9 Years

The 15th February marked 9 years sober for me. Someone asked me recently if quitting was a great epiphany for me. It wasn’t at all. It was a mess. I’d been drinking for 5 days straight, literally all the time. I’d missed work and just sat at home and drunk myself unconscious, and when I woke up I’d just do it all over again. A couple of years ago I read The Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson and it took me back to those 5 days so vividly I almost couldn’t bear it.

But no, it wasn’t an epiphany. My life at the time was unpleasant. My job, my house, my marriage, everything was going wrong. And when things got too much for me (which they often seemed to do in those days) I would drink to alleviate the misery. Usually alone, just sitting on the sofa or in the park drinking as fast and as hard as I could to paper over the ever increasing cracks.

When I quit it wasn’t due to some huge epiphany, I didn’t think my life would improve drastically, my only motivation to quit was that unbearable as life was, drinking was making it worse. Waking up after 2, 3, 4 and 5 day binges was just so awful I couldn’t bear to do it anymore. My thought process at the time was simple; as miserable as my life is, I just can’t go on drinking like this. I have to quit alcohol, so now I won’t have any relief from the misery, I won’t enjoy social occasions again, I won’t enjoy holidays or Christmas or anything much, because for me having a drink in my hand was the icing on the cake. When I was drinking nothing mattered, I could face anything. But the after effects and consequences were just too awful to keep incurring. The cost was too high.

So I stopped. The first few days were awful, I couldn’t sleep, could scarcely think straight. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I’d get out of bed, having not slept, my anxiety levels through the roof. I’d shower, shave, got to work, feeling absolutely awful. I started to feel better, started to sleep, my exercise routine came back. I still had all the things that were making me miserable, but actually they seemed to be slightly less awful the more I went without drinking. I started to suspect that, overpowering and awful as they seemed, they were actually being exaggerated by my drinking. I started to piece things together and sat down to write a book about alcohol. It was stop start and I just couldn’t get into it. So I gave up on it.

Then I got a new job. It took a long time, but going to interviews fresh, confident and well rested is always going to help. The new job went well, in fact so well that I was doing my days work in half a day. This freed up some time for me so I went back to my book. Instead of spending this time recovering from binges, I spent it writing. This time it wasn’t stop start. This time I could scarcely get the words on the page quick enough to keep up with my thoughts. Alcohol Explained was created!

With the new job came the opportunity to buy a new house. Again it wasn’t a smooth or a quick process. It was years of constant disappointment and failure. But eventually we got there. After that I was approached by an employment agency for another new job even though I wasn’t actively looking at the time. It was a long process and I was far from sure that I wanted to make the move but eventually I did. That was about five years ago now.

I’d love to say that everything is perfect now but of course it isn’t. But the point is that it is immeasurably better. Would I have got those new jobs how do I still been drinking? Who knows. But I genuinely believe that stopping drinking was the catalyst. Both new jobs took a leap in faith, and stretched me far out of my comfort zone, and I very much doubt I would have had the confidence and mental resilience to do that had I still been drinking.

What I am starting to learn now is that life isn’t about reaching some perfect state of happiness. It’s about a journey of constant improvements. You start with the biggest most obvious thing and when that’s been dealt with you move on to the next and the next and the next. For me, and for many people, that biggest thing to start with is alcohol. It impacts our sleep, our mental health, our anxiety levels, our energy levels, our fitness and our ability to cope with problems. For me drinking made everything require 20 times the amount of effort. Unsurprisingly most of the time I just couldn’t be bothered. Far easier to just crack open a can and forget about it.

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2 Responses

  1. Im sober 5 and a half months. I never dreamt that this would even be possible. I still have times of overwhelming craving. Triggers associated with location and times or a convergence of factors. I have not brought myself to the solemn oath of “never again”. Instead I push on with “just not today”. I might even promise myself that at some point in the future I will have a drink. This all means that I survive the onslaught of craving. It never lasts more than 30 minutes or maybe an hour… then it slithers back.
    Not drinking is however impacting my social life and my relationship. I don’t want to sit in a dark noisy bar surrounded by drunk people for hours on end. I can handle it for a bit for occasions but then I want to get outta there. I also don’t want to drink with my wife watching tv all night. I’m tired in the evening – preferring early nights and an early morning. This is a big change for us and I am sure she misses the old me at times.

    Thank you William. The unbearable burden of sobriety.

  2. I’m seven months sober. The way you describe your journey to sobriety sounds similar to mine, albeit I’m some 8 1/2 yeas behind in living sober. Your book was a huge help in making sobriety stick. I’d tried many times before and couldn’t make more than 3-4 days before falling off the wagon. I didn’t know what I was dealing with. I didn’t realise that I was alcohol dependent and had becomenessential, in old English, “a functioning alcoholic”.
    As you say in your blog, once you get past the first few terrifying weeks, white knuckle riding through raw reality, you start seeing the small improvements day by day. Eventually you turn around after 6 months are realise how far you’ve come, a little improved ever day.
    Its wonderful to be sober. I never thought I’d be able to do it. I thought that I was condemned to living a drinkers lifestyle, and all of the social and health complications that come with it. You book helped save me in no small part. Thank you!

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William Porter

William wrote Alcohol Explained to share his approach on recovering from alcohol dependency.

Read the first five chapters of 

Alcohol Explained

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