Sunday Mornings

 

It wasn’t always like this.

Today the sun was streaming through the blinds in our kitchen as our family sat down to have breakfast together. The kids were munching their cereal and we were talking together about what we were going to do with the day. It had snowed recently, and the sky was a deep blue and the kind of sunshine that brings a vitality and makes you want to move and make the most of this moment.

Only a few years back I didn’t have anything like this on a Sunday morning. They were mostly spent in bed recovering from the worst hangovers. Usually they’d take the form of waking from a semi-comatose state, then the happenings of the night before would gradually come into focus, followed by pangs of regret, anxiety and my mind would start filling up with excuses I’d have to make to friends or work colleagues and hope for the best.

Those days were wild but empty. There was something missing from them. In church this morning the reader read a passage from the bible that talked about love, faith and hope. These are in my life now, but looking back to when I drank, there was none of that. They haven’t appeared overnight, but instead they’ve developed over the last few years since being sober and moving to this new chapter in my life.

Having a young family has helped me to focus on the here and now and what’s important. It’s wonderful to watch the kids grow up, but it’s also wonderful to experience the moment.

Previously, I would have slept through that Sunday morning. Missed the light coming in through the blinds, and if I had, then I probably would have cursed it for waking me. In living in the moment these things are a pleasure to watch and experience. They serve as reminders for what we’re here for. All these things can be taken from us in a moment, and it’s so important to make the most of life now. Not looking far into the future, nor looking back into the past either, but to enjoy what is happening to us and around us now.

So, it’s great to see the sun coming in through the blinds and to hear the chatter around the table. I worried about giving up drinking and what might happen with my life, but had I known that the wasted mornings spent sleeping long would be replaced with a family and chatter around the breakfast table with the sun pouring in through the blinds, then I needn’t have worried.

 

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.

Start Your New Year’s Resolutions Today

Start Your New Year's Resolutions Today

Don’t wait for January 1st to start yours. Start today. By planning to start to give up something at a point in the future, you’re planning to fail. If you’re minded to stop drinking, smoking or taking drugs, then you need to start now.

I poured all the drink I had in my house away the moment I realised I wanted to stop drinking for good. Everything went, even full bottles of gin and whiskey that I had for special occassions. I emptied the fridge and though it felt like a complete waste of money, doing it felt good. I was on day one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I was ahead, already.

Then, a few days later when it was indeed the 1st of January, I already had a head start. Plus, I’d already gone through one of the major events as a non-drinker, Christmas and New Year. Not easy!

Christmas is the time of year when we’re all bombarded with ads on TV advertising scotch whiskey or fancy liquers. There are also endless parties with friends and family and you don’t want to feel out of place by not joining in the fun, do you?!

But in all seriousness, starting your New Year’s Resolutions early helps, it also helps get you a foundation so that when others start to give in, you’re already ahead and have built up greater will-power to continue.

Trust me, it works. It did for me when I gave up on December 21st.

December 21st Marks My 10 Year Anniversary

now-10-years-sober
Yesterday was my sobriety birthday. It was 2006 when I gave up. December 21st, 2006 was the last time I drank alcohol. A decade ago. It’s an achievement that I’m proud of, firstly because I never thought I’d make it, secondly I never imagined that I see me change as a person as much as I have.

10 years ago, I was single, with not much of a future. I wallowed in self-pity, blamed everyone else but me and realised that a life of drinking was making me feel depressed. It seemed that things were getting progressively worse, the older I was, more pronounced, especially the hangovers and headaches.

All that changed. Within months I’d got my life on a different path and things have worked out in so many positive ways since, that I count my blessings for giving up drink at that moment.

Though I don’t count the days anymore, (I’m only writing this to show you that it can be done), that it’s worth all the blood, sweat and tears. I’m married now with two young children. It’s wonderful, and I truly believe that it’s been possible because (Carpe Diem), I took the sober path, the path less travelled by and it, it has made all the difference.

So yesterday, December 21st, I raised a glass as I always do and said a silent prayer thanking God for giving me the strength to come through.

Some of you reading this might be thinking of embarking on the same journey. To you, I would say not to hesitate, not to waste a moment, to make the decision and go for it. And in doing so, maybe you will also discover the real you.

Please write your hopes and dreams in the comments box below and if you need inspiration to make the jump just ask for it.

Happy Christmas and New Year to you all.

P.s. Thanks to Lisa Neumann who told me a few years back about this thing called ‘Sobriety Birthdays’ – not every one has a second birthday, it’s good to be part of a community that has!

Wanted: Participants For University Study on Hangover Effects

how-bad-are-hangovers-renee-odonnell-study-724x1024

Deakin University PhD candidate, Renee O’Donnell, contacted me recently to help raise awareness of her study into the effects of drinking and hangovers. The study begins with a short web based questionnaire  and then participants record drinking levels via an iPhone app over a 30 day period. So far, Renee’s early results suggest those using the app have found that drinking levels are lower as a result. So if you’re between 18-35 years old, have consumed a drink in the last 7 days and have an iPhone, contact Renee (renee.odonnell@deakin.edu.au or +61 (0) 422 984 527) to take part in her trial.

 

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…