Men’s Week – ‘A Journey from Heavy Drinker to Sobriety’ by The Sober Yorkshireman

Men’s Week – ‘A Journey from Heavy Drinker to Sobriety’ by The Sober Yorkshireman

Hi, my name is Karl; I’m also known as ‘The Sober Yorkshireman’.

My drinking started when I was about fourteen/fifteen years old, as it did with lots of people brought up in the nineties. I started off drinking bottles of hooch and white lightning in my local park and this soon progressed to drinking beers at lunchtime when I got my first paid job as an adult.

Initially, I thought it was amazing that lunchtime meant a beer and a burger, however, soon it became two beers and a burger, and within four years, I was managing three to four beers in that time. This habit inevitably made me very unproductive in the afternoon and I regularly got behind on my work-load. This made me stressed, which led me straight back to the pub after work to de-stress. Yes, it was a vicious circle which was easy to slip into.

When I was twenty-one, I left that job which was in a career that could of taken me far and wide; I handed in my notice with no job to go to because my life was a mess and my drinking was my priority. I eventually found a job labouring on a building site but my habits never stopped. I’d just go from the building site to the pub.

This started me on a cycle of doing dead-end jobs with no career prospects. At one point, I was even unemployed for two years but still my drinking continued.

In 2008 aged twenty-seven, I managed to find a driving job that I liked. I was essentially my own boss and it gave me the freedom and opportunity to see lots of the Yorkshire countryside. In December 2011, I got my lorry licence which was something I’d wanted to do for years. In addition, my daughter was born in early January 2012. She was a complete surprise as we’d been unaware my partner at the time was pregnant!!

It was a huge shock to our world. We were both living with our respective parents and so I decided to move into my partner’s parent’s house so that we could bring up our daughter together. Even though we struggled for money, I still managed to go to the pub every night after work.

In August 2012, I changed jobs again to get more money, which hopefully meant I could start saving for an house. Unfortunately, our relationship broke down in March 2013 and I moved back to my parents house.

From the day I moved out, I started paying maintenance. This meant I had to scrap my plans to get a mortgage. I’d always worried about money but now it was stressing me out daily so I just went to my sanctuary (the pub) at every opportunity I could to blot it out.

My life went from bad to worse. I started dabbling with Class A drugs and was drinking what most people would consume on a Friday night on every single night of the week.

I started using dating sites to get my fix of attention as my self-worth was non-existent. Nothing lasted long though as the dates either wanted to change me and stop my drinking or I wanted to get back to my mates and the pub.

I could see that my family were also hating the amount I was drinking and so, to escape the crowd, I started drinking alone. I stopped taking drugs but all this meant that I was turning into a loner drinker. I’d find myself in a pub where I knew nobody, sitting alone, and drinking my nights and my life away. 

In January 2016, I decided to do Dry January and actually lasted ten weeks into early March. I then decided to try moderation; my plan was to drink on a Friday or Sunday, but for the next 6 weeks, I drank every single day.

That was when I truly hit rock bottom. In May 2016, I remember seeing a TV programme by Louis Theroux called ‘Drinking to Oblivion’ and it really struck a cord with me. The next day, whilst driving in my lorry, I said to myself ‘you need to give this up. You can’t go on living your life like this anymore’.

Later that week, I called my local alcohol support group ‘Forward Leeds’.

They said they could help me the following day but due to work commitments, it wasn’t a possibility. The next available appointment was 5 weeks later on a Wednesday evening. I agreed to it but in the meantime I decided to try to find some online support.

One of the support groups I found suggested I choose the date to stop drinking and so I chose 1 June 2016. The day before was a bank holiday and I drank all day and got smashed.

That was last day I ever drank alcohol. With the help of my online support group and Forward Leeds, I’m now over 2.5 years sober.

There are so many positives to being sober.

I’ve met an amazing woman on a sober dating site. She lives 200 miles away from my Yorkshire roots in Ascot and I’m moving to be with her at Easter in a house we’ve bought together and renovated.

I’ve done sober weddings, stag parties and even a lads trip to Dublin, all without touching a drop of alcohol.

Everyday I try to better myself. I now eat a plant-based diet, have ditched coffee and started meditation, running and the gym. I’m also looking to start Crossfit in the near future.

In January 2017, I started a blog. My partner and I also blog together and in January 2019, we launched our own sober support group to help others get sober (see below for links).

Since becoming alcohol-free, we have both lost weight and got fit. I ran my first marathon in May 2018.

My life has never been so good; it’s like I’ve been given a second chance at life. Now we want to give other people the opportunity to see how our lives have got changed and help them get a second chance at life too

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Written by Karl, edited by Sober Fish

Blog – http://thesoberyorkshireman.co.uk

Instagram @thesoberyorkshireman

Instagram @soberfitcouple

Our support group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/SoberFitTRIBE

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The Sober Fish Top Tips for A Dry January

The Sober Fish Top Tips for A Dry January

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS and WELL DONE for deciding to give Dry January a whirl! It really is the best present you can give to yourself, especially after the chaos of Christmas.

In my opinion, any time of the sauce ain’t no bad thing but please, be realistic.

Bluntly, you are not going to lose 3 stone in 31 days. In fact, you may lose little or no weight unless you are on a calorie controlled diet and doing lots of exercise, but hey, one thing at a time eh? Concentrate on getting a good period of sobriety under your belt before you worry about everything else. Deprive yourself of food AND alcohol and I promise you won’t be a happy bunny.

You probably won’t have the skin of a baby after such a short time. It takes time for the nasty alcohol toxins to leave your body and whilst your eyes may look brighter or your skin be less puffy, significant changes often take longer than one month to notice.

You will not instantly sleep like you’re dead or have boundless energy by Day 2. Remember, you have been slowly poisoning your body for years and that damage takes time to reverse. Listen to your body. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you wake up early, use that time to do something you wouldn’t usually do like read or write or exercise.

It won’t be easy after the overindulgence of December and you WILL be in a mood and feel hard done by, but you have to remember why you are doing this. Dry January could possibly be one of the biggest foundation blocks to your sober future. Use it well.

The keys to success are –

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN – you MUST meticulously plan in the early days. Think about where you’re going, who’s going to be there, what you going to drink and what you will do if you feel triggered ..

Personally I avoided most situations where there was going to be copious amounts of alcohol for the first few months. I mean, if you were on a diet, you wouldn’t hang out in a bakery would you?

PODCASTS – I love podcasts! I particularly enjoyed the Recovery Elevator (I’m interviewed on episode 125) or The Alcohol & Addiction podcast. It really helped me to listen to other people’s stories especially at trigger times. More recently, I’ve been listening to Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’ and Desert Island Discs – there’s thousands of those to choose from.

TREATS – us humans just lurve rewarding ourselves! Giving up one thing will almost certainly mean replacing it with something else. That’s just the way it is. My vices swung between Elderflower cordial to Curly Wurlies to Magnums to Mince Pies. I used exercise to combat my over-treating and started to lose weight after 6 weeks of sobriety.

EXERCISE – it’s no secret that exercise is good for us, both physically and mentally. For me, walking has been my saviour. Start by doing short walks and gradually build up your pace and distance. I used

https://www.raceatyourpace.co.uk

for 3 months to build the habit of exercise into my routine and it worked a treat! Choose an activity you ENJOY and be very disciplined about how often you do it. You will have to fill your big alcohol-shaped hole with something!

ONLINE GROUPS – Join online groups such as Club Soda Together

www.joinclubsoda.co.uk

or search for ‘Alcohol Explained’ on Facebook. These groups have been my lifelines and provide essential support when you need it most. Imagine, lots of people just like YOU with a common goal in mind. Brilliant!

ALCOHOL FREE ALTERNATIVES – stock up with your favourite alcohol-free tipple. Drink it in a wine glass if it makes you feel better. If you choose to drink alcohol-free wine & beer, do that. If alcohol-free wine & beer triggers you, don’t do that! Do what is good for YOU! There are thousands of drinks to choose from these days; there really is no need for ethanol

QUIT LIT – with all that money you’re not spending on alcohol, get some books about sobriety or an Audible membership. There are hundreds of titles out there to help you (see bottom of blog for ideas). Literally flood your mind with sober thoughts.

CLICK HERE FOR A FREE AUDIBLE TRIAL (new customers only)

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TRIGGER TIMES – Recognise your trigger times and arrange to do something different to what you would usually do. If your trigger time is Friday night, go to the cinema & eat popcorn. If it’s Sunday evening, go out for a walk. You have to fill trigger time with something else or the nagging thought will win.

You cannot do the same things & expect different results. If you sit in front of the TV night after night & expect not crave a drink, you will be sorely disappointed. Soberdom is not just about not drinking alcohol. It is about changing your lifestyle, breaking a habit and doing something different. Try writing down how you feel, or calling a friend to talk or join online discussions.

YOU have to change YOU if you want to succeed.

Wishing you all the luck in the world!

YOU CAN DO THIS

Lots of Love SF X

PODCAST –

RE 125: Focus on the Action and Not the Results

WEBINAR – http://bit.ly/2VfEU2G

ONLINE SUPPORT –

Home

HELP AND ADVICE –

https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/dry-january

QUIT LIT –

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Guest Blog – ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claire

Guest Blog – ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claire

Like a lot of people, I started drinking as a teenager and loved it, mainly because it made me more confident in social situations and I considered myself to be shy without it.

I continued with this attitude throughout my life (now I am 36), believing alcohol made me likeable and funny on work and girly nights out, but over the years, the reality became quite different.  Blackouts became more frequent. I would wake up in extreme states of shame and anxiety at what I could remember, having made decisions I would never have made when sober.  Alcohol was beginning to ruin my life. Gradually it was taking control of social situations and I hadn’t really noticed it creeping into my normal routine.

The Christmas before I got sober, I spent most nights alone, drinking up to two bottles of wine, watching chick flicks on my sofa in a boozy haze.  I would desperately text and email ex-boyfriends looking for attention and was constantly on social media feeling jealous of everyone. On the nights I did go out, I would often end up in black out, not even knowing how I had made it home.

I regularly put myself in dangerous situations with no regard for my safety or well-being. The horrible and dark times were vastly overtaking the lessening amount of ‘good times’ and I felt a strong and growing feeling of dread getting greater by the day. I was sick most mornings and became worried that drinking was damaging my health as my drinking had increased every day.

My doctor then diagnosed me as suffering from severe depression and anxiety and prescribed Citalopram.  In a way, this is what I wanted to hear as I could then blame my condition on mental illness and not alcohol, which would allow me to continue drinking.

The drugs, combined with alcohol, actually caused my anxiety to worsen and I ended up hiding in my house.  I couldn’t give up drinking, lost my job, built up terrible debt and believed my mental health to be beyond repair. I lost interest in everything, except drinking alcohol, and believed myself to be worthless. I tried to take my own life by taking an overdose and drinking to excess. Still I continued to convince myself that alcohol wasn’t the problem, believing that I needed alcohol to help me relax and to escape my problems and mental illness.

I believed alcohol was the only thing that worked except it had stopped working long ago.  I was discharged straight from the hospital to rehab, where I stayed for 6 weeks.

I got sober in rehab on 14 May 2017.  These past 17 months have been the best of my life. I actually consider each day to be a miracle and a gift.

In rehab, I was warned that my depression and anxiety would still affect me without the alcohol and that I was probably suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was told to continue taking antidepressants and to increase them up to the maximum dose for at least a year.  I was surprised at this, as was starting to feel happier and more stable after just a few weeks of sobriety.

I started to exercise, to eat well and to read up on alcohol abuse and read sober blogs and literature.  I went to AA and socialised sober, having told old friends I was no longer drinking.  I gradually found a supportive network.  I started work again and was able to be reliable.  Old relationships took on a new meaning, as I was able to share with people and not hide my drinking.  I sorted out my debt problems.

I had been so bitter when I was drinking, often looking down on people and looking for the worst in them.  Sober, I found I was able to accept and give love and that was a simple and wonderful thing. Friendships took on more value, laughter became more real, but the main change was that I started to like myself.  I discovered that I was not shy after all and that I quite like my own company.  What a revelation!

I decided not to increase my antidepressants to the maximum dose, even in the early days.  As I was feeling so much better, I did not see the point.  With every sober day my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened.  Was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?  What about my severe mental illness? As I got healthier, with a clear head, life seemed quite fun.  I was happy with how I looked, as my skin had cleared up and my eyes and hair were shiny.  People told me how well I looked.  I was taking up new hobbies, reading more and talking to people, having interesting debates where I was confident of my opinion.  When I was drinking, I was either drunk and shouting, or hungover and terrified.  I found that I was enjoying life.  In fact, I had never felt better. I asked myself again, astounded at the change – was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?

I recently met someone who had just given up drinking.  She also ended up in hospital and ended up at my local AA group.  She was physically shaking and crying, her confidence damaged and her health too.  She said she was depressed and anxious.  She had contemplated taking her own life. Her doctor had put her on antidepressants and told her she was mentally ill.  Just two weeks later, sober, she was beginning to experience the same positive life transformation that I did.

I see it all the time, in life, in blogs, in literature.  I can’t ignore it now.  I believe that alcohol caused my depression and anxiety, or, at the very least, exacerbated them to a dangerous and life-threatening extent.  Now, I don’t drown my sorrows in bottles of wine or end up in situations I regret (and, oh, there were many of those).  I enjoy my life with a clear, sober head and when problems do arise, because life will never be perfect, I have the logic and clarity to deal with them to the best of my ability.

I believe mental health is a huge and genuine problem in today’s society and worry that we underestimate the effect that alcohol has on these conditions. Everyone has their own journey and I believe that if I drank again, this would put every positive change that has happened over the past 17 months in jeopardy.

And really, it just isn’t worth it.

Written by Claire, edited by Sober Fish

Instagram: @claire_m_mccartan

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If wine were a donut …

If wine were a donut …

I don’t know about you but donuts are not something I buy myself. I don’t crave them. I don’t look at them in a shop and think ‘oooo, I’d love a donut’ or eat my dinner and then think ‘a donut would finish that off nicely’.

In fact, the only time I ever ate donuts or bought donuts, was for birthdays in the large organisations I worked at. Donuts were the ‘go to’ cake because they were cheap and plentiful but they also have an awful reputation; donuts are fattening and donuts are the devil.

Most slimming clubs I’ve attended (and there’s been quite a few) have continued the ‘donuts are bad’ theme. I’ve often heard the consultants say ‘think of it like a donut’ and the trembling dieter, ashamed and a pound heavier, would immediately resort to bingeing lettuce.

When you first start a diet, enthusiasm is high. There you are, measuring out muesli and counting cashews; the ‘dash’ of milk in your tea being considered like your life depended on it. ‘Would you like a biscuit with that Mavis?’ .. ‘oh I couldn’t possibly, Vera, I’ve got weigh in in 5 days time but thank you’.

Until Friday night comes and it’s time for a treat. It’s time to let loose. It’s time to reward yourself for all that counting and measuring. It’s time to splash the syns/points/donuts like you’ve never splashed before.

And so you pop to the shop and you buy yourself a nice bottle of wine, which is the equivalent of approximately 3 donuts.

Let’s pause here for a minute and transform wine into a donut.

So on week 1 of your diet, after measuring anything that goes near your mouth for several days, you pop to the shop and you buy yourself 3 donuts. Imagine.

And if we’re being really honest, you probably not just pick up 3 donuts, it’s probably more like 6. That’s right. You stop and pick up a 6 pack of donuts.

Then, armed with your ‘treat’, you return home and after eating a carefully calculated dinner, you crack open the wine (donuts) and binge with gay abandon, after all you deserve it right?

And let’s be really really honest. The wine (donut) habit is highly unlikely to occur just one time in a week; it’s probably a few times a week. Which means 2 or 3 BAGS of donuts a week. Every week.

And we wonder why we get fat, stay fat, get fatter and become disillusioned with trying to lose weight.

I never ‘counted’ wine. Never. My view was that it was liquid and couldn’t possibly ‘stick’, unlike a donut which would attach itself straight to my already lardy arse. Wine was a treat. Wine was deserved. If I lost weight, I drank a bottle. If I put on weight, I drank 2. ‘There you go stupid body, that’ll learn ya’.

I never saw the correlation that it was possibly the wine (and the hangover food) that was making me fat. I never saw wine as a donut.

Isn’t it strange that while slimming clubs happily destroy the reputation of a donut, they strangely promote drinking alcohol like it’s a necessity to staying alive? You rarely hear ‘save your points/syns for a donut’. Hell no. But save your points/syns for beverage? Of course!

My dream is that slimming clubs stop promoting alcohol as something acceptable on a calorie controlled diet but that’s as likely to happen as me winning the lottery.

And I don’t play the lottery.

Written by Sober Fish

#Day651

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Guest Blog ‘The Story of the Serial Quitter’ by lovely Jan

Guest Blog ‘The Story of the Serial Quitter’ by lovely Jan

I am sitting on the toilet seat in my bathroom, looking at my husband who is crouched down on the floor in front of me. He’s got a tea towel in his hand which he’s holding against the side of my head and he’s talking to somebody on the phone. I think he’s talking about me but I’m struggling to work out what’s going on. Why’s he in here? Who is he talking to? Why does the bath look like a scene from Psycho??!!

Three years ago, after a family Sunday lunch and far too much red wine, I fell over in the bathroom and smashed my head against the tiled wall. I didn’t feel it and couldn’t remember exactly what had happened until two weeks later when it all came back to me in some hideous Hollywood-style flashback.

I felt incredibly ashamed. I work in Emergency Services and am more than aware of the cost of time-wasters (which is exactly how I saw myself). My accident was totally unnecessary, caused by my inability to stop drinking once I’ve started.

I wasn’t always like this. As a teenager, I wasn’t really fussed about alcohol. I never tried to buy a drink underage, partly because I looked like a 12 year old boy until my mid twenties but mostly due to a complete lack of interest!

In my twenties, I would drink from time to time, but my social life revolved mostly around music and I would quite happily drive to gigs. I don’t remember ever needing to drink to be sociable. In my mind, the two things just weren’t really connected. Even though I wasn’t blessed with a great deal of self confidence or self esteem, I never used alcohol as confidence booster……..until I did.

Fast forward to my mid thirties when I met my now husband and we soon moved in together. We used to buy wine from our local shop – three bottles of red for a tenner. These three bottles would last us all week, no problem, and often, we would even have half bottles left over!

My husband has two sons who lived with their mother but spent weekends and holidays with us. My relationship with the boys was good and being a stepmum was generally very rewarding but could be challenging at times. The main issue was that their mother would take every opportunity to try and damage my relationship with them, mostly by rewarding them for behaving badly around me. I never retaliated but at times it was very difficult to cope with.

In the early days of our relationship, we took the boys to Spain for a holiday. We had a good time but the efforts of their mother had made things more difficult than they needed to be which affected the boys’ behaviour and made me feel quite stressed, insecure and at times, very on edge. So, I took the edge off with wine! I didn’t get drunk but would have a drink on and off throughout the day and evening and it just made the whole situation much easier to deal with.

After that holiday my drinking habits changed slowly but surely and soon it became the norm to drink most days. It became apparent that I’d broken my own off switch!

After several years of this habitual drinking, I started to notice that it wasn’t so much fun anymore. There were some incidents and arguments that were entirely down to my level of intoxication and were becoming more frequent. Then came the bathroom accident where it transpired I had split a vein on my head, wasted everyone’s time at A&E and was told by the doctor that if I’d have hit it a centimetre lower I would probably be dead.

So for the next two years I was much more mindful of my drinking. There were occasions I would still have too much and do or say something regrettable but not as frequently as before. I even managed to stay alive! Great! Well done me! BUT it was fucking exhausting! A constant battle to keep it in check.

Last year I became so tired of constantly thinking about drinking that I decided it had to be easier to ditch it altogether. What I was doing wasn’t ‘mindful’; it was a constant mental battle with myself and I’d had enough.

From July through to the end of September I was alcohol free. There were odd moments where I missed it but generally it was easy. I felt better. I looked better and all my relationships seemed easier and calmer. So you know what I did don’t you? I thought I must be cured and so on 1st October I had a drink. Then a week later I had two drinks. Then four days later……I don’t need to tell you, do I? It took about three weeks and I was back to square one. I still massively regret being such a twat and listening to what I now understand to be the voice of addiction, the devious little fucker!

After that I struggled to find the mindset to start again until the 16th June this year, when my wonderful husband said the magic words…. ‘do you fancy doing 100 days alcohol free with me?’ Do I? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?? YES! YES I DO!!

My husband is mad keen cyclist and is training for a major event, which at the time, was 100 days away. So, on 17th June, we both ditched the poison and we dived straight into life without it. Whatever has come our way, we’ve done it without alcohol. No excuses. And here we are feeling so much better and both of us agree that we will never go back to the way things were before.

My top tip for those of you who, like me, have had successful alcohol free stints but ended up back at square one? Don’t listen to that voice that tells you that you can moderate. It’s a big fat liar. Give it a name. Create a mental image of it and then tell it to fuck right off!!

Beautifully written by Jan and barely edited by Sober Fish

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