My relationship with alcohol was always a difficult one. As a child, I watched my mum descend into serious alcoholism. Thankfully, she’s now been sober for eighteen years but whilst her problem with alcohol should’ve taught me that drinking is neither big or clever, it didn’t.
My younger years were blighted by excessive drinking. Young people drinking too much is hardly a rare scenario these days however now I can see that I had a faulty ‘Stop’ button from the start and regularly partied to abnormal extremes.
As I got older, my drinking patterns changed and in my late thirties, whilst my party days were behind me, the drink remained ever present. I had a decent job, two fantastic kids, a house with a garden and my own car. I was doing okay.
I became what I believed to be a discerning drinker, drinking expensive white wines at home. I joined CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), drinking bottled ales with silly names and also enjoyed pretentious ciders that could knock out a horse.
By drinking in this way, I convinced myself that I was fine, that I was better than the geezer on the park bench drinking cheap alcohol from a plastic bottle. After all, I was drinking a Chilean Sauvignon which cost at least six quid a bottle, so that made it ok. They were addicted. I was not.
But soon it became any excuse to drink; good weather, bad weather, good day at work, bad day at work, watching football – you can’t do that without beer! It’s an insidious addiction that creeps up behind you when you’re not looking. Any sign of trouble, I would drink. Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve ever had an argument that wasn’t either caused or made worse by alcohol. And once I started, I would carry on until bed.
Alarm bells started to sound more loudly in 2015 when the frequency of waking up feeling like shit was getting too much. I’d recently turned forty, and suddenly opening my eyes with a dull headache and a mouth like a pub carpet, was becoming a chore. I’d go to work and sit in meetings, glugging Pepsi to fight the feelings of nausea. I’d devour Rennies for the incessant indigestion I couldn’t shift and count the minutes until I could escape.
On the really bad days, I’d think ‘right … that’s it .. I overdid it last night… tonight, no booze’.
But, by five o’clock, I’d be on autopilot in the supermarket, buying a bottle of wine. And just in case that bottle didn’t last the night, I’d get a couple of beers. And perhaps I’d get a second bottle of wine in case my partner wanted some. You get the gist.
I started realising that saying ‘not tonight’ and not being able to stick to it was happening too regularly. I was drinking pretty much every day; it wasn’t always a lot, but always something. I could easily drink a bottle of wine and remain upright. I didn’t fall over or throw up. I just drank a lot and then suffered for it the next day.
One night, I got into bed next to my sleeping partner. That morning, I’d vowed not to drink but had once again ended up in the supermarket on the way home. I’d drank quite a lot that evening and as I got under the duvet, the room was spinning. I felt terribly sad, and had an overwhelming urge to wake my partner and tell her I thought I had an alcohol problem. But I didn’t and just lay there quietly crying.
That happened more than once but when I woke up in the morning I would just feel silly and think hey, I got a bit emotional last night .. it was just the booze talking.
In 2017, my partner left me. She’d finally had enough of living with a bear with a permanently sore head. My way of dealing with this of course, was to get as pissed as possible. My mental and emotional state deteriorated way beyond anything I have experienced before. I wasn’t eating and instead bought multiple bottles of wine which I drank alone late into the night.
One morning, I woke up in such a horrendous state that I was unable to go to work. I was broken physically, mentally and emotionally. I messaged my boss and told her I was experiencing a mental health crisis and was all over the place. She was wonderful about it and made me promise to go to the doctors.
That day, I made an appointment. As the doctor was in the process of referring me to the local mental health assessment service, I calmly admitted my concerns regarding my alcohol consumption. We had a chat about how I was feeling and the volume of wine I was drinking and I left clutching a phone number for my local drug and alcohol service called ReNew. I called them straight away and arranged for a counsellor to call me back.
I completed an assessment over the phone and achieved a moderately worrying score on the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorder) test. Despite this, I still had delusions that I might be able to drink in moderation; a glass of wine with a meal, or the odd pint down the local. I now know if I was the kind of person that could manage moderation, I probably wouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place.
I started a managed alcohol reduction plan with ReNew and put together a care plan outlining activities I would do in the evening instead of drinking. Once the plan was in place, it all came together quickly and any naive ideas I had of moderating were soon discarded. I wanted a better life and I decided that I didn’t want to drink alcohol anymore.
I took my last drink on the evening of March 26th, 2017. It was just 100ml of white wine, exactly in line with my reduction plan. Then I went to bed, and woke up a non-drinker. The following week I joined an abstinence group through ReNew, where I met similar people who were just normal people like me who happened to drink too much. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure about ‘groups’ as I thought they would be like those awful meetings you see on TV, but after the first couple, I really started to look forward to going.
With every day and week that passed, the committed booze beast I once was drifted further away and I began to embrace my new sober life. I talked about it regularly with my Mum who I called after every meeting, and weirdly, our shared alcohol issues actually brought us closer together. I now understood the dark place she’d been in all those years ago more clearly, and similarly she understood me, even though our stories were not the same.
I’m now fourteen months abstinent. If I said I never thought about drinking, I’d be lying. There are times when I think about having a glass of wine so much I can almost taste it. But I know the damage it would do is immeasurable. I didn’t come this far to throw it away for what is essentially coloured liquid in a glass. So I gently remind myself how much better this sober life is and the thoughts eventually go away.
Now, probably for the first time ever, I like myself and I feel happy inside. I’m not trying to please anyone, or fight with my own mind. I don’t feel depressed anymore, because I’m not pouring a depressant down my neck at every available opportunity.
I don’t have many friends but the ones I do have are close friends and they’ve all been supportive. Privately, I think they probably think I’m a bit nuts but that’s okay! I’m quite comfortable with being a bit nuts!
I became sober at the age of 41 and I feel like I have a second chance at life. It is, as the saying goes ‘life in high definition’. The past is the past – it’s what you do today that counts and today looks pretty good from here.
Written by Nick 2018
Edited by Sober Fish
I am an addict of people, places and things. I have been clean and sober since 18/10/17, one day at a time.
At 23, I never imagined committing to a new way of life; to be abstinent and free from the clutches of drink and drugs. Before I became sober, I’d have told you alcohol was the problem but deep down I always knew that I was using the alcohol as the solution to block out my perceived pain of reality.
When I was drinking, I was dissatisfied with life for a number of reasons. When I drank, I always overdid it, only to wake up wondering how the hell I had ended up making my situation worse.
Drink and drugs gave me immediate gratification. Until I found sobriety (or sobriety found me), I had always blamed everyone else for my misfortunes, especially those nearest and dearest to me.
I took no accountability for my actions whatsoever.
My first dabble with sobriety was in April 2017 when I received a DUI (drink drive charge) and went to alcohol counselling. Sadly, I didn’t stick with it as I didn’t consider my drinking to be a problem and felt the counsellor didn’t understand me. As far as I was concerned, life was the problem and I drank to deal with it.
In the summer of 2017, after various failed attempts to control my ‘binge’ drinking, I realised the fun, good times and laughter had stopped. I was still in denial that alcohol was causing me problems, although deep down I knew it was the main issue.
I then started seeing a new counsellor who suggested I attend a recovery program. The fellowship was a group of men and women who had found a new way of life through their sense of community. Of course, it wasn’t portrayed to me in this manner; I’m describing such a place with the benefit of hindsight. His words were ‘Try it but it’s not for everyone’.
So I tried it but decided it was not for me. At that point, I didn’t want to commit to total abstinence. I still believed life could get better, that I could safely drink and that ultimately, everything would be ok. I longed for happiness but didn’t want change. I didn’t know how to change and wasn’t open to the possibility things could be different for me.
Fast forward to October 2017. The binges had continued; the drinking was worse than ever. Lying, cheating and stealing were my closest friends and yet despite all this, I had somehow managed to gain entry to a prestigious Scottish University to start a Masters course. The extremes were unreal; the intelligent academic versus the scared little boy unable to focus on the simple tasks of life due to the unbearable pain.
17/10/17. The day I drank my last drink. It was by no means my worst session; I drank about 6 pints then went home to be greeted by my family’s disappointed faces. Sadly, it had became the norm for me to be intoxicated in my household but still I was unable to admit the pain or see the destruction it was causing.
The following day, feeling spiritually and emotionally broken, I decided it was time to give the fellowship another chance. This time, it felt different. This time, I wanted it more than anything.
‘They’ say we don’t change unless we experience pain… it’s so true!
Since that day, through the support of like-minded individuals and staying away from that fatal first drink, I am finally sober, taking it slowly, one day at a time. In addition, I have also applied the same principles to drugs and other mind altering substances.
Life isn’t perfect but that’s ok. I don’t know what the future will hold. Sometimes, I romanticise the thought of a drink but think that’s only natural; after all I was a problem drinker, abuser and performing alcoholic for 8 years.
Now, as a non-drinking alcoholic, I sit here typing this for you my Sober Fish friend, hoping that others find the solution like I did. The first step is to admit there is a problem. The second is to understand that I don’t touch one drink for one day at a time, it’s impossible to get drunk.
It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.
Written by Scott 2018
Edited by Sober Fish
I first started drinking as a shy, quiet 16 year old, and immediately found alcohol to be a great way to gain confidence. My first drunken memory was from a 6th form party at a local nightclub, where I drank cheap cider plus whatever else I could get my hands on. My next memory from that night is waking up in the club car park, next to a drunk girl, lying in a pool of vomit.
Unfortunately, there have been many more experiences like this in my life. As a teenager, most of my friends were doing the same as me; drinking under age and trying to get in pubs/ clubs, and therefore it didn’t feel too unusual. Even at this early stage however, I was always the drunkest person in the room. I clearly remember waking up one morning after a night of solid drinking and was horrified to find I had wet the bed. Although it did worry me, I believed it was an isolated incident and brushed it off. How wrong was I?!
In my late teens, I went to university. The main reason I wanted to go was because the drinking culture appealed to me. On the first night, I was found passed out on some stairs near to my flat and was kindly taken to a stranger’s home where, to my horror, I eventually woke up disorientated on the kitchen floor! Another drunken highlight was cooking while drunk then falling asleep, only to be told the next day that the fire brigade had attended. I had no recollection of this. I denied any involvement but my flatmates suspected me. Eventually, after a few months, I ended up leaving university as I’d spent my entire student grant and loan on alcohol.
Over the next few years, I drifted from one dead end job to another, whilst continuing to drink to oblivion every weekend. The awful, shameful memories from this time are too numerous to mention so I will list the top ten:
1) Crashing my car into a lamp post following all day/night drinking binge. I remember my mum crying, asking me how I had ended up like this and my whole family being ashamed of me.
2) Wetting myself both in bed and in public on a regular basis
3) Waking up freezing cold one December in a field in the countryside and not having a clue to this day how I got there.
4) Going to a work Christmas party where I fell onto a glass, cut my arm, and proceeded to insult the boss’s new girlfriend when she suggested that perhaps I’d had too much to drink. I had no recollection of this and only found out the next day, when I was also told that they’d had to put me to bed in the hotel we were staying at. To top it all off, I was mortified to find I’d wet the bed again.
5) Going on holiday to Ibiza with my drinking mates and being thrown out of a karaoke bar for urinating in the public area whilst in black out.
6) Losing my job – following an extremely late night of drinking, and driving for 1.5 hours to get to work, my dad had called my employer to check I was ok. Needless to say, it didn’t go down well and I was asked to leave.
7) Coming home in an ambulance after being found in unconscious in someone’s garden in another town.
8) Sleeping with girls I couldn’t remember going home with and subsequently wetting the bed.
9) Regularly phoning in sick to various jobs due to horrific hangovers and not really having any conscience about doing so.
10) Going to Blackpool on a night out and getting thrown out of a club. I didn’t know which hotel I was staying in and got lost, only to be found later by my friends wandering the streets. As I’d also lost my car keys, my mum had to come to get me as I couldn’t get home.
Eventually, I met my wife, had children, got a decent job and house and settled down. This should be the happy end to the story but sadly it hasn’t quite worked out like that.
Due to working shifts at the weekend and having parental responsibilities, I didn’t drink as much as when I was younger, however when I did, it ended in the same way every time; blackouts, wetting myself, crying in public, being told by others how drunk I was and what I had done.
My wife and daughters mean everything to me and should’ve been the only motivation I needed to stop drinking. I’d always been a social drinker but was slowly starting to understand I couldn’t just have a couple. I always drank too fast, racing to the bar for the next round. All of my memories of special occasions are blurred by alcohol, including my own wedding.
I know that I’ve always had a problem with alcohol. I used to drive around at work and randomly cry due to depression caused by drinking. I felt trapped and wanted to stop but I just didn’t know how or if it was possible. The low moods I suffered following a drinking binge were awful and despite attending regular counselling sessions, I continued to drink.
Last year, I was successfully alcohol free for over 7 months but then stupidly thought I could moderate my drinking going forward. How crazy was that idea?!
I’m now 43 and have decided I will not waste anymore of my life on alcohol. I have now been sober for 47 days. I feel in a really good place both mentally and physically. My future depends on staying sober.
I wanted to share my story as I feel there must be other men or women out there with similar experiences to me who also want to be free of alcohol. I have found reading blogs, books, listening to podcasts and watching webinars, as well as hearing about other people’s experiences of being sober has really helped me to understand what I have to do. It has been a huge relief for me to share my story. I can now look forward instead of back. Only I can change my the future. I am just thankful I have been so fortunate to have such great people around me.
For anyone who reads this story, thank you very much.
Edited by Sober Fish
The problem with alcohol is that whilst you’re under its power, things are fake. Alcohol suppresses your real feelings and emotions, and whilst under its influence, you believe that fake feelings and numbness are highly preferable to the real thing.
Alcohol is a liar.
The inevitability with suppressing anything, is that it’s temporary. The real thing will eventually pop back up. As I write, I’m envisioning of one of those plastic bath toys that you submerge under water. You hold it .. push it down .. hold it … and boom, eventually, it flies to the top with a vengeance.
18 months on, I feel everything for real & you know what? It’s not so bad. Feelings are like waves .. yes, on a stormy day, they can be overwhelming, but thankfully, those days are rare. In the new world where I’ve chosen to reside, my sea is mostly calm; delicate waves gently crash to the shore, the water is clear and inviting.
If I enjoy something, I really enjoy it. I don’t need a substance to fake the actual way I feel. I enjoy feeling proper, genuine joy that doesn’t plummet after a short time like a sugar crash. I also don’t mind feeling proper, genuine pain because I now know, as with anything, it is temporary. It will pass.
Life is not perfect at 18 months sober. I still have work to do. My gut instinct is on high alert most of the time & continues to shock me with its severity if something threatens my equilibrium. I sometimes feel a bit stuck as don’t want anything to rock my very stable world, yet yearn for the spontaneous fun that sober living doesn’t provide.
I still need to completely understand that I am enough. It’s a hard one when you’ve spent your whole time on the planet believing you’re not. But I’m further than I was and that’s just fine.
What I absolutely do know is that the trade I make to continue my sobriety is more than worth it. The thought of a hangover or the shame after a session is enough to convince me I’m still doing the right thing. The thought of being drunk or out of control, of saying something I can’t remember or doing something I regret, is a concept in which I never wish to participate again.
Sobriety allows me to be me. I got my life back. I stopped living a life that made me unhappy and replaced the fake me with a genuine, happy individual, proud to be alive.
Living an alcohol free life removes many aspects that contribute to ill health; lack of sleep, bad food choices, dehydration, headaches, stomach problems, skin problems .. the list goes on. Instead, I am fit, healthy, emotionally stable & free.
People ask whether I miss alcohol? The answer is categorically no. Why would I miss something that fucked up my life to such an extent I didn’t know myself? No thank you.
Soberdom can sometimes feel like a secret club. From the outside, you can’t quite see in. You hear all about it but because the rumours say it’s dull & boring, you have no desire to go inside & check it out.
But not all rumours are true.
In my opinion, Soberdom really does glitter with gold. It sparkles in the sunlight. It gives you hope & freedom that you might never have felt before in your adult life. It brings happiness & tranquility & ultimately brings you back to you. For me, there really is no alternative. There is no reason to return to my previous life. Alcohol free really is the only way to be.
Isn’t it funny the reactions that an in depth study on drinking alcohol can provoke?
‘Oh it’s the Daily Mail, must be crap’ or ‘we’re all gonna die anyway, what’s two years less?’ or ‘so & so lived til 95 & they’re ok’
I think the point was missed.
Of course alcohol will harm you. No study needs to tell you that. We know it but we choose (mostly) to ignore it. Ingesting any kind of poison over a prolonged time will result in some kind of damage.
I know I’m going to die. No study needs to tell me that either, but I do have a choice whether I choose to damage myself to the point of no return or give myself a fighting chance on this amazing planet.
I’m sorry (not sorry) but I don’t want to die of liver disease or develop dementia or get cancer. I’m sure no one wants to. But having the attitude ‘we’re all gonna die anyway’ and cracking open another bottle in defiance ain’t gonna help the cause.
Sure, I’ve already increased my chances of all of these things during my lengthy career knocking back the wine like water, but now I have seen the very bright light. This stuff kills and maims worse than anyone has been telling us. It’s also not just about the hideous diseases to look forward to at the end of our lives, it’s also about the slow, torturous mental health issues that it brings on a daily basis.
There are always going to be the sober haters. I don’t give a shit. My life is nothing to do with them. This part of my life is about love and care for myself, not deliberate destruction. My body is clever and precious and mine. I have a lot to see and do and a lot of people to stay alive for. I need as many precious years as possible so two years tagged on the end for me is a Brucie bonus.
Nothing is going to take them from me.
So this is it. The end of my beautiful adventure. The adventure I was so apprehensive about but so looking forward to at the same time. The adventure that has and will continue to change my life.
I’ve always wanted to come to Thailand but was always waiting for the elusive person to go with. Turns out that was me.
It’s quite strange that we have become so reliant on other people accompanying us on journeys when we are more than able to do things alone. We don’t ‘need’ other people .. yeah sure, it’s great to have adventures with someone but it’s not an absolute necessity. The beauty of travelling alone is that now the whole world has been opened up for me. I can go anywhere I like now without ‘waiting’ for someone else. There are no restrictions.
Of course, the internet makes things very easy. You are never really alone or lost or unable to communicate. It really is a wonderful thing and I guess a bit of a comfort blanket. Losing my phone would be far more upsetting to me than losing my passport. At least if I lost my passport, I could stay forever.
I can honestly say that there hasn’t been one moment that I’ve wished I was with someone else. I’ve enjoyed pleasing myself. I’ve liked the things that have happened that have pushed me in a direction and opened up other opportunities.
I have been so aware of the ‘meant to be’ moments .. the tuk tuk guy in Bangkok that changed the course of my day, the amazing trekking tour in Chaing Mai, the plane detour to Phuket which ultimately made me decide to stay in beautiful Koh Lanta for longer, the Tinder dates. I’ve snorkelled when I didn’t really want to and taken back streets instead of main roads to find street markets & music. I’ve spoken to interesting people with fascinating lives, eaten incredible food and managed the whole thing using proper raw confidence rather than a fake alcoholic mask.
I’ve learnt that when people say ‘pack light’ they mean ‘pack light’. Next time, I will have a tiny rucksack & some Persil. I’ve learnt the sun is strong, the water is incredible, the people are beyond awesome. I’ve learnt I’m safe, that we are too conditioned to anticipate danger. Sure, bad things happen .. but good stuff happens too.
I’ve learnt that we are too addicted to ‘stuff’. ‘Stuff’ is not important. Life is. I will be assessing my ‘stuff’ when I get home & decluttering anything unnecessary. I will also be planning my next adventure.
If you have ever wanted to go somewhere but are waiting for the right time/the right person/the right whatever, forget all that and do it now. Life is short, the world is massive and it’s all there waiting for you.
Until next time Fish Followers 🙋🏻🐟🐟🐟🐟