Guest Blog – ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claire

Guest Blog – ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claire

Like a lot of people, I started drinking as a teenager and loved it, mainly because it made me more confident in social situations and I considered myself to be shy without it.

I continued with this attitude throughout my life (now I am 36), believing alcohol made me likeable and funny on work and girly nights out, but over the years, the reality became quite different.  Blackouts became more frequent. I would wake up in extreme states of shame and anxiety at what I could remember, having made decisions I would never have made when sober.  Alcohol was beginning to ruin my life. Gradually it was taking control of social situations and I hadn’t really noticed it creeping into my normal routine.

The Christmas before I got sober, I spent most nights alone, drinking up to two bottles of wine, watching chick flicks on my sofa in a boozy haze.  I would desperately text and email ex-boyfriends looking for attention and was constantly on social media feeling jealous of everyone. On the nights I did go out, I would often end up in black out, not even knowing how I had made it home.

I regularly put myself in dangerous situations with no regard for my safety or well-being. The horrible and dark times were vastly overtaking the lessening amount of ‘good times’ and I felt a strong and growing feeling of dread getting greater by the day. I was sick most mornings and became worried that drinking was damaging my health as my drinking had increased every day.

My doctor then diagnosed me as suffering from severe depression and anxiety and prescribed Citalopram.  In a way, this is what I wanted to hear as I could then blame my condition on mental illness and not alcohol, which would allow me to continue drinking.

The drugs, combined with alcohol, actually caused my anxiety to worsen and I ended up hiding in my house.  I couldn’t give up drinking, lost my job, built up terrible debt and believed my mental health to be beyond repair. I lost interest in everything, except drinking alcohol, and believed myself to be worthless. I tried to take my own life by taking an overdose and drinking to excess. Still I continued to convince myself that alcohol wasn’t the problem, believing that I needed alcohol to help me relax and to escape my problems and mental illness.

I believed alcohol was the only thing that worked except it had stopped working long ago.  I was discharged straight from the hospital to rehab, where I stayed for 6 weeks.

I got sober in rehab on 14 May 2017.  These past 17 months have been the best of my life. I actually consider each day to be a miracle and a gift.

In rehab, I was warned that my depression and anxiety would still affect me without the alcohol and that I was probably suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was told to continue taking antidepressants and to increase them up to the maximum dose for at least a year.  I was surprised at this, as was starting to feel happier and more stable after just a few weeks of sobriety.

I started to exercise, to eat well and to read up on alcohol abuse and read sober blogs and literature.  I went to AA and socialised sober, having told old friends I was no longer drinking.  I gradually found a supportive network.  I started work again and was able to be reliable.  Old relationships took on a new meaning, as I was able to share with people and not hide my drinking.  I sorted out my debt problems.

I had been so bitter when I was drinking, often looking down on people and looking for the worst in them.  Sober, I found I was able to accept and give love and that was a simple and wonderful thing. Friendships took on more value, laughter became more real, but the main change was that I started to like myself.  I discovered that I was not shy after all and that I quite like my own company.  What a revelation!

I decided not to increase my antidepressants to the maximum dose, even in the early days.  As I was feeling so much better, I did not see the point.  With every sober day my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened.  Was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?  What about my severe mental illness? As I got healthier, with a clear head, life seemed quite fun.  I was happy with how I looked, as my skin had cleared up and my eyes and hair were shiny.  People told me how well I looked.  I was taking up new hobbies, reading more and talking to people, having interesting debates where I was confident of my opinion.  When I was drinking, I was either drunk and shouting, or hungover and terrified.  I found that I was enjoying life.  In fact, I had never felt better. I asked myself again, astounded at the change – was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?

I recently met someone who had just given up drinking.  She also ended up in hospital and ended up at my local AA group.  She was physically shaking and crying, her confidence damaged and her health too.  She said she was depressed and anxious.  She had contemplated taking her own life. Her doctor had put her on antidepressants and told her she was mentally ill.  Just two weeks later, sober, she was beginning to experience the same positive life transformation that I did.

I see it all the time, in life, in blogs, in literature.  I can’t ignore it now.  I believe that alcohol caused my depression and anxiety, or, at the very least, exacerbated them to a dangerous and life-threatening extent.  Now, I don’t drown my sorrows in bottles of wine or end up in situations I regret (and, oh, there were many of those).  I enjoy my life with a clear, sober head and when problems do arise, because life will never be perfect, I have the logic and clarity to deal with them to the best of my ability.

I believe mental health is a huge and genuine problem in today’s society and worry that we underestimate the effect that alcohol has on these conditions. Everyone has their own journey and I believe that if I drank again, this would put every positive change that has happened over the past 17 months in jeopardy.

And really, it just isn’t worth it.

Written by Claire, edited by Sober Fish

Instagram: @claire_m_mccartan

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Men’s Week – ‘Some People Are Sober. Get over it’  by The Gay Sober

Men’s Week – ‘Some People Are Sober. Get over it’ by The Gay Sober

Why have I stopped drinking? Bottom line. I have a drink problem.

Was I hiding bottles of vodka in the dishwasher like Phil Mitchell? No.

Was I about to lose my house or be sacked from my job? No.

Did I hit the infamous rock bottom? No.

But could the answer be yes to these questions in five or ten years time?


Without fail, I’d always drink on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Quite often, I’d drink on a Thursday too. Hell, let’s be honest, I’d drink on any night of the week if I could get away with it! Yes please!

Thursday night then became my warm up. Sunday drinking was to ‘take the edge off’ … with eight cans of lager. OK then!

I didn’t just have a hair of the dog; I bloody groomed that dog, shaved it, made its fur into a ball and swallowed that bad boy whole. Boom!

My choice of poison was lager and I would often consume between 40 and 70 units a week. The average recommended weekly limit is 15 units for men.

I wasn’t a nasty or angry drunk. In fact, worryingly, I didn’t actually change that much when I was pissed. My tolerance for lager was so high that I could easily have a sesh and still behave very normally.

But the next morning? Wow, it makes me cringe if I think of the amount of time I’ve wasted hungover. If I added all the mornings I spent lying on my back feeling completely shite together, then … well … it would be A LOT of hours.

I didn’t just feel terrible like the stereotypical hungover person – head in the toilet and taking tablets, but I would also give myself severe anxiety.

The main questions that went on a loop in my head were ..

How much did I drink?

How much did I smoke?

How much did I spend?

How did I get home?

What did I say?

Did I offend anyone?

Did I talk about something personal?

Did I say something I promised myself I wouldn’t?

But the main question .. the one that I still haven’t answered yet … was …

Am I an Alcoholic?

(those letters should be worn off my keyboard!!)

Some people might say, ‘well of course you are’, but personally, I don’t find it a helpful label. If you do then that’s awesome; in time, I may completely change my mind, but for now, what works for me is just to say ‘I’ve stopped drinking’.

There wasn’t one massive incident that made me think ‘you ok hun?’; there were just shit-loads of small to medium ones.

For example, there was the time I was ten pints down on an empty stomach and tried to drive home after being at a wedding all day. Thank goodness I stalled the car instantly, which brought me to my senses, and I left the car behind.

Or the time when I argued with my husband’s best friend on New Year’s Eve, stormed out of the bar we were in, and then tried to break into my house with my shoe. I then rang the friend and apparently said ‘fuck off’ and hung up.

Or the time I did a runner from a restaurant but the girl I was with accidentally left her handbag there, so we had to go back the next day with a ‘sorry’ card.

I could go on…

Don’t get me wrong, some of these stories are funny. Let’s face it, getting drunk can be a right laugh, but for me, I just didn’t know when to stop. I just wanted the ‘fun’ to go on … and on and on.

So how did I stop drinking? The truth is, with difficulty. This is NOT the first time I’ve stopped but this is the longest, and is the first time I’ve seen life beyond the pint glass. I’ve tried everything; moderation, doctor’s advice, counselling, abstaining, but all failed, making me feel like I was missing out and believing life was not possible and certainly not fun without alcohol.

And then ..

The book The Sober Diaries

turned up in my sweaty little palm (I aint no Dynamo; I’d actually ordered it from the library). And this is where my life changed. It wasn’t instant though; I actually drank before, during and after the book. This was nowhere near my first book about the subject but it was the first one to get through to my sozzled brain. How did Claire Pooley do it? Through humour, honesty and humility.

After that, I signed up to a 100 day challenge and this was where my life seriously changed. For the first time in 20+ years, I genuinely didn’t want to drink any more. I surrounded myself with ‘quit lit’ books, I listened to podcasts and I started feeling very grateful for everything I had around me. And then on the 100th day, when I was allowed to drink again, I found I just didn’t want to.

I’m proud to say I haven’t touched a drop since 23 July 2018.

In January 2019, I attended the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival where I heard Sober Fishie talking on a panel. Dawn was up there with three others, all talking honestly and encouraging others to share their story. And that’s when I decided to start up the Instagram account – The Gay Sober. I actually wanted to call it The Boy Who Stopped Drinking Six Months Ago And Started Living A Much Better Life Without Alcohol, but the other title was easier to say.

Because of their support and my account, I have met so many other people in my situation. Some just starting their no drinking adventure and some 30+ years down the line. It’s a brilliant community.

Stopping drinking was not easy. It’s actually one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Leaving my old friend (who was clearly an enemy, the little shit) in the fridge or behind the bar, took a lot of getting used to. But my God is it worth it.

Will there be shit times ahead? Of course.

Will I be a knob again? Probs.

Will I ever regret something I say or do? Maybe.

But I at least know that whatever decision I make, I make it sober.


Beautifully written by The Gay Sober, slightly edited by Sober Fish

To follow on Instagram, please go to @TheGaySober


The Sober Fish Top Tips for A Dry January

The Sober Fish Top Tips for A Dry January

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS and WELL DONE for deciding to give Dry January a whirl! It really is the best present you can give to yourself, especially after the chaos of Christmas.

In my opinion, any time of the sauce ain’t no bad thing but please, be realistic.

Bluntly, you are not going to lose 3 stone in 31 days. In fact, you may lose little or no weight unless you are on a calorie controlled diet and doing lots of exercise, but hey, one thing at a time eh? Concentrate on getting a good period of sobriety under your belt before you worry about everything else. Deprive yourself of food AND alcohol and I promise you won’t be a happy bunny.

You probably won’t have the skin of a baby after such a short time. It takes time for the nasty alcohol toxins to leave your body and whilst your eyes may look brighter or your skin be less puffy, significant changes often take longer than one month to notice.

You will not instantly sleep like you’re dead or have boundless energy by Day 2. Remember, you have been slowly poisoning your body for years and that damage takes time to reverse. Listen to your body. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you wake up early, use that time to do something you wouldn’t usually do like read or write or exercise.

It won’t be easy after the overindulgence of December and you WILL be in a mood and feel hard done by, but you have to remember why you are doing this. Dry January could possibly be one of the biggest foundation blocks to your sober future. Use it well.

The keys to success are –

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN – you MUST meticulously plan in the early days. Think about where you’re going, who’s going to be there, what you going to drink and what you will do if you feel triggered ..

Personally I avoided most situations where there was going to be copious amounts of alcohol for the first few months. I mean, if you were on a diet, you wouldn’t hang out in a bakery would you?

PODCASTS – I love podcasts! I particularly enjoyed the Recovery Elevator (I’m interviewed on episode 125) or The Alcohol & Addiction podcast. It really helped me to listen to other people’s stories especially at trigger times. More recently, I’ve been listening to Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’ and Desert Island Discs – there’s thousands of those to choose from.

TREATS – us humans just lurve rewarding ourselves! Giving up one thing will almost certainly mean replacing it with something else. That’s just the way it is. My vices swung between Elderflower cordial to Curly Wurlies to Magnums to Mince Pies. I used exercise to combat my over-treating and started to lose weight after 6 weeks of sobriety.

EXERCISE – it’s no secret that exercise is good for us, both physically and mentally. For me, walking has been my saviour. Start by doing short walks and gradually build up your pace and distance. I used

for 3 months to build the habit of exercise into my routine and it worked a treat! Choose an activity you ENJOY and be very disciplined about how often you do it. You will have to fill your big alcohol-shaped hole with something!

ONLINE GROUPS – Join online groups such as Club Soda Together

or search for ‘Alcohol Explained’ on Facebook. These groups have been my lifelines and provide essential support when you need it most. Imagine, lots of people just like YOU with a common goal in mind. Brilliant!

ALCOHOL FREE ALTERNATIVES – stock up with your favourite alcohol-free tipple. Drink it in a wine glass if it makes you feel better. If you choose to drink alcohol-free wine & beer, do that. If alcohol-free wine & beer triggers you, don’t do that! Do what is good for YOU! There are thousands of drinks to choose from these days; there really is no need for ethanol

QUIT LIT – with all that money you’re not spending on alcohol, get some books about sobriety or an Audible membership. There are hundreds of titles out there to help you (see bottom of blog for ideas). Literally flood your mind with sober thoughts.


TRIGGER TIMES – Recognise your trigger times and arrange to do something different to what you would usually do. If your trigger time is Friday night, go to the cinema & eat popcorn. If it’s Sunday evening, go out for a walk. You have to fill trigger time with something else or the nagging thought will win.

You cannot do the same things & expect different results. If you sit in front of the TV night after night & expect not crave a drink, you will be sorely disappointed. Soberdom is not just about not drinking alcohol. It is about changing your lifestyle, breaking a habit and doing something different. Try writing down how you feel, or calling a friend to talk or join online discussions.

YOU have to change YOU if you want to succeed.

Wishing you all the luck in the world!


Lots of Love SF X


RE 125: Focus on the Action and Not the Results













Guest blog ‘The Tricks of the Mind’ by Ann-Marie

Guest blog ‘The Tricks of the Mind’ by Ann-Marie

My story is probably similar to a lot of people that struggle with addiction; I was tricked by my own mind.

I thought that I could moderate, but deep down, I knew that alcohol was destroying me physically, mentally and spiritually.

I’d always had a troubled relationship with alcohol, but there was something about it that I couldn’t leave behind. Booze was my trusted companion. I felt more alive when under the influence; more lovable, more desirable, more like the person I wanted to be. I was a binge drinker. I lived for ‘going hard’ at the weekends but as the drinking continued, so did the consequences. Blurred nights, lost phones and wallets, dodgy house parties in even dodgier neighbourhoods, mounting debt, crashing cars, lying, stealing, ruining relationships, hurting people.

Hurting myself.

I began to question my relationship with alcohol in 2016, after more than ten years of self destruction. With the help of my partner and my counsellor, I started making sustaining broken periods of sobriety here and there.

However, in the summer of 2017, after nearly 6 months sober, I tricked myself once more.

Alcohol had been out of the picture for long enough at that point for those around me to think that I didn’t have a problem. My drinking started out small. A bottle of beer here, a pint there. Then slowly my binge episodes racked up.

On 12 November 2017, I went on a horrific binge that very nearly cost me my relationship. It was the final straw. I had truly surrendered to the power of alcohol.

I asked for help, checked myself into an inpatient programme and spent my Christmas in hospital. It was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I attended AA meetings, connected with sober people online, listened to podcasts, read books, meditated and expressed gratitude for what I had.

Today, I am nearly ten months sober. I have been on an alcohol free holiday with my loving partner, who stood by my side at my worst. I’ve made new friends in sobriety and have been able to listen and offer advice to friends who want to live a sober life. I have set up a meet up group for women in Dublin (see link below) who are looking for friends in recovery. I am developing better relationships with my partner, family and friends.

Things aren’t always rosy but I am much more content than I ever was before, especially during the depths of my addiction.

I hope my story resonates with others.

Here’s a phrase I embrace every day

‘The opposite of addiction is community and togetherness’

Believe me, it’s true ❤️

Written by Ann-Marie, edited by Sober Fish










Guest blog ‘Learning Alcohol No Longer Serves Me’ by Karolina

Guest blog ‘Learning Alcohol No Longer Serves Me’ by Karolina

I can count back at least five years where I consciously knew I wasn’t entirely happy drinking alcohol. I didn’t know this when I was planning winery getaways or brewery hangouts. I didn’t know this come every weekend when I drank, because, well, it was the weekend and wasn’t that just what everyone did?

I only knew this during the very still and quiet times, in whispers and glimmers. I knew it when I woke up once again with a dull headache. I knew it when I let myself down and felt my self-esteem crumbling. I knew it as I journaled that surely I was meant for more than this merry-go-round.

One of the scientific effects of alcohol is that it makes you sad and anxious but everything in my life was so amazing. I was a happy person. I didn’t drink alcohol to drown my sorrows or use it to relieve my stress. I drank socially or as a weekend treat so why was alcohol becoming my Achilles heel? What was I doing wrong? I was slowly becoming someone that I couldn’t identify with and at times, actively hated.

It wasn’t like I could just quit; that would scream to the world that I’m an alcoholic, which is the last thing I would ever admit to. My drinking was fairly normal for my age and lifestyle. I only drank around the weekend and kept it under one hand’s fingers. Anyways, adults drink, that is a requirement of life isn’t it?

With all this internal turbulence, I was pretty excited to try Dry January. It was a movement people! Finally, I had a solid excuse to try an alcohol free life without having to tell people I had a ‘problem’.

I couldn’t wait. I was going to reset, get healthy, and learn new mindful drinking habits. I would then return to my Friday night treat with new determination, new rules, a new understanding of how much alcohol makes me feel happy and how much was too much. I was going to have this thing solved.  I was going to be new person.

Dry January was incredible. I slept amazingly well, lived healthier, devoured books, and felt so much appreciation and gratitude. I enjoyed myself doing the simplest things like playing board games with my husband and goofing around with my niece. I learned that I could hang out with my closest friends without drinking and still have fun. I felt like myself; there were no masks, no internal shame was smothering me; it was just me learning to be awake and alive.

February arrived and I realised I wasn’t really looking forward to drinking again. But, I knew I would return to it. It reminded me of being on vacation and experiencing the most profound realization that our time on earth is short and every moment should be seized. But then you come home, wake up on Monday morning and go the job you hate, because, well, that’s life. You need a job to live and you need to drink to survive right?

During February, I drank nine times and I hated each and every time.

I was proud of my first weekend drinking. I had two and a half beers on Friday night over a long boozy dinner and then only two beers on Saturday night. Wow. This was it! I could finally moderate! Dry January had really worked it’s magic! But I disliked the feeling when the social part of the night was over and I came home to my nightly routine. I hated feeling buzzed when I was trying to read and journal. I hated how I felt in the morning after a ridiculously restless sleep compared to the sleeping beauty slumber I had grown used to.

The following week I went to Las Vegas. For the first few days, I only had one drink per day, but by Saturday and Sunday I was ready to let loose. I had about 4-5 drinks on each of those days and it was the very last time I got drunk. I remember having a drink at the bar and feeling upbeat and having fun talking to my husband. Then we left to get a taxi to go to the hotel and suddenly my feelings of frustration and impatience were through the roof! WHERE was the taxi? WHERE was the bathroom? I’d only had one drink and was acting like the world owed me a favour! Later, I saw an award-winning acrobatic show and felt complete and utter apathy. Only a few weeks ago I was mesmerized by trees and clouds. What was going on?

By the time I was on the plane home, I felt such a dull ache in my heart. In fact, half-drunk and half-hating myself, I ordered Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind ( to read when I got back.

On the last weekend in February, I drank alcohol for the last time. On the Friday, we were out for date night and I had two beers. I then started arguing with my husband because I was being sentimental and wanted his undivided attention while he was trying to normally cross the road. That wouldn’t have happened if I was sober.

The next night and very last time I ever drank, I had half a bottle of wine while watching a movie and playing a game. The movie sucked and I wasn’t really into the game. I didn’t like the taste of the alcohol and it wasn’t giving me a nice warm buzz. I had to force myself to drink my two and half glasses until my last sip when the buzz appeared and feelings of the alcohol “chase” kicked in. This sucked. Drinking alcohol sucked.

I decided to do another thirty days without it. I was relieved to start again. The heavenly sleep! Maybe I could live my whole life this way? Drink a little, take a thirty-day break? Except that when I got to the end, magical things happened. I was riding such a pink cloud, such a burst of happiness, I felt so giddy like I was falling in love.

Thirty days turned into sixty days. I had completely new experiences and traveled to New Orleans, Boston, and Hawaii all sober. I watched sunrises. I swam with fish and rode bikes along the coast.  I went to birthday parties—I felt so happy I wouldn’t wake up with a hangover compared to the people around me. Smug even. I started writing again. My lifelong dream was to write more, but I used to have the worst writer’s block.

I had started to become the person I had always wanted to be.

I had an upcoming vacation and thought surely I would drink then. I had planned a trip to Japan when I was still drinking and for me traveling always meant experiencing the local drinking culture, like going to sake breweries and having Japanese beer in izakayas. But when I got there, I just knew the waves of gratitude, appreciation and good feelings would go away the moment I had a drink. I would feel pretty low having to restart my clock. And for what? A beer that I’ve had like 5,000 times in my life before? Been there, done that. I didn’t drink. And guess what, for all that culture I thought I was missing out on? I did get to have beer in an izakaya—non-alcoholic beer is everywhere in Japan. I came home knowing I was not going to drink for a year, then a year in my mind turned into two, and then I finally decided to not drink ever again. This life was too good to ever give up.

Not drinking alcohol has led to the most amazing shifts in my life. I love myself again. I am proud of my decisions and lifestyle. I feel tremendous happiness and gratitude most of the time. Euphoric really. Sometimes I feel low too, but instead of numbing myself, I let myself feel low, and come out of that with more resilience. I am so confident in my decision to go alcohol-free. It’s the tipping point to everything I have always wanted in my life. I am finally on the trajectory I was meant to be on and getting to know the person I was meant to be. Life is so much bigger than drinking alcohol every weekend.

You don’t have to drink A LOT to feel that alcohol is holding you back from your fullest potential.

You don’t have to feel embarrassed about examining your relationship with alcohol—it is the most life-affirming thing you can do.

You don’t have to decide to quit drinking forever to try and experience the perks of an alcohol-free lifestyle.

You don’t have to label yourself and throw yourself a pity party that you can’t drink anymore.

Alcohol is sleep-interrupting cancer-giving brain-altering depression-producing fulfillment-robbing confidence-faking substance that makes you look old, greasy, fat, and sad.

I am thrilled I don’t have to drink it anymore.

Written by Karolina Rzadkowolska, edited by Sober Fish

Euphoric Alcohol-Free