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.

7 Ways That Life is Better Without Drink

Want to start a new life, thinking of giving up drinking but too afraid to start? Here’s 7 effective ways that prove that life is better without drink. I’ve experienced all 7 and know that life without drinking is more worthwhile that one where you’re binge drinking at every opportunity. Read on and see what you think.

1. No hangovers
Let’s face it, hangovers are crap. No-one likes to spend any amount of time slumped in bed or on the sofa unable or unwilling to do anything other than sleep off the night before. But, if hangovers were great it would be even harder to give up drinking…so there are good reasons to be grateful that hangovers are crap.

2. Improved general health and energy
It’s the ultimate detox and within a couple of days you’ll find yourself feeling better, sleeping better and in time your skin and overall body will feel much better. By not drinking all that alcohol and sugar and the takeaway food diet that goes hand in hand with drink, you’ll find your overall health gradually improving. You’ll also find that you’ve more energy and you’ll start finding more time to do things and with the extra energy, you’ll want to do more things.

3. No more late night takeaways
When you’re drunk even the largest kebab stuffed with meat, salad and chilli looks so appetising, but is it? When you drink then often it is. But the minute you give up drinking, the late night food suddenly doesnt seem necessary at all. The following day, I’d always wake up the following day with the feeling that someone or something had died in my mouth! That late night kebab is now a long gone, distant memory. I’ve stopped those late night stops at the kebab van, though I’ve not stopped eating kebabs, I simply choose better places to eat them. That dodgy kebab caravan seller, parked outside the night clubs in town is not somewhere I go anymore, thankfully!

4. No more embarrassing moments
You can’t be sophisticated when drunk, the two just don’t mix and is one of the reasons why you’ll find that most Italians don’t binge drink, instead they hang round cafes and gelaterias (ice cream parlours). When you’re drunk then the chances of you doing something even slightly embarrassing is highly likely. Nowadays social media can now make a viral star of you, with your antics shared globally through Facebook or YouTube and in an instant ruin your job or career prospects.

5. Clearer goals and more optimism
Flushed with the success of giving up drinking you’ll be inspired to go on and find new goals to achieve. I’ve probably done more in the 7 years since I gave up drinking than I did in all the years previously, I’ve spent a lot less time sitting round recovering from hangovers and feeling miserable, to now spending time planning or doing more things that add value to my life.

6. You’ll feel better and so will those around you
You’ll feel better inside and on the outside you’ll radiate a bigger smile and more confidence, after all you can go to bars and live the life without needing to drink to support you. You’ll feel like you can move mountains and feeling better you’ll radiate this new found feeling to those around you. If your drinking affected those around you, now that you’ve given up you’ll notice that they no longer have to deal with your mood swings, lack of interest, humiliation, etc. The list could go on, but in short they’ll be so much happier with you. You might find that you don’t just change your life, but those around you also.

7. More time to do the things that give you pleasure
With binge drinking now in the past you can spend more time doing the things that you want to do, whether that be more time travelling, spending time with family or learning new things. With a clear head 24/7, you’re able to squeeze more out of life.

There we are, 7 ways that your life can definitely improve by giving up drink. There are so many other ways, this is just my list of the top 7. It would be wonderful to hear from you and hear what you’d add to this list. Simply add your comment below. You might even inspire others to do the same.

My 5 Top Reasons for Giving Up Drink

  1. Becoming an antisocial
  2. Developing a taste for heights (Climbing scaffolding)
  3. Sleep walking home from the pub
  4. Hangovers taking longer and more difficult to get over
  5. Watching my life disappear in a drunken haze

There we are – my top 5 reasons why I gave up drinking. Of them all, the taste for climbing was most worrying. I started doing this whilst at college. One night I found myself on a ledge at the back of a nightclub, oblivious to how dangerous it was. It was at least 3 stories up and would have been a certain end to me, had I fallen.

It didn’t stop at ledges, I enjoyed climbing scaffolding as well. Totally oblivious to the danger to not just me, but those around me, especially if id fallen and hit someone. I would always wake in the morning in disbelief that I’d done that. Not sure how I could have done something so stupid, but at the time the drink is in you egging you on. Pushing you…relentlessly.

“Have another it would say in your ear”, “you’ll be ok”. “You don’t need to think about giving up drink”

I never was though, I always was an early casualty and left the bar or club early too drunk to really know what I was doing. The scrapes I got into. Talk about a cat with 9 lives…I must have got to the 8th when I finally decided to stop!

Sleep walking was another worrier. I don’t know how I did it, but I’d regularly fall asleep walking home from the bar late at night. I walked into buildings, literally the walls and quickly woke up. I was getting bruised and scraped and had to explain marks to work colleagues, who must have whispered behind my back. They must have realised, except I never did. It’s only now that I think back and wonder if they did know I had a problem and just couldn’t control my drinking.

Watching my life disappear before me, my 20s went really fast and my 30s were speeding along quickly too. Suddenly I saw myself as an old drunk, lurching from one bar to the next, on my own. With friends married off with families, I knew that I really didn’t want this to happen to me. I wanted to take some control of my life.

In the end I knew deep down that I had to give up drinking. It was no longer funny to look back and think about lucky escapes. There is only so much luck in life and I figured that if I pushed it too much, too often, I’d end up regretting it, and really regretting it at that!

So my top 5 reasons are still good enough to stop me from imagining for a second that having a drink now would be a good thing to do. I know that I have to be sober the rest of my life. I know that it isn’t a vacation I’ve taken, it’s a life choice. But you know what? It gets more and more comfortable the feeling of knowing that with care and attention I am going to be sober the rest of my life and I’m going to have such a better life because of that. :o)

Alcohol will beat you if you cannot get passed your denial

No point betting against alcohol, no matter what you throw at it, alcohol will always win. Alcohol is a super efficient destroyer of lives, no matter whose life is pitted against it, the results are the same.

For some people they can co-exist with alcohol in a normal way and not worry like those of us in recovery. It’s totally impossible for someone in recovery to have a drink and walk away from it. Some try, like Robin Williams did, but even though it was a 20 year gap since he last drunk alcohol, it was enough of a scent for the brain to pick up on the old ways, firing off neurons that hadn’t been fired in 20 years. What a party those neurons must have had, acquaintances reacquainted he was back on the booze. Alcohol 1 – 0 Us in Recovery.

Now some people reading this will think that it is just a few that have real problems with alcohol abuse and think that they are so lucky they aren’t like us recovering alcoholics. Oh, but many people are victims to alcohol. Consider those who say they don’t need alcohol, and they can go days between drinks. Ok, no problem, but I bet my house that the days without alcohol are Monday to Friday afternoon. Ask people if they can survive without alcohol and the majority will say yes. But ask them to spend a weekend off alcohol, but to go out to parties and most of that crowd will break into a sweat. Because the sad fact is that most people are dependent on alcohol. They need it, for Dutch courage, to get the party started, to lift spirits, etc.

So that makes most people, especially young people and kids alcoholics? Certainly there are many more people who cannot survive weekends partying on anything stronger than mineral water. So why the mass denial? Well denial by its very definition is the toughest obstacle to get over. For all of us in recovery we’ve had to overcome denial. Those who are starting out recovering are probably finding out how hard denial is to overcome, (it is worth it!). Overcoming denial is a bit like comparing your journey to that of a climber who just climbed Mt. Everest. That would have taken planning and effort and a mindset hell bent on succeeding, and so does over coming denial.

Like all things, the personal gratification is so well worth the effort put in. So if you are realising you’re at that stage when you’ve got to get over denial, keep at it. Get a picture of Mt. Everest and imagine you are one of the climbers on the way up. Imagine the view at the top, the view is already pretty good. Tell yourself you can do it, because the very nature that you’ve got this far proves to yourself that you’re well on the way to overcoming denial.