Why would I swap rational clarity and joy for fuzzy-headed numbness and ‘meh’?
I was an average 55-year-old with a headache. On Sunday afternoon, May 10 2020, (119 days ago AF as I type), I sat on the back deck with my spaniel Bert, smoking what would be my last cigarette, looking up at a wasted sunny afternoon and nursing what will be (hopefully), my last hangover.
I wasn’t a ‘heavy drinker’ in my book, just someone who liked a ‘good drink’ and alcohol wasn’t a ‘problem’, at least to me. I signed up to Churchill’s philosophy that ‘I have taken far more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me’.
I was deluded!
Before my alcohol-free challenge
I was drinking at least 4 to 6 cans of beer per night, most nights, and finishing the evening with the best part of a bottle or two of super-marché plonk. Parties and evenings out most times I would drink ‘til I couldn’t anymore. Not overly endearing qualities in a fifty-something bloke. I had passed out rather than fallen asleep many times. Somehow, I managed to drag my sorry self out of bed the next day, get the bacon butties on, and do it all again the next time.
The bit I was missing was the effect it was having on my body and mind and, more importantly, on my lovely wife, family and friends. ‘It was like walking on eggshells around you when you’d had a drink…’ it has since been explained to me.
I got up, I functioned, I drank, I fell asleep…repeat; some optimised lifestyle eh?
So, meanwhile back on the deck with my dog, Bert, the world was about to change for the better. I had been lucky enough to get to a challenging Day Camp with the SAS Who Dares Wins Legend Ant Middleton at the end of 2019 which was waking me up to ‘being the best version of me’, and also to Ollie Ollerton’s tour in London later that November. All the Who Dares Wins guys have outstanding books out and I’ve read them all at least twice.
It was Ollie’s latest book ‘Battle Ready’ that particularly spoke to me and proved to be a catalyst into OYNB.
The whole book is an epic tale, but one part woke me up in particular. He very openly and candidly talks about his own struggle with his relationship with alcohol and the measures he took to sort things out that worked for him.
If I’m honest the first few times I read this (I’ve also listened several times on audio book just to make sure I was hearing properly) I thought ‘good on you Ollie, you needed sorting out mate and you did it’, thinking I wasn’t at the ‘need sorting out’ stage yet. It was this last time, and this last Sunday in May that finally made me decide enough was enough.
Hungover and just feeling ‘meh’ about the past, present and the future; at 3pm Sunday afternoon I stubbed out my last cigarette, made a coffee, picked up my phone and looked for a group Ollie had referred to in his book called ‘One Year No Beer’.
I figured if it’s good enough for Mr O, it’s good enough for me.
Starting my alcohol-free challenge
I’m not sure what I expected from the OYNB challenge initially. I guess I wasn’t even sure that I would complete it. So, I gave myself almost a week of ‘watching days’, looking at the website and thinking things over, whilst not drinking any alcohol (the fags had gone too but I’d already nearly forgotten about them – that’s for another story).
I was so uncertain it would stick; I didn’t mention OYNB to my wife straight away in case I bottled it! (No pun intended!)
About seven days in, my mind made up, I signed up for the 28 Day Challenge thinking well if I can get there that’s awesome and I’d be chuffed with the break (and so would my liver), broke my vow of silence and headed off to a brave new world.
The outcome of this journey is amazing so far
Physically I feel like a new man. I’m fitter faster (I’ve rediscovered my love of running), and more with it than I’ve been in years.
My head is constantly clear, my mind is focused. I’m less of a grump (well nobody’s perfect!) my lovely wife is so supportive and slightly amazed that I’m still going 119 days later! (She has her own great story to tell of life with a drinker that should be published here too). I have even enjoyed (NOT endured) a 14-day sunny holiday abroad totally alcohol-free and lived to tell the tale!
I am more organised in my business and feeling so much more productive as I get mornings, evenings and whole chunks of the day back, hangover and lethargy-free.
I now optimise my sleep and am often heading upstairs before 9pm to befordshire instead of hanging out in the kitchen squeezing the last drop of vino collapso out of the bottle and worrying about where the next one’s coming from now the Offy’s shut.
I also have saved a bundle of cash if my app is to be believed. I would recommend anyone keeping a note of what they spend on alcohol (and/or ciggies if you still smoke) and imagine paying that back to yourself each month – a bigger pay rise than the boss or the Chancellor is ever likely to give you.
The OYNB community
The thing that impressed me straight away with OYNB was the power of the Tribe. Out of nowhere came a flood of positivity from literally all around the world welcoming me like a long-lost son back into the fold. It was and remains a truly remarkable feature of OYNB in my view.
The second amazing strength of OYNB for me is the daily email and video contact. Cleverly timed to land on in the UK at 0600, you can pretty much guarantee a smiling Ruari or Andy will be there to welcome you to the day and boost your motivation when you roll out of bed! (I’ve since gone on to train with Andy in his Office Athlete Programme, but that’s also another story!)
Working through the daily OYNB content has been amazingly helpful although my budget on recommended reading books has taken a bit of a battering! But hey, I can afford it now, I don’t waste money on booze and fags.
I had a plan to stop for 28 days and complete the challenge. That plan has grown. Before I knew it 28 days had come and gone. I’d won a prize and treated myself to the enamel pin badge from the OYNB store to celebrate. Next thing I knew I was doing the same thing for passing 90 days, and so the journey continues.
My behaviour around and relationship to alcohol is completely changed for the better in my view. My new plan is to keep going for the 365 days and beyond. As I write I can’t honestly see the point in going back to alcohol; why would I swap rational clarity and joy for fuzzy-headed numbness and ‘meh’?
You see alcohol and I have new lines drawn in our relationship. In fact, it’s more of a moat and drawbridge kind of relationship – with me secure in my warm castle keep with all the canons and alcohol shivering in the rain the other side of the gap with nothing!
I wholeheartedly recommend OYNB to anyone who wants to refresh, renew or revise their relationship with alcohol. I’d go further; for my brave and daring friends – it’s a challenge – 28, 90, 365 Days?
Go on, I dare you!