Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stop drinking?
Ever thought about how much drinking forms an integral part of our lives?
Have you witnessed at first hand the devastating impact of your drinking on family and loved ones?
Or experienced the effects of someone else’s drinking?
These are questions most of us have pondered at one time or another, as we try desperately to “fix” our addictions and give strength to our recoveries.
Have you sought out help online only to come away more confused than before?
Well, let me introduce you to Stephen. Like us, he has done all of this. And more. In our chat, Stephen talks openly about the impact of alcohol in his life. No prizes for guessing that he ultimately concluded his life would be better without it.
Stephen goes on to touch on a subject less-frequently discussed than most – why don’t men talk about their drinking? What is it about men that establishes alcohol as so very central to their lives?
I’m proud of the representation R3C0VRY.WRX gives everyone who wishes to contribute to our platform – and I was struck by Stephen’s thoughts on this subject, so, with his permission, we’re publishing these thoughts today.
It may only be a starter for ten – but let’s see where this goes. Enjoy…
Stephen, thank you. Seriously.
Stephen, hi… let’s start with finding out a little bit about you…
I am 43 years old. I am a teacher, partner and father. I am a musician and most of my free time is spent obsessing over music and guitars, bass guitars in particular!
What brought you here? I mean, you must have some kind of “drinking/ drugging/ addiction story”… care to elaborate?
I have a relationship with alcohol that is much like many others who are in the grey area of drinking. I wouldn’t ever describe myself as being an alcoholic but my drinking was problematic because I used alcohol to help with mental pain and anguish. My father was an alcoholic, I found this difficult to deal with, especially in my 20’s, that is when my drinking went into overdrive. Then he was murdered in 2004. This further embedded alcohol misuse into my weekly life.
What was your drinking like at the point you decided to quit?
I drank 4 or 5 times a week, I drank to get drunk and exist in an alcohol-induced cocoon. A bottle of wine a night at least and if I could get away with it I would drink even more.
… and the final straw, for you, was what, exactly?
I got treatment for the deeper issues but the alcohol habit remained. I think I just grew tired of feeling ill all of the time. I hated myself and what I had done to my health. Alcohol was ruining everything in my life – work, relationships, self-esteem mostly. There was no dramatic final straw. I was in London on my own, I stayed in a hotel and drank heavily all day, I hated every second of it. I saw a future where I could quite easily turn into my dad, I was terrified of putting my own 2 boys through that. The next morning I woke up and thought ‘no more’. I haven’t touched a drop since. That was 8 months ago.
Do you see yourself as being in recovery… If so, how? What do these words mean to you? If not… how so?
I’m not in recovery. What I am doing it trying to build a new set of habits and routines. The habit has been harder than the alcohol to break free from.
So, you stopped and changed your lifestyle (congratulations!)… how did you do that? How did you manage after you stopped? What did you do to motivate and maintain your abstinence? Any hints or tips, sources of inspiration for people seeking to do the same?
It has changed my life because I am no longer a slave to alcohol. I am not living with the consequences of drinking. The usual benefits such as the increase in energy, productivity, better sleep and improved relationships are great. The best thing is that I am finally seeing what kind of a person I am. It turns out that I am actually a good bloke! I want to get out of the profession I am in and start my own business.
On the morning I decided that enough was enough I had this strange sense of elation
My abstinence has been successful because I don’t feel like I am putting myself through something terrible. When I have tried to stop in the past I really struggled because I wasn’t ready, I hated every alcohol-free evening and I wasn’t even happy that I never got hangovers. On the morning I decided that enough was enough I had this strange sense of elation, as if I had freed myself from something that was holding me back and harming me. I got excited about what I was about to do, I saw a fresh path opening up. I was resolute from that morning that this time was different, I was right.
It was a shift in mindset that allowed me to make the change – I wasn’t removing alcohol, I was adding hope.
Not drinking alcohol can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did others around you deal with it?
It can be awkward. Some people really feel uncomfortable being around me when they have a drink in their hand. They feel the need to talk about their own intake. The thing is, I don’t care. They can drink all they like and it doesn’t bother me. I can be in pubs, at parties, BBQ’s, gigs or any other social situation and I am not remotely interested in drinking. I get bored when people start showing signs of drunkenness, but at that point I leave.
It can be hard dealing with the inevitable question regarding why I don’t drink. I just say that it was making me ill and that I don’t need to drink anymore. This is a watered down version of the truth but it seems to do the trick.
Were you successful from day one? Any relapses? How did you cope emotionally with all this?
I have tried to quit a few times. I have done the different ‘challenges’ like a month or 28 days but it seemed like they were endurance tests. I always knew that I would start again.
The mindset made all the difference – I wanted to stop and starting again wasn’t going to happen.
You’ve been sober for a few months now, are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking has afforded? What are they? Any advice for people reading this… heh, can we learn from any of your mistakes?
I am a better person and way happier.
That is enough for me to know that I did the right thing. Sobriety is not a challenge, it is a lifestyle choice that you need to embrace and see the beauty in. My biggest mistakes in the past have been half-heartedly quitting.
OK… the “female sobriety scene” is pretty active & intense at the moment… as a fella, how do you feel about that? Where do you go for help & inspiration?
The female sobriety scene helped me a lot in the early days of quitting, all those blogs and books were inspiring and gave me extra motivation. In time I hope that more men feel that choosing a lifestyle that doesn’t involve alcohol is not to be sniffed at. Ideally, I will keep my blog – SoberRocks – going and build a community for men and women.
If I can offer a different take on sobriety from a male point of view then I think that I am being of help.
Getting there now… I guess all that remains is to ask what’s next for you, Stephen??
I keep going.
Life is good.
Let’s Talk About Men…
Not many men write about giving up alcohol.
I gave up drinking 6 months ago. It has proved to be the greatest gift I have ever given to myself. In all honesty, I haven’t missed drinking at all.
The hardest part has been dealing with what an isolating experience being sober can be.
As a teetotal male in this day and age, I am in a minority.
It is, for this reason, I found it very difficult to find anyone who I could get face to face, one to one support from. This is not to say that I didn’t have the backing of friends, I did. It was just that I couldn’t find any like-minded people to walk the path to sobriety with.
When I first gave up alcohol my main source of support and inspiration came from scouring the web for help and advice. I found a plethora of information on websites and blogs, I also downloaded samples from a lot of sobriety books, on Amazon, and downloaded a few podcasts to consume surreptitiously on my phone.
I read a shedload of anecdotes and tales from the dark side of our most socially accepted drug.
These experiences/antics echoed mine, it was almost like I was reading about my own life at times. Painfully honest stories of blackouts, guilt, anxiety and shame were common threads for many people. These tales were recounted by people like me who had hit the point where alcohol had taken some kind of hold on their lives.
The undercurrent of what I was reading was very clear – you don’t have to drink all day every day to have an alcohol problem.
Just because I didn’t drink bourbon for breakfast or stock up on cheap strong cider each day didn’t mean that the way I used alcohol wasn’t an issue. I kept thinking ‘I have a good job, a partner, 2 children and a mortgage. I’m doing OK aren’t I?!’ Well, it turns out that I wasn’t. Booze was my release, it was the anaesthetic to escape from a deep-rooted pain that would never be numbed by drinking poison.
The blogs, books and websites were an integral part of my determination to quit alcohol. They were aspirational. I wanted to be like the people I was reading about. I read what Holly Whitaker at Hip Sobriety was writing about and felt that she was someone to look up to. When I was on the One Year No Beer site and taking in the content I just knew that I had found something that I wanted to belong to.
One day it hit me – the vast majority of what I was reading had been written by females. Why don’t many men write about quitting alcohol?
Is it possible that it is the difference in how men and women socialise and communicate generally that has a big impact?
My girlfriend is in what seems to be constant contact with all manner of friends from different parts of her life. They meet up for lunch or go away for spa weekends or just chat for hours on the phone. I have a lot of acquaintances, yet I have very few people that I would consider to be good friends. Even my best friend of 30 years is not someone who I am in contact with every week. I just don’t feel the need to communicate so much. Is this common amongst all men? I could be wrong here, but we men just don’t like to talk too much about our woes.
Problems need solving right? Who’s got time for that?!
Drinking can give you a sense of belonging, on a night out you are all together drinking – a team of individuals all looking to get drunk together. That group/pack mentality is really tricky to allow yourself to break free from. We go on stag do’s and drink ourselves into oblivion for 48/72 hours. We spend hundreds of pounds going to places like Prague and Krakow, only to sit in bars like we were out in our hometown. Men do the BBQ with a beer in one hand and the burger flipper in the other. We go out to watch the football and drink, we go to gigs and drink, we play 5-a-side and then go to the bar afterwards for a pint.
When men socialise, they drink.
It’s almost in our DNA, we are hardwired to incorporate alcohol into pretty much any social event that we partake in. The fact that most males base their social lives around alcohol means that it is rare to ever have a conversation about our alcohol habits. Who is going to sit in a pub and discuss the fact that they drink too much?
So where are the roots of an alcohol problem? The seeds were sown early for me. I grew up surrounded by alcohol, it was normalised as being a part of life. Then alcohol took my father from me, I dealt with this by drinking to numb myself. I did this for many years.
To drink alcohol was something that I longed to do when I was in my early teenage years. My best friend and I used to walk past a pub on the way to school and fantasise about being old enough to go in and order a pint. As soon as we hit 14, alcohol started becoming a thing that we had access to. An older sibling or friend would get us a couple of cans if we asked nicely, our parents would go on nights out and we could look after ourselves at home – we could drink to our heart’s content.
Pretty soon the habit was forming whereby we felt that alcohol was a necessary ingredient in anything social that we did.
When we were underage there was also the added excitement of ‘getting served’. Then when we were old enough not to be challenged on our age, we all had part-time jobs and earned money to fund our growing habit.
I am using the word habit not in the sinister way that it is often used to describe an addiction, but to label how our social behaviours were being formed. For many adults (male and female, problem drinkers and responsible ones) the deep rooted drinking for fun habit is truly embedded and ingrained. At a recent works do I explained to a fellow member of staff that I don’t drink. Her reply was “Why would you do that to yourself? What do you do on a Saturday?” I laughed and made light of the comment but it did serve to highlight how for some people the very thought of quitting alcohol is beyond comprehension. We mould our lives around when we will drink, in some cases, we plan our weekend safe in the knowledge that we will have a hangover. That 8.30am gym class on a Sunday morning will just never happen, how could I do that with a stinking hangover?
On my blog Sober Rocks I have written about how not many men have sobriety websites. There is One Year No Beer and a couple of others, but the most publicised and active ones are mainly written by females.
On Twitter, I found a whole community of people who are struggling to get their alcohol intake under control. This is where I found a lot of posts from males discussing their situation. This proved that there are men out there who are battling their alcohol habit, it is just that they are tweeting rather than writing anything more in-depth.
This, of course, is great. Any discussion on alcohol and leaving it behind should be encouraged.
For me, to drink was to live with limits, to be in 3rd gear at best.
It ruined me and killed my potential, but I came back.
About our author, Stephen.
Stephen hails from West Yorkshire. He started writing a personal blog, Sober Rocks, because he found that writing about quitting alcohol helped him to stay sober. He recalls: “It was really therapeutic to document what I was feeling and how I was getting through the different stages of removing alcohol from my life.”