My alcohol-free journey began as it often does, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d always been a binge drinker, but the hangovers were getting worse, the anxiety was getting more extreme, I was drinking on my own more often. My life was getting more and more out of control and I was becoming a person I didn’t recognise.
I will go back to the beginning
I come from a family of scoundrels and creatives. My father grew up in Birmingham, where his father (my grandfather) supplied horses to a gang of men who are today referred to as the ‘Peaky Blinders’. In the late 80s, my father moved us to America as he started working with a new business partner called ‘Steve’. Things didn’t work out and we returned to the UK 18 months later, bankrupt and homeless. Things turned out a bit better for ‘Steve’, more commonly known as Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.
I’ve always had such big dreams and ambitions. I’ve broken Guinness World Records, run across the Sahara Desert, dived with Great White Sharks, cycled across the Atlas Mountains, jumped the world’s highest bungee jump and become an Ironman. But somewhere, I got a bit lost along the way. I got stuck in a pattern of working in a career I didn’t enjoy, to get a salary that I would waste on things I didn’t want or nights out I couldn’t remember. I desperately wanted to go back to be that person for whom no challenge was too big, no task too daunting. But I forgot who that person was, until I found OYNB.
Becoming sober curious
I’d had a feeling for a while that if I just stopped drinking, amazing things would happen in my life. Sure, I’d have to work hard for them, but being AF would be the catalyst for my dreams coming true. For some reason, I seemed to be happy with drinking and waving goodbye to my dreams. I would be the first person in the bar and the last to leave. I threw myself into drinking at every social event as if it were the last night out I would ever have. I had never turned down a drink, never said no to a night out, regardless of how cripplingly hungover I was. I was always known as the ‘legend’ who would always be at the centre of a good night out and the stories of debauchery afterwards. Then it stopped getting so funny. The stories got scarier and more extreme. Like the time I blacked out at my own 30th birthday party. The time I almost got fired. The time a drug-dealer in New York pulled a gun on me and threatened to kill me.
After drunkenly stumbling in from a night out at 7am (bear in mind this was a weekday and I had to start work 90 minutes later) I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘enough is enough’. I was not willing to tolerate that version of myself any longer.
My OYNB journey
The first two weeks were tough. I felt anxious, like all my drunken mistakes, all the alcohol-relate skeletons from my past were coming back to haunt me! I was also surprised by how many people are shocked by my decision to go alcohol-free, thinking it’s stupid and/or laugh at me because they think I have no hope in sticking to it. I had highs along with these lows though: running a marathon on day 30 and finishing in 3 hours 20 mins, knocking a crazy 22 minutes off my PB. On day 140 I became an Ironman, and who can forget day 83 when I broke a Guinness World Record and became the fastest fisherman on the planet.
Keep your eyes on the prize
If I were to offer some advice to someone starting out, I’d say focus on your whys. I would always re-centre myself by reminding myself why I started this in the first place. I want the life I dream of more than I want to drink. I want to be up at 6am spending time with my children more than being on the sofa with a hangover. I want to have a clear head, energy, focus, positivity. For once I feel like I could be unstoppable, that no challenge is too big to overcome. My confidence is growing and I’m starting to like the person I see in the mirror. I can be that person who leaves a night out at 10pm because I’ve had enough and then drive home for a good night’s sleep, rather the guy who wanted to leave at 10pm but is still throwing tequilas down his throat at 4am because he knows that is what people expect him to do.
This challenge was hard. But to get the life you’ve never had before, you have to do the things you’ve never done before, like changing your relationship with alcohol. I think of myself as the star in my own superhero movie. No-one wants to go and see a movie where the hero is perfect, flawless and has everything go exactly as it should for them. We want to see stories about people who have struggled, suffered, fallen, failed…but ultimately conquered their demons to rise victorious in the end.
That is the hero I want to be.