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.

****************************************

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

To follow on Instagram, please go to @TheGaySober

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Guest Blog – ‘From Hangovers to Happiness’ by Mel

Guest Blog – ‘From Hangovers to Happiness’ by Mel

‘Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving’.

 Terry Pratchett – A Hat Full of Sky

My name is Mel and I have been sober since 6 July 2018. It hasn’t been an easy journey to give up drinking but right now I know it’s been the best decision I have made in a long time.

From the age of 14, I spent my life on an up and down ride of mental health episodes and many different types of medications. For years, I tried to make myself feel better, to escape from my internal demons and keep my head above water.

I still remember the first time I tried a drink; it was like a light blub went off. I enjoyed the warm fuzz and that alcohol rendered me unable to keep a thought in my head.

It was exactly what I was looking for.

I felt like I’d found a friend that would keep me from feeling anything real for the next couple of decades.

I’m not a stupid woman. I logically knew that drinking and anti-depressants were a bad mix but it didn’t stop me. I could literally rationalise any reason to have a drink. It made me feel invincible, funny and clever but I hadn’t realised that I was actually building a prison for myself.

Alcohol was not my friend; Alcohol was my enemy and it was making me ill.

When I was so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed, I didn’t realise that it was probably my alcohol consumption that was stopping my medication from working. I would then stop taking my tablets but interestingly, never took myself off my wine or vodka. I would cycle between medications without ever telling a doctor how much or how often I drank. Even before I admitted I had a problem I knew better than to be honest about my daily drinking to a medical professional.

I had a couple of tries at mindful drinking. I bought the books and made rules for myself but it never lasted. I always went back to drinking and back into the black hole inside my head.

I drank to blackout regularly. My behaviour was frankly appalling at times. I kept drinking, I self harmed, I kept drinking, I went back on medication, I kept drinking. I completed Dry January and raised money for mental health charities but then went right back to getting hammered daily.

The last 3.5 months have been my best months for years.

I am not taking any medication.

I sleep! For years, I would walk around outside in the dark, drunk, while my family were asleep in bed but no more. I really sleep and wake up fully rested.

This means I look after myself better, which means I am able to give a real part of myself to my children.

I am happy. Genuinely smiling happy. It’s like I didn’t realise how bad I felt everyday until those feelings of desolation were replaced actual joy!

I am able to connect with people better because functioning with a hangover is honestly just really hard work.

I won’t lie. Giving up booze hasn’t been easy. It’s been real work. I have a sponsor, I work the steps and I go to meetings. I have a good support network. All that helps me so much but the thing that really keeps me sober every day is happiness. I love how I feel now. I love that my children have a happy, non medicated, sober mother who can spend time with them because I’m not hiding with a hangover in a back void.

I love that my husband no longer needs to worry about how I might drunkenly embarrass him on a night out.

I love that I will remember what I did, who I spoke to and what I said the following morning.

I love my sober life and honestly I didn’t think I would ever feel like this. If anyone is wondering if they need to stop drinking then please give yourself a gift and give a sober life a real go. My only regret is that it took me over 20 years to understand that drunk Mel’s life was grey and I needed sobriety to see life in technicolour.

Written by Mel, edited by Sober Fish

Instagram: @crochetandacuppa

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Guest Blog ‘Single & Sober: What It’s Like Navigating the Dating World When You’re Alcohol-Free’ by Amanda

Guest Blog ‘Single & Sober: What It’s Like Navigating the Dating World When You’re Alcohol-Free’ by Amanda

In January 2017, after several dismal attempts at moderating my drinking, I decided to do an extended period of sobriety.

For at least six months, I had been hearing this whisper telling me that the party girl lifestyle was no longer serving me; that if I wanted to live the life I dreamed of, alcohol had to go. But I was hesitant to make a change. Didn’t giving up alcohol mean that I had a problem? I didn’t feel like I had a problem…but that doesn’t mean that alcohol wasn’t a problem.

But it was.

So, on January 1, 2017, I decided I’d had enough and committed to doing a sober stint for Dry January.

What went from a 30-day challenge to a 90-day commitment turned to a whole year of testing the sober waters. A 30-something, social, single lady in a thriving city, I realized I had two distinct options when it came to my social and dating life: either withdraw and become a recluse, or figure out how to navigate the social and dating scenes sober.

I’ll be honest, the first option sounded appealing. A highly sensitive person and outgoing introvert, I used drinking as a social lubricant to make me feel more comfortable and outgoing in social settings. For a long time, I thought I needed alcohol to help me tolerate social scenes and help me be more talkative on dates. As I got deeper and deeper into my alcohol-free journey, I came to one solid (yet rather unpopular) conclusion: if something (a social situation or group of people) wasn’t fun unless I was drinking…the situation or people simply were not fun. Furthermore, if I wasn’t capable of meeting new people or conquering something without the liquid courage provided by a cocktail, who was I?

During this time, I found my truth. I had always been a wildly vibrant, outgoing, silly, joyful, insightful, empathic, smart, capable woman. I had not been using alcohol to bring out that side of me. I had been using alcohol to dull that side of me because I was afraid of my light. I was intimidated by sharing with the world what made me different and special. I was unsure how to operate in a world that settled for mediocrity, knowing I was meant to shine.

So, I dulled myself down in the most socially acceptable way there was: with alcohol (please note that my eyes are full of tears as I type this because I understand how profound this realization is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with you in hope that you will see a bit of my story in your own).

As I discovered my truth, I also gained the courage to accept the challenge of engaging in the social and dating world sober. Full disclosure: this took time. The physical detox from alcohol is just the beginning of the growth you experience when you quit drinking (regardless of the reason). I encourage you to take time to heal, explore and simply become comfortable sitting with yourself and experiencing the gamut of emotions which will now be available to you.

When I was ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool, a quick survey of my girlfriends and colleagues revealed that it would be quite tricky (some even suggested it would be intolerable). With few options, I decided to give it a try and logged back into a few popular dating apps. I knew immediately that I’d eliminate a large portion of the dating pool. There would be plenty of guys who couldn’t handle dating someone who didn’t drink. To be fair, I’d already dated a lot of those guys and it hadn’t really gotten me anywhere.

So, after I eliminated the guys who I deemed ‘too boozy’ from the start, I had to plan my next move. How would I reveal my new sober lifestyle to my dates? You might find yourself saying, “do I even need to tell potential romantic partners that I’m not drinking?” or “Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle?” I can give an unequivocal, “yes” to both questions, but let me offer you some insight.

If a potential romantic partner has asked you to meet for drinks, you do need to disclose your lifestyle to them. It’s not fair to you or them to wait until you are ‘meeting for drinks’ to disclose. This could turn into a waste of your time, and theirs, if there is a lifestyle misalignment. But, I’ve heard from many sober singles that this is a very tricky conversation. I agree, it is…and I’ve had it the wrong way enough times to know exactly how to have it (I share these tips in a special free guide I created which can be found on my website: authenticallyamanda.com/soberdating).

On to the second question: Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle? Yes, of course they will. But in the world of dating…especially with the added layer of complexity created through dating apps and sites, you have to manage this conversation with finesse because you, an alcohol-free person, are still in the minority and, while potential romantic partners might have the best of intentions, they do not know how to navigate the sober dating world…you might have to offer some guidance. This means, come to the table prepared to offer suggestions for non-drinking date options, as opposed to saying, “I actually don’t drink,” if they’ve asked you to meet up for drinks.

I’ve found that many potential romantic partners are very open to and accepting of my alcohol-free lifestyle, but also don’t have the immediate skill set to navigate a conversation. In the world of dating apps these days, it’s easy enough for a guy/girl to drop a conversation if he/she doesn’t know how to respond. And in a world where drinking is socially acceptable and encouraged; it’s completely okay if they don’t know how to respond. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a good match or date, they just need education.

I think it’s important to share that I have encountered a lot of uncomfortable situations dating; it hasn’t been all doves and rainbows. But I’ve learned so much about my own capacity for handling my own emotions and awkwardness. I share about my failures and successes dating and socializing over on my blog authenticallyamanda.com and Instagram @authenticallyamanda.

I hope you’ll follow along and reach out if you too are navigating the social, single and sober world.

Written by Amanda, barely edited by Sober Fish

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#club365 – Sara & John – ‘2 stories for the price of 1 – BOOM!’

#club365 – Sara & John – ‘2 stories for the price of 1 – BOOM!’

SARA

On New Year’s Eve 2016, I decided to give up alcohol for a year to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

At the time it seemed like a wild, slightly audacious goal. Whilst I didn’t drink ‘regularly’, there were definitely occasions of binge drinking.

I’d done Dry January for ten years; doing 12 x Dry January’s in a year which included big birthday parties, three international work trips and a boozy company weekend in Marbella would surely be very different!

However, as the saying goes, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’.

I’d just finished reading Johnny Marr’s autobiography detailing a transformation from a rock and roll lifestyle to a teetotal and vegan one. Whilst I wasn’t ready to become a vegan just yet, the challenge of abstaining for 12 months seemed like a good one. Also, as I see myself as a bit of a rebel, it seemed like the perfect ‘rebellious act’ to choose not to drink for a year!

What I didn’t anticipate was that this ‘challenge’ would actually become a new way of life for me especially when my husband decided to follow suit.

My initial challenge would ultimately transform our lives completely.

Two of the most popular questions I was asked during my ‘dry year’ were,

‘So, what drink will you celebrate with on New Years’ Eve 2017?’ and, ‘Will you ever drink again?’

The truth was that, until November 2017, I actually didn’t know the answer. Initially I’d dreamt of huge decadent cocktails in beautiful glasses and champagne on ice as my reward for my achievement but, as Christmas loomed, I realised I had made my final decision.

I was never going back to drinking.

In a year, I’d learned so much about life, alcohol and myself. It had become clear that drinking was not a reward; in fact, the reward was actually not drinking and all that I had achieved in abstaining.

There have been so many positives during this 19 month journey but there have also been challenges in a society where drinking alcohol is the norm.

Challenges

It can be slightly puzzling for people to learn that you no longer drink. One bemused friend asked ‘But how do you have fun?’ as though he had forgotten what it was like to have fun as a child before drink was ever considered!

I had one fleeting moment of regret when sitting in a lovely restaurant on a boiling hot day and watching everyone around me ordering chilled glasses of rose wine. This lasted seconds before I realised that I was actually thirsty and ordered cold sparkling water instead which was perfect.

Positives

– You’re much more like to succeed if you have a good support network. Go online and surround yourself with people who ‘get it’ and cheer you on. Read about other people’s journeys and their daily struggles to make you feel less alone.

– Before I started my challenge, I read Jason Vale’s ‘How to kick the drink easily’

https://amzn.to/2M8SDav

and it was like a lightbulb moment.

– My husband also becoming alcohol free in May 2017 proved to be incredibly supportive.

– When you don’t drink, going out suddenly gets incredibly cheap. I have been shocked by how much money we have saved as a family simply by both of us cutting out alcohol. I have treated myself to braces on my teeth and hope to have a straight smile for my 50th in 2019!

– The best thing about not drinking for me is definitely no more hangovers. My productivity has gone through the roof and there have been no more wasted weekends feeling sluggish.

– People often talk about using alcohol to ‘take the edge off’ a stressful day, yet coming home and heading back out for a walk has allowed me to become more relaxed than I ever did previously.

– Being sober enables you to live life consciously and experience all of its good and bad parts. When drinking, I was sometimes happy and sometimes unhappy. Now, there are now no ups and downs. Cheesy as it may sound, I am just always happy all of the time!

JOHN

So I guess I kind of fell into sobriety.

My wife Sara had started her journey with a view to completing 12 months alcohol free for charity and I decided to offer some moral support. I would drink quite heavily 2-3 nights a week and seeing how much Sara was enjoying her alcohol free life, I became curious and started to think about not drinking a lot! So in May 2017 I also stopped.

As a business owner, I noticed that after a few months, my decision making was growing in strength and I was becoming much more ambitious and confident. We went as far as to set up a business in San Francisco and hopefully this could be absolutely life changing for us.

I noticed that instead of people becoming judgemental and suspicious of why I was not drinking, they seemed, if anything, to be hugely impressed and maybe even a little envious.

Initially, the test was social events. We offer a lot of work incentives to our salespeople and thus spent several days at the races, at business conferences, and work nights out where we were surrounded by alcohol. But seeing people slowly lose the plot on a night out just strengthened my resolve. I now get my buzz remembering EVERY single conversation, waking up clear headed and looking to attack the day. I’m just so uber positive, it could actually be annoying!

Will I drink again? Genuinely I don’t believe so. The Alcohol Free alternatives in the UK are very good and improving all the time. A cool Alcohol Free beer in a bar after work still does it for me. Being 100% happy, positive and running a fantastic company so outweighs the initial thrill of alcohol which quickly evaporates and eventually just brings you down.

Top tips

– Never look back. You messed up from time to time. So what? You are forgiven and that’s behind you.

– Don’t care what people think. Life is tough and complicated and people have actually got their own stuff to worry about.

– Laugh lots. And surround yourself with other non drinkers. They are fun and also clever enough to have stopped!

Written by Sara & John, edited by Sober Fish

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Mum’s week .. ‘I vow to never drink again’

Mum’s week .. ‘I vow to never drink again’

On 28 October 2016, I became sober.

My decision was finalised after a hideous hen weekend away. My own hen weekend.

I vowed never to drink again.

We went camping on Shell Island. I got so drunk that I fell into the fire pit, smashed up all the tables and completely terrified all the kids, including mine.

I woke up in a shocking state with an awful feeling of dread. I had no memory of what had happened and when I was told of my actions, I felt so ashamed.

At that point, I swore to my partner I would never drink again but he didn’t believe me. After all, he’d heard it all before.

But I knew that this time, my relationship with red wine was well and truly over.

Red wine and I had been friends since I was 15. I’d come from a broken home and had found comfort in both wine and drugs. The pattern of getting off of my face was a weekly thing. Aged 18, I had a well paid job which meant I could party hard on my days off. If I think back to some of the situations I got myself into, it makes me shudder and again, feel very ashamed.

My job eventually led me to work abroad. I worked in nine different countries but every time, I either got sacked or walked out of the job because I was too hungover or coming down from drugs to do my job properly.

In 2000 I moved to a small town, looking for a new start after yet another failed relationship. Every relationship I had failed because I was always so smashed! It was here that I met my husband. Both of us were into drink and drugs and it continued for quite a few years.

In 2005 I snorted my last drug ever. I literally couldn’t take any more come downs however I made sure my friend red wine stayed faithfully by my side.

Aged 36 in 2008, I was totally shocked to learn that I was having a baby. I had never been pregnant before and had always believed I couldn’t have children as I’d damaged my body too much.

I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for a whole year.

In 2009, my beautiful boy was born but as soon as I got home from hospital, I went to straight the shop for red wine.

And so the cycle started all over again.

Every night I drank wine. It helped me to relax and unwind after a long hard day.

In 2015, I started suffering with a bad neck. I couldn’t sleep at night and even wine or gin didn’t help the pain. I then lost the feeling in my hand and had horrific pains shooting up my arm. It took me 3 weeks to get to the doctors as I was scared I’d had a stroke and that they’d take my boy away from me.

But I had a touch of luck as the doctor put me on really strong painkillers.  Mix these with a bottle of wine and I was flying.  Happy days!

In January 2016, I decided to do sober January despite my neck getting worse and struggling to cope. I managed to stay sober for the whole month but come 1 February, I was straight out to the shop to buy more alcohol.

In March 2016, I was diagnosed with a slipped disc in my neck. The only option was to have surgery but I refused, knowing if I had the surgery, they would stop my painkillers and I wasn’t having any of that.

Lent came, and I gave up again but as soon as it was over, I went straight back to the shop for more.

In June 2016, my now ex husband decided to get married, giving me yet another excuse to get smashed.

When I finally stopped in October 2016, I’m still not sure where my strength came from but I was utterly determined. This time, I was doing it.

I had a sober wedding day 2 weeks after I made my pledge to stop. I got through Xmas and New Year and not a drop passed my lips.

In April 2017, I couldn’t carry on with the pain in my neck as the painkillers weren’t touching it and it was affecting my whole.  I’d taken up running and lots of exercise but I couldn’t carry on.

I had elected surgery in June 2017. Very scary operation as it’s so close to your spine. But I survived and not once did I reach for alcohol to help me out.

I finally stopped taking medication in September 2017.

My journey isn’t over. Every day I think about drinking and I think this will happen for the rest of my life.

But I’ve come too far to give in now. This is my life.

Written by Monique, edited by Sober Fish 2018

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