No ethanol for 40 days

appointment black calendar countdown

It’s been a little while since I have posted but life has been pretty hectic lately and I’ve not had the motivation to be honest. I’m hoping this post changes that, because I enjoy sharing my journey.

Today (if I’ve counted correctly) is day 40 of being sober which means I am within touching distance of my ‘record’ which goes as ‘a month and a half’ (I was too busy gasping for a beer to actually record the number of days last time).

On the whole, it’s been easier than I thought but having read some other blogs, I do realise that I’ve not really been in the line of fire too many times, ie in a pub/at parties¬†with lots of friends who are getting drunk. Sure, I’ve had moments where I previously would have loved a beer – BBQs, gig and meals out, BUT I’ve avoided big social gatherings – not necessarily on purpose but that’s just the way life’s been lately and I’m thankful for that. Being a new Dad and a working husband means that the majority of spare time away from work is at home – being where I should be ūüôā .

I also think the biggest tests are going to come when I’m around people who are awkward to talk to and/or I don’t wholly like. Those are the times that I used to really get stuck into drinking, as a way of making conversation easier and more comfortable.

So how does 40 days feel? It’s a mixture of feelings and thoughts. Some things are vastly different and some things are 100% the same or even worse, to my surprise. I’ve thought a lot about picking specific things to discuss but I’m going to borrow a simple¬†list from Catherine Gray and her book ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ which I’ve now almost finished.

Appearance:
I’ve definitely lost weight and a few people have mentioned that to me which is great to hear. My weight tends to fluctuate because I have an enormous appetite and I basically each too much – always have, always will I suspect. Even though I do a lot of exercise (running and swimming mainly) I always worry about my weight and particularly my tummy. Not drinking has allowed me to really kick on with my training and I’m eating much better, too. Win-win!

I’ve read lots of people comment on how great their skin and hair are as a result of not drinking. Well my skin has possibly got worse – definitely more spots appearing, which are lingering longer. I’m drinking stacks of water and eating pretty well, so this is pissing me off! I can’t really comment on my hair as I have it very closely cropped.

My eyes and nails look no different to before at the moment – to me anyway.

Energy:
Energy levels are generally pretty good and it’s great to actually be tired because of exertion, rather than being hungover or under the influence. I absolutely LOVE not being hungover – it’s probably the best thing about going alcohol-free. I hate hangovers with a passion and they make me feel utterly miserable, depressed and paranoid.

Because I’m not drinking, I’m less inclined to eat rubbish and in turn I’m sleeping better – a healthy cycle.

Sleep:
I’ve never been a fantastic sleeper, even if you take booze out of the equation, but generally speaking it is better and I do feel much more rested when I wake up in the morning. I also love getting into bed feeling genuinely tired – because I’ve worked hard, or I’ve trained hard or just generally been productive throughout the day.

This weekend is pretty busy – I have a work event on Saturday which I organise bi-annually and I’m participating in a team triathlon the following day followed by a curry in town. Usually both of these days would involve some very thirst quenching drinks and I fear they will offer one of my toughest tests yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 weeks of sobriety

accomplishment action adult adventure

It’s been a great week’s hol but I must admit, I really missed blogging – what’s it doing to me?!

As of today, I am 4 weeks and one day sober. In the main, it’s been easier than I thought but still testing at times, particularly at social events like football matches, BBQs and gigs.

Generally speaking, people have been pretty supportive and accepting of my decision and very few have questioned it. Some have even opened up a discussion about why I’ve stopped, and their own drinking habits. One catalyst for this was the Adrian Chiles¬†documentary which aired a week or so ago, and for those that haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching. To cut a long story short, Chiles (a British TV presenter)¬†is drinking excessively (albeit not staggering around) and he wants to get to the bottom of why, and whether he would or could cut down, taking into account the long-term health implications his doc has warned about.

Most people I know who have watched this programme admit they drink too much, and also want to cut down.

I’m heading back to work this morning and usually after a week off I’d feel bloated, overweight, tired, fatigued and generally a bit grumpy – much thanks to a week of back to back drinking. Now, I’m still feeling grumpy (it is 7am on Monday after all!), but otherwise I am feeling pretty good physically and mentally¬†– it’s a refreshing change.

I’ve just started reading ‘The Unexpected Joys of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray. It’s a little different to the Sober Diaries but after 15 or so pages, I can already relate to the author much more. I look forward to reading it in full and reporting back my thoughts.

So, another week of sobriety beckons and I wonder what challenges I’ll have to face inside and outside of work? I’m feeling as upbeat as you can on a Monday morning, it’s certainly¬†a strange sensation!

Right, time to feed my 9 month old, whose just stirred. #priorities

PS – what are people’s thoughts on 0.5% alcohol? It’s generally referred to as ‘alcohol free’ but obviously has a fair bit more than 0.01% Blue Beck’s (for example). Is drinking this ‘cheating’?! If so, I’m a fraud!

PPS – something else I have witnessed this last week is the stress of being with a regular drinker who is badly in need of getting their daily lunchtime fix, and how this thirst suddenly overrides just about everything else. I understand because I have been that person! Definitely to be discussed later in the week.

Have a good Monday x

 

Day 26

I’m still a little strapped for time but I wanted to post since it’s been a few days.

I’m now 26 days sober and during that time I’ve had a week’s holiday, seen my favourite band, been out for meals and numerous BBQs. It’s not been easy by any stretch but I’ve surprised myself with how stubborn and mindful I have been.

My holiday (which comes to an end tomorrow) would usually be a daily drinking exercise but this time I’ve been running, I’ve been eating a little better and I’ve worked really hard at being a better Dad and husband.

I’ve also realised how genuinely tired and fulfilled I am at bedtime rather than just being knackered due to booze.

Equally, it’s the most level-headed I have felt for weeks.

More to follow when home ūüôā

3 weeks of sobriety

I’m a bit strapped for time this weekend but I just wanted to share with everyone that I am 3 weeks sober, as of today. Generally feeling pretty positive in body and mind still. LOVING the lack of hangovers.

I’ll share more detail when able ūüôā

Heading towards being bulletproof and free again…

Day 20

adult background beach blue

Today I am closing in on three weeks alcohol-free and it’s been easier than I thought. BUT I know that complacency is a killer and that the real hurdles are still to come. I’ve been here before and I’m approximately halfway through my best ‘stint’.

Each week up until this point has been¬†quite different to the next¬†but¬†by now, they are all familiar territory¬†and I brace myself accordingly. I’ve briefly summarised below and wonder if people experience any of the same things?

Week 1 – Generally speaking this occurs straight after an almighty binge so a) I’m feeling pretty hung-over and terrible for a few days and b) I genuinely don’t want to drink. Until about day 5 or 6, drinking isn’t even remotely tempting.

Week 2 – Is a very surreal time. The alcohol has now left my body but I’m physically and emotionally all over the place, and extremely compulsive and impulsive. I am fully charged, and I feel hyper-alert and reactive to everything.

Week 3 – This is definitely the best week so far – I¬†feel pretty calm, much more in control of my surrounds, my emotions and what motivates me. I am by far my happiest, and have a sense of peace that I very rarely feel. It’s lovely. I also know that this is the start of potentially letting my guard down, so I need to stay completely focussed.

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I have a week’s annual leave starting tomorrow and we are headed out to visit some of my family. Usually this would involve daily drinking¬†but this time I’m not especially worried about this proposition. I’m in a positive frame of mind and I am clear in my goals. I’m not even tempted right now – it’s a little strange to say the least.

I appreciate that everyone is completely different when it comes to not drinking – their motivations, their weaknesses, their journey, their fears. As I’ve discussed above, I feel that this first stint has been pretty easy but I think that’s partly because I’ve been here a number of times before and because I can be incredibly stubborn and single-minded. This has been born from years of self-loathing, mental health challenges and starting again and again and again. I know¬†my biggest battle is just around the corner.

As well as stacks of experience, guidance and help,¬†I also think to succeed in this game, you do need a reasonably big pair of balls and some gumption. Only you can dictate where this journey leads and you need to take responsibility for where you are going. If you can look in the mirror and honestly say you are giving it your best shot, then you can’t do any more.

When I share my alcohol-free exploits with my friends I am often met with comments like:¬† ‘I couldn’t not drink for a whole week’, ‘I don’t know how on Earth you manage that’ or ‘I should really cut down but I just don’t want to’.

There are two very distinct differences between them and¬†myself though, 1) I abuse alcohol, I can’t drink ‘normally’ and I’m fortunate enough to see how destructive it is to me and my loved ones and 2) I’m a persistent little fucker and I’ll keep chipping away at this problem until I beat it. I don’t just want to pack it away until it rears it’s ugly head again, I want to decapitate it and destroy it, so it can never return.

This kind of conviction is needed for the battle and in my experience a lot of people don’t have the heart for it. Only THAT can come from experience though and I already have numerous failed attempts at this to look back on and inspire me.

20 days of sobriety is a mountain for many but only a footnote to others and I tend to¬†put myself¬†into the latter camp. I’m certainly not patting myself on the back yet – I’ve not achieved anything in the grand scheme of things, until I can prove I can do it infinitum. Some might say I’m being hard on myself but for me, this is the only way to be – I need to take this by the scruff of the neck and be completely honest with myself.

I can’t truly remember what week 4 feels like ( I rarely make it that far) but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Have a great weekend.

A Woman’s World

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my motivation to blog over the last couple of days and there are a few key reasons why I felt the urge to finally get it going:

  1. I love to write and no longer get the opportunity to do it as much as I used to
  2. It’s pure catharsis for me, whether there is an audience or not
  3. It provides focus and reflection
  4. I’m most of the way through a book called ‘The Sober Diaries’ by Clare Pooley and her enthusiastic commentary of blogging was definitely an inspiration
  5. Despite a bit of digging, there seems to be a big void (literature-wise) on guys going sober. A quick search on Amazon will throw up dozens of books by (almost exclusively) women who have finally ditched the¬†booze for a more fulfilling life, but very little¬†by men. This left me a) wanting to read something I could relate to and b) Thinking ‘sod this’, I’ll share my story and try and help others in my boat. So here we are!

Why there isn’t a plethora of books by men who have quit alcohol isn’t necessarily surprising, it has left me slightly frustrated because of the lack of relatable and inspiring stories. Books such as ‘The Sober Diaries’ (mentioned above) are excellent but they provide a completely different perspective on sobriety to me (in this case, a middle aged woman with three kids who gets breast cancer). It’s inspiring and comedic and an excellent read but I feel like a true outsider reading it.

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Not drinking as a thirty-something year old man is a challenge to say the least. Alcohol is part and parcel of our British culture and our day-to-day living and being brave enough to reject that is a big call.

For most people, drinking alcohol is a given – there doesn’t seem to be much of a thought process behind it once we have been socialised into accepting that it’s ‘the norm’ – that’s my take at least, feel free to disagree. Once we reach adulthood therefore, if you decide to reject alcohol, it’s YOU that’s perceived negatively, depending on the audience. ‘Boring’ is probably the most commonly used¬†adjective and it’s the biggest worry for us non-drinkers when being confronted with an alcoholic social situation.

Even in 2018, there¬†is still an abundance of pressure on men ‘to be men’ and in adulthood, part and parcel of that is alcohol and¬†even the TYPE of alcohol you choose to drink (ridiculous, isn’t it?!). My weapon of choice has always been beer and from my mid¬†20s, you can chuck in bourbon or sour mash into that equation. Together they have provided a lovely combination of merriment and potential for debauchery and mayhem.

As men, generally we are very poor at admitting we have weaknesses, we are very poor at communicating them and are very poor at confronting them. I accept that this is a sweeping generalisation but this is my experience and I tend to think most people would agree with me (including guys!).

I’m reasonably stereotypical of my demographic in this country (generalisation pt.2). I like football (or soccer to you Yanks), rugby, boxing,¬†‘men’s’ films and TV, sex, politics,¬†working out, rock music,¬†stuffing my face with delicious¬†food¬†and drinking. AKA, a ‘reasonably’ typical bloke. There’s nothing unique about me and¬†no doubt I share the hopes and fears of most other guys my age. I DO have a problem with alcohol though, and¬†I DO struggle with mental health¬†issues¬†on a fairly regular basis.

BUT, I’m pledging to share my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities, my shortfalls and my fears. Most of them exist without alcohol, but the little deceiver multiplies them infinitely, like Gremlins (great film BTW).

Happy to talk and equally happy to listen.

‘What I walk away from is not my master’.

You just kept repeating yourself!

photo of corona extra bottles on bucket

Sound familiar?

This is almost definitely a phrase I’ll hear the day after a heavy binge and it’s just one of many things that I brace myself for after I have woken up and realise it’s happened all over again.

While drunken, mundane repetition might be fairly innocuous and harmless, it’s just the very tip of a¬†large iceberg which is destined to inflame, hurt, offend, disappoint and anger others. This is all thanks to the reaction I have to alcohol, particularly in large quantities.

Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an ‘abnormal’ drinker, especially in the UK where approximately 80% of adults drink. My problem is I am a habitual drinker who pretends I have control of it when actually, I’m a puppet on a string.

Generally the pattern is thus: I have a bout of not drinking, cleansing my body, mind and soul of toxins and guilt and feeling miserable. A few weeks or a month or so later I’ll buckle and have a drink, or maybe two. I’ll tell myself that I’ll leave it again for another period of time until a ‘special’ occasion comes along. What really happens is I commence drinking again the very next day, maybe a beer, maybe two. Then it’s likely to be the next day and the next day until we get to (usually) a Friday, where I’ll have some more. Then Saturday, and more and so the cycle continues throughout the working week – start steady and then really start to lubricate properly at weekends.

This is all until I have one of my infamous heavy drinking occasions where I want to drink and drink and drink. I’ve had more than enough (several drinks ago), but ‘I’m not doing any harm’ and ‘I’m not hurting anyone’ (these are my favourite phrases), yet I’m starting to repeat myself, the next drink is the only thing I become interested in and I’m generally becoming quite an uncouth and undesirable person to be around – loud, sweary, zero-filters, you get the picture.

I’m not like this EVERY time I drink, or indeed drink lots, but the pattern is certainly there and I’ve lots count of the number of times I’ve woken up as an adult and regretted drinking because of something I said, or did. Many, many, many times. And it has to stop.

I’m a Dad now and I am deeply in love with my daughter and my wife. They are my world, although when I drink, this whole concept often goes out the window. Literally with every drink sometimes.

Maybe I’ll share a few of my experiences one day, I’m not sure I am quite ready yet.

Anyway, this is just the start of my journey. I’m done with waking up and knowing that the first thing I need to do is apologise for being a dickhead.¬†It’s extremely degrading and hits my self-worth like something I can’t even begin to describe.

That brings me on to mental health and the catastrophic impact booze has on it – from my perspective at least. Maybe that’ll be the topic of my next blog.

I’ve just recalculated my ‘dry’ days and I’m on day 18 today. I think I lied yesterday and said I was on day 16 – I’ll take that as a small victory, albeit one day more.

I’m strangely enjoying talking to myself.

Anyone out there, yet? Anyone?