On 20 August 2010, I poured myself a large whisky and declared it would be my last alcoholic drink.
My reason for stopping was simple: I had a happy life, and I no longer felt the need for alcohol. But four years later, my wife (and soulmate) Charlotte died of cancer, and my world turned upside down. For the first few months, I stayed alcohol-free by throwing myself into my work, and I also used meditating and journaling to deal with the raw grief I was feeling at this time. But on the flight home after a successful assignment in Hong Kong just before Christmas 2014, I broke the pledge with a bottle of wine. Throughout 2015, I continued drinking socially and my intake gradually increased—not by much, but enough to affect my mood and cause me to gain weight.
In the autumn of 2019 when I was 68 years old, I reviewed my health and focused on what my life would look like going into old age. By this time, I was drinking more than was good for me, and my weight had ballooned to over 18st [252lb/114.3kg].
This was not a path I wanted to continue on
It was very apparent from my research that I was headed for metabolic-related diseases associated with carrying excessive weight around my stomach. In simple terms, metabolic syndrome affects how our cells work, and this impacts inflammation levels in our body and brain. This can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular failure, cancer, and dementia. This wasn’t a path I wanted to continue on if I was going to live a long and healthy life!
I researched the impact that carbohydrates—including alcohol—have on metabolic syndrome. I decided that I needed a holistic approach to how I was going to manage my health before I reached my 70th year. The situation was different from when I had stopped drinking back in 2010—now I was on my own without my soulmate to support me. So I started researching community-based services focused on living an alcohol-free life, and OYNB stood out by far as the approach that best suited my needs. On 1 January 2020, I signed up for the 365-day challenge.
Wonderful people in the OYNB community
I worked through the support provided in the first few weeks in great detail. I created a vision for my health, which included being able to walk over mountains in my eighties. I decided if I was going to do this, I’d better start preparing now. I set myself the target of walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG), starting in May 2021.
I announced my plan to the wonderful people in the OYNB Facebook community, and got over 600 replies in support. Not one person said I was mad to attempt this at my age!
Now that I’d gone public, I was committed to sharing my goal within the OYNB community. This is a great facet of OYNB—building on the initial preparation phase for an alcohol-free life, through the fantastic support from fellow members who are all at different stages. It’s generated not just by posting on Facebook, but also by replying to others who are undertaking the same journey. I can’t emphasise enough how important this dual process is. It complements the reading list and daily videos, which is part of the excellent overall OYNB support package.
Much more energy
I felt the benefits immediately from no longer drinking alcohol. My positivity in general increased, I slept better (after three months of vivid dreams, which I believe is part of the sobriety experience), and I had much more energy. To check my fitness levels ahead of LEJOG, in August 2020 I took a 214-mile walk across the hills of southern Scotland. Apart from a twice weekly game of golf, this was my only physical preparation—I saw LEJOG as primarily a mental challenge.
My vision for life has changed
Apart from two minor blips, I completed my 365-day challenge by 1 January 2021. I chose to remain alcohol-free for a few more months until I’d finished LEJOG, as it was essential for weight loss and my general fitness. I was now focused on getting my weight down and deepening my mental preparation. That February, I increased my meditation and journaling practise, concentrating on the emotional challenges associated with undertaking a 1200-mile walk on my own—such as self-doubt, loneliness, and fear of heights. The bridge between meditation and diet was a fasting regime, and it reinforced the mental self-discipline OYNB had already given me. It also played a major part in losing weight and lowering the inflammation associated with metabolic syndrome.
As planned, I started the walk on 16 May 2021, 3st lighter (42lbs/19kg). It took me 11 weeks to complete all 1200 miles. I camped wild about two-thirds of the time, and enjoyed every minute. I finished walking on 1 August and then celebrated my 70th birthday 19 days later. It was the most fulfilling adventure I’ve had in my life.
On my return, I experimented with drinking in moderation, but just found it too difficult to sustain. On 1 January of this year, I went back to my life of sobriety, with one low-carb meal daily along with meditation practise. My vision for life has changed—it’s now been updated to walking over mountains in my nineties!
More adventures to come
The OYNB community was with me during a difficult period in my life. Through sharing and compassion, they helped me on my path to sobriety and motivated me to carry on seeking out more adventures in the future. OYNB works on the basis of positive psychology, which helps you see what you can become once you’re alcohol-free, and the opportunities that are there for you as your new life emerges.
OYNB gives you the capacity to take charge of your own destiny. If you feel alcohol is getting in the way, I suggest you give OYNB a go. You have nothing to lose but a hangover!