“Any fear I have is no longer about a life without alcohol, but of giving up everything I have gained on this journey.”
As I moved through my adult life, the way I handled alcohol evolved dramatically. From a social drinker who enjoyed a night out, I found myself becoming someone who used alcohol as a crutch. My relationship with alcohol had changed and the more I thought about that, the more concerned I became.
Even once I had realised the severity of the situation, it took years to do anything about it. I was in a cycle of drinking at work events, drinking when out with friends, drinking when I was at home relaxing, drinking because it was the weekend and drinking for any other excuse I could find. No matter how many times I promised myself I would take a break or moderate, it never lasted more than a couple of days.
All of this eventually became too much
At the tail end of 2018 I knew there were issues. I worried they were unfixable and felt like I was living life in a haze. Everything felt oppressive and I was anxious and angry a lot of the time. I could see that it was affecting relationships with my friends, my partner and my kids and I wasn’t being the person I wanted to be. I think I actually despised who I was becoming.
Not that anyone else knew all this. Not once did I speak about my feelings or fears. I was performing well at work, had two great children, was in a very fulfilling relationship and was always the first person to crack a joke or laugh when in company. To the outside world I was fine, probably even doing very well. However, I feared that I was teetering on the precipice… one wrong step or a failure to get a grip on this could royally mess up my life for good.
Finding One Year No Beer
When I started the OYNB journey I genuinely did not expect it to be a success. I couldn’t see me getting through the first week, let alone any of the challenges. I had tried so many times (at least every Monday morning for about three years) and had failed at every turn. I am also an inherently introverted person, and I believed that engaging in the OYNB community was not going to work for me.
Yet I was wrong on both counts. From the moment I joined I immersed myself in reading the posts on the facebook page, hearing about other people’s successes and failures and picking up on the themes that came through. There was so much positivity in the group and people kept highlighting the benefits they were seeing being alcohol-free – that I believe is what made the difference for me. Their stories showed me that this journey could be managed and when I read about the starting point that some of them had come from, getting to 90 days alcohol-free suddenly felt achievable for me.
A mindset shift
The group has also changed my way of thinking and for the first time I revelled in the positive aspects of not drinking. Prior to this I had always focused on what I was missing, and I worried that life (or I) would never be as interesting again without alcohol. Yet on the OYNB group I was seeing people talking about sleeping better, losing their anxiety, gaining focus, gaining energy, losing weight, eating and exercising better, and so much more. Slowly I began to realise I was experiencing these benefits for myself. I could actually feel myself getting happier step by step and this is what kept me going, a tangible feeling of progress and achievement.
I am now at a point where I know I won't drink again. Any fear I have is no longer about a life without alcohol, but of giving up everything I have gained on this journey. I cannot possibly cover every benefit I have experienced from being alcohol-free. Almost daily I do or think something that I wouldn’t have been equipped to do if I were still drinking.
However, here are a few of the main ones I am grateful for:
- I’m a better father. I am present when I am with my kids and take time to see what is important to them and understand things from their perspective. I am no longer hungover at weekends, acting like a bear with a sore head, and funnily enough we no longer argue like we used to. Turns out it was my attitude that was usually the problem, not theirs.
- I have bought a new house. After four years of messing around since I separated, I finally got things together and stopped blowing money on bottles of wine. This is a huge step forward in taking control of my future.
- I am lighter than I have been since I was thirteen years old. After being on a diet for 20 years it turns out the one thing I needed to cut out was alcohol. That is so ironic given I tried stopping everything else in order to justify having my beloved glass of red each evening.
- I am knocking things out of the park at work. I feel like I have lived a life with blinkers on, and now that they are gone everything is just brighter, more engaging and so much easier. My appetite to learn has returned and I am loving the way I can apply new knowledge, new ideas and my new-found energy to my job.
- I am fitter and healthier. Before OYNB I always trained, lifting weights five times a week, yet I considered any form of cardio to be unnecessary and an evil waste of time. Turns out that was nonsense! I was just too hung over to be bothered putting myself through the effort. Now that I am not poisoning myself regularly, I am running three times a week and have joined a running club. I’m not fast and it isn’t pretty to watch, but I feel amazing afterwards.
Without OYNB I wouldn’t be where I am, I have no doubt about that. I was not going to be able to address my drinking on my own and I know that because I had tried so many times. By introducing me to the positivity of OYNB and the focus upon the benefits of being alcohol-free, I was suddenly in an environment where I celebrated success.