For Me It Finally all comes down to Identity

Let’s try and cut to the chase. I’m 11 months without a drink. There is no physiological need for me to drink, any physical dependency is long gone, but I’ve had urges, oh yes. Like many others I’ve had to reflect on all of this. There were lots of reasons I had for giving up (see crap graphic that proves my art teacher was correct when he told me NOT to pursue art at school), health, hangovers, impact on others, blah, blah, blah. But, like others giving up wasn’t a one way street. I was not some down and out drunk. I drank too much on occasion, I took it to excess sometimes, but…. I enjoyed it, I loved it, the drinking in company, different wines with different foods, getting slightly tipsy, switching off for a while, losing the anxious straightjacket for a few hours, I was a drinker, an unapologetic, “you only live once, you boring bastard,” drinker.

Now when I get the urge it’s when I’m with family or friends, pubs, restaurants, BBQs, where the norm, the expectation is that everyone will drink. At those points, despite the growing AF drink selection, I am an outsider. The UK is a drink based culture and I am now the outsider, constantly reminded of that every time there’s a meet up in a pub, house, anywhere.That gap between what I’m trying to be and what the social expectation is, that is what creates the unease. That’s what is fuelling the urges, the thoughts of why not go back to something I loved.

How did my son end up becoming a graphic designer?

I knew the “something I loved” was no longer good for me and I took the decision to part with it and yet the pressures, enticements and yearning remained. That’s when it hit me. This is no longer a battle with alcohol. 11 months without, I’ve won that battle. No, for me this is now about who I am and how I identify myself, that’s where the tension comes from, I am convinced of it. For 50 years I developed the identity of a drinker. I was known for it. People told stories about my drinking, my drunken exploits. IT WAS WHO I WAS. My drinking defined me and wherever I went,I went with a drink in hand. Booze and me melded into one seamless identity. We went to places we felt comfortable; pubs, restaurants. I hosted social events so i could be Jim the Drinker. I had an identity and, good or bad, it was a consistent identity and we all need one of those.

Now. After 11 months I realise that smashing that identity is at the heart of my sometimes malaise. I have ceased to be the same Jim to many people. I don’t like sitting in pubs anymore. Many of the things that helped define me have gone. I have been stripped naked and it feels raw at times.

This growing realisation about identity being the crucial element in my current position in relation to alcohol is important for me. It’s helping me understand why the separaration has been painful at times. I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult giving up my identity would be. When I had the urge to have a few pints with my son and a few others, it wasn’t the drink calling me, it was my old identity. Give me the props of my old identity; pub, drink, silly conversation and for a moment I’d be back to the old me. The safety and warmth of a distorted identity. I was missing being me.

Wait a minute I thought. Does that need reframing? Was I missing the old me or had I simply not worked at creating a new me.

Eureka!

This seems to be the issue for me at least. I gave up an identity, failed to see the enormity of that, and did not take the time to build a new one. In the absence of a new secure identity I understandably felt drawn to the comfort of the old one.

So now after 11 months it is finally time to say goodbye to the old identity of Jim the drinker. It served its purpose, it was good while it lasted but it had to go. No more regrets. It had to go and I’m glad its gone. My task is to now build a new identity and be secure and happy in that. No more looking back. It feels like a time of grieving has come to an end and a time for renewal has begun. Maybe a time to feel both glad and proud to be sober? Brave enough to finally ditch one identity and embrace another.

JIM X

35 thoughts on “For Me It Finally all comes down to Identity

  1. boozebrain

    That sounds a damn fine place to be at. Congrats Jim. Cheering you on from down under – another culture steeped in alcohol. Enjoy the new discoveries that await you. Hurrah.

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  2. limetwiste

    Excellent post. I like the thought patterns. Identity is key. Now the fun begins getting to know yourself.
    Make no assumptions. Reevaluate everything. Leave no stone unturned.
    Enjoy 😁

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  3. Sober Veg Mama

    Oh wow Jim. I have barely started on my sober journey and this resonates so hard. I am the girl who loves the diviest bars, orders whiskey on the rocks, and spends all night talking to the strangest characters. Will I never do that again? Will I never want to? Or will I remain mostly sober and do it once in awhile? <— that is a question I am curious how all you ex drinkers answer. Someone referred me over here to your blog because you did what I am doing currently – documenting last days of drinking before I quit. So I will have to dig into your archives now….

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  4. gr8ful_collette

    Wonderful, insightful realization. I recently wrote about embracing who I truly am instead of going along with society’s expectations. And maybe for you it’s not about creating a new identity but allowing parts that were there all along but eclipsed by your drinking come to the forefront and shine. 💕

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Ooh I like it! I get what you mean as well. For example . I was the loud jokey drinker in the party- sober still jokey but lower key. The real me realises I was playing a part. I miss playing that part but maybe that was never really the true me. X

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      1. gr8ful_collette

        Exactly. And the fun part is finding the authentic aspects of yourself and embracing them. 💕😊

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  5. clairei47

    I really enjoyed this post Jim. Well written and full of insight and many points I connect with. I actually prefer my sober self in many ways. I grew bored of my identify being ‘Claire, she likes a drink or five’. More and more the jokes about being a piss head would be about me and it started to grate. My new identity is far nicer but can feel boring at times. I suspect your new identify will be far more lovely and never dull 😉
    Claire x

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Well seems I’m not the only one who had a strong drinker identity! But it does become a burden doesn’t it when people expect and see only that- . And who knows how us former drinkers will evolve but thanks for your kind words- really appreciated 🙏x

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  6. jacquelyn3534

    I read this post before work but didn’t have time to comment. I loved reading this! It really hit home for sure. I still sometimes struggle with “But Saturday nights are my thing, and I miss doing my thing.” I loved everyone’s comments as well. After I read your post I got to work and realized I had my shirt on backwards. 😂 Then I got thinking about this one time I woke up from a night of drinking and had my zip up sweatshirt on backwards. I must have not noticed it was a zip up and put it over my head, backwards. 😬🤦‍♀️. My one “thing” that hasn’t changed when not drinking is I still seem to maintain all my quirkiness! 😂 At least I can laugh about it now, before I was mortified with a hangover. Thanks again Jim for a great post!!

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Never lose your quirkiness Jacquelyn! I think part of the insidious nature of growing up in a booze based society is that you grow up believing it’s some right of passage that only “uncool” people would avoid and that being a non drinker you are somehow seen as dull or boring. I think us sober people have a duty to show we can be just as interesting, no, more interesting than the drinkers. We need to show that being sober is where true excitement and adventure can be and that sitting around dark, dingy bars getting slowly pissed and talking garbage is actually quite sad and a waste of a life. Cheers (he says raising a glass of everleaf and tonic) X

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  7. jacquelyn3534

    Yes!!! I am going to put that thought in my part of my brain that’s my go-to for inspiration! It sounds fun too, to make it my duty to show others how interesting I am and to be excited and ready for future adventures. If we were drinking, nothing would be new….we would just be on repeat daily. I am raising my very early morning cup of coffee right backatya Jim! X ☕️

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  8. msnewleaf

    This is a great post, Jim. I have no doubt your new identity is just as interesting and fun as your old one – maybe even more so – and am excited for you to be on this journey!

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  9. ceponatia

    Sobriety is weird, even if you weren’t at the bottom of the barrel in drunkenness. Every time I think I have found the “real” me in sobriety, life shifts again and I become even more than I was. I was a bit in the same boat as the beginning of your post… I didn’t miss drinking but I lacked an identity. Now, a little more than 2 years in, I have a lot more of an identity but I can tell it’s still not done being created. That’s both exciting and scary at various times. I feel like I can do anything but also that I can’t necessarily trust how I feel or thing all the time.

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      That’s an Interesting set of replies and shows that the changes many of us are going through are complex and fluid. What you say is important and relevant and highlights that change and finding our true selves is a complex up and down process but also exciting and overwhelmingly worthwhile. Jim x

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  10. Lovie Price

    excellent points! i remember feeling similar and happily overcoming it (albeit with time and lots of effort).But your post made me revisit the element of self identity vs. external identity. I think the turning point for me( during my recovery) was taking the 6 month sabbatical from Fb. Once i lost THAT identity, it made me question ALL of my identities ( how, why & when they formed) and assess which ones no longer served me. Facebook was a huge part of that identity. Unfortunately, getting back on in January, i am once again struggling with it. Not so much the alcohol part ( because even though i have been revisiting it as of late, i still don’t feel driven to regain that identity or live that miserable life again ) i seriously feel a need to re evaluate the image i see in the mirror with the one social media sees. Am i trying to live up to it? Am i trying to change it? Or am i just allowing it to evolve on it’s own? Not sure if any of this makes sense to any one else, but i sure do understand the concept you presented here…good job! and thanks!

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  11. Jim Simmonds Post author

    Hi Lovie , what you say reflects the fact that we all have to re-evaluate ourselves and who we are once we strip away other identities. Luckily, other than this blog I tend to avoid social media but have seen it can be a huge factor on how people perceive themselves. X

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  12. Drunky Drunk Girl

    Well, at eight years sober, I am still finding and forming that “new” identity. I think it’s who you actually are as well as who you are becoming–and both are sort of changing and evolving as you age and mature out of your drinking stage. I think for many drinkers, we wanted to become the person we were while drinking or we couldn’t express that person unless we were drunk; for me, wine helped me to become social, to actually want to talk to people, and it helped me to feel the feelings that I had buried from past trauma. (It took on a life of its own when I started blacking out, and that is another journey–am I the person I am while blacked out, or am I just being made into a monster by the drink?). It’s a long process, feeling comfortable being naked in social settings; always being “real” with yourself; understanding and then, accepting who you truly are and what purpose booze served (was it to simply feel good, or fit in, or did it serve deeper needs?). GREAT post!

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      It’s clear from what you say that many of us go through the same process of reevaluating who we are, why we drank and who we are becoming.it’s interesting to me how much my perspective has changed over less than a year. 8 years- that must be very interesting looking back and realising how much you must have learned about yourself. Great feedback thanks.X

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  13. lifesippingaway

    I really enjoyed reading this and it really resonates. I think Im finding that it’s one of the hardest parts, working out the new you, finding the Russian doll inside the russian doll. You’ve put it so eloquently thank you.

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Thanks for reading and making a comment. I think it’s more about finding the real you rather than a new you but there’s no doubt, take away the booze and you see things more clearly, which in itself can be tough. At what point are you on this journey?
      Jim x

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  14. Jim Simmonds Post author

    Well done for 3 weeks. I did 3 months last year and after that waited a few months and decided to try a year. Nearly at the year but no intention of starting again. It is tough though but well well worth it. X

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  15. nomorebeer

    Hooray, Jim !!!! Congratulations on unraveling these deeper implications of your AF journey. I think the deeper we dig in these directions, the better chances we have of building the most solid foundations for an AF life/identity (as opposed to merely being dry drunks for the rest of our days). xxx Welcome to the world, Jim’s new identity !!! xxx Anne

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Thanks Anne, and here we both are, near the one year mark. Who would have thought it🙂. Jim’s new identity often feels like jims old identity though, stripped back without the little boozy bolt holes to hide in. I’ll keep digging. Hope all I s good with you. X

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