From athlete to daily drinker to sober life

Addiction is a weird thing and it’s only through hindsight that we can see how easy it can be to allow alcohol to get its claws stuck into us. Alcohol is so normalised in society. It’s all but expected that we drink. It‘s a bit scary being so open but if one person reads my story and feels a like they too can change their life’s path then it’s totally worth it, so here goes!

I grew up in Australia, in the ‘life saving club’ community, racing surf ski’s and training incredibly hard. As the culture was back then (in the early ‘90s), along with training hard, we partied hard! I learned to drink from a pretty young age, before I was 18 (legal drinking age in Australia), I was already a seasoned drinker. Not an everyday drinker but throughout the summer I‘d attend parties and get drunk. Drinking, when I was young, was not about having a drink or two – it was often a bit of a competition, ‘who can drink a whole slab of beer’, or worse, down a bottle of spirits. Whatever we drank, it was always about getting drunk. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I would drink to the point that my body couldn’t take anymore, take a trip to the bathroom, be sick, then get straight back into party mode. I am very lucky that I was amongst trustworthy people because I certainly drank, on many occasions to the point of blackout. Scarily, only able to piece entire nights together by recounting stories from others.

In spite of the partying, my hard work got me some great results, including scholarships to the Victorian and Australian Institute of Sport. I trained and competed as an elite kayaker for many years. I represented Australia in World Cup events and World Championships throughout Europe, Canada and The USA. During my institute of sport years I was expected to uphold strict, non-drinking behaviour. Aside from special occasions, at the end of ‘big’ races, alcohol would seldom pass my lips but we certainly made up for this on the ‘special occasions’. When ‘allowed’, I could put the drinks away as quickly and plentifully as the next person. I recall one post World Cup dinner in Germany, where as a team, coaches and all – countless bottles of wine were guzzled down, along with a crazy number of bottles of ‘Sambuca’, consumed in the form of flaming shots – even resulting in the face of one of my teammates (beard stubble) catching in fire. At that point it was about one night of freedom, then back into the seriousness of training for the next competition.

In my prime – Kayaking days

Upon retiring, having been bound by expectations for so many years it was time to find myself. It was a rough time mentally! Not only was I saying goodbye to the sporting life I’d lived for so long, I was also adjusting to accepting my sexuality. It was late ‘99, early 2000 when, attempting to understand myself and to get my feelings out, I’d taken to writing poetry (I use the term loosely). I had journal after journal filled with poems of yearning for love and acceptance, yearning to feel ‘normal’.

I stumbled upon an online community of people who appeared to be like me, or at least to accept people like me. It was an Ani Difranco fan website. Ani was a musician whose music made me feel like someone knew what I was going through. Within this online community, was a poetry board and I would write, share, read and respond to others. I wasn’t “out” to anyone in my ‘real life’ so I retreated most nights to reading and writing in my online world. I began drinking at home, I felt like it made me more expressive and free. I shared things I feared telling my ‘real life’ friends. Drinking was becoming a habit.

When I discovered my sexuality I found it difficult to be myself where I’d been living the past few years. I didn’t even know who my ‘real self’ was but I knew I wasn’t going to find her on the Gold Coast. I needed to look for a city where there was a more diverse community. In early 2001, I moved to Brisbane, started uni and sought out gay bars. I frequented nightclubs, made new friends and fell into a world of drinking and drugs. Thankfully drugs scared the hell out of me, so while I dabbled, they never really became my thing. Drinking however, was now pretty much part of my every night, be it at home or out. At first, the home drinking was just a glass or two of wine. Once I was in a relationship for a while it changed, we began drinking a lot more. Sometimes we stuck to wine or beer, other times and increasingly it was scotch, either way it didn’t matter, I was an adult, it was my choice and I was convinced I was fine with it. There were times I questioned how much I drank, but then I’d convince myself I was fine, justifying it by telling myself that other people were doing the same.

The years went on, I suffered my first heartbreak. In an attempt to sooth my heartbreak I got drunk, slept with an ex and had to work my way out of that sticky situation. Then after a drunken night out I wound up in a relationship with a girl who became possessive and obsessed. About the only thing we had in common was an enjoyment of going out and drinking. We were only together 3 months but she moved herself into my home and threatened suicide when I tried to leave her – she held me hostage in my own home for days, I even called in sick to work in fear of her life. She wouldn’t let me call anyone or tell anyone what was happening, she eventually OD’d on prescription drugs. I took her to hospital, where I then broke down and established (through the help of a psychologist) that I had to escape. I never returned to my home, I was left with no choice but to call the police to lock up my house and I make a quick getaway – that day I flew 2000km, back to Melbourne, where I grew up. My poor dad and brother suffered the task of going up and clearing out my house.

Time went by, another relationship, another one night stand… So many things changed but my faithful companion alcohol, remained. In recent years I’d come to question my drinking a lot more frequently, how did I get from elite athlete – representing my country – to a washed up, way overweight, daily drinker looking at other people’s addictions and bad habits to justify mine? Luckily I was able to get some perspective and I started to notice that I didn’t really like the person I was when I was drinking. I was less interesting, less fun and not as nice.

Daily drinker

I don’t call myself an alcoholic, each to their own though. For me personally, as a sober person, I don’t find the term helpful. When you look at the facts though, I guess you could have categorised me as a high functioning alcoholic. I have always been a high achiever at work and I got good results in my studies but I drank almost every night, often to levels that were incredibly unhealthy. I spent a couple of years making myself promises most mornings, that today would be different but by evening I was on autopilot, driving myself to the bottle shop. I finally reached a point where I knew I had to do something serious. I no longer wanted to waste my life away, drunk or hungover, let alone continue to slowly kill myself. At the beginning of last year, after nearly 20 years of daily drinking, I decided it was time to quit. I haven’t touched a drop since February 6, 2019. That makes 501 days sober today.

Sober – making the most of life

For me, quitting drinking has been about retraining my brain to no longer buy into the lies we’re fed about alcohol. I didn’t use any traditional 12 step program to get sober. Instead, I immersed myself in the sober Instagram community. I created the profile “journey_to_sober”, now shinyhappysober” and started sharing my journey and reading about and responding to other people’s journeys. It’s a great community full of advice and support. I also emmersed myself in ‘quit lit’, starting with Catherine Gray’s “the unexpected joy of being sober”. It’s an amazing book and it solidified my decision to get and stay sober. Travelling to and from work each day I would listen to sober podcasts and audiobooks where inspiring people would talk about attempting to get sober and thriving in sobriety. I’ve learnt so much from other people’s experiences.

Through reading and listening l, I came to understand that all the things I was searching for in alcohol were merely mirages. The reality is that I have found those things in sobriety. Alcohol doesn’t relax you, it doesn’t make you more interesting, or more you. You don’t need it to be fun or to celebrate. The truth is, addictive drinking dulls your shine and bury’s all the good things. It takes some adjusting but life is so much better without alcohol.

My sober life has prompted a real lifestyle change. From staying up late drinking, to getting active again, embracing mornings, sunrises and the excitement of having energy for a new day. It’s been about enjoying my life, sharing it with my girlfriend of nearly 10 years (who has loved and supported me throughout my journey) and really living life rather than just plodding through it. I feel younger and more alive than I have in years.

I don’t think there’s a right and a wrong way to get sober, you’ve just got to put yourself out there and find the path that works for you. I think it starts from being honest with yourself about your addiction and about the type of life you want. If you’re thinking about sobriety, I can tell you it may not be easy, but no matter what your situation is, you have the power to change it if you choose to, and it is absolutely worth it!

Sober, not boring – An alcohol free drink review

When I quit drinking I concluded that my choice of beverages was limited to fizzy drinks, either packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners that leave a horrible aftertaste. My options seemed bleak; tea, which I love but didn’t want as my only option, water, also good but boring after a while and the occasional soft drink, ginger beer or cordial with soda. In the want to be both sober and health conscious, exciting drinks seemed like a thing of the past.

Recently a company that distributes a range of non-alcoholic beverages in Australia approached me to see if I’d be interested in trying their drinks and sharing my thoughts. I liked the look of what I saw on their website so I thought, why not. I hadn’t previously dabbled too much in non-alcoholic alternatives to the type of drinks I used to love, mostly because I worried they’d be triggering. As I explored the range, I realised there are so many offerings that are healthy, tasty and exciting. They allow you to feel like you’re not missing out just because you don’t drink alcohol. There are three brands within the range of drinks; ‘Rochester Ginger’, ‘Norfolk Punch’ and ‘Natural Remedy Tonics’.

All three brands offer a variety of great drinks. A highlight for me came from Rochester Ginger. I used to love a scotch on the rocks, I don’t know what it was, something about it just felt mature and indulgent. That was of course because I fell prey to clever marketing campaigns and the glorification of alcohol in films and tv shows. Thank you Don Draper! But as a person with drinking issues, it was never just one scotch, the reality never matched the illusion of remaining miraculously unaffected by the heavy alcohol content. Instead the bottle would decline rather rapidly and a horrible hangover would grace me the following day. 

Rochester Ginger’s ‘Dickensian Recipe’ reads that it can be enjoyed ‘neat’ or ‘on the rocks’. So I fished out my favourite old ‘scotch’ glasses from the back of the cupboard (they’re now just glasses). They hadn’t seen daylight since I quit drinking over 15 months ago. I clinked some ice in and poured a glass each for my girlfriend and I. “Cheers”, I felt the  ginger saunter past my lips, ours eyes lit up simultaneously as we realised it warmed our insides just the way I remembered that first scotch doing. This though, was different because I knew it was giving me goodness instead of the potential for a horrible tomorrow! 

The Rochester range also has an interesting option of a 5 day ‘shot’. They come in a variety of flavours and are intended as an immune boosting shot to kick start your day. Definitely the kind of shots I prefer these days. I tried both the ‘Turmeric’ and the ‘Cider Vinegar & Raspberry’ shots. Each packed a real flavour punch and gave an invigorating boost to my mornings.

In the Norfolk Punch range I tried the ‘Women’s Elixir’ and The ‘Original Norfolk Punch’. Both drinks are packed with berries, herbs and spices. While they claim no medical benefits, they definitely feel like they’re fuelling your body with goodness. The ‘Original Norfolk Punch’ suggests warming it and I can’t even explain how good it tastes! It’s not winter in Australia yet but we’ve been having some very cold nights. This is the perfect accompaniment to sip while you get cosy by the fire. It tasted like a delicious home made mulled wine – minus the hangover!

‘Natural Remedy Tonics’ has a range of concentrated drinks that can be mixed in a variety of ways. I tried the ‘Ginseng, Ginkgo & Brahmi’ concentrate diluted 1: 4 with hot water, as a tea. The flavours are bold, but that’s not surprising given the use of herbal extracts. The ingredients are intended to help improve mental performance; to promote memory function, improved concentration and focus. I haven’t used them long enough to tell whether these benefits are happening, as I only tried it for the first time today but I love the idea of a beverage that helps with brain function.

As a whole, the entire range of drinks I tried were exciting, they were packed with flavour and offered the ability to enjoy them in a variety of ways – hot, cold, straight or as mixers. It’s fantastic to see a focus on drinks that are fun while providing some nutritious benefits. My sober world has just got a whole lot more interesting.

Cheers!

You can check out the range of here:

http://rochesterginger.com.au

http://norfolkpunch.com.au

remedytonics.com.au

Selling a way of life

10 years ago I ventured solo around Tasmania in the rental van you see in these pictures. The van was essentially a moving advertisement for the expectation of alcohol participation. I shudder to think about how I might feel when given this vehicle if I turned up at the rental place today, 10 years later and more than one year sober. Then, I thought it mildly amusing as I drove around Tassie, pulling into a different place each night and indulging in a few drinks to ‘chill out’. I was on holidays, already chilled, I really didn’t need any drinks, or for that matter any encouragement from the van I was driving. I drank because I had come to know that this was what I did.

I’m not interested in telling people how to live their lives but I am all about screaming from the rooftops how good it feels to have changed how I live mine and encouraging others to do the same – if that’s what they want to do.

Apart from a few friends or family who have stumbled on here to support me (thank you), if you don’t have a drinking problem then you’re probably not reading this. You’ve probably never googled the word sobriety or searched for sober instagram pages. You have probably never rolled the question “am I an alcoholic?” around in your mind the way I have. The way so many of us have. But – if you have pondered the notion of alcoholism and where you sit on the spectrum of addiction – don’t beat yourself up about it! Know that you are not alone! You don’t have to stand up and declare yourself an alcoholic to want to change your life. But know that it is absolutely okay to want to change your life.

A fact we know about alcohol is that it is an addictive substance that is legal for any adult to ingest. It is heavily marketed to us in a way that no other addictive substance of its’ nature is. We are conditioned to think that it’s ok, if not expected for us to celebrate with alcohol. To use it to wind down and relax. To keep us company in times of loneliness. To comfort us in times of grief, or to chill us out when we feel uptight, stressed or anxious. Given this, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us fall victim to its’ tight grip. Yet if we admit that we’re addicted or struggling with alcohol dependency, somehow society tends to view us as weak or failing. It is expected that we are able to enjoy alcohol without getting addicted. Sorry for the heavy language – but f*ck that! We need to break down the stigma of addiction. I’m not here to condemn alcohol. If it fits nicely into your world and you’re not on the fringes of addiction good for you – but understand, not everyone is so fortunate. Not everyone can take it or leave it. We need it to be easier for people to say NO! To say I don’t drink, I don’t want to drink, or I don’t need to drink. And for those who have gone beyond ‘safe’ drinking, we need it to be easier to admit that we have a problem. People need to be able to talk about alcohol addiction/dependency without fear of condemnation from their peers, partners, parents or community. I hope for the sake of future generations we are able to change the conversation around alcohol and for it to be seen as normal not to drink. Rather than as something that requires explanation or excuses. We need to find a way to see through the messages that are sent our way and to sell ourselves a new way of life.

Sober valentine

A week before Valentine’s Day last year I decided it was time to break up my rocky-unhealthy relationship with alcohol. On that fateful day, I knew wholeheartedly I would be where I am today. My love affair had travelled its course and it was time to sever all ties. I knew it wouldn’t be easy as it’s something I’d been thinking about for years and had barely made it two days, so a lifetime seemed all but impossible. Yet still, I knew this was it – it was time to get sober!

In making this commitment, I learnt that the brain is a powerful thing! It is malleable and it will do and believe what we tell it to! It is us who have control, not alcohol! It is us who possess the power to say NO. “No! I choose to live differently!” “No, I won’t let you win.” “No alcohol, your day is done! This is my story now!”

If you are struggling with alcohol, know that you are the narrator of your own story. Take charge and choose the adventure you want your life to take!

Sober dream

In 5 days I’ll be one year sober. ONE WHOLE YEAR!

Rewind to the beginning of 2019, I was struggling to be one day sober. I’d start my days thinking I’d be strong, I’d wake up ‘knowing’, I wasn’t going to drink tonight! Then at some point in the day, as if some magnetic force was pulling me in, I’d yield to temptation and drive to a bottle shop, usually a different one to the previous night. I had shame – not enough to stop me but enough to not want strangers knowing my drinking habits. Beer, wine, vodka, scotch, cider – something, anything, a combination of everything. I wasn’t fussy when it came to the type of poison I’d ingest. Deluded, thinking somehow I needed alcohol, that it was a necessary part of my day. Convinced that it was providing me something, somehow helping me be me. Sobriety has taught me that I’d rather be my authentic self than to search for some heightened version of myself in the bottom of a bottle.

Alcohol is addictive! It doesn’t matter how strong we are – if we decide to imbibe we risk being at its’ mercy. The strength is in not succumbing, not letting it pass our lips and swirl through our system. Once we taste the first drop we are prey to the addictive cravings – more, more, more! Alcohol has the power to take us if we let it. After that first drink our defences are down, we’ve already had one, another won’t hurt, then another and another. Breaking out of that cycle takes great strength. To do it successfully we need to devalue alcohol. To acknowledge that in spite of the strong pro-alcohol argument we are fed, often subliminally through powerful alcohol advertising, we do not need it. We need to be aware of the false reality we are being sold. The ads never show the downside of alcohol – the messy crash if we overindulge – just the elated buzz. Yet the very nature of an addictive substance means that most of us will overindulge – searching for a dream state but sometimes ending up in a nightmare. Maybe we wind up in a drunken stupor where we do things we wouldn’t dream of doing, act in ways we would never act, or say things we would never say if we were sober. Or maybe we just wake up with a terrible hangover where we feel like our head could possibly implode. Either way, this is generally not what any of us are searching for when we set out. If we can learn that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, nights out would most likely be a lot more fun, memorable and real! Unfortunately there is little money to be made in selling us that dream. We have to create the dream and sell it to ourselves.

One important thing I have learned in this past year is that we are in charge of our own lives. We choose! We can wander along blindly gliding through life, allowing ourselves to be brainwashed – or we can stand tall, throw on the brakes and steer into a whole new reality.

360 days ago I chose to steer toward a different reality – I couldn’t be happier about fighting to change the direction my life was headed!

Sober – how does it feel

Recently I hit 9 months sober. I decided to reflect on what I’ve observed about my sober self. Some of my observations are as follows:

Things and people are not so annoying when I feel good, and if they are, I’m better equipped to deal with them.

I get less frustrated – I’m never hungover so I’m not constantly starting my day on the back foot, struggling to get through it.

I’m more carefree – Being clear and present means the ability to relax more and enjoy life.

I’m more motivated – I’m not saying I bounce out of bed everyday but I definitely have a whole lot more energy than I did when I was drinking and that has made me want to strive to really live my life and make it better, rather than just wander through it.

Sobriety has allowed me to get out and active. Going on nature bike rides are just one of the positives!

I’m less anxious – I feel this most at work. My mind seemed crowded. There was always so much I had to do and prove. The reality is, there was and still is always a lot to do but I now know that I can’t and don’t have to be the one to do it all. For some reason I can’t explain, being sober has allowed me to care less about what others think of me. Most days, I know my own value, what others see is up to them.

I feel more connected – I’ve found that alcohol was never the great social tool I thought it was. I think alcohol, more often than not disconnects people. When you’re drinking you are not your true self. Since stopping drinking I feel so much more connected to those I love.

If you’re struggling with the grip alcohol has on you and want to remove it from your life, good on you. In a world that glorifies booze it’s not always easy but stay strong, you’ll get there.

I’m no expert but if you’re looking for a little advice, something that’s worked for me has been to focus on adjustIng my thinking. Instead of telling myself I shouldn’t drink tonight, I made the very clear distinction that I don’t want to drink. The mind is incredibly malleable. It will believe what you tell it to believe. I now choose to tell my mind I am a sober warrior.

Something that I used to be!

Alcoholic. It’s difficult for me to admit, but I would say yes, I was an alcoholic. It’s not quite 5 months since I gave up drinking once and for all but even this soon, I refuse to be defined by what I was. Labels are only useful if they’re helpful and personally – and I know it’s not the same for everyone – I don’t find that calling my non-drinking self an alcoholic helps me. I had a major drinking problem. I drank almost every day for near on 20 years, then I stopped -not that simply, but I stopped. For me, an alcoholic is someone who drinks too much. Not someone who doesn’t drink at all. If I slip, then I guess I’ll have to reassess how I identify, but I have no intention of slipping. I intend to continue being a non-drinker.

I’ve worked damn hard on myself to get to the point where I no longer celebrate my wins or drown my sorrows with alcohol, or end each day drinking until bedtime. I’ve worked bloody hard to make myself see that I neither want or need alcohol in my life. We don’t carry labels that represent things we are not, for anything else. Why should I treat this differently. For example, in spite of the fact that I had been intimate with men, once I realised I was attracted to women I didn’t continue to identify as straight. When I was no longer training everyday and racing regularly I no longer referred to myself as an athlete. Those labels shifted, they became things that I once was, or thought I was. Why should I have to carry a label for the rest of my life that I no longer feel fits me!

I don’t disagree with the importance of taking things one day at a time. For some people that may be precisely what they need to do and for them, that is what they should do! But there are other people, like me, who need a bigger picture. I need to see myself being sober tomorrow, next week, next year. This is what I am – a non drinker and I prefer to indulge myself with the positive affirmation that I am a sober warrior NOT an alcoholic. One of the greatest things about the human mind is the potential to change it. We would lead a pretty shallow existence without this ability. It is what allows us to be our own person and to live the best life we can.

Whatever works for you, keep doing it! Me, I intend to continue rocking sobriety.

Your Authentic Self

It’s been 106 days since the last drop of alcohol swirled through my lips, across my taste buds and into my system. 105 days since I was left in a pit of despair with a horrible hangover and a world of self loathing for once again letting the demon liquid invade me. For years, alcohol had played a role in my everyday life. Even in my early days of everyday drinking I knew I was heading into dangerous territory. It was never something I was proud of, but I managed to convince myself that drinking was normal and that everyone did it. 

Alcohol is fed to us through movies and TV shows as a cure all. As something that miraculously makes you feel the way you “wish” you felt. Whatever you’re searching for, be it taking the edge off a hectic day, tapping into your more creative side, or maybe a little extra charisma – to help you feel more interesting or attractive to others, be it physically or mentally. Alcohol is offered as a solution and people are buying in, I was buying in! The reality is rarely presented. We’re not shown the horribly embarrassing scenario’s that would, no doubt ensue, if people in films or on TV were to ingest the quantity of alcohol they’re perceived to be consuming. No, instead (apart from a few exceptions – usually laugh out loud comedies) we are presented with smart, successful, entertaining scenarios where people are often the life of the party and are almost always in control. This perception needs to be broken and we need to understand that alcohol is not a magical elixir that will transform us.

I’ve heard people say, alcohol allows me to be the real me. No, it doesn’t! If you drink alcohol, glass after glass, you are not in control. You are tipsy, or drunk, it is the alcohol talking, not the ‘real’ you. Sure, a glass or two may allow you to feel less inhibited. It does not ever make you more ‘yourself’. It allows you to masquerade as someone else for a bit. The more you let it do this, the more convinced you become that you need it to be this version you think you are, of yourself. You can get to this place without alcohol. At first it can take a little longer, but being your authentic self, without the mask of alcohol is so much more interesting and attractive, and you’re at no risk over teetering on the edge of becoming a horrible version of yourself. A version that if you have ever questioned how much you drink, you have no doubt witnessed yourself become. The last 105 days have taught me that finding your authentic self is so much more rewarding than searching for it in a bottle.

Thirsty to fit in and be the best!

Alcohol has always been such a big part of Australian culture. Growing up, I remember ads showing ‘mates’ hanging out, throwing back some beers and having a great old time. This was sold to us as the ‘Aussie way’, and who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be a part of that! “For a hard earned thirst there’s an ice cold beer and the best cold beer is Vic”! Victoria Bitter Ads would shout out at us from our billboards, TVs and magazines, they were unavoidable in the 1980s and 90s, and I certainly developed a hard earned thirst.

Growing up I always knew my parents enjoyed a drink, but they weren’t big drinkers compared to my standards of drinking. While I remember them having a glass of wine on the table most nights, I have no recollection of them being anything more than giggly and tipsy. It was outside home, in my mid-teenage years that I really began to be exposed to higher levels of alcohol, through school friends and the life saving club.

I was never really ‘cool’ at school. Although I did hang out with the ‘cool gang’, I still always felt on the outer edge. Drinking allowed me to feel like I fit in more. I don’t remember how my school friends and I got alcohol because we were all underage. I certainly looked every bit of my young years and if adult me saw little me I would never have offered ‘me’ a drink. In hindsight I don’t even know how we managed to have house parties, such parties wouldn’t have been allowed at my house! Where were the parents of these kids whose houses I was at! Somehow though, while my parents thought I was safely at an innocent sleepover at a friends house, we partied somewhere else and we got incredibly drunk.

I didn’t suffer hangovers the same way at that age as I did in my more recent drinking years but I do remember times, one particular time when I was so incredibly sick from too much booze, so crook I probably had alcohol poisoning?! I couldn’t be at home in the sober light of day so I held it together enough to tell my parents I was going for a really long walk and took my sick little body somewhere else to wallow and recover.

The parties were spread out, it wasn’t like I was drinking every week, just big ‘sessions’ maybe once a month throughout the warmer months, a lot less through winter, but when I was drinking I was drinking a lot! And I was building up a crazy tolerance for alcohol. I had also started training a lot, so I was super fit, which no doubt helped me to drink more. I began to have less in common with school friends as I got more competitive in the life saving club. I had found my place, my little world where I fit in. We would train hard and on frequent occasions, drink hard. Being sporty, I loved being the best at things. I guess I extended this to my drinking, when I was drinking, I was DRINKING. I could keep up with the best of them! Thankfully I got more and more competitive in life saving, then kayaking and drinking was forced to the back burner. It became just an occasional thing after really big events. It was after quitting sport that my drinking got heavier and I became a daily drinker.

I’ve never really been one to do things halfheartedly. A great attribute to have for positive things, but such a destructive attribute for negative things. Luckily though it means that when I decide I want to do something I set my mind to it to make sure I succeed, so this same attribute that made me a good, solid drinker has allowed me the freedom to change my mindset, quit drinking and establish a thirst for sobriety.  

15 year old me in 1990. My alcohol collection among my stuffed toy collection. Saving it for when I was old enough to drink? Something definitely doesn’t seem right!

The morning after the night before – Getting Sober

In January I decided, once again that it might be time to try and quit drinking. A few weeks before I actually quit, I found an audio-book to listen to that I hoped would give me inspiration. I listened, somewhat obsessively to Jane Lynch’s “Happy Accidents”. Mostly I listened when I was in my car alone and occasionally as I drifted off to sleep. The alcohol part of her story was only a sub plot and I enjoyed that. I don’t think I would’ve been ready to jump straight into a story that slapped me in the face with addiction. “Happy Accidents” was serious and funny and I was able to get from it what I wanted, a reminder that there are successful, fun and funny people who don’t drink. That it’s OK to choose not to drink. All the while I continued to drink.

On February 6, I bought the audio-book “The unexpected joy of being sober”, by Catherine Gray. I started listening on my way to work, crying a little and fighting back tears as it sunk in that I honestly did not want alcohol to own me anymore. I got myself together and got through my work day, then listened again on my way home. I continued listening as I drove to the bottle shop / liquor store, where I bought Sangria and wine, knowing that I wasn’t going to stop drinking that night. The next day, Feb 7, 2019, I woke up hungover and hating myself for causing the splitting headache I was experiencing. I lay on the couch, head pounding, feeling annoyed for wasting my day off, feeling horrible, I went back to bed and slept until almost 11:30am (I hated this, I used to be such a morning person). I felt dazed for most of the day but I managed get it together enough to drive my girlfriend and I to visit my parents, briefly, and to get some groceries. After being home again for a short time I headed out on my own. I bought some treats, non-alcoholic drinks and chocolate. Then drove around listening to my new sober inspiring audio-book. I knew then I wasn’t going to drink that night, and I didn’t. That night I told myself, more honestly than I ever had before that I didn’t want to drink at all anymore, that I felt better sober and that i was a better person, sober! I haven’t had a drink since.

Leaving alcohol behind and tackling sobriety isn’t easy. There are plenty of services out there to assist if you need help. I haven’t been to AA, or seen any psychologists, though I’m sure for some people these are great options and there are people who will find these to be crucial steps to sobriety but if you’re ready to admit to yourself that you have a problem and that you can genuinely say you want to do something about it, there’s a good chance you already have the strength to make that change. In spite of the fact that I haven’t had any organised assistance I certainly haven’t done it completely alone.

I needed help, I didn’t want to go to AA and declare myself an alcoholic in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know. Again, if this is your thing and it works for you, amazing! I decided, for me, there had to be another way. This is what I did, it might work for others too. I submerged myself in sober stories. “The unexpected joy of being sober” got me through my first week and a bit of sobriety. I listened to it morning and night as I headed to and from work. It’s a weird thing but it felt like I was driving with a friend listening to her tell me stories. Once I finished that audio-book I sought out other books, audio-books, podcasts, websites, social media sites. Anything I could find to fill myself with knowledge and inspiration. These stories helped me understand what it is to be addicted, they offered real insight into my addiction and made me realise things about myself I wasn’t even aware of.

If you’re looking to change your drinking habits, or tackle sobriety head on it’s worth a shot. Other people’s stories of their journey to sobriety have provided, and continue to provide me with some real light bulb moments that help me to stay sober and make me appreciate being sober more each day.

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