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An Interview with an Ex-Binge Drinker

an-interview-with-an-ex-binge-drinkerThis week’s post comes courtesy of an idea I had the other day after stumbling on a blog post called ‘An Intimate Interview with a Recovering Alcoholic‘. I thought it would be a great basis for my post today. So I put together some questions to try to reveal more about me and my drinking history in the hope really that it might help others. My blog has always been about trying to help show that it is possible to give up drinking and I hope that all the posts I’ve written show just that.

So here goes, an interview with an ex-binge drinker, me.

Can you remember your first drink?

I remember it vividly, I was with my school friends and we’d bought some beers from the local shop and took them to a park. We drank them and then clowned around playing on the swings getting slowly drunk. I was about 16. I seem to remember thinking at the time that I was a late starter, there were many in school who had been drinking a lot longer.

What did you feel when you drank?
I remember a rush and giggling and remember the change within that took me from being a shy boy to one who was talkative and very funny. I enjoyed being the centre of attention and have great memories of hilarious times with friends enjoying drinking and making so many jokes and people all around were laughing and having a great time.

Who did you start to drink with?
Just school friends. It was normal, everyone did it.

When did you start to think you might have a problem?
I found that I’d always get drunk more quickly than the other lads and there were times when I’d had too many, and probably stayed out too late and had a tendency to have to apologise the following day, too many times.

What did you do about that?
I shrugged it off and continued. I was quite selfish in my younger days, especially when I drank. I figured that there was no way I could give up drink as it was now a big part of me and my social circle.

How did drinking affect you, did it help or hinder you?
Initially it helped me as I found it a great way to make friends. I was always so chatty and making jokes finding spontaneous things to say that I honestly have no idea where they ever came from, but these comments would get everyone around us laughing. Everything was chilled out and life felt good. But later on, in my early 30s I’d say it was starting to hinder me. I was drinking more and the hangovers were getting worse as I got older.

What about those around you, were you different from them, did you stand out?
I was just like the rest of the lads in the group. We all drank, told stories and went out into the city pubbing and clubbing till late. At college I continued and the friends around me all did the same. I didn’t ever think I was an alcoholic, verging on one maybe, but I’d always say to myself that not many people could actually give up drinking for a couple of weeks, so I felt as if I wasn’t that different from all around me. I was just not very good at handling my drink and most of my drinking was binge drinking.

When did you drink?
Usually only at the weekends, certainly when I was younger as I never had the money or desire to go out early in the week, but the weekend was when I drank. Nearly every week the weekend would start on a Thursday, sometimes a Wednesday if I’d saved and had friends who wanted to go out. We’d party through till Sunday. There was just one time in my life when I bought a bottle of spirits to drink at home, normally I’d drink beer or lager. I bought this bottle to help me through my college exams and used to sip a bit whilst revising. I only bought the one bottle but it was enough of a distraction to make me fail all the exams. I had to redo them and it wasn’t till about a year before I gave up drinking that I had spirits in the house again. I somehow knew that it was a slippery slope and I didn’t want to take it there. I knew I was a binge drinker, but we all were [my friends].

Did you hide it?
I hid the bottle of spirits yes. No-one knew I had that at home. The binge drinking was always out in the open. I went out with friends and we drank, simple as that, and I’d usually end up too drunk.

How long did you drink for?
I started drinking more and more when I was away at college from 19 till I decided to give up aged 36, so nearly 17 years. I wanted to give up earlier, but it would have meant missing out on what my friends were doing. I had tried to go out sober a couple of times, but I found that I reverted to my shy self and had such a crap evening that I decided I’d try again but with just 3-4 beers. The problem I found was that I always decided 4 wasn’t enough and would keep drinking. I could never limit myself at all.

Was it always the same or did drinking change as you got older?
From my memory, drinking in my early 20s was fun. I never seemed to get into any trouble except get too drunk some nights and make a fool of myself. As I got into my 30s I noticed it changing, it was starting to control me and I didn’t like that at all. I found that I’d find friends who wanted to go out and was always able to go out without any hesitation. I’d drop any plans I’d made in order to go out. It affected relationships and when I was stressed or low, I found that I’d turn to going out to drink as a way of helping me. Right at the end I got a taste for spirits and would have them before going out. It was one of the mental boxes that I ticked that I’d reached a point where I needed to change.

How did you deal with this change?
Not very well. I knew now that I had to stop drinking. I’d started to get into scrapes and was beginning to do things that when I’d wake in the morning I’d be amazed that I was alive. I remember a very drunk walk along a balcony on a 3rd floor nightclub, scaffolding was something to scale no matter the consequence, each time I did it I knew that it could be my last. The drinking was starting to freak me out and the more I tried to stop the more I drank.

Did you try to stop?
Looking back now I can see that I was in denial, and had been for years. I tried so many times to stop on a Sunday but I’d never get passed a Wednesday before I’d find myself assuring myself that I could do it if I could just stick to 4 beers.

Why did you stop in the end?
I’d reached a point where I got so drunk that I woke with very little memory of the night before. All I remember was that it was my works christmas party. Nothing else. But I was single at the time and I had just had enough of drinking too much and waking up alone. I remember sitting up in bed with the worst hangover thinking that the time indeed had come, it was time to put it to an end. I wanted to never feel like this again. Drink was taking my dignity, my confidence and making me resentful. I didn’t want to become this person anymore. That was in December 2006 and I’ve not touched drink since.

Was it easy to stop?
Yes and no. The first days and weeks were really hard. I wanted to believe that I could be a social drinker and just have one or two, but I knew I had to get through this bit first. But the longer I stayed away from drink the more confident I became and after a couple of months I found myself preferring it to my life before. I wrote about the steps I took on this blog, but each step helped me take a little more control and turn this problem into a positive. I think learning to dance salsa was the biggest thing that helped me. If I could dance on a Monday night in a community centre sober with a group of strangers that I’d never met before, then I began to start thinking that anything is possible. And it is!

How is life now that you have stopped?
Better, more enjoyable, free…I can now do anything I want to do and I don’t need to drink to get confidence, I just go and do it now.

Do you approach life differently now than before?
Yes, before I’d drink to cope with fear. I’d have a quick beer before going out. I often had ‘dutch courage’ before a big event. Now looking back it makes me laugh as I no longer need it as I have so much more confidence in myself than I ever did when I drank. I take life a little more head on and don’t worry so much about what other people think. For example I started to write this blog under a pseudonym but in the last year or two I decided to write under my own name. Life is short and I hope to live longer now and enjoy my family, which is something I found two years after giving up. Now I have a wife and 4 year old daughter who mean the world to me. I would’t trade that for anything!

What advice would you have for anyone reading this?
Don’t wait to give up if you’re thinking of doing it, then go straight ahead. I was glad to finally give it up aged 36, but I wish I could have given it up 10 years before. It was a part of me though, it has helped shape me the person I am today. It was a long journey, but I’ve come through it and urge anyone thinking of doing the same to ‘just do it’.

End.

I’ve wanted to do an interview for a while and must say a big thanks to ‘An Intimate Interview with an Alcoholic’ on http://www.authors.com/profiles/blogs/an-intimate-interview-with-a-recovering-alcoholic.  I hope you enjoyed to read a little more about me, I don’t feel that different from most others, just that I found drinking isn’t for me. Life really is so much better now and if you have a question of your own, ask me in the comments box below! I look forward to answering them.

Comments

  1. This is great getting to know you . There were two areas that struck me hard. The first was when you talked about being selfish. I still feels the pangs of my selfishness—to this day. (And like you, I’ve been sober a small while.) I see that I will always face the challenge of finding my authentic place. I have a tendency to swing like a pendulum. A daily spiritual practice keeps this at bay.

    The second was when you shared about the day you did stop in December. I had the same “knowing.”

    What’s funny is that I noticed your sober anniversary was coming up and I just thought to tweet you. And here you have this beautiful post for me to read this Monday morning.

    Thanks for the nourishment. We really do heal together.
    Lisa

    • Many thanks Lisa, yes my sobriety birthday is just next month. What is amazing is how fast they come around. Definitely something to celebrate as it marks a moment of peace and clarity in my life when everything suddenly made sense, and luckily it’s been that way since!

      Glad you enjoyed the post, James

  2. Amazing post and great interview James. So many of your experiences and thought process resonate with me. I haven’t touched a drop in nearly two years and I’ve discovered what a fantastic place the world is when you look at it through sober eyes. Life’s still challenging but I’m confident I make better choices now.
    Inspirational! Xx
    Cathie

    • HI Cathie, Many thanks for your kind comment. Great to hear that you are having similar experiences – sober eyes see the world so differently, it’s true.

  3. I think I’m having the ‘knowing’ today. I’m glad I’ve found this blog and hope it helps me through a journey I know I’m going to struggle with. I just know I can’t continue down this negative path. Today the feelings of shame and guilt are too overwhelming. I’m a nurse. Soon to be midwife. I can’t be so outrages and crazy because one drink is never enough. I always want more and more. I can’t stand what alcohol is doing to my life. I have a great life and I’d like it to stay that way. I couldn’t live with myself if alcohol ruined what I have and what I cherish when I am sober

    • Hi Jo, Many thanks for your comment. Glad you found my blog, you should hopefully find loads of inspiration here, not just from the posts but also the tons of comments that others have left. You aren’t alone! Take it a day at a time…keep in touch and feel free to post your thoughts here daily if that helps. James

  4. Hello and WOW what a great find this is , everything said I can relate to , I’ve had my knowing about a month ago , I’ve had 2 events to go to and now they are out of the way that’s it .. I’m also concerned about my health as my liver enzymes were slightly elevated on my last few blood tests so I think the time is right , I’m 33 and have 4 great kids so I want to have more time for them too , I was binging once or twice a month for last 10 years and no longer enjoy it , always me left at the end of the night and I’d still want more

    • HI Rich,
      Thanks for posting your comment. Great to hear that you’re also deciding to give up. I was a similar age when i really started thinking seriously about giving up. 4 great kids is a perfect reason to quit drinking and give them the attention they deserve!
      Congratulations and keep in touch and let us know how you get on.
      James

  5. Hi James how’s it going ?

    • Hi Rich, I’m ok thanks, still living the sober life. Glad for taking the effort to stop drinking and chose a better life. What about you, how are things?

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