Sunday Mornings

It wasn’t always like this.

Today the sun was streaming through the blinds in our kitchen as our family sat down to have breakfast together. The kids were munching their cereal and we were talking together about what we were going to do with the day. It had snowed recently, and the sky was a deep blue and the kind of sunshine that brings a vitality and makes you want to move and make the most of this moment.

Only a few years back I didn’t have anything like this on a Sunday morning. They were mostly spent in bed recovering from the worst hangovers. Usually they’d take the form of waking from a semi-comatose state, then the happenings of the night before would gradually come into focus, followed by pangs of regret, anxiety and my mind would start filling up with excuses I’d have to make to friends or work colleagues and hope for the best.

Those days were wild but empty. There was something missing from them. In church this morning the reader read a passage from the bible that talked about love, faith and hope. These are in my life now, but looking back to when I drank, there was none of that. They haven’t appeared overnight, but instead they’ve developed over the last few years since being sober and moving to this new chapter in my life.

Having a young family has helped me to focus on the here and now and what’s important. It’s wonderful to watch the kids grow up, but it’s also wonderful to experience the moment.

Previously, I would have slept through that Sunday morning. Missed the light coming in through the blinds, and if I had, then I probably would have cursed it for waking me. In living in the moment these things are a pleasure to watch and experience. They serve as reminders for what we’re here for. All these things can be taken from us in a moment, and it’s so important to make the most of life now. Not looking far into the future, nor looking back into the past either, but to enjoy what is happening to us and around us now.

So, it’s great to see the sun coming in through the blinds and to hear the chatter around the table. I worried about giving up drinking and what might happen with my life, but had I known that the wasted mornings spent sleeping long would be replaced with a family and chatter around the breakfast table with the sun pouring in through the blinds, then I needn’t have worried.

My First Beer in a Long Time (Tip – a non-alcoholic one!)

heineken-zero
Over Christmas I had my first beer in a very long time – not an alcoholic one, but a new Heineken Zero, one of the latest new non-alcoholic drinks that are now on the market. It tasted like I remember a Heineken tasting, and certainly not like the old non-alcoholic beers of old, like Kaliber, which must have been the only non-alcoholic beer on the shelf when I was giving up. But, like everything the technology has moved on and the taste is now very similar to the original thing, except with this, there is no alcohol.

With no desire now to ever go back to drinking alcohol, I reasoned that drinking this for me was fine, but not everyone might see it that way. Years ago, I wrote a post about the question, ‘is it safe to drink non-acoholic drinks?‘ – and the mood in all the comments received was that it was down to the individual as to whether or not it is too much of a trigger to get you drinking again. Others were happy to have the alternative.

My go to drink when giving up was tonic water or soda water and ice and lemon, that way it looked like a gin tonic. Disguising what I was drinking helped throw off my drinking buddies and for the most part they didn’t notice. If this beer was around then, then I’d have drunk this for sure, as it is actually a nice drink to have and you don’t draw attention (if that’s important to you – perhaps in the early days). Giving up drinking takes a lot of effort, if not because whilst you may want to give up, your drinking buddies may not have your interests at heart and actually prefer to you to carry on drinking beer.

Which is probably the main reason why it took so many years for me to actually give up. I knew early one in my 20s that drinking didn’t suit me, but it wasn’t till my mid-30s that I actually managed to break free.

So I’m happy to read in the papers and articles online that suggest that globally, the number of people drinking (in particular younger people) is dropping and the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is rising. I imagine that there is a shift towards a healthier lifestyle and this fits the bill. Here’s an article from CNBC that talks about the new range of beer introduced by Heineken and the reasons behind it. Young people it seems are moving away from the drinking culture of wanting to go out with the sole purpose of getting drunk. At least, this is how the culture was in my 20s here in the UK.

A rise in non-alcoholic drinks is a great thing for us who abstain or want to abstain. Having more choice at the bar is welcome. I’d have been a fan early on, as it helps you to continue enjoying nights out, without screaming that you’re not one of the lads. As far as I can tell, it’s a bit like people switching from smoking cigarettes to vaping e-cigarettes.

But, drinking non-alcoholic drinks isn’t for everyone. Some argue that the taste would get them back on to the real thing. Perhaps, but for me not so. I’ve not really had much interest in drinking non-alcoholic drinks up to now. Normally I’d drink tonic, or soft drinks, but steer away from anything else partly because of the taste, but now that has been improved, then I think I would see myself drinking these sorts of beers more often.

Certainly, if I go to a party, I’d take a 4-pack of these and not feel out of place at all. I think I’m in the camp now that likes to have an alternative.

I’m interested to know from you, what you think on this. Do you think it’s ok to switch or would you feel drawn back to drinking alcohol? Please write your comments on this and join the conversation.

Happy Christmas to All Visitors Past, Present & Future

Happy Sober Christmas to All Visitors Past, Present & Future
I’d like to wish all visitors past, present and future a very happy Christmas! If this is your first, some tips here might help, or you’re a seasoned pro, not drinking at Christmas neededn’t be anything like missing out on the fun. You can still enter into all the festivites and have as much fun as the person next to you, and best of all, you get to drive home (legally) at the end of the night!

To everyone, I wish you all a safe, happy and sober Christmas.

Best wishes.
James

P.s. Here’s a recipe for Mulled Wine – without the wine! – to make your Chrismtas just as special…

12 Years On: Sobriety An Update

December 21st is my Sobriety Birthday

12 years ago, today I stopped. I finally stopped drinking. After drinking since my late teens, in my 35th year it finally ended. December 21st, 2006 was indeed the shortest day, but for me it was the longest. My hangover from hell made sure of that. But nevertheless, the decision was made, sobriety was almost presented to me as an ultimatum. Either I accept that life couldn’t go on in this direction or else break for it and take a different path. One I’d not really travelled much on before. That was the one I took. And 12 years on, there are no regrets. No longer do I reflect on the negative things I did or the days I wasted recovering from worsening hangovers. But now I am happy to know that this part of my life chapter closed and a new one opened.

Things now are totally different. The life change that came about from literally stopping partying and going out for whole weekends drinking has given way to family life. Now I cannot imagine how things would be bringing up kids and dealing with hangovers. Now I have time to spend with my kids, and every waking hour. I’ve made sure that I haven’t missed important dates, school events and birthdays. I can’t imagine not being able to give them full attention and it pleases me not missing out on these things because I’m hungover or too busy planning to go out with the boys on a night out.

Selfishly, I am happy that I gave up drinking in a pre-social media world. I am not sure that I would have fared well getting drunk with social media ready to capture your exploits and make you an internet sensation by the time you’d sobered up. I do fear though the effect social media has had on people now who drink to excess and are trying to give up and have been caught on camera and then had to suffer additional shame. I feel for celebrities who overstep the mark and are captured, or their phones hacked – they must be under daily attack from people trying to steal drunken pictures never meant for public exposure.

Sobriety Changes You

I think I’ve changed a lot since 2006. My life was in turmoil and not very stable. Stability wasn’t something I was that familiar with, I didn’t think too much of others and was quick to pin the blame on everyone and everything around me, except me. Since then getting married and having kids has helped, but so too has rediscovering my faith. Attending church every Sunday for the past 3-4 years has given me a whole new perspective. Every week I feel like not going I push myself to go and then hear a sermon that seems written just for me. It is those moments that I feel my faith deepening, that there seems to be a reason for me being here, that I have a job to do and that I matter.

The contrast with my life before couldn’t be more exaggerated. I felt none of those feelings. Now, with children, I want them to grow up feeling that they can do whatever they want, not feel threatened, have a worldly understanding and be aware of things like drugs and alcohol. They are young still, not yet 10, but nevertheless I want to pass on my experiences so that they build on them and become better people. I hope I will be able to steer them past the pitfalls that caught me, or at least help raise them so they are more aware of these pitfalls.

Giving up drinking made me more philosophical, helped me to find new books to explore. I stumbled on Massimo Pigliucci’s blog about How to Be a Stoic, and right away I was hooked. I found it fascinating that people 2,000 years ago were having similar issues, especially when looking at the things we can control and the things we cannot. In my situation, I was able to give up drinking and directly affect the control that drink had on my life. It wasn’t easy, as I explain through the 5 steps that I took to get me sober but being able to focus on the things and feelings I can control certainly has helped me to stay sober.

So, which life is better?

My past, which had some wild days, some very funny days and times with friends and family, anecdotes that still get talked about now when we meet up. But a lot of dressing moments, some I’ve managed to forget. Or my life now. For sure, it is the life I have now, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. This is the better path, the one that has brought different pleasures and more meaning in life. Not to mentions the huge benefits in giving up drink, and great pleasures in not relying on getting drunk to have a good time.

Whilst I don’t write blog posts that regularly now, it still gives me great pleasure when people find my blog and write comments about their sober journeys, some of which are just starting out. It’s the reason why I keep the blog and feel happy that I can perhaps help others to join me.

If you are just starting out and finding this post for the first time, please write in the comment box and tell your story. You have just the same chance of success and the same chance of making a change in your life. I can tell you from my own experience, sharing it with others is one of the best ways to ground you and keep you on your new path.

Start Your New Year’s Resolutions Today

Start Your New Year's Resolutions Today

Don’t wait for January 1st to start yours. Start today. By planning to start to give up something at a point in the future, you’re planning to fail. If you’re minded to stop drinking, smoking or taking drugs, then you need to start now.

I poured all the drink I had in my house away the moment I realised I wanted to stop drinking for good. Everything went, even full bottles of gin and whiskey that I had for special occassions. I emptied the fridge and though it felt like a complete waste of money, doing it felt good. I was on day one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I was ahead, already.

Then, a few days later when it was indeed the 1st of January, I already had a head start. Plus, I’d already gone through one of the major events as a non-drinker, Christmas and New Year. Not easy!

Christmas is the time of year when we’re all bombarded with ads on TV advertising scotch whiskey or fancy liquers. There are also endless parties with friends and family and you don’t want to feel out of place by not joining in the fun, do you?!

But in all seriousness, starting your New Year’s Resolutions early helps, it also helps get you a foundation so that when others start to give in, you’re already ahead and have built up greater will-power to continue.

Trust me, it works. It did for me when I gave up on December 21st.

Time, please: is drinking becoming as socially unacceptable as smoking?

From the Guardian newspaper, which incidentally has always been a great source of stories about alcohol, recovery and how society is possibly changing its viewpoint on it, including this article comparing the fall in smoking with a fall in drinking over the last 10 years – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/apr/23/time-please-is-drinking-becoming-as-socially-unacceptable-as-smoking

Why Not Give Up Drink For Lent?

why-not-give-up-for-lentAs Lent starts tomorrow, now could be a great time to take the plunge and see if you can’t go the next 40 days and nights without drinking any alcohol.

What have you got to lose?

You don’t have to be religious.

The only thing you need to be is a drinker (and one who, secretly, wants to give up).

Most of us needed an excuse to give up, and this one happens to be one of the best as you can say you’re doing it for religious grounds.

People tend to give you space, and respect your wishes even, something that isn’t normally possible if you give up any other time during the year.

Certainly, Lent is traditionally a time to give up something or abstain from a luxury, including drinking or smoking.

Finding a time to give up is one of the hardest things. That’s why occasions like this can be the spur that we need. It’s the thing that gets us moving.

So will you do it? If you’ve felt inspired to give it up for Lent, please write in the comments box below and let us know how you get on.

Make Today the 1st Day of the Rest of Your Life

OK, so the new year resolutions you set just a few weeks ago, seems like an age away. Maybe you got through January, just, and you’re beginning to think if living a sober life is actually for you.

It’s one of the hardest months of the year. Most people don’t have much money so in a sense giving up drink is made easier as there’s less people going out.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this with your friends. However, it whilst it makes it slightly easier to give up, there were probably tugs to get you to join in with drinks at the end of the month on pay day.

It doesn’t matter if you stumbled and had a drink. Why should that stop you from trying again? You know in your mind that you want to leave all the baggage that comes with drinking, behind, and that you know in your mind that giving up drink is what you really, really want to do.

Then, there’s nothing stopping you from making today the 1st day of the rest of your (new sober) life.

It’s all about keeping moving. Don’t dwell on making mistakes. If you had a drink, a sip even, don’t let it get into your head, move on.

The early days are hard.

Giving up drinking isn’t easy.

I found that the best thing to do was to go out for long walks. Just head out to the country, or to the park. Anything to get fresh air. Give your head some fresh oxygen, to help it make better decisions.

Always, after coming in from a long walk, I’d feel better and have a more positive outlook on life. I could almost leave all those worries behind me and kind of re-focus.

You can’t do this sitting on the sofa, watching TV.

Nope. If you try that, you’ll end up wanting a beer with it, and before you know it, you’ll be back to your old ways. To be honest, we’re all creatures of habit. This is why, when you give up drinking, you need to find new habits to do, in order to replace the old ones.

You’re never too old to start. I knew in my early 20s, that drinking wasn’t for me. But it took me another decade to get my act together. I gave up so many times in that period. Swore to myself I’d never have another drop. But it wouldn’t last. I’d give up. I didn’t have the drive and energy that I found in later life, to really go for it.

But, no matter what, we all have the ability to say to ourselves, go for it, do it, make this one count. Make it count today and use today as the springboard to get you heading in the direction it is you want to go.

Giving up drink has given me loads of confidence. Quietly, I know there are so many things I can do now I’ve climbed this particular mountain.

It’s a great feeling.

Have you found it too?

Not Too Late To Join Alcohol Concern’s Dry January Campaign

C1eIphhXUAAVu_0If you’re thinking of stopping drinking and are looking for inspiration have a look at Alcohol Concern as they are running the Dry January campaign. There’s still plenty of time to get involved. I can vouch for all three stats here – but according to Alcohol Concern, 79% of people who take part save money, 62% slept better and 49% lost weight.

There are loads of resources on their website, with stories from those who have taken part and gave up drinking, together with apps to help you control your drinking and information leaflets to help inspire you to do the same.

It’s not too late to join in, and if you think that it’s too late to make a start, it isn’t! :o)

No matter when you chose to give up drinking, especially binge drinking, you’ll find that you can totally transform the rest of your life.

Information Links:
Download the App
https://twitter.com/dryjanuary
https://alcoholchange.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/dry-january

Pre-Register for 2019

Pre-register and take part in Dry January, 2019

P.s. You don’t have to be in the UK to do this, use their resources to take part where you live!

Choosing Your New Year Resolutions

What Are Your New Year Resolutions Going to be?It’s New Year tomorrow and I’m still deciding on my New Year Resolutions. I’ve scoured the internet and found some of the top 10s, whittled down my list to one or two. Next year I’m definitely going to try to be fitter, happier and spend less time online and more offline.

After a quick Internet search, I’ve found some of the most popular resolutions from around the web:

  1. Lose weight, join a gym
  2. Eat more healthily, give up the snacks and take outs
  3. Improve confidence, and have a bigger smile
  4. Give up smoking, save your health
  5. Be more active, get more energy
  6. Meet more people, have a spring clean
  7. Change jobs, get out of the rut you’re in
  8. Drink less, even try to give up completely
  9. Lower stress, worry less, especially about work
  10. Get offline more, do a digital detox

[Source: 50 New Year’s Resolution Ideas And How To Achieve Each Of Them]

New Year Resolutions have been happening since the year dot. Like most of us, we use them to set goals, learn languages, to get us moving, stop procrastinating or for some, to make life changing changes.

10 years ago I started my New Year Resolution early. About 10 days early. I’d tried to give up drinking, or at least cut down, many, many times. I’d set myself New Year Resolutions, but somehow I could never really get passed the first week or two. This time though, I wrote it down and posted it on the shaving mirror. I told my family that I was giving up drink and was done with getting hangovers anymore.

I think writing it down was one of the things that helped me most.

Because it worked.

Apparently, according to the statisticsbrain.com website, you’re more than 10 times likely to succeed in your goal, by simply making it your New Year Resolution. Do yourself a favour and write it down, put it in a public place, let others see it and work towards your goal.

Other times motivation comes out of the blue. The sudden death if AA Gill, a journalist at The Times, from lung cancer two weeks ago reminds me once again that you can’t assume anything. Making it to retirement isn’t a right, or a guarantee. His diagnosis to his passing took just a few weeks. Some people don’t have as long as that even. He gave up drinking at 30, but continued as a smoker for a mother 15 years or so.

Life is too short.

If you’re thinking of giving up drinking, then why not join with Cancer Research UK or Alcohol Concern, both of whom are doing Dry January events at the same time as raising funds for their charities.

Joining in with an event will help motivate you and keep you on track.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck, write and let us know what you’ve chosen to do and tell us how you’re getting on.

Happy New Year!