‘I longed to find out what a year off beer would do for me, but it seems like an impossible dream'. – OYNB Hero
My journey started a year ago. Everything was going well. I have a wonderful wife and son, a nice house, and a good job. But I was broken and unhappy from within and didn’t know the reason.
I was an average to heavy drinker, who joked that health organizations had confused the recommended drink limit with a light lunch. I drank daily and my weekends tended to be heavier than weekdays.
One night a couple of ‘quick’ drinks after work turned into 4 am bender. As I walked around London trying to sober up for work, I realized that I needed help.
I called my boss and told him I had a problem and took the day off. I was told I was suffering from depression and enrolled for counselling. The sessions helped me focus on my family life and I tried to moderate my drinking.
During Christmas, I went back to oblivion; at a family event I felt the need to get totally smashed. My wife was upset and I made the decision to stop drinking to lose weight (I was 15 stone).
I told everyone it was for a month but longed to go longer; I think I now knew it was alcohol that was causing issues but I didn’t want to admit it. January was great. I started feeling happy and dropped to 14 stone.
However, at the end of January, I went out to a gig with a couple of friends and despite my best intentions got tempted into drinking, instigated by a friend.
By March my weight is back on, and I am back to drinking. In April or May, I hear Andy Ramage on the radio and find out about “One Year No Beer.” I longed to find out what a year off beer would do for me, but it’s like an impossible dream.
During the end of May, I was drinking heavily again. I knew if I kept going it would be out of control, but I didn’t know how to stop. Then I had a massive turning point. I went for dinner with my best friend and after some pressuring, he admitted he had a drinking problem, and I shared mine with him.
I told him about One Year No Beer and we agreed to read the book and consider signing up to the challenge. On the 2nd June (Day 1), I signed up for the challenge (my best mate had decided to start earlier but not with OYNB).
I had the help and support of OYNB. I followed the daily emails and did what they told me. On Day 2, I applied for my challenge (the London Marathon) and started running. I latched onto 3 good things. I told people that I was quitting for a year, when they laughed I thought f**k you, I will prove you wrong.
I realized I couldn’t hide for a year so I went out with friends (with a plan) and really analyzed what I was missing and how to fill the gap. I soon realized there was no gap, as being with friends is what I really liked, not alcohol. Each time I went out, I felt stronger. I had the best support group.
The first 30 days flew by. When I had a strong urge to drink, I either ran or went swimming as these curbed my cravings.
Day 30 – 40 were the worst. The cravings were strong every day. I felt like I really wanted to cave in, but I knew that I had to get through the year. I had to prove everyone wrong.
Somewhere between 40 and 60 days, the magic happened. My depression lifted. That baseline of doubt, fear, worry, anxiety was gone and I felt really good. I hadn’t realized how low I had been feeling until it was removed.
On Day 60, I went to a festival with the friend that broke me down in January. He tried to convince me that I am wrong and I need to drink, but this time I was ready. Telling him I was committed to not drinking was was really simple.
On day 82, I started to read “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace and decided to face the question ‘what do I want after the year is up’. The book is great and Annie highlighted some of the things I had already started to learn with OYNB and opened my eyes to the lies around alcohol. On Day 86, I made the decision to make this change permanent.
I am so pleased I made the decision to stop permanently. I feel real euphoria and have been extremely happy, since it is like a second cloud of depression has lifted and I feel permanently relaxed and at ease. Here are reasons why I don't want to drink again:
- I feel free from my alcohol shackles. I am no longer spending my waking moments wondering when I can have a drink (an activity I hadn’t noticed I was doing previously but really recognize now). I am free to plan activities based on how much I enjoy them, not on whether there is a bar or if I need to drive.
- I never have to wake up on Boxing Day wondering what I missed from Christmas Day. I am exhilarated that I will get to experience the whole of a stag do without passing out early. I never have to experience another regret-filled hangover. I never have to disappoint my wife again.
- I can be a great role model for my son. I can be present and enjoy life with him. I no longer need to worry if my lifestyle is going to cause a serious illness. I no longer need to waste my time feeling drugged. I can just spend my time having fun.
- I can fill my life with fun, healthy challenges and experiences that are interesting and will be more interesting to talk about. I can read at bedtime so that I can discover more about other people’s worlds, either real or imagined. I love the train journey home from a night out after work, which is no longer dead time as I now can listen to new music or watch films, read, etc.
- I love that I am no longer pessimistic. My childhood optimism has returned. I feel ready to take my life forward, in any direction of my choosing. I know that my life will be definitely better now that I don’t have to waste energy drinking.
- I have reached Day 90, and I am 13 1/2 stone. I can run 10 km and have my training plan in place to run the marathon next April. The rest of the challenge feels like it will be easy. I am excited that I am now going to live a sober life.
FYI – my best mate is still off the booze and loves it as well.