My First Beer in a Long Time (Tip – a non-alcoholic one!)

heineken-zero
Over Christmas I had my first beer in a very long time – not an alcoholic one, but a new Heineken Zero, one of the latest new non-alcoholic drinks that are now on the market. It tasted like I remember a Heineken tasting, and certainly not like the old non-alcoholic beers of old, like Kaliber, which must have been the only non-alcoholic beer on the shelf when I was giving up. But, like everything the technology has moved on and the taste is now very similar to the original thing, except with this, there is no alcohol.

With no desire now to ever go back to drinking alcohol, I reasoned that drinking this for me was fine, but not everyone might see it that way. Years ago, I wrote a post about the question, ‘is it safe to drink non-acoholic drinks?‘ – and the mood in all the comments received was that it was down to the individual as to whether or not it is too much of a trigger to get you drinking again. Others were happy to have the alternative.

My go to drink when giving up was tonic water or soda water and ice and lemon, that way it looked like a gin tonic. Disguising what I was drinking helped throw off my drinking buddies and for the most part they didn’t notice. If this beer was around then, then I’d have drunk this for sure, as it is actually a nice drink to have and you don’t draw attention (if that’s important to you – perhaps in the early days). Giving up drinking takes a lot of effort, if not because whilst you may want to give up, your drinking buddies may not have your interests at heart and actually prefer to you to carry on drinking beer.

Which is probably the main reason why it took so many years for me to actually give up. I knew early one in my 20s that drinking didn’t suit me, but it wasn’t till my mid-30s that I actually managed to break free.

So I’m happy to read in the papers and articles online that suggest that globally, the number of people drinking (in particular younger people) is dropping and the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is rising. I imagine that there is a shift towards a healthier lifestyle and this fits the bill. Here’s an article from CNBC that talks about the new range of beer introduced by Heineken and the reasons behind it. Young people it seems are moving away from the drinking culture of wanting to go out with the sole purpose of getting drunk. At least, this is how the culture was in my 20s here in the UK.

A rise in non-alcoholic drinks is a great thing for us who abstain or want to abstain. Having more choice at the bar is welcome. I’d have been a fan early on, as it helps you to continue enjoying nights out, without screaming that you’re not one of the lads. As far as I can tell, it’s a bit like people switching from smoking cigarettes to vaping e-cigarettes.

But, drinking non-alcoholic drinks isn’t for everyone. Some argue that the taste would get them back on to the real thing. Perhaps, but for me not so. I’ve not really had much interest in drinking non-alcoholic drinks up to now. Normally I’d drink tonic, or soft drinks, but steer away from anything else partly because of the taste, but now that has been improved, then I think I would see myself drinking these sorts of beers more often.

Certainly, if I go to a party, I’d take a 4-pack of these and not feel out of place at all. I think I’m in the camp now that likes to have an alternative.

I’m interested to know from you, what you think on this. Do you think it’s ok to switch or would you feel drawn back to drinking alcohol? Please write your comments on this and join the conversation.

12 Years On: Sobriety An Update

December 21st is my Sobriety Birthday

12 years ago, today I stopped. I finally stopped drinking. After drinking since my late teens, in my 35th year it finally ended. December 21st, 2006 was indeed the shortest day, but for me it was the longest. My hangover from hell made sure of that. But nevertheless, the decision was made, sobriety was almost presented to me as an ultimatum. Either I accept that life couldn’t go on in this direction or else break for it and take a different path. One I’d not really travelled much on before. That was the one I took. And 12 years on, there are no regrets. No longer do I reflect on the negative things I did or the days I wasted recovering from worsening hangovers. But now I am happy to know that this part of my life chapter closed and a new one opened.

Things now are totally different. The life change that came about from literally stopping partying and going out for whole weekends drinking has given way to family life. Now I cannot imagine how things would be bringing up kids and dealing with hangovers. Now I have time to spend with my kids, and every waking hour. I’ve made sure that I haven’t missed important dates, school events and birthdays. I can’t imagine not being able to give them full attention and it pleases me not missing out on these things because I’m hungover or too busy planning to go out with the boys on a night out.

Selfishly, I am happy that I gave up drinking in a pre-social media world. I am not sure that I would have fared well getting drunk with social media ready to capture your exploits and make you an internet sensation by the time you’d sobered up. I do fear though the effect social media has had on people now who drink to excess and are trying to give up and have been caught on camera and then had to suffer additional shame. I feel for celebrities who overstep the mark and are captured, or their phones hacked – they must be under daily attack from people trying to steal drunken pictures never meant for public exposure.

Sobriety Changes You

I think I’ve changed a lot since 2006. My life was in turmoil and not very stable. Stability wasn’t something I was that familiar with, I didn’t think too much of others and was quick to pin the blame on everyone and everything around me, except me. Since then getting married and having kids has helped, but so too has rediscovering my faith. Attending church every Sunday for the past 3-4 years has given me a whole new perspective. Every week I feel like not going I push myself to go and then hear a sermon that seems written just for me. It is those moments that I feel my faith deepening, that there seems to be a reason for me being here, that I have a job to do and that I matter.

The contrast with my life before couldn’t be more exaggerated. I felt none of those feelings. Now, with children, I want them to grow up feeling that they can do whatever they want, not feel threatened, have a worldly understanding and be aware of things like drugs and alcohol. They are young still, not yet 10, but nevertheless I want to pass on my experiences so that they build on them and become better people. I hope I will be able to steer them past the pitfalls that caught me, or at least help raise them so they are more aware of these pitfalls.

Giving up drinking made me more philosophical, helped me to find new books to explore. I stumbled on Massimo Pigliucci’s blog about How to Be a Stoic, and right away I was hooked. I found it fascinating that people 2,000 years ago were having similar issues, especially when looking at the things we can control and the things we cannot. In my situation, I was able to give up drinking and directly affect the control that drink had on my life. It wasn’t easy, as I explain through the 5 steps that I took to get me sober but being able to focus on the things and feelings I can control certainly has helped me to stay sober.

So, which life is better?

My past, which had some wild days, some very funny days and times with friends and family, anecdotes that still get talked about now when we meet up. But a lot of dressing moments, some I’ve managed to forget. Or my life now. For sure, it is the life I have now, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. This is the better path, the one that has brought different pleasures and more meaning in life. Not to mentions the huge benefits in giving up drink, and great pleasures in not relying on getting drunk to have a good time.

Whilst I don’t write blog posts that regularly now, it still gives me great pleasure when people find my blog and write comments about their sober journeys, some of which are just starting out. It’s the reason why I keep the blog and feel happy that I can perhaps help others to join me.

If you are just starting out and finding this post for the first time, please write in the comment box and tell your story. You have just the same chance of success and the same chance of making a change in your life. I can tell you from my own experience, sharing it with others is one of the best ways to ground you and keep you on your new path.

Living Without Alcohol – A diary of life outside the pitcher plant

LIVING WITHOUT ALCOHOL – A diary of life outside the pitcher plant.
Guest Post by Steve. G

Although I have given up drinking many times in the past (I guess that statement alone tells me that I had a drink problem) the longest being for just short of six months, somewhere along the way I always manage to convince myself that I am missing out on something, that I am denying myself something, that I am bored, and from there it is just a short step to having a drink again, with the intention of it just being the occasional evening, or just on weekends, which then within a couple of weeks turns into a nightly ritual, and shortly afterwards to wondering why the hell I started again at all.

I am fed up of feeling like shit for several hours when I get out of bed, and of all the other negatives that alcohol brings, physically, mentally emotionally and socially.

I have also experienced the benefits of sobriety, the feelings of improved physical and mental well-being, and know that life as a non-drinker is far, far better than that of a drinker.

This time I intend to stop drinking forever. I am beginning this diary on Day 8, I actually gave up the booze on March 1st 2016, but only decided today that I would keep a diary, something I have never done before, but I think it may be an interesting change to write down any thoughts or feelings I have along the journey.

My first major milestone is September 1st. That will be 6 calendar months without alcohol, the longest I will ever have gone since the age of 16, 47 years ago.

March 8th 2016.
Eight days in and I have gone through the initial annoyances. I always have nightmares when I first stop drinking, those vivid ones that seem to hold you just on the threshold of sleep so when you wake up you feel like you haven’t been to bed at all. I’ve gone past that now, last night I had a good night’s sleep for the first time since I quit. I was feeling a bit irritable too, and tending to be a bit snappy with people but I think that I’m through that stage too as I am feeling much calmer today.

The almost constant heartburn and acid reflux I suffer from have almost become non-existant,and should disappear altogether soon. I have noticed my bowel movements are less runny, and I don’t need to go as often as before.

Already I feel slightly more self confident, never being a very self confident person in my life I find that every little helps.
On Day 1 I started exercising again, 90 semi sit-ups a day with feet off the floor, 3 sets of 30 with a 10 second hold at the end of each set. This will tone my stomach muscles, and the exercise will just improve my physical and mental well-being in general.

I have been through all these stages several times before, and so know what to expect, but this time I am keeping a diary and so will have a history of how it unfolds and progresses.

Just a few observations that I learnt from my sober times before:-
Drunks are boring, noisy, repetitive, and quite often obnoxious people.
Neither drinking, nor drunk people have any endearing qualities.
Being drunk never solved any problems, or brought true happiness to anyone in any situation.
Alcohol is a liar and a sham, and any benefits people think it brings are illusory.
(These are only my opinions, other people may disagree with them.)

Dr Allen Carr who wrote the books “The easy way to stop smoking” (Buy on Amazon US/GB) and “No more hangovers” (Buy on Amazon US/GB) likened the addiction of alcohol to being a fly trapped inside a Pitcher plant, a very good comparison in my opinion, and so I am going to use this as one of my catchphrases…

I GOT OUT OF THE PITCHER PLANT, AND I’M STAYING OUT !!

Onwards and upwards…

Summer Days – A Drinks Recipe To Help Keep You on the Straight and Narrow

So here comes the summer, probably one of the hardest times of the year for anyone thinking or already given up drinking. It’s the time of year when opening a cold beer is was probably one of the most satisfying feelings. Advert upon advert on the TV reminds us of this feeling. Getting home from work on a hot summers day, I’d almost be reaching for the cold beer cooling in the fridge without really thinking about it. I’d be on autopilot and would have probably just drunk that one quite quickly before settling into the next one.

But, those days are long gone and now summer is here I’ve poured myself a new favourite (Mocktails & Other Non-Alcoholic Drinks ) and this is it. Reach for a cold glass, a really cold one. The Spanish keep their glasses in the freezer- great tip! Now get a lime and cut in half, squeeze half of the juice into the glass and slice the rest up and also put in the glass. Now top up with cold sparkling water. You’ve got yourself a great, cold, refreshing drink that is not just healthy but so much better than a beer as you’ll have a clear head and none of that tipsy & drowsy feeling that comes with drinking. It even looks like a gin + tonic, so if people give you a hard time because you’re not drinking (as they tend to do), you can have them believe that this is a G+T.

Life’s too short to spend it recovering from hangovers. This is the one thing that I came to realise about 6 months into giving up the drink. I’d found that once I’d got past the 6 month stage I’d begun to find new things to do in life, new reasons to live and new hopes for the future. I think this is the one thing that you don’t really appreciate if you drink from weekend to weekend – in fact you could argue that your system is never really empty of alcohol and really what you’re doing is just topping it up. But once it’s out, you think differently. It’s refreshing and it’ll feel like someones taken the blinkers off you and you start to see the world around you. You could think of it as seeing the world in colour for the first time – it really felt like that for me.

I’m now in my 8th year of sobriety and now have a family of my own and the thought of life with drink again just makes me shudder, I’d be giving up so much new freedom and it’s this thought that keeps me on the straight and narrow.

The Best Thing About not Drinking Alcohol

Finding my true voice has been the best thing that has happened to me since giving up drinking. Before I always needed a drink especially if I was going out on a date, meeting my friends in a club, I’d always have a beer before hand to give me the courage to take on whatever came my way that evening. Now I get an even bigger high, by knowing that I don’t need to rely on that shit anymore.

I look back on the times when I was so drunk because the beer took over and I just got so drunk binge drinking that I’d end up missing a great evening. Now, when I walk into a party I’m confident and smiling. I’m being myself, finally. Before then I was shy. Alcohol made me into the ultimate ‘party animal’. I was there at the start and at the end, I was the one to liven things up and make everyone laugh. Sober, I was just this quiet and shy person, drunk, I was on fire. Seriously funny at times and capable of talking my way into situations I think would be impossible to do sober.

Till then, drinking alcohol had been a huge part of my life. At school, in college and later in jobs working alongside work colleagues who hit the bars straight after work on a Friday night. I was there. In fact there wasn’t really any time to sit back and think that life could be better without alcohol, I was having just the time of my life. Sure there were times when I hit the bottle too hard and during the hangover the next day I wondered why it was that I needed to drink so much. But at that point I felt that drink was some kind of life vest and it was almost alien to think of going out without it. I couldn’t imagine a life not drinking alcohol!

When the time came and I decided not just cut back alcohol, but actually stop drinking it, finally being without drink came as a shock. How was I going to manage not being the party animal, make people laugh and be the life and soul of the party? Well, It was strange at first to walk into a bar and ask for water or orange, or coffee. It was strange for other people to hear me say, ‘I don’t drink’. Some people accept it as not being anything odd, others saw it as a threat. And some, after they’ve got drunk, will lean over and say that secretly, ‘[they] wish they could do the same’.

Giving up drinking has given me a new lease of life. Read my 5 steps that I found totally helped me to overcome my reliance on alcohol and eventually find the confidence to give it up.

Something happened to me that finally made me think and it was losing a good friend to leukaemia at 33. At the time he was the same age as me, and it made me realise that life is short, hard and totally not to be taken for granted. Life is for living and reaching the end, before looking back, smiling at some of the stories and knowing that you’ve sucked the marrow out of life, leaving no stone unturned. I couldn’t do this continuing to drink and get myself into a sorry state. I feel I’ve been put here to do some good, and not that I’ve stopped drinking I feel I have so much more to offer the World.