short, there is an enormous choice nowadays and some of it is crap, and some of it is stunning. Just like the choice one would have if one was a drinker.

Are they safe to drink to maintain sobriety?

For me, they are. For other sobereristas, they aren’t. It is that simple. I know that AA are STRONGLY opposed to drinking them but I’m of the inclination that if they help to keep you sober then why the fuck wouldn’t you drink them?!

There is a worry that they may trigger a drinker into wanting ‘The Real Thing’ which is a very valid worry. It’s the reason I don’t drink any alcohol free versions of whiskey, so I get it. But for me, although I really enjoyed a good single malt, I also enjoyed a shit blended whiskey. I drank whiskey because it got me pissed quickly. So I would worry that if I drank an alcohol free version of it it would trigger a craving. And cravings are generally something that retired pissheads like myself try to avoid. It all boils down to personal preference.

But some alcohol free drinks say they contain 0.5% alcohol! Surely that means you aren’t sober if you drink those?!

It is confusing, admittedly. However, it is considered, not through opinion but through scientific fact, that anything up to 0.5% is considered alcohol free. An experiment was done in Germany in 2012 where volunteers were asked to abstain from alcohol for 5 days before then being asked to consume one and a half litres of 0.42% ABV beer within one hour. Alcohol was only detected in blood samples taken in a quarter of those tested. But, importantly, the maximum blood alcohol content from these samples was measured at a MAXIMUM of 0.0056%. This is approximately 13 percent of the amount of BAC needed for someone to start feeling the effects of alcohol in their system (for reference the legal driving limit for BAC in England is 0.08%, and the level at which one can generally feel the effects of alcohol is 0.04%).

These drinks contain a trace of alcohol therefore, and nothing more. Our bodies, our livers to be exact, process this trace of alcohol far more quickly than the time that is needed to feel its effects on us. We would need to drink about 17 cans, in an hour, to reach the drink drive limit, and then continue at that pace to simply maintain that level. And who the fuck is going to do that?!

Additionally, alcohol is contained in so many different foods and drinks where it doesn’t have to be declared at all. Bread contains alcohol with burger buns coming in at a whopping 1.28% ABV. (“Let’s get pissed gang! What did you bring to this party? Jonno, you got the beer?” “Yep” “Billy, you brought the vodka?” “Yo!” “Steveo , you got the burger buns yeah” “Shit yeah! I got a fuck tonne from M and S. They were on special and they’re gonna get us WASTED!”). A ripe banana has 0.4% ABV, fruit juice has it, vinegar, yoghurt, many many desserts have it. Basically anything that has gone through a fermentation process will contain alcohol. It is even used as a taste enhancer in soft drinks. If one was to try and avoid alcohol ENTIRELY in their quest to get sober, one would really only be able to live on water. We even have around 2% in our guts. 0.5% ABV drinks have also been confirmed to be entirely safe for pregnant mothers to consume.

So they are safe in terms of alcohol content, but as to whether you feel comfortable drinking them without getting triggered is something only you can answer.

I have often been asked what the point of drinking them is. In my early days of sobriety I drank two or three AF beers in the evening when I came home from work. They satisfied a craving I had and my evening rituals weren’t completely sacrificed. I also like the taste of beer! It is nice to go to a pub too, and order something other than super sweet coke or lemonade, or fucking J20. I don’t feel as left out at social gatherings, hiding in the corner of the room with my water and feeling like a social pariah.

But the bottom line is, they were, and still are absolutely vital in my recovery and my ongoing sobriety. One could even say they have saved my life. And for the record, I now don’t drink them every night. Just when I fancy them. I no longer freak out if a pub or restaurant doesn’t stock any and I’m just as happy with a tonic water. We have a misconception in our society that they taste like shit and they should never be touched because there is no point to them. And that is how I used to feel as well, as a drinker. But now that I have seen both sides I understand that they are a very important tool in so many people’s efforts to get sober. They should therefore be celebrated, and not mocked. We’ve moved on from the 1970s after all, at least I would like to think we have. If they help you get sober then use them. Drink them with pride. And if they don’t? Then don’t drink them. It really is that simple. Do what works for you!

Now I’m going to hit it hard and scoff down some burger buns because I’m such a fucking rockstar!🤘

Thank you for reading, please share far and wide and subscribe and comment if you’re itching for something to say!

Sending love🙏❤️

Maybe I wasn’t that bad after all…

Anyone who has suffered with a hangover will be familiar with the feeling of:

“Oh my God I feel absolutely awful. I am NEVER drinking again…”

We are filled with negative emotions about our experience. There may well be positive feelings and memories attached as well but they are overridden by feelings of regret, remorse, or even simply feeling like complete and utter horse shit. Now it may be true that we know we are lying to ourselves and we will actually drink again, despite our determined current mindset, but at least it won’t be for a while.

And that ‘for a while’ varies from person to person, depending on their relationship with alcohol. For some people those negative thoughts will last for days, weeks, months even, before they consider picking up a drink again. For others, like myself, it will only be a matter of hours before those remorseful emotions disappear, like a puff of smoke on a breezy day. There will follow in their place positive memories, and positive feelings. Of the refreshing nature of that first sip of ice cold beer after a busy day, for example. Or the satisfying buzz as the alcohol starts to take effect. The carefree attitude that things aren’t so bad after all, or the comfort blanket of forgetting altogether. That bias towards forgetting the bad memories and only remembering the good has a name and it is one of the most dangerous things an addict or a problem drinker has to fight against. It is FAB. No really, it is…

Fading Affect Bias

If you have a non destructive relationship with alcohol (I hate to say healthy because there are a million reasons why alcohol shouldn’t be considered ‘healthy’) then FAB shouldn’t be of too much concern to you. If however you are addicted to the demon drink or you have a dependency, or you have thought to yourself you may have an issue but haven’t said it out loud yet, then FAB can be a real problem.

You have decided that things need to change. That you can’t keep going on like this, on this hamster wheel of mental torture. You get pissed. And then you get pissed again. And then you hate yourself. And then you keep getting pissed and hating yourself even more for getting pissed all the time, so you stop. And then, a few days later, or a few weeks later, or basically BEFORE you were wanting to drink again (if you ever were wanting to drink again) that pesky little voice inside your head pipes up…

“You know what? Maybe you weren’t that bad after all!”

or

“You’re doing great! You’ve proved that you can take time away from the grog, what harm would another drink do?”

or maybe

“How long were you gonna do this for anyway? Just have a beer already!”

Attached to these thoughts are some ‘fit for commercial’ images, of the previously mentioned cold refreshing beer. Or perhaps of you standing on a sunlit terrace, laughing heartily with a friend while you hold a nice glass of red. Possibly your overactive imagination is placing you sitting around a fire, looking suave and sophisticated as you engage in intelligent conversation with loved ones who gaze at you in rapturous admiration as you sip on a nice single malt.

You have fallen into the trap of FAB and suddenly FAB isn’t so fab at all. You are romanticising alcohol. You have completely suppressed your negative emotions towards it. Those feelings of shame, regret, hate, and the determination you had before about not picking up again have vanished completely, leaving you looking on as an observer of your relationship with booze through the most rosiest of all rose tinted spectacles. So what do you do? You go and get pissed again. And so it goes on. And on. And on and on.

So in order to achieve your goal of stopping drinking and staying stopped, it is vital that you recognise this psychological phenomena. There is a mantra in sober world that we often remind each other of. NQTD or Never Question The Decision (we like acronyms. We’ve blown our brains apart with years of booze abuse so have to shorten everything…*insert wink emoji…).

Because whoever you are and however strong your devotion to an alcohol free life might be, Fading Affect Bias will happen. And when it does you need to be ready. You need to remember why you decided to do what you did and reaffirm your reasons behind it. Maybe keep a journal. Have your feelings written down somewhere of how drinking really made you feel. Never Question The Decision because if you keep glamourising your relationship with alcohol you will keep slipping up. And the more you keep slipping up, the more difficult it will be to stop when you will inevitably have to do so.

I’m writing about this today because of something that happened to me last night. Now, FAB can associate itself not just with the substance you were addicted to itself, but the feeling you got from it. The associated high if you like. For me that was simply to forget. For want of a better phrase, to just get ‘fucked up’. And that feeling came to me last night. There can be many reasons why this happens. Perhaps self care has taken a slide, which may be true for me as I wasn’t meditating each morning so I was getting more caught up in my head than normal. It could be additional stresses with a life situation, which may also be true at the moment because Covid. And I also had back pain, which in itself can take me to a bad place if I allow it, following on from a slipped disc I suffered from in the past and its associated feelings of pain, despair, self pity and the unfairness of life, the world and my existence. In short, my defences were down.

To alleviate my back pain I took a couple of Tramadol that I had left over from when my back first went. I know, it’s hardly necking a cheap bottle of vodka from the local Spar but it was a conscious decision to satisfy a need, because Tramadol has an odd effect on me. It can make me feel ‘fucked up’. And instead of remembering the horrible paranoia one suffers upon getting fucked up, the poor sleep that will come, the feelings of guilt and regret that may last for days afterwards, all I remembered thanks to FAB, was the way it would switch me off. That was it. In that moment that was all I cared about. So I took them. Something inside of me, even after nearly 900 days sober and clean, wanted that feeling at whatever the cost. Soon after I took them I felt horrible (ya think?!). I realised what had happened and I threw the rest of the drugs away. I examined, without judgement, why I did this and what I needed to do to be careful it doesn’t happen again. I meditated this morning and I got out of my head. And then, after talking to someone who’s opinion I value greatly, I decided to turn it into a positive and write this blog.

Although it was only a small dose of the drug, the recommended dosage in fact, it had a profound effect on me. Not just because I felt a little weird (which disgusted me, scared me but also excited me, all in equal measure), but because I had decided to do it. I decided to take the Tramadol instead of the ibuprofen that I also had sitting there. It was a warning that those feelings will always lie dormant inside of me. This is where the work is you see, in maintaining sobriety. One cannot simply just stop and that be that. You have to look at the whys and find healthier ways of dealing with whatever issues may be inside of you because they don’t just magically disappear the moment you get sober. It is very easy to say when someone asks why you keep getting pissed, “I just like getting pissed!” If we wish to stay off the grog we have to go a little deeper than that. I drank to get out of my head and to appear more sociable. So now I am sober, I embrace my introverted nature, and I meditate and look inside myself more spiritually, without any judgement or shame. If I don’t do this then FAB will rear its ugly (not so fab) head again. As I have just found out. But I will be ready for it when it does.

Will you?

Thank you for reading and if you would like to see more then please subscribe, share, and look back at my previous blogs.

Much love to you all. XOX

Where’s your head at?

It’s 3 am and I burst out of a dreamless sleep like I’ve just been tasered. My heart is absolutely racing and I am drowning in anxiety. My mind is filled with everything. Absolutely everything. Everything that has ever gone wrong in my life, everything I have fucked up (or didn’t fuck up but am now taking full responsibility for it fucking up), everything that is currently going wrong, and everything that may go wrong in the future.

“Why am I so broke? Did I pay the rent? Have I got enough food? What day is it? How am I going to get through work? How am I going to afford the gas bill? Why did I say THAT yesterday? Why did I get pissed AGAIN ?!?

My poor brain is in overdrive. I check my pulse, it’s 135. Breathe breathe breathe fucking BREATHE! I know I won’t be able to sleep again tonight but in spite of that I keep trying. My bed feels like a pallet. My pillow feels like a tool bag and my duvet like a cardboard box. The room slowly gets lighter over the next 3 or 4 hours, and I see it all. Eventually I give up, I get up and I start getting ready for work. The anxiety is almost unbearable and all I can think is,

What the fuck is WRONG with you?! Why did you drink again?”

I can barely eat breakfast. I can’t be arsed to make lunch so I just take a banana in to work because I can’t afford to buy anything on the way in. I scrub my teeth, and my tongue, which makes me retch and cough violently. I am a mess. I know why I feel like this, and I feel determined to make sure this day is different and that I remember this feeling when I get home tonight. Just tea tonight. No booze. Just tea.

At work I put on my “I’m OK everyone!” mask. Although I know that it looks old now, this mask. All beaten up and fraying around the edges, cracked and weathered. As the morning rolls by I start thinking…

Maybe I’ll stop at the corner shop on the way home. Maybe just get one or two drinks, to take the edge off, to help me sleep. Just one or two…”

I still feel like shit but the thought of a couple of beers makes me feel a bit better. It’ll be fine! So I perk up a bit, some energy comes back and I move into the afternoon with a bit of a spring in my step. I text my sister, seeing if she is gonna have a drink too, just to validate my decision. When it comes to leaving work and heading home I have decided to buy a pack of 8 beers, because its cheaper. It’ll mean I won’t need to stop in the shop tomorrow, and besides, it’s not like I’m going to drink them all! I’ve got some whiskey left at home too, if I have a couple of chasers maybe I won’t drink so many beers! Yes! I can start thinking about cutting back on the booze next week. Fuck it. I’ve got a busy week ahead so I’ll be crazy to stop this week. How would I ever cope?!

I get home. I’ve picked up some weed as well on the way back. When I smoke I don’t seem to drink so much. I’ll do dinner in a bit. Let’s just roll one first, grab a beer, a chaser, put your feet up man, relax! You deserve it!…

…3am. I wake up and I burst out of a dreamless sleep like I’ve just been tasered…

I went through this process every single day. This is what an addiction looks like. Logic goes out the window and the substance you are addicted to overrides any sense in your brain. You’ve rewired it after all, or at least the thing you are addicted to has. And this is why treating addiction is so difficult, understanding addiction is so difficult and fighting addiction is so fucking difficult. You become possessed by it.

But addiction doesn’t happen overnight, and it can be curtailed before it overwhelms you. Repeated action leads to habit, and bad habits can lead to addiction. But good habits can take you out of addiction until there is freedom. It doesn’t have to hang like a noose around your neck, and you can exorcise the demon that has possessed you, as long as you want it. More than anything you have ever wanted in your life before. And that you commit to it so it becomes, by far the most important thing in your life at that moment. It takes bravery, but without bravery and vulnerability (I’ve just watched Brene Brown talk about vulnerability and she has studied it her whole life don’t ya know!) there will be no joy or fulfillment. It takes a brave step to admit there is something wrong. It takes another brave step to do something about it. And it takes many more little brave steps to work towards a life free from addiction. But the steps become strides, the strides become leaps, and soon you are flying.

Those feelings of intense anxiety and shame I had when I was addicted to alcohol were a symptom of my addiction. Neuroscience tells us (this is a VERY basic summary here, don’t come at me neuroscientists!) that when we put a drug into our system, our brains try to gain homeostasis and correct the imbalance. Alcohol is a drug, a sedative, and it also dumps a load of dopamine (a feel good neurotransmitter and hormone) into the brain. So the brain, trying to gain homeostasis, dumps an equal amount of the opposite into play. The sedative nature of the booze gives way to a racing heart and a fight or flight response (the anxiety we feel). And the feel good neurotransmitters and hormones give way to their opposite (hello depressive thoughts!). Dopamine also plays a role in the feeling we get when we think about imbibing. It’s why my energy levels and mood would pick up when I would say to myself I would drink later. Just the thought of taking the substance we are addicted to will create a dopamine spike.  When I stopped drinking and my brain eventually found its natural balance I was no longer plagued by these awful nights or those thoughts on a loop. I now sleep like a baby. We can still get anxiety and depressive thoughts, obviously, but because we know they are naturally occurring and not a product of our addiction, we are much better placed to tackle them.

Now, we are living in incredibly difficult times at the moment, and our heads need to be right. One sure fire way of making our heads not right is getting addicted to booze. It’s tempting to hide away, to have a beer each night to take the edge off and to get us through. But just be aware that you aren’t hitching a ride with the devil. If you are, jump off, while you are still in control. If the devil has you, ask for help. Read books, read blogs, get advice. Speak to someone you love, speak to your doctor. Join an online group. Reach out! Be vulnerable and be courageous and know that you can come out of it. I did, and so have many millions of others.

Ask yourself if what you are doing is truly serving you. How does your head feel? Where’s your head at?

Thank you for reading and if you like my blog then please share and subscribe. I’m no longer on social media (addiction doesn’t have to mean substance abuse right?!) so feel free to share across all platforms.

Much love, and stay healthy and safe. xox

Be more Bradley Cooper

I think the world of alcohol should operate on a Bradley Cooper Scale. Kinda like The Beaufort Scale but for grog. On the one side you would have the calm breeze of Bradley Cooper (sober for 11 years, and also my man crush. Just saying…) and at the other end of the scale would be the gale force in the character he plays in A Star is Born, Jackson Maine. Who, erm, without giving too much away to those who haven’t seen it, hasn’t been sober for 11 years.

Jackson, from the outside to those looking in, has it all. A rock star with fame, fortune and influence. Except we all know that appearances can be deceptive and behind closed doors we see the super cool rockstar at his most vulnerable. Shockingly so. I’d imagine the reason Bradley Cooper smashes this one out of the park is BECAUSE he went through it himself. His performance is heart breakingly believable. He shows how easy it is to put on this public face that hides what is really going on inside. It’s what we all do isn’t it? No one thinks we’re *that* bad until we decide to stop. Unless of course, like Jackson, the public face we put on to hide our reality starts to fade. The mask starts to slip. Paul McCartney said it beautifully in Eleanor Rigby;

“Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?”

So. How is your mask? Is it starting to slip? Do you give the world the impression that all is well, when deep down, or not so deep down, you realise you are sliding precariously down The Bradley Cooper Scale, away from Bradley Cooper and further towards the tortured Jackson Maine? I often hear people say they won’t stop drinking because they don’t need to. But will you know when that moment arrives? How will that moment look? It may still look like you have everything from the outside but no one sees those 3am wake ups when your heart feels like it is trying to breach your body. To escape from your chest and bringing with it a crushing anxiety. You write off sleep, waiting to struggle through another day until it all starts again. So you think to yourself,

“This has to stop!”

But you’re scared. You’re scared of changing something you have always done. You’re scared of whether you will even be able to change. You’re scared of what people around you will say. You’re scared that your life will become so BORING! I get it. I was one of those people, but I’m here now to say that you don’t have to be scared about any of those things. The world is full of people changing their drinking, or stopping completely. The world is full of people realising that alcohol is just one big con. You don’t need to have a drink to celebrate. Or to enjoy the sunshine, or enjoy the fire, or to hang out with friends, to go on holiday, to sleep, to get courage or to relax after work. All of those things are great anyway, it’s just that booze gets the credit for them. So I’ll say it again. You have nothing to be scared of. There is advice everywhere on how to stop drinking, and stay stopped. Some of it will work, some of it will not. Because we are all different right? Here are a few things that have helped me get to 668 days sober. In no particular order, and by no means a comprehensive coverall. Merely a snapshot. A snippet of sobriety secrets:

Admit you have a problem.

This is quite a biggie. Because what follows on from that admission is the knowledge that to improve your life, something has to give. And I’m not talking “Am I homeless and drinking stolen vodka from a paper bag?” kind of problem. It is simply whether the cost of you drinking (spiritually here, more than financially) outweighs the benefit. Basically, if you have to ask yourself that question, whether you are drinking too much (for you, forget comparisons), then you probably already know the answer.

A want to change

I’m not talking about the wishy washy, waking up from a hangover kind of want to never drink again. This has to come from your soul. From the very depths of your being. It is something you have to feel in every cell of your body. Because if you don’t want to stop, then you won’t. It’s that simple. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink right?

Arm yourself with knowledge

A phrase I didn’t know existed until I got sober was ‘Quit-Lit’. Books about stopping drinking basically. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are some that are autobiographical, some that are science based, some that teach techniques and some that will make you laugh and cry in equal measures. The ones that I would recommend are Kick The Drink Easily by Jason Vale, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley, Alcohol Explained by William Porter and one that is collectively written by friends of mine from my Facebook group, How to be a Mindful Drinker. Which leads me to…

Join a sobriety Facebook group

I joined Club Soda on Facebook on my first day sober and I have been there ever since (I’m now an admin on there so if you do join, no funny business ok?…). There are of course many others. Community is vital in sobriety in my opinion. Because we are going against the grain of society it can feel very lonely, often like we are the only people in the world trying to stop drinking. Online groups are a fantastic place to share what we are going through with like minded people. They are a great place for tips and advice as well. Whatever you are feeling and whatever you are going through, there will be someone that has experienced the same. Join one. Now.

Get medical advice

If you have a physical dependence on alcohol then it can be very dangerous to stop cold turkey. In fact it can kill you. So it is always best to have a chat to your doctor first, regardless of whether you think you need to or not. They can allow you to come off the booze safely if they think you might need to. Again, don’t compare to others. What might not be a dangerous level for someone else might be a dangerous level to you. And don’t use the fact you need to contact a doctor first as an excuse not to stop. Because that’s lame. And you may need to rethink your ‘Do I want to do this’ stage…

Try alcohol free alternatives

These were a god send for me. They helped so much with cravings when I first stopped. And it is a massive market now so the choice is incredible. They also satisfied the habit for wanting a beer after work, or on a hot day, or at a pub or party when you don’t want shitty coke or warm orange juice. It can be quite a contentious issue in sober world though because I know AA are strictly against them. For some people they can be a bit of a trigger. For others not at all. As far as I’m concerned if they help you stay sober, and they don’t make you want the real thing, then I’m all for them.

Eat sweets!

This one is awesome. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar, so when you stop you may find you have an insatiable appetite for sweet things. And yeah, I know. Sugar isn’t healthy. Yeah, but neither is getting pissed every night. Tackle one problem at a time. When you crave, reaching for something sweet can stop it in its tracks. Even just a boiled sweet. When I stopped I often ate a litre of ice cream in one sitting (this didn’t last, for the record). I also didn’t think I liked cake, when it turns out I fucking love cake. Do not be surprised if you crave, and eat All The Sweet Things.

Join AA or Smart Meetings

I didn’t do this so can’t say much about them, but I know many people that swear by them. It’s the community thing again you see. Don’t write them off is all I will say.

One day at a time

Some people say straight off the bat, “I’m done. That’s me and drinking over with forever” (I was one of these). Others find that looking that far ahead can be, if not daunting then frankly terrifying. Whichever camp you sit in, it is always worth doing one day at a time. Just stay sober for that day. At the end of each day I would say out loud to myself, just before I closed my eyes, “Well done for staying sober mate”. I did this for over 200 days, because it was working for me. And the thought of not being able to say this to myself was horrible. So it helped keep me sober.

Do what works FOR YOU!

Obvious really. Some of this may help, some may not. Which is why, if it isn’t working then you need to switch it up a bit. And also why it is so important to arm yourself with as much knowledge about it as you can. If you can’t stop trying things one way, then try them another way, and another. Until you have a winning formula.

“If nothing changes, then nothing changes”

And finally…

Embrace it!

I know people who have done a dry month, and all they were doing was counting down the days until they could drink again. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you feel you are depriving yourself by not drinking then, sooner or later, you will fail. There is no deprivation. It’s all in the mind you see. Sobriety gives you clarity. It gives you peace. It gives you confidence, reduces anxiety and depression, improves you sleep (enormously!), reduces your risk of strokes, heart attacks, liver and kidney disease, various cancers and brain damage. There is not a single cell in your body that doesn’t detest alcohol. Oh and you save a shit tonne of money. The world wants you to think you need booze. You don’t.

Bradley Cooper doesn’t regret going sober. In fact he admits that since he stopped drinking he has done some of the best work of his life and that he has never been happier. And I have met hundreds of other people who don’t regret going sober either. On the contrary, they say (myself included) that it is the best thing they have ever done. So when all is said and done, and you’re thinking of stopping, just do it. Be more like all of those other people. Be more Bradley Cooper.

Thank you for reading and if you would like to see more, click the link to subscribe. And feel free to share.

Much love.

Why? How? What the f##k?

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:

1) Denial

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.

2) Fear

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…

3) Stubbornness

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.

4) Ignorance

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.

Thanks for reading. You can subscribe by clicking the link thingy. And please feel free to share.

Much Love.

“Wait… Am I an alcoholic?”

ALCOHOLIC

It’s a scary word right? But don’t let that scary word put you off here and make you run away with your tail between your legs. For what it’s worth I don’t like the word either. Not because it scares me but it is so black and white.

What, honestly, do you think of when you see or hear that word? Does this image come to mind?…

Or perhaps…

It’s always an extreme though isn’t it? Someone at their complete and utter rock bottom. Let’s look at the dictionary definition of alcoholic:

alcoholic

Adjective

1. Containing or relating to alcohol

2. Suffering from alcoholism

Noun

1. A person suffering from alcoholism

Any clearer? It actually becomes rather vague when you start looking into it. When one looks at the definition of alcoholism they will find that it is:

An addiction to the consumption of alcoholic drink; alcohol dependency.

So now we are talking about an addiction to alcohol…

addiction

Noun

The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity

So we still aren’t really any clearer are we? I think we can all agree that addiction really is the repeated use or involvement of a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it causes, and not being able to stop. So does that mean that one becomes an alcoholic when they are addicted to alcohol? When we get pissed regularly we know that it is causing us harm, because we feel it. Yet we continue to do so, some more often than others. Does this mean that anyone that drinks to excess often, say every weekend, or every month is an alcoholic? Of course not. Or does it? Do you see what I mean? The whole thing is one big vague, confused soup of definitions and interpretations. A soup that doesn’t taste very nice and one that must be ignored. Don’t mention the “A” word! Of course I’m not an alcoholic!

The problem we have in our society is that it is a dirty word. You either don’t drink (weirdo!), drink normally or you are an alcoholic and must live the rest of your miserable existence as a failure and a social pariah (society’s portrayal and not mine)

“Have you heard? Ian’s an alcoholic! The poor sausage. He can never drink again or he will spontaneously combust. I mean, you know, I like a drink just like the next man but I’m not an alcoholic, goodness no!”

As a society we have even created terms that sit in the middle ground. ‘Problem drinker’, or ‘alcohol dependent’. Much softer terms than the life sentence of alcoholic aren’t they?

When one thinks about it though, alcoholic is a ridiculous word. A ridiculous notion completely. The truth of the matter is that alcohol is a drug. And alcohol, given the chance, is an addictive drug at that. So why do we, as a society, act surprised or express shock, horror or even sympathy when someone gets hooked? Especially when you consider how openly alcohol is pushed in our society. It is recognised to create massive social problems and unrest. It is recognised, scientifically, to cause cancer and other horrific ailments and diseases, and for there to be no safe amount to consume at all. In spite of all those memes and Facebook posts stating otherwise (which, incidentally, are all funded by the industry itself). There was a time not so long ago where smoking was actively encouraged. I don’t want a ban on alcohol, good grief no, but I do want it to be recognised for what it is, and has the potential to become. It is, after all, the only drug we have that you have to justify when giving up.

“Fancy a beer?”

“No thanks, I don’t drink”

“Eh?”

“I don’t drink. But I’ll have a lime and soda. It’s nice to see you, let’s catch up!”

“Wait? You don’t drink? The fuck? Why not? How much were you drinking? What happened? Hang on…

Thinks to oneself…Here it comes…

“Are you… Are you an…alcoholic?” (visibly baulks, then runs away)

I have been incredibly lucky, with those closest to me just accepting that I don’t drink and not questioning too far my reasons behind me stopping. I don’t mind talking about it, obviously, if somebody generally wants to understand it a bit more. But I know from a lot of sober friends that some are met with massive resistance, rudeness, demands to justify their reasons, endless questions, hilarity, bullying and even being disowned as a friend. Tossed aside like a reject. Friends or family would often say,

“Come on! Just have one! You’ll be alright! I’m sure you’ve got it under control now!”

But you wouldn’t say that to someone who was addicted to smoking once they’d given that up would you?

“Quick fag? I know you’ve stopped but one will be OK won’t it?

Or a heroin addict…

“Come on, just shoot up at weekends! You’ll be fine!”

The truth is, once you are addicted to something, that addiction sits inside you, like an evil dragon, sleeping inside your brain and waiting for you to slip up. No matter how long it is since you’ve taken whatever it is you are addicted to, it is there. Dormant but very much alive. You’ve managed to keep it at bay, rewired your brain to allow your grey matter to search for pleasure in other ways, away from the drug. But the addiction, the dragon, is just waiting. And once you go back to your drug of choice, heroin, nicotine, alcohol, whatever it is, the dragon wakes up, and sets off all of those short cuts in your brain you have been working so hard to avoid for so long. They light up like a firework display on New Year’s Eve and BANG. You’re addicted again. Just. Like. That.

So if a friend says they aren’t drinking anymore, don’t try and tempt them. Just say well done. You don’t have to then go on and justify your own drinking habit. When we become sober we aren’t instantly initiated into some kind of booze free police force, where we are given standard issue sticks to beat those that don’t drink sensibly. We are still just us. Just us, but we don’t drink anymore.

I titled this blog with a question. A question I used to ask myself time and time again. But my image of an alcoholic was so extreme I told myself I wasn’t, because I wasn’t on a park bench drinking out of a paper bag. I wasn’t putting vodka on my cornflakes every morning. So I wasn’t an alcoholic. And I carried on drinking, even though I was addicted. Even though drinking had become a big problem for me and I was consuming much more than your average man. The truth is there is an enormous grey area of drinking, where millions of people sit. The questions we should be asking ourselves are:

“Is my drinking harming me, physically or mentally, or those around me?”

“Do I wish I could control my drinking more?”

“Could I stop if I wanted to?”

There are lots of questions actually, too many to list. But one we shouldn’t be asking ourselves is, “Am I an alcoholic?”

Thank you for reading and if you would like to see more please have a look at my previous blogs and sign up for email alerts below. And feel free to share!

Oh and to those have have read previous blogs you’ll be delighted to know that me and my hamster are best buddies now! Nothing like a bit of hamster bondage to get close! Bonding! Bonding! Fuck sake!

My hamster shit in my shower.

A list (love lists!) of things I never thought I would say:

– Another beautiful sunrise this Saturday morning!

– I haven’t had a drink for 179 days

– My hamster shit in my shower

Life huh?!

Life really is incredibly unpredictable. How often have you heard yourself say,

“Well if you’d have told me this is where I’d be a few years ago I’d never have believed you!”?

None of us honestly know what is around the corner. One can plan all they like but it’s often things that haven’t been planned or prepared for that side-swipe us. Like a stealthy ninja, coming from nowhere, they sweep our legs from under our feet and we end up on our arses with no idea how we got there. But we get up and we brush ourselves down and we carry on. Shit happens! We weren’t worrying about that ninja but we still got past the sneaky bastard. And, more often than not all of those other things we had been worrying ourselves silly over turn out to be a piece of cake to deal with. All of that wasted energy, worrying about the future. That fear. It’s pointless right? That fear is the same fear that also holds us back. The fear of the unknown, because change is scary. When life isn’t fulfilling you and you know that you need to do something about it, to change, you get fearful. You start thinking things like,

“Ah it’s not so bad really. I’m relatively happy. I don’t need to do anything about it after all. It’s a bit fucking scary making any kind of change so I’ll just roll with the status quo for a while longer.”

But that feeling of ‘Is this really IT?’ keeps coming back at you. Slowly to start with. So you carry on. But it becomes louder and more frequent. It starts frustrating you. It comes along every day in the end. And it gets tiresome. And this is where it can become problematic because you start looking outside for the answers. Or you look to other things to break the monotony of it all. For me this was alcohol, and the problem with alcohol, like any drug, is that it can become addictive and that’s where you start swimming in dangerous, deep, and scary waters. Until it’s got it’s grip on you and makes you believe that IT is what you’re looking for. What you need. IT can make your evenings more enjoyable. IT can make you a better person. IT is the answer. To everything.

Feeling happy? Have a drink! Feeling sad? Have a drink! Feeling stressed? Have a drink! Feeling tired? Have a drink! The sun’s out! Have a drink! The weather is shit. Stay in and have a drink!

And it becomes a bit of a problem (no shit!). It blinds you to the point where all you can think about, whatever is happening, is alcohol. It takes up all of your energy and even when you’re not drinking you’re thinking about it. Either because you’ve got a steaming hangover or you are thinking of when you can have your next one. So you are effectively blind. You’re living your life and to everyone else around you, you may appear to be perfectly happy. But really you’re not. Shit, you may have even convinced yourself that you ARE happy but there is still something inside, getting smaller all the time mind you, that knows that you aren’t happy.

Nothing changes if nothing changes

At this point it’s up to you. It might finally be time to put your big boy pants on and change something. I tried this while I was still drinking. I still did things, things that I was proud of. But that feeling of contentment was short lived and I kept finding myself going back to that point of feeling unfulfilled. It wasn’t until I stopped drinking that I realised it was alcohol that was the thing obstructing my path to true feelings of contentment. Who knew right?!

I realised that once I’d cut free from the shackles of alcoholism, that my mind, body and soul had been yearning for this freedom without me even realising it. I had space in my head to really listen, now that it wasn’t crowded out and filled close to bursting with negativity. Alcohol is a depressant after all. I stopped looking outside of myself for that fulfillment and looked inwards. I rediscovered my love for nature, for sunrises (see number 1 on the list!), for reading, for learning, for music, for writing! Yeah I guess I could still do all of those things before but I was never truly invested in those moments. I rediscovered pride in myself, in my job, in my friendships and in my family. I truly realised how incredibly lucky I am.

I was fucking scared to stop drinking, to make that much of a change in my life. That fear, like I’ve said, held me back. But I faced that fear. I made the change. And it was quite simply the best thing I’ve ever done.

SIDENOTE:

Oh and my hamster was in my shower because, according to people that know more about hamsters than I do, you need to be with your hamster in a safe space and allow it to crawl over you to let it bond with you, and become tame. A bath is most recommended but if you haven’t room to swing a cat in your flat, like me, and only have a shower cubicle then that is fine. It was an odd experience. Maybe I should make sure the shower isn’t on next time. She had a shit in there because hamsters shit everywhere it seems.

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