The darkness descends at any given time; without any warning, without sign.
I’ve survived through what was total hell; only I myself know when I will really be well
I’ve been through bereavement and also divorce; my life is so terribly full of remorse.
The demons strike at any given time; I don’t know how to bear it without my crutch; the wine.
My mental state snapped, it had taken enough.
The wine worked itself through to my soul, taking complete control.
It slowly devoured every part of my day; I didn’t know I was drifting away.
Into a world where pain was no more, I could block out the past like locking a door
I’d wallow in pity, sink deeper and deeper until all shapes and forms were of the grim reaper.
It took time, it took effort, so long to get free
It’s one day at a time now, living as me.
On 10 June 2017, my best friend & I were belatedly celebrating my 43rd birthday. We bought the obligatory bottle of Prosecco as we’d done countless times over the last 20 years, and toasted to good times and our forever friendship.
However, this time was different. This time I chose not to drink it.
I watched the bubbles in the glass try to seduce me but soon realised that I didn’t want to taste it’s bittersweetness. Instead, I drank an alcohol free drink and we continued our night, filled with music, dancing and laughter.
My 29 year relationship with booze was over.
Today, I celebrate one year completely alcohol free. I’ve decided to write a post about how my life has changed since I made my decision, how I coped with the change and what harsh truths have been revealed.
In July 2017, I wrote my first blog for The Sober Fish Story –
A Special Guest Blog ‘Becoming teetotal’ by Lysha Holmes
I was so grateful for the opportunity to share my story and found it really therapeutic. My relationship with booze had always been a heady mix of erratic love and apathy. I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic but more of a socially acceptable dependent whose entire adult life had been linked to booze in some way.
Every major life event was celebrated with booze; weddings, promotions, bad day, good day. It’s considered the social norm to crack a bottle of something open at the drop of a hat and I simply succumbed to the expected parameters of that.
I dabbled with sobriety for nearly a year between August 2016 and June 2017 however every drink I had, I drank in order to conform. I knew I needed to stop but still continued to have champagne to toast in the New Year or a glass of something cold at a BBQ or a cocktail on a girlie night out.
My main fear about sobriety was that I would become a social pariah within my broad circle of friends. This was manifested mostly by my own inner fears however, because in reality, very few people actually berated me for not drinking.
Initially, I felt like I was constantly explaining to people why I wasn’t drinking. Their standard response was ‘I didn’t realise you had a problem’ to which I would explain ‘Neither did I, but my mental and physical health is so much better without it’.
It certainly became repetitive to have to justify my own personal decision to commit to a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps they were reflecting on how I could consider sobriety and whether I would now become dull and boring? I could also sense that a few were negative about it but maybe because my decision was making them question their own habits?
Without sounding too dramatic, it is a brave decision to stop drinking alcohol and to deliberately go against the expected norm of your social group.
Sober Fish has written about how sobriety is a life changing decision. As with any positive healthy lifestyle change, you sometimes only realise the benefits over a period of time. You have to be wholly committed to your choice in order to resist temptation when everyone else is drunk and on a totally different wave length.
I’ve learned that I don’t need alcohol to lose my inhibitions. I am a very confident person and whilst I thought alcohol was my ‘crutch’, it was actually stopping me from being the real me. I’ve had much more fun on nights out since becoming sober and love being able to recall every moment. I also ‘think’ I’m much funnier and quick witted than before!
Since ditching the booze, the change to my physical health is enormous. I’ve lost three dress sizes and instead of languishing in bed with a hangover every weekend, I walk at least 10k steps a day and do a HIIT session with The Body Coach
I eat really healthily as can actually taste food now. I don’t diet, eat what I want and fully appreciate my health. I think it’s important to respect my body and want to look after it as best I can.
I believe that alcohol distorts the way that you think you look. I never thought I was particularly big or overweight, but when I look back at my ‘before’ photos, I can see how bloated I was and how puffy my eyes were. Interestingly, I was diagnosed with an under active thyroid during pregnancy in 2004 however since I’ve stopped drinking, it has become totally stable.
One of the most precious parts of sobriety is sleep. It is quite simply amazing. I sleep solidly for 7 hours a night without waking up thirsty or needing the loo. I don’t have heart palpitations, which I’m sure were caused by alcohol messing with my metabolic rate at night. Sometimes, I used to feel like I was almost being ‘kick started’ while sleeping! I don’t perspire and wake naturally at the same time every day, fully rested.
Alcohol is perceived as a social necessity and most people who drink cannot imagine socialising without it. There is almost a ‘pack mentality’ with alcohol; when a few people are all drinking together, it can spiral into matching each others pace, opening bottle after bottle.
Sobriety can make you consider friendships and the activities you do together. Personally, I think it’s far more satisfying to have a bonding day at the beach or a satisfying walk through a forest without the need for alcohol. I’ve become so much more aware of my REAL friendships; you know who you are 🙂
Sometimes, I feel like my sobriety can make other people feel uncomfortable or a little paranoid. This could be because they think I’m going to judge them for drinking alcohol but usually this couldn’t be further from the truth. Your choice is yours and my choice is mine.
My final point of what I have learned this year is that, despite stressful life-changing events, I finally feel content. I have a real sense of purpose and achievement that feels so fresh and so authentic, I can’t imagine ever diluting it with alcohol again.
Times are changing. People are choosing healthier lives by swapping junk food for organic and getting fit. The final part of the trilogy to a healthier and in my opinion, far happier life, is to assess your relationship with alcohol and find out what sobriety is really like.
I’m a mum to two daughters and we talk about alcohol and why I don’t drink. I’ve been very open with them and explained that sometimes you have to make a life-changing choice.
My youngest daughter cemented my decision for me when she said ‘Mum, I never used to tell you but sometimes you smelled of wine if we’d been out at a friend’s house. I remember one New Years Eve when you ignored me because you were having champagne with your friends’.
If that wasn’t reason enough to make me stop and re-adjust my priorities in life, then I don’t know what is.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every one who has supported me during the last year and give a big thank you to Dawn, aka Sober Fish, who I finally met earlier this year. We really are sisters from another mister; we didn’t stop talking for three days and proved that with the right friends, you really can achieve anything.
Written by Lysha 2018
Edited by Sober Fish
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I am living the most wonderful life imaginable.
I have an amazing wife, a fabulous job, a beautiful home and lots of good friends. I feel fit and strong and like nothing better than going on fantastic hiking adventures with my wife and dog Betty. I am complete.
However, if I’d written this story 13 months ago, it would’ve been a very different tale. The ingredients would’ve been the same but there was ‘a fly in the ointment’ or rather ‘a raging bull in the ointment’.
It was alcohol.
We think that alcohol is everybody’s friend right? It wasn’t my friend; it was my enemy.
Alcohol embarrassed me, made a fool of me, made me angry, made me sad and turned me into a bad person. It made me hurt the people I love it and stripped me of my mojo. It tried to take everything but luckily, it failed.
If I’m totally honest, I was what people would call a bad drunk. Alcohol did nothing for me at all.
I don’t want to talk about things I did in the past or how I behaved … I’m sure you can imagine. As far as I am concerned, the past is the past and it’s well behind me now.
I tried to stop drinking for years. I tried not drinking in the week or having a month off; we all know the script. The result was that I’d end up drinking more and more; every night and every weekend.
At the time, I wouldn’t have said I was alcohol dependant but looking back, I was. It was hard to admit because the truth was I couldn’t stop.
I’ve lost count of how many times I tried to give up but the problem with alcohol is that whilst it makes you feel awful, it also promises to make you feel good.
Now we know the truth though. Alcohol is a liar.
In April 2017, my wife found Sober Fish online and was inspired to stop drinking. A month later, on 21 May 2017, with my wife’s full support, love and encouragement, I drank my last drink.
To go against the grain is a hard thing to do. To become a non-drinker is ‘against the norm’ however if people love and care about you, they should encourage you. You have to do what’s right for you and find something to replace the alcohol. This could anything; God, yoga, meditation or in our case, hiking. We’ve hiked thousands of miles over the last year; we’re fit, have lost weight and completely changed our way of life.
By ditching the alcohol, I literally found the real me and I couldn’t be happier.
Written by Lee x 2018
Edited by Sober Fish
I started drinking cider at the age of 15. Almost instantly, I loved how alcohol made me feel. My shyness would disappear and I would feel like the life and soul of the party.
As I grew up, everyone drank alcohol but I felt like my drinking was different to that of my friends. For example, after a heavy weekend, my mates would be so hungover that they couldn’t bear to touch another drink, however I would crave more alcohol and easily reach for another.
After a few years, I started to notice that I would get ‘the shakes’ and ‘the DT’s’ (Delirium Tremens) if I didn’t drink alcohol. I would therefore drink more to calm me down and alleviate the symptoms.
Before too long, I was on massive benders, drinking morning, noon and night to avoid any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Food and work went out of the window and I knew I was in serious trouble.
My final bender was in July 2003. It resulted in severe paranoia, crippling anxiety and a depression like I’d never experienced before. It scared the life out of me.
Feeling at an all time low and unsure where to turn, I called the Samaritans and they kindly gave me the number for Alcoholics Anonymous.
In utter desperation to get well, I threw myself into meetings and using the invaluable advice to take one day at a time, the cravings eventually disappeared.
Since becoming sober, I have cleared all my debts accrued whilst drinking. I also met my long term partner and two fantastic sons aged 6 and 8! I am a season ticket holder at Bristol City Football Club and enjoy running, competing in triathlons and going to gigs.
People say that a sober life is boring but I think my life was far more dull when I was drinking. I love my life now.
Last week, my long term partner and I got married. We had a fantastic honeymoon in Dorset, followed by a family holiday in Devon and I enjoyed being present for every single second of it.
I have now been sober for 15 years and I rarely think about alcohol. I no longer attend AA meetings as feel happy and secure in my sobriety but am mindful not to become complacent and take each day slowly, one at a time.
Written by Rich 2018
Edited by Sober Fish
I bloody love drinking or perhaps I should say I used to bloody love drinking.
My early years were often spent in a private sports club where drinking was prolific. From the age of 14, thanks to a private licence, we were allowed to drink the odd cider and shandy once we’d finished our games. You can guess which one I picked?!
I then continued to drink nearly every day for the next 30 years, except for a few odd weeks here and there when I would try to be healthy. My excuse for drinking alcohol was that I played sport and attended the gym on a regular basis so I deserved that pint right? Sadly, it rarely stopped at one.
After a heavy session, I would become highly anxious. The anxiety would stop me from eating and sleeping properly and the only viable solution would be to drink more alcohol to make it go away. This set my vicious cycle in full swing.
In November 2016, I read that Dawn was planning to give up alcohol for a year, I thought ‘Christ! How the hell could anyone do that?! Especially Dawn!’ I’d known her for more than 20 years and thought if she could do it, perhaps I could too. I was intrigued.
Christmas and New Year came and went in an alcohol sodden blur and I realised I needed to do something. I set myself the challenge of doing Dry January, giving it everything I had, and was ecstatic to achieve over 2 months sobriety.
During this period, my regular drinking buddies did give me grief but somehow I managed to stay strong. It was really hard not to crack with the constant social pressure to have ‘just the one’. It was even harder because I now own the bar where my teenage drinking had first begun!
During my sober time, I felt fantastic! In fact, I felt so fantastic that I stupidly thought a couple of ciders wouldn’t hurt as I was now back in control. I could handle it. I was tough. I could moderate right?
Two weeks later, I realised that despite all my hard work, I was drinking daily again. I couldn’t believe how quickly I’d slipped back into my old routine that had been so hard to change. Annoyed with myself, I stopped again for another month. But after that month, the same voice was back, telling me I was in control and that I could moderate. So once again, I climbed back onto the merry-go-round with a couple of pints here and there. But once again, I was back to square one.
In April/May 2017, I managed to stop again for just over 6 weeks, but on 13 May 2017, I suffered a TIA (Transient Isochemic Attack). This was a massive shock but doctors could find no obvious reason for it. Tests were conducted but all came back clear. So, I decided to jump to my own conclusion. It had to be sobriety that caused it! After all, I’d been perfectly fine before I’d stopped drinking. Before long, I was back to daily drinking again.
Since last summer, I’ve tried several times to give up but never really cracked it. I didn’t have the right mental attitude. I had too many events to attend, was scared to fail again and couldn’t deal with all the negative comments from my buddies. If I’m honest, I was making any excuse to avoid the inevitable.
A couple of weeks ago, I turned 48 and after 4/5 days of solid boozing, decided enough was enough.
So here I am, day 14, series 6, episode 1! I must admit that I’m not totally feeling it yet, but I’m getting there slowly and feel a whole lot better than I did two weeks ago. I know from previous experience, that I will start feeling fantastic again soon. For me, exercise is the key; cycling, tennis, gym.
I will always love drinking but have come to the conclusion that sadly it doesn’t love me! There’s nothing I like more than watching my friends & family having a few drinks and enjoying the sun .. but I know they have an off switch and unfortunately I haven’t.
I’ve wasted too many days, lost too much work, suffered too much anxiety and missed too much time with my kids.
I am done. It ain’t happening again! The love affair is over. This time is for good.
Written by Dave 2018
Edited by Sober Fish
Where shall I start….???
Well, I’m 56 years old, male, and have been married for 17 years (third time lucky) with two mid-teenagers. For most of my life, I was in the Royal Marines followed by the Police.
Drinking was never prevalent in my family; in the early 80’s, we thought we’d ‘made it ’ if the whole family shared a bottle of Liebfraumilch over Sunday lunch!!
In the Marines, I was never one of the pissheads. My role was a sniper and demanded a clear head without any distractions. I was at the top of my game and admired for being the one that could do things that others couldn’t; I had untold pride and kudos.
Prior to this, I was never a heavy drinker; the room would always spin after a few pints and would often make me throw up. Sometimes, after a successful deployment, the teams would celebrate to excess in the time honoured tradition by getting hammered but I didn’t. Instead, my obsession was to get laid. I was a serial womanizer with an Honours Degree in flirting, but I was also an incurable romantic and neither big headed nor arrogant. I loved what I did. I loved myself. Alcohol didn’t feature – doing what I did was my drug of choice and I was totally addicted and respected for it.
When I joined the Police, I was quickly ushered into a specialist firearms role. I was an armed close protection officer to Prime Ministers, VIP’s and even royalty. I mixed with the best, in the best places, doing the best job. Once again, the role demanded professionalism, a sober head and decision-making at the highest level. I was admired, respected and appreciated. I loved what I did and I loved myself.
Towards the end of my time in the Police, I had a different role which allowed us more time to concentrate on our social life. The kids were now growing up fast, sitters were freely available, invites were more frequent and life was good. I soon realised that the attention I’d received in my previous roles could be replicated in a social environment by being just that bit louder and more outrageous, all helped along of course by the astonishing generosity of Messrs. Sauvignon Blanc.
In 2012, I retired from the Police. Life wasn’t just good; life was fucking amazing!! I was lucky enough to count the time I’d spent in the Marines towards my pension, so I retired at a decent age with a huge lump sum and a very healthy monthly income. At this time, the whole Country had Olympic fever; my Father was even carrying the Olympic torch! It was summer, there was money in the bank, holidays were booked and new cars purchased. It was truly amazing; I could literally do anything I wanted!
Over the years, I’ve met some pretty evil people, I mean seriously evil, but despite years of training, being the very best at whatever I turned my hand to and being totally in control, I found myself, for the first time ever, completely and absolutely unprepared for my meeting with Mr. Reality.
I’d cleverly worked out that, with a little helping hand from Messrs. Sauvignon Blanc, I could really make others laugh. The prudes and bores were the exceptions however; they all found it all a bit much; but hey, who needed that kind of negativity anyway?! I loved having so much time on my hands; there I was, sitting in my sunny garden with a glass of wine or two, while all those suckers worked for a living! Ha!
I was actually living the dream. To begin with, Messrs. SB were actually very good to me. They didn’t make the room spin and they also helped to get me noticed, which had seriously been missing of late. As my friendship with them blossomed and my tolerance increased, they literally became the gift that just kept giving. My sex drive went through the roof and I regularly found that I’d end up with a raging ‘hornover’ the following morning! What wasn’t there to like?!
In December 2012, we went on holiday to an all-inclusive paradise in the Indian Ocean for Christmas. Pool waiters would headed to my sunbed from 11am, smiling and introducing me to Messrs. SB’s Indian relatives. I even had friends around the world now!!! The 12 hour flight to paradise had also been a breeze because the airline staff had been so ridiculously generous with their wares! It was wonderful!
In April 2013, things went totally crazy when I set up my own company! Yep, just me, mostly working from home and it was an overnight success! I was back at the top, back to being noticed AND it didn’t even take up a lot of my time. It really was a lovely balance; who wouldn’t want a decent business and still have plenty of time to do what they want?
I did all of the cooking at home and luckily my new business gave me plenty of time to continue with that task. There I was, prepping, cooking, and sinking a bottle of wine like an absolute boss!! Keith Floyd would’ve been proud!
Social events were still fab but I had noticed that my cheeky wife had started introducing me as ‘Mr Marmite’! I had also noticed that my adorable daughter seemed to be frowning a lot and saying negative stuff like ‘Dad, please don’t have another drink’. Unbelievable!
Some friends started to drift away as they do. They obviously had more important things going on but there were still those who liked an outrageous evening. They were my real friends right?
I knew what was expected of me when there was a social event so of course it made sense to have a few glasses before going out to ‘warm up’; it was imperative that I was on top form from the moment I arrived.
With so much time on my hands, and life being so good, it seemed only right to enjoy it to the max. I had bugger all else to do. I had my lovely family but couldn’t help noticing the little niggles about insignificant shit cropping up more regularly. I just assumed that was part of being married and having kids, so didn’t think too much of it. Sometimes, I felt like they did it to just wind me up. I was still putting meals on the table and even though one bottle of wine a day had now progressed to two, I was still me. It was nothing I couldn’t handle if they would just stop their nagging.
I was also pretty certain they were making stuff up. There were numerous occasions when my wife would say ‘We discussed that the other night’, or ‘Do you remember what you said to so and so?’ and I had no recollection. Perhaps she was inventing these incidents to see if I was paying attention?
Mr Reality would occasionally pop up to rudely point out any extra pounds that were creeping on or to wave his ‘tiredness wand’ over me. He even went as far as to make me look older by changing my face shape and my complexion. What a bloody cheek!
At Christmas 2017, we returned to our Indian Ocean paradise. The service had definitely slipped. The airline cabin crew were slow or inattentive, as were the staff at the hotel. I didn’t get excited by other guests and the mornings were so hot, I was even sweating at breakfast! The journey home was shite too; I was uncomfortable, sweating profusely and I noticed they’d actually started rationing the drinks too. Not impressed was an understatement.
After arriving home, the new year started with a bang. Our local pub was under new management and it was party time! That night, I took down two useful telephone numbers with my fumbling fingers and blurred vision. Unsurprisingly, I took them down incorrectly. Then, to top it off , I proceeded to tell the wife to fuck off at bedtime and then wondered why she wasn’t impressed by my ‘hornover’ the next morning.
On New Year’s Day, Mr. Reality beat the shit out of me. My alcohol consumption had made me hurt the person I was most close to, and in my mind that was inexcusable.
A few days later I decided to visit a Life Coach/Counsellor. Before I went, I had a small glass of wine ‘to calm my nerves’. Upon arrival, the counsellor said ‘You smell .. like a drunk. Not just like someone who’s had a heavy night with the smell lingering on your breath, but actually like a proper drunk .. it’s awful, it’s coming out of your pores’. (Thank you BH xx)’
That statement rocked me to my core. I vowed never to touch another alcoholic drink again.
We had several sessions after this and completely found myself again. I knew I’d always been there but had somehow lost my way and gained a dependency on alcohol.
So that was it. I stopped and I mean stopped. I knew I couldn’t moderate as had been there, done that and it doesn’t work. I just stopped.
It was easy writing this as I have a near photographic memory and so it wasn’t hard to recall the chain of events, the spiral, the indicators and the reasons. Although I recognised it at the time, ignorance and a belief that I had it under control overruled more useful or rational thought.
It’s not difficult to end up where I did. I’m 100% certain that if alcohol was launched for the first time tomorrow, it would be banned as a Class A drug immediately.
I could’ve easily made this post twice the length with more anecdotes, patterns, hidden booze, lies and excuses; the list isn’t exhaustive.
I haven’t touched an alcoholic drink since 8 January 2018. It may be a cliche, but I can honestly say that since becoming sober, I’ve never felt better. I’ve lost 1.5 stone, am healthier and already look 10 years younger (quite gorgeous actually)! I’ve been to countless social events and even had one of the best days ever when I joined 82,000 mostly drunk people at the recent Army v Navy rugby at Twickenham.
There are some superb alcohol-free beers out there so I don’t feel like a complete leper, and the bonus is that I get to drive home every time! I feel energised, vibrant, enthusiastic, productive but most of all, I am free. My wife is proud, my daughter is uber proud – and I am the proudest of them all.
Edited by Sober Fish