Don’t make these mistakes when quitting alcohol…

Under the recommendation of my Doctor, I started to attend drinks counselling but in all honesty I was far too guarded to discuss any of the problems in my chaotic mind. I used to tell the counselor what I thought she wanted to hear, in an attempt to keep myself protected from the truth. I would to try and one up her intellectually and turn the session into a game. The aim of which was to get to the end of the session without actually talking about my drinking problems. Ultimately there was only one loser in this game. I was so ungrateful that this service had been offered at the time and naively assumed that just by attending and pretending, I would somehow magically be cured of all my problems.

I attended the sessions for twelve weeks and in that time stayed away from alcohol but became obsessive about exercise and food. I made no attempt to find the reasons why I drank as much as i did and did nothing to address the carnival constantly dancing through my mind. In the end I drank again. I should have told her how I felt. I should have told her about how I viewed myself as worthless, good for nothing and that alcohol was the only thing that brought light into my miserable existence. Maybe I thought she’d make me stop drinking for good if I told her the truth and I couldn’t lose the only enjoyable thing in my life… not for good anyway. I mean I’d play along for now but I wanted to prove my ex girlfriend had made a mistake.

So during the sessions I would talk about anything except my actual issues; the stars, exercise, food, loads of things but mostly I would talk about how good I felt. Which was partly true. This practice of aversion would come back to haunt me a few months later. I implore anyone in the same position to dig deep and be honest. Even after the twelve week counselling had finished I left with a sense of having cheated the system by not telling the truth. My dishonesty cost me in the long run when I eventually drank again four months after the counselling had finished.

One of the few things that did improve over the course of the twelve week counselling was my health. Not only due to stopping drinking and cutting out junk food but also down to my new obsession with exercise and healthy eating. It was quite clear that I had just swapped my obsession for drinking for an obsession with fitness. I was convinced that if I looked good then I would feel good. This was true for a short amount of time but eventually, once I got to a point that I thought I looked good then I got bored. With boredom comes drinking. Well it did for me. The voice of temptation constantly whispering into my ear. “You’re bored? Alcohol would make it more exciting.” “Just one.” It was never just one. I managed to fight the voice for seven months and in that time achieved so much:

Skydiving; What an experience skydiving is. The sensation of free falling offset by the serenity when the parachute combine to make a remarkable experience.

Passed my driving test and bought a car; At twenty nine years old I passed my driving test and bought a car. I had never needed a car before this point because I preferred getting the train everywhere so I could have a drink on the way.

Got a new job; Or should I say I started a career in a area that actually interested me.

Managed to pay of some debt; With the new job and not blasting my entire wages in the pub it seemed a lot easier to re-balance my finances and start to get on a more stable ground.

Started training for the El camino de santiago; A work college told me about a pilgrimage in Spain/France called the El Camino de Santiago which is a five hundred mile (769km) hike/walk from St Jean Pied De Port in southern france to Santiago de compestella in Galicia, North West Spain. I started looking into it and then I was convinced that is what I was going to do next.

Lost a lot of weight; When I was drinking I eat appallingly and paid the price as I was always ill. Either hungover or just feeling hungover. The swimming, yoga & meditation I started doing, combined with the change in diet made me feel great.

A guy I was now working with had brain surgery caused by a tumor that the Doctors were sure had formed do to stress. He was thirty-four years old and his life would now be completely different forever. It scared the shit out of me as I wasn’t much younger myself. I can remember thinking whats the point in not drinking? I might be dead soon! as he explained what he had gone through and how difficult it was to deal with. A week later I was watching a friends band on a nondescript Wednesday night. I’d had three cokes and thought if I keep drinking Coke then I won’t sleep and I’ve got work tomorrow. It seemed to make a lot of sense at the time that the only other option was to have a beer. I must admit that I was nervous when I ordered the bottle of beer but was convinced that it wouldn’t end up like last time. How could it? I was much wiser now. There was no alarm when I got the drink and there was no explosion of dopamine in my brain. I just sipped it and carried on watching the band. I finished the beer and ordered another. After that I went home. Easy I thought as I made my way home convinced I had it under control. I can’t recall leaving a pub after two drinks before I don’t know if that is because it had never happened or if it was just so long since it had happened but I know it never happened again. Once I started drinking I didn’t stop.

Two days after those first two drinks, I was back to drinking how I had done before. Recklessly. Almost as if my addiction had been dormant just waiting to seize control. Within weeks, People started to comment how I looked ill. They would also comment how I smelt of drink. I would make up some lie about a party the night before when really I had been home alone. Soon my financal situation would again become precarious as I was now drinking away my wages and I started borrowing money to feed my habit.

The dream of walking the El Camino de Santiago began to slip further away from reach. Every week of drinking made it more and more unachievable due to the damage to my body, my mental health now beginning to suffer as I shelved problems again and I could no longer afford the plane ticket to France. Within weeks, what had taken me months to achieve was destroyed.

Thanks for reading,

Charlie.

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