monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking


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Really? Forever?!

It took me a while – but my 6 month Soberversary has triggered a few little jitters. I haven’t fallen off the wagon but I’ve had some challenging thoughts lately – mostly focused on ‘Really? Forever!?’.

One moment happened in the kitchen late at night while tidying up. My partner came in and said he was going for a shower. I caught a glimpse of the drinks cabinet over his shoulder and for a split second I thought “I can have a quick swig while he’s in the shower”. There was no strong compulsion to act on the thought (maybe a compulsion of 2 out of 10) but it still caught me off guard – it was just random and unexpected.

The other situation was actually a string of moments. We’re in the midst of planning a holiday and I’ve been remembering old trips and daydreaming how nice it would be to have a celebratory drink at our exciting destinations. It still isn’t an overwhelming compulsion but it’s more than the random thought (maybe 4 or 5 out of 10). It was also enough to make me Google new topics like “can alcoholics ever drink moderately again?”.

I’m trying to think of it as being like when I started running:

  1. At the beginning: I would huff & puff towards the next 100 metre goal or struggle to get through the next 5 minutes. I had no choice but to focus on my immediate surroundings because it was such hard going.

  2. After a few weeks of practice: I could go a few kilometres & had already run all around my neighbourhood. I was setting myself speed and distance goals. My attention was able to focus on the next kilometre or the next 15 minutes.

  3. Now: I can run more than 22km and it’s usually quite easy. Other times when I’m on a big run I look up and see tall buildings far off on the distant horizon. If I look at them too long the idea of running to those buildings and back (20km) feels incredibly overwhelming. When that happens I have to forget about the horizon, focus on my immediate surroundings and a set a goal for the next 15 minutes… and then I do that over and over again until I miraculously reach the 21km mark.

But unlike running I probably have to keep being sober ‘forever’… ‘Forever’ is a really far horizon if I think too much about it. I guess I have to use my running strategy and keep my attention focused on medium term goals.

For now I’m going to try and stop focusing on ‘forever’ and focus on my 40th birthday in August instead… I want to be fitter and healthier at 40 than I was when I was 20. That seems achievable and not overwhelming.

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My happiest 6 Months for years.

My 6 month soberversary has come and gone. I had no idea what I should write about but then I thought I’d focus on the things which have helped me reach 6 months.

  • Cancer. There aren’t many perks about living with a long-term chronic condition – but it’s a pretty strong motivation to keep the rest of my body operating at peak performance. The stress which cancer treatment put on me and my family in 2012 really brought my drinking to a head. I drank more to cope with cancer (dumb I know) and of course that ended up causing even more stress. Eventually there was no room left in my life for both of them. I can’t control my cancer – but I had to get rid of alcohol.
  • Experience. I thought that all those MANY, numerous attempts to quit or moderate my drinking were ‘failures’ but with a bit of hindsight I see them as practice runs. I learnt a bit more each time and after the initial sense of failure/disappointment faded I wanted to be sober more and more. It also took me a long time to finally realise I can’t moderate my drinking – so quitting was the main option for me.
  • Supportive partner, friends and family. I have a wonderfully supportive partner – he’s just lovely. I haven’t told him why I really quit drinking – and he doesn’t know how much I was drinking. He’s not only supported my changes – he’s joined in. He’s probably only had 2 drinks at home in the last 6 months. My friends and family have also been OK about not drinking – most of them couldn’t care less (that’s a good thing).
  • Blogging. I’ve been able to get support from my ‘real world’ friends without having to ‘confess’ why I’ve stopped drinking. Reading other blogs and hearing other people’s experiences (both the similarities and the differences) has been helpful. Writing my own blog has also made me take time to reflect on the process of quitting, get a bit of support, and feel a bit accountable. I sometimes just read back through old posts to remind myself what it was like at different stages.
  • Stage of life. I’m a bit suburban and boring now. My life doesn’t revolve around clubs, pubs and parties like it did in my 20s. I didn’t have to make any hard decisions to give up friendship networks, social activities or big chunks of my life. I go out occasionally – and being sober at parties and events isn’t weird or strange. I have nice people around me – and my initial worries about what they would think were mainly in my head.
  • Health knowledge.  I work in health care. I’ve had jobs supporting people to make different lifestyle changes to improve their health. I know the theory and recommendations. I also get a bit of inspiration from the people I work with – sometimes I see someone with so many challenges in their life and I think ‘Holy crap – if they can manage to do that, what’s stopping me?’
  • I’m middle class. Money isn’t everything – but I have a secure roof over my head, food in my belly, a stable job, money for necessities and some niceties. I’m grateful to have those things in my life at the moment – it’s given me the head space to focus on my drinking without being distracted by other dramas.

So at 6 months sober I sometimes have nagging thoughts that I should ‘come clean’ to my friends in the real world and tell them what’s been happening… but then again I don’t have any pressing reason to at this stage. What are my motivations for telling them? Not a lot.

I think that if I was really tempted to start drinking again I would seek help in the ‘real world’ – but for now I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. I don’t want to add drama with long soul-searching conversations, explanations, changed perceptions… For now I’m happy just being sober, feeling good and occasionally blogging.


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Day 178: My days have been numbered

In a few days I’ll hit the 6 month mark – which I’m really excited about. I’ll try to write something reflective closer to the date – but this post is just about numbers!

Last night I wheeled the bins out to the street & I was struck at how light and empty our recycling bin was. It was less than half full & most of it was cardboard, plastic and tin – with a few random glass jars.

I remembered how full & heavy it was 6 months ago… and how INCREDIBLY NOISY it was when all the glass bottles tumbled and clinked into the back of the garbage truck.

I’m a bit of a geek AND a bit of a greenie – so this morning I did what any sensible geek/greenie/recovering alcoholic would do…  I set up an Excel Spreadsheet and generated some numbers! Who’s says I don’t know how to party anymore?!

  • Step 1: Estimate how many bottles of beer, wine and spirits I had each week. I won’t share the exact numbers because it still makes me feel ashamed and embarrassed – let’s just say it was A LOT of each type! Some were consumed in public but most were in secret.
  • Step 2: Calculate how much money I have saved.
  • Step 3: Calculate the weight of all the glass bottles. Thanks to trusty old Google for giving me the average weights of empty bottles of beer, wine and spirits.
  • Step 4: Calculate how many kilograms of Carbon Dioxide it takes to make that many glass bottles. One site reckons it takes .6kg of CO2 to make 1kg of glass bottles.

So after a little bit of work I came up with these estimations about how much I have saved:

Money:                          $3250 (Australian Dollars – we have fairly high alcohol taxes here)

Number of bottles:     604 bottles

Weight of bottles:       196kilograms of glass

Carbon Dioxide:           118kilograms of CO2 emissions (just the glass – not the contents)

Gees Louise… I’m a bit ashamed that I was spending that much money on something so completely and utterly pointless.

I have put half the money into a high interest savings account – and I’ve spent the rest on a new wardrobe, running shoes & lots of fun stuff. It’s still a lot of frivolous spending – but at least it’s on things which make me feel good & don’t cause liver cirrhosis or brain damage.

I’m so glad I finally quit. I think I’ll need to do something on the weekend to celebrate 6 months sober (hmmmm… just in time for a tacky Eurovision telecast!).

PS:  One last number…  my fortnightly recycling bin is just over 15 kilograms lighter.