Men’s Week – ‘Alcohol Was Not My Friend’

Men’s Week – ‘Alcohol Was Not My Friend’

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

Men’s Week – Sobriety changed my life

Men’s Week – Sobriety changed my life

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

Men’s Week – Alcohol & Me

Men’s Week – Alcohol & Me

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

Men’s Week – The Enemy in the Bottle

Men’s Week – The Enemy in the Bottle

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.

Anonymous xx

Edited by Sober Fish

Men’s Week – ‘Living life in high definition’

Men’s Week – ‘Living life in high definition’

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