I stopped drinking for a year and now I’m going longer…

In July 2017 I decided to take a break from drinking alcohol.

I had commenced training in road crash rescue in my local State Emergency Service (SES) and I decided I wanted to take the responsibility seriously and make sure I was always available. So I thought, I’ll stop drinking for a couple of months to ensure I was always there for my community and for my team.

I wasn’t a problem drinker, but like a lot of Australian men in their 30’s I’d given booze a good shake. Additionally, I was also starting to look at myself and my relationship with alcohol, and was wondering when I was going to start taking things a little more seriously and have a real crack at life.

A couple of months went by. It was a little difficult at first but I was training hard at SES, working hard, and I started a new exercise regime. I therefore had enough to motivate me and push me through the boring Saturday afternoons where I would habitually open a beer whilst I watered the lawn or cooked a BBQ.

A couple of months turned into six and I was really starting to notice weight loss, energy increases and mental and physical wellbeing.  I wasn’t thinking about alcohol at all and I thought to myself, why not do a year…

It was around the 9 months point that I started to tell people of what I was doing. Up until then, I just stopped drinking. I didn’t tell anyone, not for any particular reason, it was partly because I didn’t know what my plans were and I didn’t want to commit to something I wasn’t going to achieve, so after three quarters of a year, I was confident of success, and told people. I would recite the above to people when they asked why…

I sailed into a year easily and immediately my mind turned to drinking. Violently and with a force I had not anticipated. My god, I craved it, I dreamt about it. Everywhere I looked booze reoccupied my thinking. It was at this point I decided I’m going to keep going…

This time, like last, I don’t have any expectations about how long I will persist. I still maintain that I may drink again one day but it’s not in the foreseeable future. That’s mainly because I have so much momentum now that I have built whilst not drinking and I feel as though drinking will burst that momentum. It’s not about not drinking, it’s about the success I’m having without drinking. Positive reasons are so much better than negative.

I learned some lessons along the way:

  • Exercise, particularly intense cardio and lifting heavy weights is as good as any beer I have ever tasted if not better. Particularly early in the morning followed by a shot of espresso before work. It sets up your morning to be super productive.
  • Achievement and momentum is addictive. The more you achieve, the more you want to and it grows and flows from there. If you’d told me a year ago I’d have started a podcast and be on an entrepreneurial journey I would have laughed at you.
  • I used to watch what I ate and was weight conscious but now I can eat (within reason) pretty much whatever I want and I don’t really worry anymore. Instead of alcohol I’ve decided to treat myself with sourdough on the weekends.
  • I have more energy and enthusiasm than I have had in the past 20 years. Combined with better sleep, going to bed early and generally being keen to wake up and discover the world. I’m almost a new man.
  • I have more money and time, and I use that to have a better relationship with my children. I thought I was a pretty good father but I’m almost super dad now… I say yes more often and when I’m with them I’m more present and engaged.

The next point is not a dot point. It’s important and a real lesson for us all.

Somewhere in my life I lost joy. I lost creativity and excitement. In some ways, alcohol, gave me a fleeting glimpse of what I had lost and offered moments of relief from the humdrum and monotony of life but it wasn’t real.

I recently had someone I trust and I respect tell me that I’m the most serious person they’ve ever met. I found that interesting because over the last couple of months I’ve developed a feeling that I remember from when I was younger, a feeling I haven’t felt since I was a teenager and it certainly isn’t a feeling of seriousness…

It’s a feeling that includes a sense of wonder, excitement at what the day might hold, the opportunity for discovery. It’s that feeling that you get when you’re reading a really good story and it feels like the stuff that movies, great pieces of art and music are written about. At the moment, I feel that, and I can tell you that no beer ever tasted that good and probably never will.

In the immortal catch phrase of r/stopdrinking IWNDWYT.

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