Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference

The funny thing about this whole escapade is that I did not consider myself to have a drink problem, when I was part of the ‘drinking tribe’ – probably one of the biggest tribes in the whole world with approximately 3 billion members. Everyone I knew drank. It was the normal thing to do. Friends, work colleagues, relatives, girlfriends, teachers, lecturers, even priests, I could go on.

What kind of drinker was I?

At the age of 54, I had been drinking for the best part of 36 years. Starting ‘properly’ at age 18, drinking became a regular activity when I left home and went to University in London. I had drunk alcohol before this, primarily at 18th birthday parties, which were almost every other week in the last year of school, but it was not a regular thing. Drinking regularly, almost daily, became the norm at University and continued on into my working career, which was pretty much what everybody did in the marketing, PR and advertising world.

Abstinence in the 36 years between 1984 and 2020 was pretty shameful on reflection. The longest I went without drinking over the whole period was six days! Not even a week. I think I did five days maybe three times and a handful of three day stretches. Each year I would also on average do 10 separate days without alcohol. So all in all maybe 400 days of non-drinking in 36 years. So in 13,140 days I didn’t drink for 400 days or 3% of the time, which works out at roughly a day per month of not drinking and most of those were probably because I was hung over from the day before when I had drunk more than I should have done.

Towards the end of 2020

Nigel at 100 daysMy drinking habit was still under what I would call ‘control’. I ran and still run a successful company, I have a lovely family with three grown up children and a lovely wife. But I was overweight, short of breath, anxious, short tempered, doing very little exercise. These were all the symptoms of too much alcohol consumption and an unhealthy lifestyle. I did do some exercise but not enough to make an impact on my weight and mental well-being – I went cycling and played golf, always spending time at the 19th hole.

Being in my 50s my body was not what it used to be. Even two drinks the night before would lead to a hangover. I never really looked at it as a problem until well in to my late 40s, when my body started to tell me that it just could not cope as it used to with the mental and physical affects. I was drinking on average at least a bottle of wine per day. Maybe one and a half bottles on some days. On the weekend this would normally become two bottles per day. So let’s say the equivalent of around 10 bottles a week, every week. And at Christmas time this would, without of doubt, be more.

10 bottles of 700ml wine at 12.5% ABV is the equivalent of 875 ml of neat alcohol a week or 45.5 litres of neat alcohol a year. I did not realise this at the time. But why the hell was I doing that to myself. Drinking 45.5 litres of neat poison each year. This cycle of behaviour was starting to wear me down, I knew I had to do something but I really did not know how to break free. Something had to change and thank God it did.

The trigger to stop

On Monday 7th December 2020 I had my final drink. I did not know it was my final one at the time, but lying in bed the next morning, Tuesday 8th December 2020 (08/12/2020), I signed up to the OYNB 28-Day Challenge. OYNB also had 90 Day and 365 Day Challenges. But on that Tuesday morning 28 Days was the one I committed to. I was going to do it. This was particularly good timing on reflection because December is traditionally a month of drinking and Christmas celebrations including Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. If I could go alcohol free (AF) then, I could go AF anytime.

How did I discover OYNB?

I think it discovered me through online marketing. I regularly received emails about the Challenges. To be honest I ignored them all. But because they were persistent, I knew they were there and I knew that if I decided to stop drinking I would probably more than likely give them a go for support in the early days – that was my thought process. The thought of going to the GP had crossed my mind. But hand on heart I was embarrassed to admit I had a problem to anyone I knew and I certainly did not want to go to AA, one because I did not consider myself to be an alcoholic and two the scenario of sitting around in a circle and telling people I don’t know “ Hi, I am Nigel and I am an alcoholic” sort of did not appeal to me! I know very little about AA and I am sure they do great work, but that was just my perception at the time.

But what was the trigger? There were hundreds of reasons why I needed to stop but the one that pushed me over the edge was my 18 year-old son. He was a major influence and catalyst for me. At the time he was in his first year at University. He does not drink, he works out, he is very together. I’d picked him up from University and was driving him back to Kent for the Christmas break. We had 4 – 5 hours in the car together and I listened to what he had been up to in his first term away from home. I looked at him and thought WOW I want to be like that again. A learners mind. Learning new things. New philosophies. Going on new adventures. I don’t want something like alcohol to have control over me anymore. That was it. I was off on my journey, my adventure, my new life.

My experience taking the OYNB Challenge

At the very start the plan was to complete the 28-Day Challenge. 90-Days was too long given my pedigree in this field to date and 365-Days, don’t even go there. The first week was the easiest and the hardest at times. The easiest because I’d made this major decision that it was going to happen at all costs. I’d told myself I was going to enjoy the journey in creating a new me. It was almost an inverse Frankenstein story. I was going to turn the monster into the new alcohol free guy, which I was really looking forward to.

The fear of failure, for me this was probably the one main reason why I had never been successful in getting past Day 6 in 36 years of drinking. Can you imagine that. In 36 years I had not stopped drinking for at least a week – not once. Looking back on this now it seems shameful. But I am sure I am not alone and I am sure I was not the first and certainly not the last. But why was it that I decided to stay in this mess. I would consider myself an intelligent person, I have a degree from a leading University, I run my own business, I am financially and socially together I was pretty much in control of most of the things in my life. Except alcohol.

I had lots of unsuccessful Day 1s, towards the end of my life as a drinker everyday was like a Day 1 in that I was constantly thinking about stopping but never could. Simply because I did not know how to. Serious Day 1s where I really wanted to not drink that day were normally induced by extremely bad hangovers, i.e. I felt so ill I did not want to drink, not even the hair of the dog that bit me. I did not set out on the 28-Day Challenge with a goal of never drinking again in mind. It was ‘try and give it up for month and cleanse myself and make myself feel better.

This time was different

Nigel at 200 daysIn previous attempts to stop drinking I was doomed to failure because I was approaching it completely the wrong way. I had no end goal, no objective, other than to stop for a while 1,2, 3 days maybe a week. Secondly, I was using the will power method – that does not work. Eddison failed over a thousand times before he invented the lightbulb. Failure is good for you because it makes you stronger for the time when you succeed. So when I look back, I truly believe that my journey was meant to be this way. The reason why I am successful now is because I finally realised after all the failures how to do it and OYNB was the catalyst in helping me find that pathway.

By Day 3 of the 28 Day Challenge I felt like a new person. I felt awake, I had a clearer mind, I was sharper, fresh taste in the mouth, more alert, everything felt better. Basically I was feeling normal, but it felt like I had super human powers. However, the only problem with Day 3 was that it felt a long way away from Day 1. Two days without any form of hangover at all was making me feel saintly, almost Olympian (who was I kidding). When you feel this way the voice creeps back into your head, the voice of your ego, telling you that you deserve a drink for being so good, it’s not going to hurt you and you have done so well – time to reward yourself again.

The cravings in previous attempts were just too much for me and I would cave (crave) in. But this time the thought of letting my son and my family down – my whys, my objectives – kept me going. I’d also learnt how to deal with cravings. I simply looked at them as waves on a beach. They start, they roll, they crash. In the early days there were lots of them. But as time went by, they got fewer and fewer. One thing is certain they all crash and will pass. Having this mindset was critical.

The road to 90 days

I had some pretty big milestones to capture in my 28 Day Challenge – these included alcohol free Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. I knew if I could conquer these, I could conquer any day. By New Year’s Day 2021 I was on Day 25 – I’d broken the back of the 28 Day Challenge. I was thoroughly enjoying my new AF life and so I committed to the 90 Day Challenge.

Here are a few of the things I did that helped me make it through the first 90 Days.

Change your story

Give yourself a new label and use the power of self-fulfilling prophecy. “I Do Not Drink Alcohol. I Stopped Drinking” is my new label. Make sure you use the correct language when you label yourself. From Day 1 I “Stopped” I did not “Give Up” – Don’t Give Up. Stop. This is critical as giving up infers something good is ended/lost – this something is then more than likely to be missed. “Giving Up” basically creates an uphill struggle. With “Stopping” I had already reached my destination of alcohol free – it was not somewhere I was going to; I was already there and I was determined to enjoy this new journey I had chosen.

This new journey really was an exciting new chapter in my life, I was enjoying it – it was akin to other big things I had done like going to University and emigrating to Singapore from the UK in my late 20s.

Keep a journal

I’d written several diaries as a child, as well as many family holiday diaries when the children were growing up. A journal is a great way of keeping a record of my experiences and all the great new things I am learning and being exposed to, so I can go back to them for reference. Nothing will be lost.

Healthier lifestyle

From the moment you wake up on Day 2 with no headache or remnants of the day before drinks, I felt great – like a million dollars. What was exciting was I knew it was going to get even better and as the days went on, I was proved right. By Day 100, I had not had so much energy since I was in my twenties! The whole thing is a positive cycle. Having more energy makes you want to do healthier things and so on. I set myself a goal of jogging 1 KM each day. I’d never jogged before. The first day was more of a 200 metre jog mixed in with 800 metres of walk. I timed myself and 100 days in I could jog the whole 1 KM and have halved my time. Mo Farah need not worry, but I am planning on doing a 5 KM – 10 KM run in 2022.

I did not go on a specific diet, I still ate pizza etc. But I started making small changes. I heard about a guy called Anthony William and started drinking the juice of a whole lemon in a half pint of water each morning for breakfast with a super smoothie made up of bananas, oranges, blueberries, celery, coriander and spirulina. I started eating a more plant based diet and I lost a few pounds, but this would be my next focus for Days 100 – 200.

Quit Lit, Self Help & Philosophy

There are endless books out there. These really help you re-condition your mind of the bullshit that “alcohol is good for you”. They all help you to see it for what it really is – poison. The ones that worked for me, and I would whole heartedly recommend as bed time reads now, I had more time, are: Victor Frankl “Man’s Search For Meaning”; Annie Grace “Naked Mind”; Tony Robbins “Awaken The Giant Within”; and my favourite Craig Beck “Alcohol Lied To Me”.

Here’s a list of the quotes that helped me:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're probably right.”

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

“Happiness is not a destination. It’s a cultivation” 

“Would you run your computer on 25 year old software?” “

“For things to change. You have to change.”


In the first 100 days I started learning lots of new things and building hobbies I already had. I started to learn the Piano. I am also taking a lead guitar course building on my rhythm playing and try to learn 3 or 4 new songs a week. I am writing and researching our family history on my mother’s side of the family, as a cousin had completed my father’s side a few years back. And I am also working hard on my photography, experimenting with many new techniques.

Mindfulness & gratitude

This is critical. Learning how to free your mind through meditation is such an amazing tool and so simple. By learning how to be more present in my mind I am less likely to get caught up in stories in my head or fall into reactive patterns of behaviour like arguing and making poor choices.

The biggest thing I learnt from mindfulness is how to build the ‘window of reaction’ that is the time between stimulus and your reaction to a stimulus. For example, the stimulus could be “It’s a sunny evening and I fancy a glass of wine”. One reaction might be to go ahead and have one, another, and the best course, would be not to and go and learn a new song on the guitar instead.

If you can control the reaction to a stimulus, you are pretty much in control of your destiny.

Alcohol-free drinks

Stopping drinking means you have lots of nice glasses and decanters, which could go to waste. However, the AF drinks market has recently exploded and the choice out there is unbelievable. So if you feel like a drink then have an AF one in a very fancy glass. My go to AF beverages are: Beer – Leffe 0.0% and San Miguel Zero served in respective branded glasses; Wine – Eisberg, Merlot; Cocktail – Martini Zero with Fever Tree and Virgin Mary with extra Worcester Sauce and Chilli.

Create a compelling future

Tell yourself who you are, reinforce your story through incantations. “I am…”. In 1960, Kennedy told the American people the USA will go to the moon by the end of that decade. That was a compelling future. And they did it.

Family & friends

Sharing the journey with others has helped immensely. Just the mere fact of being able to tell someone else what you are doing and them saying they are proud of you is the most valuable thing of all. Oh, one other thing. I’d saved the best part of £1,500in the first 90 days and £4,500 to date, which I would have spent on poison!

The biggest lessons

Learnings have been immense. Stopping drinking completely changed my life. I soon realised that “Addiction is giving up everything for one thing, recovery or living an alcohol free life is giving up one thing for everything”. I decided to sign up for the 365 Day Challenge at around Day 75. I knew I had to do this. I was definitely going to crack 90, so 365 was like a rock star life challenge calling me. How good would I feel at 365 days if I felt this good at 90.


Probably the biggest thing that holds it all together for me is the lifestyle or pathway I created for myself – 9KM BY 9AM. Every day – yes every day – I walk 9KM before 9 O’clock in the morning. I started this around Day 130. “9KM BY 9AM is a metaphor. It's about doing something challenging early in the day. For me that is walking 9KM. For others it could be walking 1KM, running 3KM, cycling 15KM, writing a song, reading a book, painting a landscape – everyone is different…

9KM BY 9AM is a fly on the wall view into my journey, but I also want to encourage others to take their own AF journey. Everyone's journey will be different and special to them.

If there is just one thing from this that helps others in their journey then 9KM BY 9AM will be a success.

 You can watch this journey so far on my YouTube.

The Story So Far…

I started the walks on 26th May 2021 and in the first 90 DAYS I walked over 900KM or 560 miles, and all before breakfast! There were only 4 days of the first 90 when I did not walk and this was because I had surgery on my hands and was in pain. But I made the KMs up on other days! Everyone I meet asks how do I keep doing this day in day out? The answer is simple, I stopped drinking alcohol. Thank you OYNB!

This one decision has led to a fundamental change in the quality of my life. I am happier than I have ever been, I have little or no anxiety, I am grateful for what I have, I live my life in the NOW, I feel like I did in my twenties (30 years ago), the list is endless.

Exercising my mind

I try to meditate at least once a day just for 5-10 minutes and this has had a massive effect, I do this on my daily walks. As lots of self-help gurus say “The only way to truly change is to change your mindset. Change the way you think about yourself.” Exercising your mind is achieved through daily meditation. Train yourself to clear your mind of past or future thoughts and just think of what is now. This helps you think before you react.

Einstein said: “You can't solve a problem from the same state of mind that created it”. Change your mind, change your story, change your life.


I try as much as possible to focus on what ‘I have’ not what ‘I don’t have’ and perform at least one act of kindness a day. One of the tips on OYNB was to write a letter to someone special, telling them how much you are grateful for what they have done for you. Once you have written it sit down next to them and read it out to them. I did this with my mother. I can tell you it was one of the most emotional experiences of my life.

Recognise the great things you already have in your life. I write down daily three things I am grateful for. This soon adds up. The more you think this way the happier you become.

STOIC Philosophy

I listen daily to The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. One of the main stoic sayings is “MOMENTO MORI” (Remember that you die). This is not morbid; in fact it is 100% positive. Our time on this planet is precious, so if you want to achieve that goal of getting healthier, starting a business, going alcohol free, or whatever it is that drives you, then don't put it off, DO IT NOW.


US philosopher Henry David Thoreau said “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” The posh word for this is neuroplasticity.

Buddhist Ideas

I have been reading about Buddhism and I love this quote.

“Under the floor of some poor man's house lies a treasure. But because he does not know of its existence, he does not think he is rich. Inside another man's mind lies the truth itself, firm and unfading. But because he does not see it, he experiences a constant stream of misery. The treasure of truth resides within the house of the mind. You’ve just got to know where to look.”

AF is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll…

The OYNB Support

For me the OYNB is a catalyst for change. Being a member of the OYNB group or tribe helps you see the way forward. Everyone’s journey is different. OYNB does not give you the answer, you have to find that yourself, but it does give you a framework to use to find the answer to alcohol free living. It helped me find the way.

What's next?

I plan never to drink again. Why would I want to go back to hangovers, anxiety, sleepless nights, wasting the valuable time we have on this earth. I am currently writing a book on my journey to alcohol-free living “How To Get On & Stay On The Wagon – Discover the secret of how to live an alcohol-free life”. To be published in 2022. Watch this space!

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