One year alcohol free – a massive achievement! My good friend Joe reached his one year alcohol free anniversary on 1st December 2017. He’s previously contributed to My Not Drinking Diaries series and below he has documented his journey, and his next challenge. Joe’s gumption and drive to live his best life (sober) inspires me almost daily to move more – read on and enjoy …
The first few are cold, sharp. But you soon loosen up. No real plan, see where the night takes us. Onto the third and fourth, warming up they slip by. A change of scenery. Down new streets, the City lights draw us in. A group stumble out. A warm, sweet fug follows. Weaving in and out on pavements. No coat despite the wind and rain- I’ll feel warm with a few under the belt. Ghoulish faces lit by phones. Should I call a taxi? No it’s early yet, don’t be boring. The leg shoots out to trip, the funny things we do when drunk. The eyes sting. Not smoke. A tear as emotions build up. The time wasted. Onwards. A song comes on you don’t like- out of the trance but the night’s young must keep moving. 7, 8 now life’s great. Never mind tomorrow this is the now. They kiss under street lights. Over the bridge, tourists take pictures, block the way, forgetting other difficult scenes in these places. The neon lights.
Greasy smells – didn’t eat before heading out. Oh well, another one and it’s soon forgotten. It’s dark now, take a risk, across the Common on your own, feeling invincible. On we go but legs are heavy from this dance. A stumble. No matter keep going chest proud, strutting forward. One more for the road? Ok. One, two…….Get home after 18. Forgot the doorkey. Ring the doorbell, hope for the best. The wife answers. Big smiles & hugs despite the sweat.
I wrote this after an impromptu run on 30th September; I’d started running a bit you see, and this was the first time a run changed from being a hateful, hurtful experience, to a positive pattern of physical and mental purpose. It was surprising, ‘cos I wasn’t in the mood, it was dark and drizzly but I had to run that day so I made myself set out for a short run. I only stopped when I got back home again. It was a reminder of that ‘yes you
can’ spirit we’re often encouraged to find. It seemed a parallel for how my life has changed over the last year.
How is any of this relevant?
I stopped drinking on 1st December 2016. It was my own private “Dry January”. I’d done
that for the prior 2 years….and each time continued for a few months afterwards….it had such a massive impact on me.
My wife had her big 40th party planned for mid-Jan, and you cant not drink at a 40th right? Wrong. I felt so good again after a month off, I decided to make it a year. And now I am making it longer. Indeterminate. The biggest impact has been on my overall energy – and so a catalyst to get fit, then get fitter, get stronger and now to really use that strength and energy to do more stuff that leads to a more fulfilling life. When I started writing this, it ended up a list of all the hateful memories of hangovers big and small, near and far. Why? Because a year off the booze has made me realise just what a crappy waste of time and energy that ritualistic, regular, bingey drinking really was for me. But I don’t want it to be a preachy crap-fest about ‘why drinking’s bad for me’ because I’ve learned instead how not drinking is GREAT for me and that’s a more positive story. I am occasionally asked “You still being boring and not drinking?’
I believe, and my family believe that I’m now the most active, interesting, personable version of myself I have ever been…
Let’s ignore the personal impact stuff for a minute ‘cos it’s not necessarily transferable and instead look at a few measurable things anyone can achieve.
Back of the envelope numbers on all the things I have saved, or not taken, done, needed, eaten, thanks to one year alcohol free:
365 days no alcohol
208 days hangover free (I probably drank 3 days a week but at my age hangovers often lasted 48hrs)
100 Bacon sarnies
125,000 booze calories
832 trips to the loo (dunno about you but hangovers = the shits)
£6240 on booze
£7800 on taxis
75 times I might have driven the day after and still been over the limit
3 days off work sick
75 unproductive days (<50% peak capacity)
50 kids bed times missed
“Wow this guy had a problem”. I see a lot of blog posts from the genuinely afflicted – alcoholics – on a brave journey to recovery. Some might define my lifestyle as being that of an alcoholic: socialising inextricably linked to alcohol – but I don’t. Nope, I am you: normal. Socially normal for a white British, 35-45yr old, Gen X London based male. Habitual binge drinking started in the teenage years and continued through 20 years of nights out, parties, stag dos, weddings, birthdays, client dinners, team nights out, etc……
So here’s some stuff that has been catalysed by cutting alcohol:
Everyone has it. Didn’t know. Here’s an irony: I’ve only really become aware of it, and the major, negative consequence of alcohol, by being alcohol free. “The Fear”. You know what I mean right? This is not a normal state of mind. Anxiety, deeply associated with this – did I say something stupid to my boss? Why did I send that email? And the killer – I’m so pissed off with myself. I now wake every day with a sense of alertness. Of clarity. Of purpose. Of preparedness for the day ahead. This is enormously refreshing and allows for a sensation of control of my own destiny. I have to drag my kind back to my mid teens – perhaps 14 yrs old – to summon up any similar sense of playful freedom. Now of course I’m not riding to work on a rainbow unicorn here – we’re all constrained by the prescriptions of life – work – diary – appointments. But I can now tackle all of these things with a positivity and a resilience that I previously lacked.
I repeat – I have never been fitter since my teens. I am 42. 20years of energy and health lost….but don’t panic, its all fixable. This has been the biggest area of impact – not drinking, leading to improved sleep, energy, healthier eating and healthier habits that seem to naturally kick in. It doesn’t matter whether you mean the stats: blood pressure, cholesterol, VO2 max. I’m in better shape than most 25 yr olds. But it’s the stuff you can’t really measure that is the most impactful: I am stronger in every way. This allows me to enjoy new activities and experiences that this level of fitness can give me.
….to learning even more about how to be great at things I’m good at, or improve things I’m bad at. I’m currentlylearning how to breathe again with @chasing19. This has multiple applications across my personal and professional life largely around regulating your physiological state, to be ready for action, or to relax and recover.
I have more time and more energy. The outcome is simple: I work better, I perform better, I have more satisfaction and better pay and career prospects. And I have more time and inclination for play. Weekends away? Check. New sports? Check. More culture? Check. More smiles and laughter? Check.
Through all of the things that came above, I have significantly improved >my circle of friends to a group who add value to my life and give me joy and satisfaction. I hope it’s mutual! I wasn’t looking for more friends. But what a lovely, interesting, diverse group of people are out there if you star to walk through doors that have different labels than “BAR”.
If you could buy a pill that gave you all this, you’d buy it. Cutting alcohol is even better – it pays you.
So what’s next? It’s always nice to follow one achievement with another plan to push out of my comfort zone. What does that mean? Like trying a new food, you might nibble a bit first, see if you like the flavour, the texture. Or take a bloody great bite because, well hey what’s the worst that can happen?
I’ve taken lots of nibbles over the last few years and I’ve enjoyed the taste. World marathon challenge? Check. Marathon des Sables? Check. Antarctic expedition? Check. Oh no, don’t be silly, that’s not me. That’s the daft bugger who has planted the seed in my mind. I suspect, whilst memorable, none of those were as challenging as strapping his kit on and heading out into the Afghan war zone. But I haven’t asked him quite why he thinks this 42yr old desk bound family man can complete the North Pole Marathon. Don’t need to. That he seems to think me capable, is enough.
I try to cast it off as madness, but it won’t go away. I cant get it out of my mind. I can give you a hundred reasons why not to do this. I need some advice so I email Ollie Ollerton.
“I am giving serious consideration to running the North Pole marathon next April. Which is bloody funny really as I dislike running and have never run a marathon. I want to pause for thought before blithely believing I can do anything I want, as this represents a whole different ballgame to everything I’ve done before. So my question: given the conditions, temperature and isolation, how much additional mental and physical load would you think that represents vs any other 7hour endurance type event and do you think, with a 9mth lead time, it’s achievable, or a bit silly to consider?”
The reply is swift, encouraging and signed off with the following words:
“Bottom line is you know its within you otherwise we wouldn’t be having this communication.”
He’s right you know.
SO I am 100% in.
You can follow Joe’s journey to the North Pole Marathon over at his website: https://www.joesquires.co.uk/
He’s fundraising for Sepsis trust, read why and sponsor him here.