He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands, and then settle down.. .Baker Street Gerry Rafferty.
I’ve not used any alcohol since the start of the first lockdown.
I was sitting in the pub during the first week of ‘eat out to help out’. This visit was the usual ‘couple of pints with the boys night’ but a soda and lime for me.
Friend of mine asked. “When was the last time you didn’t drink for six months or more?”
After pausing for a while I answered “I was fourteen”.
That is how long my relationship with booze had been going on.
During that time my drinking had been out of control, completely off the scale and most of the time moderate.
This is my word for a bottle of red most nights and two bottles over Sunday lunch, plus the odd cider – and a packet of cigarettes.
In case you are wondering what outta control looked like – it was a bender on a Friday, starting at lunchtime and ending with me waking up on a train 100 miles from home at four the following morning.
In 2000 I had stopped smoking, but the booze was still a massive feature. Right up until 2009 when I started smoking again but only when drinking.
Of course my story was that I wanted to smoke not drink, it’s just that the pair of them was now a combined habit.
During the summer a quick fag in the garden meant necking a stubby beer – and then going back to the home office.
The annoying thing is I knew years ago that my drinking was not normal. I have chronic psoriasis and a liver biopsy from five years ago warned me that my fatty liver was not going to last forever.
But none of that was enough to push me over the edge towards a stop.
My drinking was a socially acceptable benefit to me. A sign of wealth (because poor people couldn’t afford to drink). I am a business owner and put on a bit of pedestal by others. Even looked upon as someone who knew stuff, who could be trusted, people like me didn’t have a drink problem – only I did, and the denial was just part of the same story we all have.
Lockdown – Boris Announces
I knew the looming lockdown was going to be the end of me. With no reason to stop, no need to hold back I would have been up to a bottle of vodka a day by the end of April and needing rehab by the summer.
So, that was it. Watched Boris deliver the news, and then nothing.
Not a drop, not a single cigarette.
I replaced the time spent with booze and fags. Writing everyday, walks in the park first thing in the morning, then meditation, that’s not easy but once you get in the groove it’s really helpful, with shutting up the negative sod in my head for a few minutes.
With a focus now on my sober inner game. I’ve released another book on Kindle, published someone else’s, spent time with my kids, read books I’d never had the time to take in before, had some early nights, slept for twelve hours straight – but not for the first month – I spent that waking up at 3am and drinking tea on my own.
I now know what the ‘muse’ really is. To be alone and just think has improved me no end.
An old boss of mine always said that sitting on your own with an open journal and a pencil will force you to think – those thoughts are what is really on your mind – once on every page will be something profound and it was there all of the time.
You just need to listen out for it, note it down, being a bottle of red in kind of numbs that out.
I’ve done 100 hours of learning on a number of subjects with the time I’ve freed up from being pissed most evenings.
I’ve stopped watching and digesting any mainstream news – it’s all so negative. I’ve wrapped an imaginary bubble around my head. Like one of those 1960’s Sci-Fi stories – a great big glass thing around my head, with just me and a carefully managed newsfeed.
The bubble gets slipped on every morning – I imagine the theme from Dangermouse playing in my head as the front of the dome shuts out the world. all of the crap I am surrounded by is deflected.
I now hear the negative comment and voices, through a bubble, and let them go. In very Buddhist ‘I can’t change that – nor will I try’ kinda way.
Sure it doesn’t work all of the time. But when it does it’s great.
My very own force field.
…He’s the ace, he’s amazing. He’s the strongest he’s the quickest he’s the best is how it sounds.
I can also confirm that a managed Twitter feed is just the best thing – I now get excited to see tweets from people I want to hear from, people I like, bands I follow. Full of stuff I care about, full of stuff I want to know – topping up my 100 hours on subjects as varied as writing, micro biology and meditation. And when I’m bored with them I now have the time for other stuff.
I have found time to get excited, time to learn stuff, time to be amazed, to be pissed off. Come on life ain’t all roses.
I’ve picked up broken things on marketplaces, repaired and sold them, all of these have helped me change the habit of sinking back into a bottle of Malbec and a packet of cigarettes. Sure, I wanted a drink but instead I’ve been bloody busy doing what I want.
For me, I kind of understood I had a drink problem. I just couldn’t really be honest with myself.
I knew that if I stopped drinking I’d need to do something else, habits can’t be broken they can only be replaced – we are just not wired like that. And I did find it fairly simple to replace my drinking with loads of other good stuff – warning here.
Simple ain’t easy – but it’s doable.
This helped me, when thinking about booze and diet, self talk.
Ask if you would feed booze to your children or your dog, your cat, your horse?
What about the inner voice of yours.
Would you talk to your children the way you talk to yourself? The answer is no – it’s bad for them you’d exclaim. But for you? Well it’s only you… and that is how it starts.
We all hope it will get better, only it doesn’t, being pissed just defers dealing with the crap that is there – we have to change the crap.
Stop feeding ourselves with crap.
I now sleep for a solid eight hours.
I can get in the car walk around towns I’ve never visited before – knowing full well that I don’t have to go into a pub and I’ll be sober enough to drive.
I can leave the house without a wallet or a cigarette lighter, I am finding that I like some things I’d never ever dream of looking at in my usual (old) world. I’ve had conversations with my kids that I could never have had half-pissed. I spoon in bed with my wife and have quiet conversations in the middle of the night.
A snoring drunk, coming to bed smelling of booze and fags is not something any of us really want next to us in bed, conversation is something made quite hard when one party is pissed.
I’ve connected with others and reconnected with me. I have found something new, something I always suspected was around – but never noticed it because I’d hoped it would be found in the next bottle of red, that next brandy and coke and instead it was inside me all along just waiting to be found.
You’ll read this and other articles and think it was easy for them, easy for me, and it’s not.
But the evidence is, others have found a way and so will you.
The initial days of no booze pass quite quickly – and once you get through that, you’ll see the joy and find the meaning. So put that helmet on, manage that inner dialogue and find the joy that is really there.
Stay strong and stay safe. Remember, that feeling of being sober, the one you always notice when you are not drinking is like a crying baby intolerable whilst it’s in the middle of making its demands but…
Eventually it sleeps and your day can begin. How many days it will take remains unknown. For me it was over a month – but when it arrived, it was like a light going on. Sober is more than just being healthy, it will change how much you have in the bank, it will change your headspace/headgame, some people won’t be with you at the end of it.
Your new world will arrive.
It’s gonna be epic, and your newly found time – you can go do epic stuff that you choose.
Be lucky eh!