Alcohol adverts constantly show an idealised version of reality to tempt us into the fantasy of alcohol. Young beautiful people frolic joyfully around in exotic locations. All smiles and laughter. It heightens the temptation. But it wasn’t like that for me. There was laughter but it was often followed by tears. There was frolicking but it was often followed by shame. There was a young beauty, to begin with, but it was slowly washed out like an old T-shirt. Once vibrant with colour now vaguely recognisable. The pursuit of the ideal took its toll and it took years to realise it wasn’t working out.
Thankfully, those lessons taught me well. I mean you don’t learn to fight without getting hurt. I got hurt often while drinking. It prepared me for the fight of quitting. The strength of continuing the chasing of euphoric oblivion was enough to keep me going in the early days of quitting drinking. Like many, I learned a few lessons along the way. If someone asked me why they should stop drinking here is what I would say…
1. Realising your potential
It wasn’t until alcohol had been removed from my vision that I was able to see other potentials. I lived transfixed on alcohol like a dog chasing a stick. I had my eyes on the prize and nothing else really mattered. Once it had been removed I felt lost. But eventually began to see the available possibilities. It was as if I had found another part of me that had been lying dormant. Suppressed by alcohol. Yet waiting to be explored. Each goal I set and achieved gave more self-belief. The more I believed the further I could push forward. Beyond doubt and into destiny. It awaits us all.
Like a prisoner I only frequented a few places during my drinking days; work, pub/off license and a bed. I would bumble through this life inside a goldfish bowl yearning for exploration. My soul screamed out for travel. My alcohol addiction took my freedom away. I was shackled to a life I hated by alcohol. Trapped by my habit. Seeking escape in alcohol. Yet I only got more and more stuck.
Since quitting alcohol I have travelled to; Thailand, Cambodia, USA x2, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Egypt, Sudan, India x 2, Nepal, Jordan, Turkey, Italy, Sri Lanka, Germany and Peru. I walked two El Camino de Santiago and done various trips in my home country. I have explored the world and myself in ways I wouldn’t have the courage to do. Thank you sobriety.
Obviously, travel wouldn’t be possible without money. Thankfully quitting drinking gave me financial stability. Which was a welcome change from the shitshow my finances used to be in. I used to stand at the ATM with my fingers crossed, hoping the money would come out. If not it would be time to use the credit card. The debt was wracking up. It got to the point that I couldn’t check my balance because it would ruin my week.
Quitting drinking just took the pressure off. It allowed enough clarity to take a look at my life. It forced me to take action. Freedom from alcohol forced me to be responsible for my life. With that responsibility, it was time to act in my best interests. Instead of against them. Slowly, the debt disappeared. Money stopped being an issue.
4. Weight loss
I used to be a big unit. I was a lump of a man. I blamed the food I consumed after drinking. “It is because of the pizzas and kebabs at 2am,” I would protest. It never crossed my mind that the 3000 calories I had drunk before the food might have had an impact. Or the fact that I wouldn’t be eating at 2am if I hadn’t have been drinking.
The weight fell off after I quit. Mostly down to the walking I started doing but also because I wanted to be nice to my body for a change. I wanted to feel good for a change. Instead of feeling like shit like I normally did.
The weight loss coupled with the exercise began to increase my general wellbeing. After years of lumbering through life, I began to feel spritely. My energy levels began to increase. My outlook began to change. I felt positive. Even confident. I took pride in myself instead of looking like I’d slept in a bush outside work. I stopped having a lot of the general aches and pains that I would have. Which improved my mental health a lot because I no longer catastrophised those ailments. People began to notice. I received compliments instead of remarks. It really like was becoming a different person. Ironic really. I drank alcohol to be someone else. It was quitting drinking that made me into a person I enjoyed being.
A result of all these were moments of peace. Fleeting feelings of Satori that would tantalise and tease with the promise of peace that I had searched for in alcohol. But no matter how fleeting the feeling was it was a reminder that peace was available without having to be deadened to life. The quest for a peaceful mind became easier without alcohol. It wasn’t perfect and I sometimes made mistakes. Dealing with things was a damn sight easier than delaying and multiplying the pain. With a clear mind came self-awareness and understanding. Together they made life easier to navigate. The end of rumination allowed for decisiveness and also to correct mistakes were possible. All added to a simple life. By addressing things promptly it removed the agonising that I used to hold on to as an excuse to drink. Hours would be wasted stewing over some minor discretion I had adopted as the catalyst for the evenings drinking. Quitting drinking stopped so many molehills growing into mountains.
7. No more hangovers
Most of my weekends followed a similar narrative. Wake up at an unknown time, feeling like I had been involved in a serious accident. Try to get up. Go back to sleep until getting up was possible or necessary. Eventually, get up. Muster enough energy to walk to the shop. Buy snacks. Return home. Consume snacks until a level of energy had been achieved to walk to the pub. Sometimes if still drunk when I woke up I would go straight to the pub and start drinking before the hangover kicked in.
As a progressive addiction, alcohol and hangovers began to creep into my working week. No longer laying on the sofa eating snacks, I would be sweating lager while teaching a class. Often wondering how people got through life so easily. They seemed to breeze through elegantly. I would crash through haphazardly. It wasn’t until I quit drinking that I realized that living life without a hangover is a lot easier. In fact, I was tempted to drink just to make the following day a little more challenging. But eventually, I concluded that boring was better than devastation. As a result of no longer being hungover, people actually started talking to me. They might have done before. I never noticed it. But a result of being present meant I made connections with people. I even had a laugh at work for a change. Instead of seeing it as something that I had to survive to pay for alcohol.
Quitting drinking seems like the obvious choice really doesn’t it?