Men’s Week – ‘Deep Breath. Here Goes …’ by Neil Shearer

Men’s Week – ‘Deep Breath. Here Goes …’ by Neil Shearer

I’m not really one for sharing personal stories but hey, here I am, declaring my achievements to my friends and random strangers on the internet!!

I recently achieved over 800 days sober; my last alcoholic drink was consumed on 5 November 2016. I could never have imagined getting this point when I started this journey; after all, it had been many years since I managed any kind of break between drinking sessions.

I’d always been a big drinker, and you can probably substitute the word ‘big’ for ‘problem’ in that sentence. There were many times that I drank to black-out stage, couldn’t remember getting home, or spent nights secretly drinking spirits at home while my family were asleep.

I was always the first to encourage social drinking and mostly enjoyed it however, it slowly got to the point where I wasn’t doing it for fun; I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.  

I’d known for some time that my drinking wasn’t ‘normal’ but continued to tell myself I wasn’t an alcoholic. Alcohol was starting to have a negative impact on nearly every aspect of my life and something needed to change before it got any worse.

I’ve heard many people’s stories describing ‘rock bottom’ and I was lucky that it never got that far. The biggest issue for me was that, because I work at home, I started drinking earlier and earlier in the day and often in secret.

The last time I drank alcohol I was working at my computer at home. I’m a photographer so often spend time editing into the small hours while my wife and children slept. The evening started with me pouring a rum and coke .. then another … and another….

At about 3am, I’d finished the whole bottle. My wife woke to hear me stumbling around, barely able to talk and guided me to bed.

The next day, I woke up with a pounding head, dry mouth, and absolutely no recollection of why my wife was so pissed off at me, or how I’d got to bed. She confronted me and I made excuses, but knew the game was up.  

I broke down and admitted everything. The secret drinking had been going on for longer than I cared to remember. My wife had caught me out before but I’d sworn it wasn’t a problem, citing ‘it was a tough time of year’. Really, it was just another excuse.

I knew I had a problem. I was an alcoholic who needed to act before I lost everything. 

I decided to call my doctor and ask for help. It was the first time I’d ever said ‘I have a drinking problem’ and I felt so ashamed. But the doctor was brilliant and arranged an appointment 3 weeks later with a substance abuse clinic in Manchester. It was my first positive step forward. 

The first three weeks before the appointment were the hardest. I know it’s a cliché, but it really was a matter of taking one day at a time. My wife was amazing; she was always there for me to talk to when I REALLY wanted a drink and was more supportive than I ever could’ve hoped for.

When the appointment finally arrived, I strode in full of positivity. I proudly announced that I had been sober for three whole weeks and was kind of expecting a ‘well done’ or ‘wow! Three whole weeks! Go you!’, but there was nothing. The only advice I was given was that abstinence was the only option for me.

The support worker had been sober for eighteen years and made me feel that my three weeks weren’t so impressive. I felt panic rise up inside me when I realised sobriety was forever; I’d thought he’d just be advise me to take a break from drinking and I’d be ‘cured’.

I never saw another counsellor again and never joined any support groups. I simply wasn’t ready to talk to any more strangers about my personal life.

Sobriety hasn’t been easy at times but in some ways, it hasn’t been as hard as I expected either. I’ve survived three Christmases, weddings, parties and even a weekend in Amsterdam! No-one has ever judged me, and all my friends and family have been so supportive and for that, I’d like to thank them.

I will never judge anyone else for drinking and this is not meant to be a preachy story, but for one of the first times in my life, I am actually genuinely proud of something I’ve accomplished and will strive every day to continue.

I’m in the best shape of my life, I sleep better (despite my children’s best efforts), my mental health has dramatically improved and I’ve got more money. There really is no downside for me. 

So that’s me, that’s my story. I genuinely believe that if I can do it, so then so can you.

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Written by Neil, edited by Sober Fish

Instagram – @neilshearer_photography

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Men’s Week – ‘The Boy Who Drank Too Much’ by Scott Pearson

Men’s Week – ‘The Boy Who Drank Too Much’ by Scott Pearson

My relationship with alcohol started from around the age of fifteen and was fairly normal in that I was allowed to have a shandy or two at family events. My mum’s thinking was that she’d prefer me drinking in a safe environment at home, instead of buying cheap booze and sit drinking in the park with my friends. Sadly, like most teenagers, I still ended up doing exactly that.

I think my earliest memory of being tipsy was after our school prom, aged sixteen, when a few of us managed to get hold of some large bottles of Smirnoff Ice and WKD. There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about my drinking; I drank the same amount as everyone else and slept over my friend’s house. It was pretty standard.

A year later, I went to fashion college in London. My world turned upside down when I met someone who, in hindsight, properly introduced me to alcohol. One night after college, he took me to a bar he knew would serve us, despite knowing we were under age. Before I knew it, the first bottle was gone and we ordered another, only this time, the moment the wine hit the back of my throat, my body decided I’d had enough and brought the whole lot back up again. If only that were the end of my relationship with alcohol.

Things then went up a gear or five. I left college early as landed myself a job in a fashion and beauty PR agency. Alcohol then became a firm fixture … think Absolutely Fabulous! I was suddenly surrounded by stylists, models, fashion designers, A list celebrities, Z list celebrities and even the Olsen twins at one point. Most industries love alcohol but the fashion PR industry is a whole other level because guess what? It’s free!

Most events I attended were sponsored by an alcohol brand, and if they weren’t, I would always know someone who could get me free drinks. This meant a never-ending supply of alcohol and I certainly wasn’t going to turn that down!

My attendance at work began to suffer and by nineteen, I’d lost approximately four mobile phones, two wallets and some huge chunks of dignity. Around that time, I had what could only be described as a complete physical and mental breakdown; it turns out the toll of extensive drinking and partying in the name of fashion doesn’t sit well with your body.

The next few years are a haze. Something had changed and now the sole purpose of drinking was to get very drunk. Week after week, I would find myself in spine-tingling situations because I was tanked up. I still can’t think of some of those situations now.

After a couple of years living away from home, I moved back to my parents aged twenty three. I vividly remember them sitting me down to tell me they thought I had a problem with alcohol. To be very clear, I didn’t drink every day but when I drank, I DRANK. I told them I was no different to any other twenty-three year old and closed the case by storming up to my bedroom. Mature, I know.

The next two years were a repetition of me making the same mistakes over and over again until I found myself in a relationship. Yes, at the ripe old age of twenty-five, I’d finally found someone who was willing to put up with me!

When I look back now, there were warning signs about my/our drinking from the start. It wasn’t just the normal drinks when socialising; it became a bottle of wine a night. Over the two and a half years we spent together, it then increased to three or four bottles.

By the end of our relationship I’d gained four inches on my waist, my face was puffy, my teeth were stained from red wine and any sleep I got was alcohol induced. I genuinely believe that if I’d stayed in that relationship, I would have been seriously ill and unemployed by now.

After my relationship broke down, I moved back home (again), hit the ‘fuck it’ button and partied solidly for 6 months because I was single. Here’s a list of some of the things that happened:

• One winter’s night, I went out, spent all my money, missed the last train home and slept on a bench outside a train station in the freezing cold

• I spent £300 on an Uber to somewhere outside of London

• I told the CMO of the company I worked for where I thought the company was going wrong (incidentally, it did go into administration around the same time)

• I met a random person on the train home (drunk) and brought them back to my apartment. My flatmate was NOT impressed

• I fell asleep on a train and woke up at the end of the line, only to find out the trains were then out of service

• I reached the limit on my credit card and didn’t pay balance in time so the card defaulted. I’m still on a payment plan to clear it now

The list could go on, but one by one, these things contributed to my rock bottom. Finally, following the passing of my grandad, I started to take a long hard look at myself and really questioned who I was.

Around this time, I had noticed that my friend Sammie was sharing her story on Instagram about practising mindful drinking. I messaged her and we got talking. She recommended listening to the Love Sober podcast and reading ‘The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray

https://amzn.to/2S9wXOg

By 1 October 2018, I had decided to reduce my alcohol consumption and to only drink on planned occasions. I drank twice more but when I woke up on the 9 October 2018 with the worst hangover known to man (and trust me, I should know), I knew I was done for good.

Choosing to go sober isn’t easy, especially when you’re 28 years old and have recently joined a media and entertainment company, but it is so worth it.

My life has changed in ways I never thought possible. I’ve got more friends than ever, much more energy, I sleep better, I have more money, I’m kinder and more importantly, sobriety has made me realise how powerful I am and no one can take that away from me.

Since becoming sober, my friend Kate and I have created something I am SO proud of called @thesobermillennials. We’re tearing up the rule book and helping sober and sober-curious people connect through monthly events.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and please don’t hesitate contact me through the links below if I can help you in any way on your journey.

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Written by Scott, edited by Sober Fish

LINKS –

Scott – Instagram – @theboywhodranktoo

Love Sober Podcast – Instagram @love.sober

Scott & Kate – Instagram @thesobermillennials

Scott & Kate e-mail – thesobermillennials@gmail.com

To buy ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray, please go to

https://amzn.to/2S9wXOg

and to follow on Instagram – @unexpectedjoyof

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Men’s Week – ‘My Five Year Transformation Story’ by Alistair Johnstone

Men’s Week – ‘My Five Year Transformation Story’ by Alistair Johnstone

At fifteen years old, I was a very unique young adult. Although I had lots of potential, I was quite messed up from having a very bad childhood.

Unfortunately, I had suffered many years of neglect and abuse from the one person who was supposed to look after me. One day, she gave me the greatest of sucker punches by telling me that all that I thought I knew was just a lie she had cruelly created. 

On that day, my mental health started a steep decline and I began drinking heavily. I was already drinking for pleasure but at that point of my life, it became my way of silencing all my demons.
I thought I was enjoying it but the more I drank, the more alcohol I needed to silence my head. This resulted in me turning to other substances too, but alcohol was always the first step.
I was literally drinking the years away. I would wake up every morning looking for a drink or something stronger to make my day go by. I finally got to the point that I would be shaking if I couldn’t get anything to help me keep my demons at bay. 
At my worst, I missed out on a whole year of my life that I can’t recall in the slightest. I have read journals of my life and honestly don’t know how I didn’t kill myself as my suicidal thoughts were as high as the drink and drugs I was taking. 
I had always lived by the saying ‘here for a good time, not a long time’ and went into my main college exams high on drugs. I have no recollection at all but by some miracle, I passed with three straight A’s! It still baffles me to this day.
It took me six long years to realise the damage I was doing to myself and on New Year’s Eve 2013, I realised that my life was slipping out of my hands.
On New Year’s Day, following one of the worst nights I’d ever had drinking, I looked at my loved ones faces and swore I’d never touch it again.
The first three months were the hardest. I had the shakes every day, was vomiting and was unable to eat.
I took it slowly, one day at a time and put all my energy into the gym. I had some great people around me and so slowly it got easier, although I understood this was a battle I’d probably have to face for the rest of my life. 
Since becoming sober, I’ve been diagnosed with manic depression. This gave me a lot of answers as to why my behaviour had been as bad as it was.
I have now achieved five years of sobriety and I’m in a very good place both physically and mentally.
I use my experience of overcoming life’s challenges, drug abuse and mental illness to help others in similar situations via my social media and other avenues.
I am in a job that I have always wanted, helping people to get out of debt. My gym journey will be reaching an all time high soon. 
I’m proud of the person I am and how I’m using my personal experiences to help others with similar issues.
It really is the greatest achievement a man can have ❤️
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Written by Alistair, edited by Sober Fish
To follow Alistair, please go to Instagram – @alisa2johnstone 
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Men’s Week – ‘A Journey from Heavy Drinker to Sobriety’ by The Sober Yorkshireman

Men’s Week – ‘A Journey from Heavy Drinker to Sobriety’ by The Sober Yorkshireman

Hi, my name is Karl; I’m also known as ‘The Sober Yorkshireman’.

My drinking started when I was about fourteen/fifteen years old, as it did with lots of people brought up in the nineties. I started off drinking bottles of hooch and white lightning in my local park and this soon progressed to drinking beers at lunchtime when I got my first paid job as an adult.

Initially, I thought it was amazing that lunchtime meant a beer and a burger, however, soon it became two beers and a burger, and within four years, I was managing three to four beers in that time. This habit inevitably made me very unproductive in the afternoon and I regularly got behind on my work-load. This made me stressed, which led me straight back to the pub after work to de-stress. Yes, it was a vicious circle which was easy to slip into.

When I was twenty-one, I left that job which was in a career that could of taken me far and wide; I handed in my notice with no job to go to because my life was a mess and my drinking was my priority. I eventually found a job labouring on a building site but my habits never stopped. I’d just go from the building site to the pub.

This started me on a cycle of doing dead-end jobs with no career prospects. At one point, I was even unemployed for two years but still my drinking continued.

In 2008 aged twenty-seven, I managed to find a driving job that I liked. I was essentially my own boss and it gave me the freedom and opportunity to see lots of the Yorkshire countryside. In December 2011, I got my lorry licence which was something I’d wanted to do for years. In addition, my daughter was born in early January 2012. She was a complete surprise as we’d been unaware my partner at the time was pregnant!!

It was a huge shock to our world. We were both living with our respective parents and so I decided to move into my partner’s parent’s house so that we could bring up our daughter together. Even though we struggled for money, I still managed to go to the pub every night after work.

In August 2012, I changed jobs again to get more money, which hopefully meant I could start saving for an house. Unfortunately, our relationship broke down in March 2013 and I moved back to my parents house.

From the day I moved out, I started paying maintenance. This meant I had to scrap my plans to get a mortgage. I’d always worried about money but now it was stressing me out daily so I just went to my sanctuary (the pub) at every opportunity I could to blot it out.

My life went from bad to worse. I started dabbling with Class A drugs and was drinking what most people would consume on a Friday night on every single night of the week.

I started using dating sites to get my fix of attention as my self-worth was non-existent. Nothing lasted long though as the dates either wanted to change me and stop my drinking or I wanted to get back to my mates and the pub.

I could see that my family were also hating the amount I was drinking and so, to escape the crowd, I started drinking alone. I stopped taking drugs but all this meant that I was turning into a loner drinker. I’d find myself in a pub where I knew nobody, sitting alone, and drinking my nights and my life away. 

In January 2016, I decided to do Dry January and actually lasted ten weeks into early March. I then decided to try moderation; my plan was to drink on a Friday or Sunday, but for the next 6 weeks, I drank every single day.

That was when I truly hit rock bottom. In May 2016, I remember seeing a TV programme by Louis Theroux called ‘Drinking to Oblivion’ and it really struck a cord with me. The next day, whilst driving in my lorry, I said to myself ‘you need to give this up. You can’t go on living your life like this anymore’.

Later that week, I called my local alcohol support group ‘Forward Leeds’.

They said they could help me the following day but due to work commitments, it wasn’t a possibility. The next available appointment was 5 weeks later on a Wednesday evening. I agreed to it but in the meantime I decided to try to find some online support.

One of the support groups I found suggested I choose the date to stop drinking and so I chose 1 June 2016. The day before was a bank holiday and I drank all day and got smashed.

That was last day I ever drank alcohol. With the help of my online support group and Forward Leeds, I’m now over 2.5 years sober.

There are so many positives to being sober.

I’ve met an amazing woman on a sober dating site. She lives 200 miles away from my Yorkshire roots in Ascot and I’m moving to be with her at Easter in a house we’ve bought together and renovated.

I’ve done sober weddings, stag parties and even a lads trip to Dublin, all without touching a drop of alcohol.

Everyday I try to better myself. I now eat a plant-based diet, have ditched coffee and started meditation, running and the gym. I’m also looking to start Crossfit in the near future.

In January 2017, I started a blog. My partner and I also blog together and in January 2019, we launched our own sober support group to help others get sober (see below for links).

Since becoming alcohol-free, we have both lost weight and got fit. I ran my first marathon in May 2018.

My life has never been so good; it’s like I’ve been given a second chance at life. Now we want to give other people the opportunity to see how our lives have got changed and help them get a second chance at life too

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Written by Karl, edited by Sober Fish

Blog – http://thesoberyorkshireman.co.uk

Instagram @thesoberyorkshireman

Instagram @soberfitcouple

Our support group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/SoberFitTRIBE

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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?

Absofuckinglutely.

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

https://amzn.to/2Uxic4B)

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.

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

To follow on Instagram, please go to @TheGaySober

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