I haven’t posted for quite some time but wanted to today for a variety of reasons: tomorrow will mark 4 months without any alcohol, we are now in December (surely the trickiest of all months for sobriety) and I’ve recently got involved with One Year No Beer, following a friend’s recommendation.
These last four months have been a hell of a ride. Anyone who has made it to this point will probably concur with similar feelings and experiences but it’s difficult to sum up in a succinct way and in such a short space of time. Needless to say that 4 months on from my last hangover I have learnt a ton of new things about myself (and others) and continue to strive for a healthier and happier life, albeit one day at a time.
If you haven’t heard of One Year No Beer, check it out. This blog is mainly in response to the community of people who are part of that and particularly those who are struggling with those first few days and weeks (we’ve all been there!). Here are my tips and experiences for breaking the cycle and finding the other side:
BE STUBBORN & PERSERVERE
Sobriety is mentally tough at times and will put you in some compromising positions where you will have to make difficult choices. It’s very tempting to give in but the more you persevere, the better you’ll be at doing it again and again and again, until it becomes habit. Willpower is underrated and not mentioned enough in my opinion – only you can determine the path you choose – it’s about accountability and going back to the reason you started this journey.
This is a personal question for everyone but for me, I chose AF for a few good reasons: my decision making under the influence is TERRIBLE, it was damaging very dear relationships and mentally/physically it was very bad for me. I have depression running through my family and suffer from mental health issues myself. Topping all of that up with alcohol in the cold light of day is a very bad idea. When I am tempted or think that a relapse is on the horizon, I weigh up whether it’ll all be worth going back to square one with the problems listed above. It’s not!
I love beer and I love bourbon – they were my weapons of choice. Occasionally I used to drink wine with a meal and I loved champagne or sparkling wine on special occasions too. I must admit that I was very nervous about what I’d drink at social occasions or even on the sofa by myself watching the rugby or the football. The truth is there is no like-for-like. I still haven’t found a drink that comes close to that first glug of alcoholic ice-cold Heineken. Sure, there are a million AF beers but they don’t come close to the taste or refreshment of real beer (in my opinion). Despite that, I do load up on AF beer when I’m out and I have lots at home. To me, they are the best AF option since I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I also have absolutely zero problem consuming something with 0.5% alcohol or less in it, though I know some do. My favourite AF beers are Ghost Ship and Free DAMM (which you can get in Tesco). I’ve heard plenty of people explore or enquire about AF wine or spirits but in my experience they don’t come close in taste.
I’ve always loved reading and exercising. Along with watching live bands these are my favourite pastimes outside of family life. Since going AF I’ve upped my reading and really got stuck into running and I definitely feel the benefits of doing these a) for my mental and physical wellbeing and b) because it gives me a focus and puts the importance of alcohol deep into the background, at least most of the time. I genuinely believe that if you don’t keep busy with interests and passions, alcohol is going to rear its ugly head sooner than you’d like. If I am busy, I have focus and can concentrate on the positive things that I believe are beneficial to me.
COUNTING THE DAYS
You may have noticed that at the start of this blog I mentioned ‘4 months’ rather than a number of days. That’s because I have stopped counting my days – mainly due to laziness! I know it’s extremely important for some people to do this and if that’s the case – go for it, I can definitely see the benefit. Equally – since joining OYNB I also think it can be a deterrent for some people because inevitably it’s natural to start comparing yourself to others who might be AF for longer, sometimes far longer. Just a thought!
I’m from the UK and every single month (FACT) there will be a cause for drinking – whether it’s a birthday, a funeral, a wedding, a party, Christmas, a Bank Holiday, a football match, a promotion, a redundancy, a weekend, a holiday – EVERY.SINGLE.MONTH. Once I got my head around this I realised that there is zero point in starting to be sober at a specific time in the year – it’s 100% pointless. If you are going to go on this journey and try and succeed, you need to just take the plunge and throw your heart and soul into it. These drinking situations will come around soon enough, if it’s January, June, September or November! For me, that was very important. In my four months I’ve been through a heat-wave, bank holidays, my birthday, relatives birthdays, rare dinners out with friends and families and a holiday. Initially it’s tough but it gets easier to the point of habit.
I touched on this above but it’s true. What’s the alternative for you? For me it’s going back to being unhappy, making a fool out of myself and re-starting an unhealthy cycle in body and mind. I know that one single drink has the potential to restart all of that and at the moment I’m not willing to go back there thanks very much. Moderation isn’t something I can do unfortunately (trust me, I’ve tried), so abstinence is much more positive in the long-run.
This one is a biggie for most and I have lots of family and friends that are ‘big’ drinkers. I didn’t need many excuses to have a drinking buddy close-by and I had lots of them. I know lots of people going AF are worried about what people will think of them and how they will handle certain situations. There is no easy answer to this in my opinion – you just have to suck it up and get on with it. If people are unaccepting, it’s their problem and not yours. Those that value you and what you are trying to achieve will show that in their own way. This is the time to be selfish, for all of the right reasons!
IT’S NOT ALL ROSY!
For a lot of people that go AF for a number of weeks and months, they very visibly look glowing with great skin, having lost lots of weight. They also talk about how positive they feel, almost all the time! Now, although I have lost weight, my skin has arguably got worse and I still have bouts of depression and the odd mood-swing. Don’t get me wrong, I feel MUCH better now than I did 4 months ago and gone are the hangovers and empty calories but I still have moments of despair when my confidence is shattered. It’s about rebounding from those moments and how you deal with them that counts and doing them AF is MUCH, MUCH easier!
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This is something that is alien to me but I am getting better at it. At the end of the day, we’re all human. We all have needs and wants and desires and things that make us tick. By removing alcohol (something presumably most of us have enjoyed over time) we are taking away a huge part of life and social situations that have made us tick as modern humans. As an adult, it’s akin to pressing reset and learning a new way. In the short term it’s very tough but it gets better and those behaviours can almost be un-learnt, in my opinion.
Since alcohol was so often treated as a reward for me, I now feel no guilt whatsoever about indulging in more of the food I might not have touched in the past (sweet things in particular) to offset some of those feelings and emotions. For me, that makes me far less likely to relapse and thus, I am able to cut myself some slack. I also try and train my nuts off when I exercise, therefore I can give myself a little more room for these things.
Wow, I’ve rambled on for far longer than I intended but hopefully this helps one person at least. I appreciate that 100% of this is subjective and there may be things that people disagree with – that’s fine, no problem.
(almost) 4 months down and I’m looking forward to a sober December and Christmas!
Good luck everyone.