I said in earlier posts that I had set a start date of September 1st for my sobriety challenge because I knew I had some big social dates coming up. I also wanted to take leave from alcohol in a planned way; my long goodbye. Reading other blogs I can see that giving up alcohol when you’ve become alcohol dependent is a tough task and I wanted to have a “run in” so that I really understood what I was doing and making sure that this was the right decision for me. I’ve said before that having to give up alcohol completely for me is really an admission of failure. Whereas many people can enjoy alcohol in a responsible and moderate way, I cannot. From an early age I drank excessively and greedily. Having tried moderation and failed I can see that my only path is abstinence.
And yet…… I know I shall miss alcohol. It has been a source of pleasure and it is so entrenched in so many social activities that I enjoy. Convivial evenings down the pub with friends is something that will either go or have to change, trips to Dusseldorf visiting the big breweries in Altstadt with my German relatives likewise. I know that giving up is something I have to do for my health and wellbeing and there are many things I am looking forward to in my new sober life but there is also already a sense of loss and grieving for something that has been so integral to my life.
Having said all that one of the social events I wanted to enjoy without the struggle of not drinking was my big Bank Holiday BBQ. This was held on Sunday and was a big family occasion. I knew this was to be my last big booze up and very predictably, I got drunk. It was also a brilliant reminder to myself as to why I have to stop drinking. Every element of my problemmatic relationship to alcohol was present on that day.
At 1 o’ clock on Sunday I fired up the barbecue and had my first beer. From a drinker’s point of view outside barbecues are heaven; buckets of cold beer, opened bottles of wine, you can drink what you like without drawing too much attention to yourself. In pubs you have to drink at the same rate as the others, no such problems at barbecues especially ones you organise yourself. I was drinking to my heart’s content and cooking on coals which I love.
Do not cook and drink, that’s my advice. When I do something usually goes wrong and sure enough a couple of hours into the BBQ and several beers later (who’s counting), I lift the lid of the grill and pick up one of the metal skewers, only without gloves. Ouch. That was stupid. Just typing this is hurting my blistered fingers, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when you mix drinking and cooking.
Sitting down once the food is all cooked I chat to my two sons one of whom who I haven’t seen in 4 months. My sons are fairly heavy drinkers too (wonder where they got that from) and we are now trying different British ales together with some interesting wines. The brakes are off and my drinking has now taken on a life of its own. My partner asks me to slow down. I’m fine I say but I’m not. I know that now because one of my sons told me yesterday that when we played table tennis for the second time I was tripping over myself and unable to hit the ball with my bat. That’s not what usually happens because I play table tennis in a local league and I pride myself on being a fairly reasonable player. I cannot remember that spell of playing table tennis.
My partner yesterday tried to talk to me about my drinking. I had fallen asleep in the living room and woke about 3 in the morning unsure what I was doing there. She slept in a spare room saying that I was “completely pissed” Sunday night and had been very loud and my sons had been embarrased by my rambling, drunken monologue in the garden. I didn’t want to listen to that. Yesterday was the day after the BBQ. I went with my two sons their girlfriends and my ex wife (the mother of my sons) and her husband for a walk to a nearby village. We went to the pub. Most had soft drinks but I was straight onto the beers. Hair of the dog we call it. A few beers sorts out a hangover, what a joke.
It’s now 2 a.m. on Tuesday. My sons left to go home yesterday and I’m up in the middle of the night feeling sick, bloated and sweaty with blistered fingers and a two day hangover. I feel embarrassed by my drinking on Sunday and I purposely do not want to find out what I said and did. Nothing terrible or aggressive I know but I will have been ridiculous and embarrassing nonetheless.
That pattern of unrestrained drinking on Sunday is what I do when the drink is freely available. I have done it before at parties, weddings, funerals, the lot. If the drink is available I’ll go for it. Looking back to Sunday I’m so thankful it happened because it demonstrated to me that I really can’t control my drinking at such events. I did not really enjoy the day in all honesty after the first hour or so and it has left me feeling ill and embarrassed. Good. When I’m having doubts about my decision to give up the booze I shall remind myself of the Bank Holiday BBQ and that should help me fight any temptation. My partner is worried about my drinking and I was so close to telling her of my plan but I decided to keep quiet. I have told her that from Saturday I shall be starting a diet so when she sees me not drinking she will assume it’s because of the diet. I don’t want to make it a big deal, and she’s heard me talk of cutting back to no avail before so this time no fanfare but hopefully I shall show her in a few months that alcohol is disappearing from my life.
So yes, in 5 days time I shall be starting my new sober journey and saying goodbye to booze. I wish I could have been a sensible drinker but I cannot so that’s that. Once my start date arrives I need to start looking forward to all the benefits of being sober and once I experience some of those benefits (and I know there will be many having given up for three months earlier this year) I can give up on the grieving for my troublesome friend.
This period running up to giving up is proving invaluable to me. I have learned a lot about myself, my drinking habits, my reasons for wanting to quit. The blog is really helping to organise my thoughts and I am sure is going to be a great motivation in staying sober. Big changes like giving up the booze are notoriously difficult so knowing why I have to make the change is a very important part of the process. Knowing that others have been successful is also motivational and I thank all those that have shared their stories. Your stories help strugglers like me face up to reality and hopefully make the changes.
I sure hope you can do this Jim. Here’s a little tidbit I picked up at A.A. along the road…”Any drunk can stay sober for a year”. So while going 3 months may seem fairly easy because you’ve already done that, when you’re committed to long term sobriety, it’s a completely different mentality and ball-game. You’re putting something to death. Something that doesn’t want to die and will put up a fight. It let you go the three months because you had a deal with it. To put it into the coffin this time and start throwing the dirt on it may be an experience you have yet to imagine. Lot’s have done it successfully though — that’s the good news and hope for us. I’m looking forward to see how things go for you, and we’ll all be here to support you. Rock on brother, rock on. We’re rooting for ya. 👍
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Well said Nelson and I know I got through three months knowing there was a drink at the end of it. Having said that it got easier as time went on but I essentially lived like a hermit. This time I’m saying to my self give it a year. That way I’m not saying forever (even though that’s my intention) hoping that having achieved a year I’ll want to stick with it. Funny things our minds!
Eventually you’ll likely see sobriety as a strength, not a failure. I know that I am stronger than most people because of what I’ve done and continue to do.
That’s definitely the way to see it. Already I’m looking forward to some of the positive impacts on my body of being sober , but not looking forward to showing discipline and resolve- but I like a challenge. Thanks for your support👍🏻
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I did 3 months last year Jim and then thought I’d give moderation a go – quickly got back to my old ways but I learnt a lot that helped this time around. Firstly I didn’t go it alone – I did an online course (Kate Bee sober school) and read loads of books that challenged my view of alcohol and what it does for me as well as starting blogging. From reading your posts it sounds like the biggest challenge for you as it was for me is ‘I can’t have fun or relax without a drink’. I honestly don’t want to drink now but am having to learn how to have fun sober. When I really examined my social life I realised alcohol was taking more than it was giving in recent years, maybe always had – good luck! We’re all rooting for you!
I was exactly the same – tried 3 months eraly this year- felt great but went back to drinking as it was only meant to be a 3 month cleansing. Trouble is I started drinking more than before. I’m clearly not one for moderation. Like you I have read, studied and indeed worked with alcoholics. all valuable insights and consolidating my view that sobriety was the way forward for me. In truth I think this day has been coming for a few years now. Luckily when I stopped for three months I went out with a group on a difficult anniversary. Normally we all usually had a good time, drank excessively then start crying about our mutual loss. This time I didn’t drink, was dreading it but had a great evening. I think it helped that we were not just sitting in a bar but went to see a Bruce (I adore that man) Springsteen tribute band , so I danced and sang along, amazing myself that I was having fun sober. The icing on the cake was seeing a young guy at the gig completely drunk and making a fool of himself. Just a smidging of superiority and judgement crept in on me and I felt fortunate that I was not drinking.
Hey Jim, today is the first day of the rest of your life!! Prayers are with you today :).
Ah that’s sweet of you. Yes 12 hours so far but who’s counting😀. I appreciate your support. Thanks 👍
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Hey Jim thanks for your blog. Our drinking patterns have many similarities, and we’re on the same path just about one year apart. I am curious to keep reading as I start my roughly 9 months alcohol free experiment…. I want to get to a point where I really don’t miss it, don’t think about it so much.