Welcome to The (Not) Drinking Diary Series! I’ll be chatting to people on alcohol and on life; about their sobriety, mindful drinking and/or alcohol free (not drinking) period.
Joe’s an Instagram buddy, turned real life friend & him (and his lovely wife, The Gym & Me) are an inspiration – they fit in work, exercise, family & have so much fun doing it.
Joe’s Instagram bio reads: London. Health. Fitness. Sobriety. Cars. He’s been doing a lot of work at work on improving the wellness of his team, and even has got the business he works for ensuring they offer alcohol free options at all company events (hooray for being offered more than water – can I come work for you?!). He started a year of Not Drinking (or more) on the 1st December 2016 and I was lucky enough to chat to him about his not drinking journey, read on for his (not) drinking diary …
Name: Joe Squires
Location: London, UK
1.What led you to think differently about drinking?
“Hey Joe, how are you”.
“I’m fine thanks, a bit tired and hungover though”
And repeat. At least 3 times a week.
Was it the tiredness that led to irritability? Was it the kids fault I was snappy and grouchy at a weekend? Was it the job’s fault I spent the weekend recovering, to do it all again? Or was it my fault for making choices – or, not realising that I could make choices – that affect the overall enjoyment of life? It was always the hangovers, not the drinking.
I like a drink. I like socialising that way. But I’m not very good at moderation (go on, admit it, how often have you ordered a glass of wine at lunchtime because your client / colleague / friend has. How many times has that Tuesday after-work ‘quick pint’ turned into 4, missing kids bath time, another few at home then a hangover on Wednesday?)
I first entertained Dry January a few years ago. A group of colleagues decided to do it together. I’d never, since age 16, had a prolonged period without alcohol. I guess I was curious. WOW WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED? Slept like a log (cool dreams too…) had more energy, found more time, seemed to have a spring in my step.
That really hit the reset button hard, from which point moderation has been the way I approached alcohol. But I’m an all or nothing kinda guy and soon enough old habits slipped back in but each hangover would be accompanied by a louder voice saying “this just ain’t worth it” In 2016 I sustained 4 months AF at the start of the year followed by 3 other single months off.
I stopped drinking again 1st Dec 2016 – “Dry December” cos like…err….make life easy for yourself huh. And my wife’s 40th was in January. And I got there and didn’t want to drink. So I’m not. I’m doing a year. Or more. All I know is that until something else can change in the distribution of hours in a day across work, family, kids, me time and everything else we all have to deal with – zero alcohol is working for me as part of a PACKAGE of measures that are making me feel fitter for purpose than any time in my life since being a teenager.
Can I say that again … I feel better – physically, emotionally, personally – than at ANY TIME IN MY ADULT LIFE.
2.How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
I am happily divorced. I see my ex regularly and we co-exist happily – we can readily share a dinner table together, but there’s no sex with the ex, thanks.
3.What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
A stereotypical answer would be something about feeling like not fitting in, or, alienation of friends. Can’t say I have experienced that and anyway, I prefer to see friendships as mutual, relative to a common shared interest. If the interest changes, so do they.
Instead I really think the challenge is fitting in everything else I want to do! It’s not like I have become a social hermit – but I typically swap the pub for exercise. I wake at 6am every day ready to go. I also have to be a it careful not being evangelical about it or judging others for their choices. The fact that this is working for me, doesn’t make it so for the next person.
4.What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
I seem to have a new clarity of purpose and a significant improvement in my emotional intelligence and awareness of other people. This is making a material difference to my work and leadership – I don’t think it’s accidental I’ve just had the best 2 years ever at work (measured by feedback, pay, promotion) given the improved stamina, clarity and people care.
I’ve also put a higher value on family time. I think because I can put more in I get more out and certainly my wife and kids prefer that I am now more likely to laugh than shout.
NAFF ANSWER ALERT: That life’s for living duh. Not for staying in bed and reaching for the nurofen. Feel ALIVE FOLKS!
5. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
6am alarm, shower, dressed leave by 06:25 (soz ladies, it’s just the way it is for men)
07:30 The only coffee of the day, with a good breakfast (see Aice Liveing if you need to know what that means).
What is my GAMEPLAN for that day? I don’t believe in long term (12 month) business targets. I believe in preparation for performance. See: Marginal Gains.
6. Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
I always make time for exercise. My minimum is 3x a week and my max is simply dependent on time and diary – practically that’s 6 times. The one thing I always make time for is Anthony’s Psycle class at 18:30 Monday. Its a great way of shrugging off Monday-itis while setting the right intention for the rest of the week.
By the way I’m increasingly finding exercise as more than the physical: its active rest in that the brain can’t wander to the mundane, work etc when concentrating on physical survival! It’s my firebreak between work and home.
I mentioned a package of measures earlier. I was one of those people that wanted to get fitter, lose weight and all that but kinda didn’t know how to start to find the catalyst and to keep going. Doing Dry January was really the catalyst because of the energy and freshness it gave me – and – avoiding the pub by going to the gym was a win win. Now they are constant bedfellows, each as important as the other.
7. What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free & not drinking) at the weekend?
Mountain biking. I can’t claim that’s something I do every weekend, nor that we live near mountains but you don’t have to venture very far – Surrey Hills or Swinley are easy to get to with great trails.
In June I’m off to the Sierra Nevada for a long weekend of trail riding and downhill hoonery. I simply couldn’t have considered taking part in something like that given my disastrous fitness and energy levels a few years ago.
8. When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
I hate buzzwords (L’s note: me too!) but I am learning a lot about “wellness”. I think what I have now done is a 2 year lifestyle change and I am now starting to realise how adopting small changes can bring significant differences.
I’ve started to help people at work also make changes – we recently did an offsite solely focussed on wellness. We had Ollie Ollerton, Alice Liveing, Chris Shambrook and team (psychologist to the British olympic rowing team) bring their stories, presentations and recommendations as well as working sessions on mental fortitude and loads of other stuff. The impact on employee engagement, stamina and work efficiency is immediately obvious particularly in the areas of physical and mental preparation and care.
9. What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
Social media. I used to turn my nose up at it (like I used to turn my nose up and anyone who didn’t drink). There’s certainly a lot of crap out there and I think misuse and abuse of social media is rapidly becoming the major challenge for our kids.
But amongst all the crap is a wealth of information, help, interesting stuff and opportunity, not just to learn but to meet new people. Which is how I met Laurie and ended up writing this for her brilliant blog. (L’s note: Thanks Joe!)
10. And finally, thinking differently about alcohol and not drinking can be challenging and isolating, is there any advice you turned to or do you have any words of wisdom for people reading this?
1) Get some alcohol proxies in stock at home to neuter the cravings you’ll probably get in the first few weeks of trying it. I like Fitbeer (lager), Brewdog Nanny State (ale) and Seedlip Garden (thought of as a vodka or Gin substitute).
2) Have a plan. Get other social outings in your diary in advance instead of just going to drinks events / pub etc. . Dinner instead of pub. CInema instead of drinks. When was the last time you went to a classical music concert? Try some stuff that has been on your conscious or subconscious list for ages.
3) Be prepared to confidently say NO THANKS. Don’t feel bad about not going to the pub / bar / club / colleague-who-you-never-liked leaving drinks because everyone else is, or because you feel it’s expected. Feel free to be a bit selfish and prioritise your needs.