monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking


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Glass full or empty?

In 3 weeks’ time it will be 1 year since I committed to getting sober.

I’ve written before about a few times that I drank alcohol since November 2013:

  • random sips to taste exotic drinks while travelling (I don’t even count this)
  • having a slow glass of champagne with food for a wedding toast
  • Having wine (a bottle) on my 40th birthday

It’s easy to focus on slip-ups and negatives so I’m going to put this in context with a few facts and numbers:

My 12 month Standard Drink (SD) Tally is:

Random sips:                                             Less than half an SD

1 Glass of Wedding Champagne:              1 SD

A Birthday binge:                                       Approximately 8 SD (a bottle of wine)

12 MONTH TOTAL                                    9.5 SD

I used to be happy when I could ‘limit’ my daily intake to 9.5 standard drinks – and I regularly had more. So on reflection, I’ve had one day’s worth of alcohol spread over a year (1/365). That means I’ve reduced my annual alcohol intake by (at least) 99.73%.

Hmmmmm I can choose to focus on 99.73% ‘success’ or a 0.27% ‘failure’.  I’m going with the 99.73% success.

But going beyond quantitative numbers, I’m also really happy because:

  • I have a sense of calm
  • the daily compulsion has gone (although I know it comes back if I have alcohol)
  • I don’t feel like alcohol and my life are spinning out of control
  • I feel good knowing that my body is as healthy as it can be & I’m doing everything I can to keep it that way
  • I have lots of spare energy to focus on things which matter

PS:  I know I’m not at the 1 year mark just yet – but I’m confident that the chance of me drinking in the next 3 weeks is pretty much zero.

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Obsession or passion?

I exercise about 6 days a week with a mixture of running, cycling and weights. Each week I try to fit in one long run (20km+), which I did yesterday. Today I feel really fatigued, worn out, and my shins and hip joints ache from the repetitive pounding. I’ve been so focused on exercise over the past few months that I’ve considered if it’s some sort of obsession or compulsion – like alcohol.

But I’ve decided that it’s not like alcohol at all – it’s just a hobby I’m really passionate about. Here’s why:

1) Some days I just don’t do any – and it’s not a big deal. Some days I just wake up and say ‘Nahhh. Not today. I want a day off’ and then I don’t feel bad. On the rare days when I had no alcohol it used to take all my effort to stick to the goal. And even though I didn’t drink, I still thought about it for the whole day.

2) I listen to whether it makes me feel good or bad. If I feel fatigued or pain I know it’s probably not smart to exert myself – so I don’t. Ummm ‘cos that would be dumb, ‘cos my body is saying it needs time to heal and recover. Compare that to the harm I knew I was doing with alcohol, the headaches, feeling ill… I drank each evening anyway.

3) If I have something else I want to do – I go and do it. I don’t say no to dinner with friends because I ‘have’ to go running. Sometimes I juggle my schedule so I can squeeze both things in – but that’s just my approach to life in general.

4) Exercise makes me feel good. It makes me feel more energetic, sleep better, gives me a sense of achievement and probably helps keep my moods stable. Alcohol made me feel lethargic, moody, tired – it was not a positive experience towards the end.

5) I don’t try to hide or cover up my exercise. I celebrate big exercise achievements. I’m sure my Facebook friends are sick of status updates about running or something which happened while I was running. When I was drinking I was constantly minimise and cover up how much and how often I drank.

6) I don’t regret it the next day or feel guilty. Even if I wake up feeling tired and achy I don’t regret it or spend hours wishing I hadn’t done it. I reckon I spent several years alternating between 4 states: being asleep; feeling guilty about drinking; planning my drinking; and drinking.

And today – it’s Friday. I’m completely worn out from a week at work and exercising several days in a row. Today I plan to go home, finish a DIY carpentry project and then watch TV on the couch with lots of tasty things.  Because I’m passionate about exercise and training – but not obsessed!

PS: Although I can’t rule out that I might get up early tomorrow morning and go to my local Saturday morning running club… ‘cos it’s fun and I want to try and break my PB time (personal best).

PPS:  But then again if I still feel exhausted I’m more likely to roll over and sleep in.


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‘Drinks’ with old friends

I’ve got a bit of a challenge tonight – but I’m not worried.

A school friend is having drinks in an inner-city pub for her 40th birthday (holy crap – that still sounds weird).

I only see this gang every 3 years or so. We grew up in a regional country town together and when we’re on-mass we’re a bit rowdy and ‘rough around the edges’. I’m fond of them – and it’s pretty unconditional. However, my partner will not be coming  because he would rather shove hot pins in his eyes. I quite like that ‘cos then I can catch up without having to babysit him.

A couple of other school friends have already checked whether I’m going and made obligatory comments about how’re they’re going to have ‘a bloody massive night – YEAHHHH!’.

Hi guys – Surprise! I’m having Coke Zero tonight.

Coke Zero?

Yep.

What’s in it?

Ummm ice and a lemon wedge.

<<insert a gasp, stunned disbelief and fainting>>

I guess this is what the first few years of sobriety are like – connecting with people from different parts of your life and renegotiating old dynamics.

This lot will be fine (in time). Like I said – there’s a good level of unconditional respect. They’ll think it’s a bit weird, ask a few questions, be temporarily uncertain about how to behave around me – and then get over it. They’ve stuck with me through my Coming Out years, experimental drug use years, the vegetarian years, the crazy coloured hair years, the angry political years, the house renovation years…  I reckon they’ll survive the no-drinking, exercise, healthy eating years.

And besides… they won’t admit it but they’ve mellowed too! Most of the talk about a ‘big night’ is just hot air and bluster – they’ll probably have a few drinks and drive home so they can drop their kids off at soccer practice in the morning.