Why did you quit drinking?
To be honest the choice didn’t feel like a choice. I was in such pain with an enlarged liver that I didn’t want to go through it again. The doctor said it was caused by drinking. So take away the cause and the effect such follow.
Was that the only reason? A health issue?
I was scared of the future implications. One of the times my anxiety has been of benefit. I saw a future of dialysis. Of missed opportunities. Of unfulfilled dreams. Of pain. And disappointment. I didn’t want to be the architect of that future. Spewing bile at a world when I was the one to blame. But it wasn’t just my health that was failing. I was miserable. I was financially broken. I was a mess. I was lost. Quitting drinking saved my life.
Was it easy?
Of course not. I imagine it’s like losing a lifelong partner. A close frieend or confidante. It’s always there promising help and support. To live without it takes strength. But most of us have the strength to do so. We just fear the repercussions of doing the unexpected.
So it was worth it?
I’ve written thousands of words on my appreciation for giving up alcohol. It was the turning point in my life. It liberated me from a cycle of destruction. It gave me the breathing space to put my life back together and find a path of spirituality and peace. I’ve been the healthiest I’ve ever been since quitting drinking.
What did you do to stay sober?
In the beginning, I just hung on. It’s like a storm. It will blow over but it is frightening at the time. The storm was the tail end of the previous life drifting away. The people associated with that life stopped calling when I stopped drinking. The chaos associated with it slowly died down. I missed the chaos initially. I feared becoming bored and lonely. But slowly time filled up with the things I enjoyed doing. I rediscovered my affinity with nature. My passion for travel and knowledge. It was almost like alcohol had been suppressing my true self. Keeping me suppressed and depressed. Life without alcohol got easier until became the norm. People started congratulating me. It was crazy. I was expecting to be an outcast but I made some great friends. It was nothing like I feared it would be.
How long did it take to recover?
I will never drink again. The mechanism for addiction is still there. Lying dormant. I have it with other foods as well, mostly sugar. Like over Christmas I allowed myself to indulge in chocolate. Big mistake. Seemed like a good idea but then felt hideous for weeks. I can’t allow that to happen with alcohol. The implications are not worth the risk of the occasional drink.
So do you have cravings?
Not anymore. But I did for a long time. A couple of years. The initial physical need lasted a few months. But the stock response of reaching for a drink during hardship lasted a couple of years. If there was a particularly stressful event then it would be like that demon on my shoulder whispering “Have a drink! You know it will take it away!” Which is true but only until tomorrow. Now, alcohol is just like any other drug I don’t indulge in.
How long did it take to put your life back on course?
Years. A bit at a time. Quitting drinking was like waking up and realising I was tied to a heavy boulder. I was restricted by the implications of my decisions; debt, health issues and mental health problems. I didn’t do anything for the first few months. I didn’t try to change anything until I felt I could. I just focused on not drinking. Or tried not to focus on alcohol more like. After a few months, the urge subsided. I started walking and eating better. I put my big boy pants on and looked at my financial situation. Or lack thereof. I refinanced some of the ridiculous credit card charges I had been paying. It was a slow walk back from chaos. Eventually, I started feeling moments of peace. I started looking forward to things that didn’t involve drinking. I started losing weight and saving money. I started to feel free. It was a better feeling than alcohol ever gave me.
Did you do it alone?
I’m not sure I could have. I have been blessed to have supportive friends and family. They listened and encouraged. They motivated me to follow my dreams and stick to the path. I attended AA in the early days but couldn’t get on with it. I have been back since and made some good friends through AA. But the issue lays with me not them. The thing with groups is that to be accepted into the group, an individual has to adopt the beliefs of the group. I don’t believe everything they say. And find the religious aspect tiring. I do believe in something greater than myself. But I don’t believe that it got me sober. My friends and I did that.
So what do you do to maintain a balanced life?
I must have been a dog in a previous life. If I can get out for a walk and have something to eat I am quite content. Sounds boring. Years ago I would have called it boring. If drinking me met me know he would have hated me. I am everything now that I wanted then; calm, confident and content. In the old days, I was still looking for the thing. The next thing that was going to solve all my problems. I was convinced that it was out there… somewhere. I just had to keep looking and I would find it. I never did. And I looked all over. Quitting drinking forced me into a life more congruent with my inner desires. Not the things I thought I should be doing as the person I thought I should be. But the things that resonated with my genuine wants and needs. At the core, I am a very simple man. If I can have food and shelter I am happy. If I can talk to friends I am happy. If I can enjoy the countryside or the beach I am happy. For a long time, I thought that wasn’t okay. That I shouldn’t be that man.The whole pursuit of material perfection dissipated into the illusion it is. I do maintain a spiritual practice. I meditate, far too intermittently. I think far too much. But the level of contentment I have now started when I had to quit drinking. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that choice. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I’d chosen to carry on drinking.
When did you quit?
On the first of June 2014.