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
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