A few days ago I was on Facebook looking for bad grammar to correct, and other things to feel smug about (what of it??) when a picture popped up, posted by a mate who was sat on a train in Manchester. The picture was innocent enough – I think he was waiting for it to leave the station and take him to a faraway rock gig or whatever – but the thing that caught my eye, even caused a sudden jolt to pass through my body, was the open can of Boddingtons Bitter sat on the table at the bottom of the picture.
Back when I was a drinker (I quit in Sept 2015 for you noobs) I never really had a particular go-to drink. I’d drink owt that had booze in it really, but one thing I used to enjoy doing whenever I had a full day or two to myself was getting a huge case of either Boddingtons or Tetleys (Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!) and a bottle of whisky, usually Jack or Jameson, and then spending the entire day chugging booze and eating pizza and watching TERRIBLE movie after TERRIBLE movie. I loved that shit, and the cold cans of beer were awesome for smashing down quickly. I remember in tiny detail the feel of the ice cold cans after they came out of the fridge, and the pop and gargle as the widget shot into action. Sometimes I’d pour it into a proper pint glass – liberated from a public house, of course – which would allow me to fully appreciate it’s golden colour and silky-smooth head. Other times I’d just chug straight from the can, the smooth bubble-less liquid slipping down like runny caramel. I could easily get through twenty cans in a day, but once I hit the whiskies it was game over. Give it a good hour and you’d find me balled up on the landing floor, blasting Meatloaf or Joy Division or The Cure, gibbering like a fat, wobbly, lobotomised sentient condom full of margarine. Just a pink sweaty mass pining for something that had been and gone, or just emotional through drink and for no other good reason. A babbling twat with broken glasses and a shit beard.
The Facebook picture, of the beer on the train, suddenly brought back all the GOOD bits of the Boddingtons experience. I read somewhere recently that the alcoholic’s brain never forgets the experience of the first time they truly enjoy any given drink. The memory leaves an imprint, and the alcoholic then spends a lifetime trying to recapture that moment; drinking more and more and more, always chasing that day in that pub when that beer tasted like heaven, but falling shorter with every attempt – until eventually the alcoholic drinks just to feel human.
If I’d have spotted that picture whilst I was earlier into my sobriety, maybe just days or weeks, then there’s a very big chance that the jolt it gave me – the rush of wonderful memories of drinking Boddingtons whilst eating pepperoni pizza and watching No Retreat No Surrender – would have been enough for me to shout FUCK IT and run to the nearest Londis for a pack of cold cans. It wouldn’t have been just a taster either, it would have been a diving board straight back into the deep end of heavy drinking, and I can GUARANTEE that two days later I’d have been busted and broken and hungover and crying about needing to try and get back on the wagon.
I’m 865 days into my sobriety, and even now – that innocent picture of an open can of Boddingtons was enough to tickle my balls proper. For half a second I thought about how much I miss that shit, and the impact was so great that here I am writing a blog about it! What the fuck! The feeling wasn’t a million miles from what those Marks & Spencer adverts give you – you know the ones with the porn music and the lady whispering whilst a hot melty chocolate pudding is slowly opened up, or a juicy fillet steak has thick jus poured over it. Man, those adverts were just too good. It was like some sort of hypnotic voodoo they were using. They could sell anything with that voice and that black background…
Hello – is this the guys who make the porny M&S adverts?
It is! Darren speaking, how can we help you?
I’ve got a few products I need to sell. I was hoping you could make me some of your mucky adverts to help me shift my stock?
No worries friend. What do you need to sell?
Well, firstly I’ve got 96,000 copies of an old 80’s Benny Hill show on VHS. The sound doesn’t work on any of them.
No problemo amigo, we’ve got your back on that one. What else?
I’ve got 2,300 defective child car seats that came cheap from a factory in Korea. The belt mechanism comes loose with even a tiny tug.
I hear ya bro. We can sell those. We’ll crank up the sexy music to divert attention from the defect. Anything else?
Just a shitload of cheap out-of-date peanuts from a fire-damaged factory. The bags are mostly contaminated with bits of broken glass…
All good my friend. We’ll get some black sheeting and hire a slow-mo cam. I’ll call you back after we’ve checked the whisper-lady’s schedule. We can shift that shit for you in no time. Call it £800 all-in.
Thanks man. Speak soon.
Peace out bro.
One of the keys to staying sober is being able to manage your FUCK IT moments. If you’ve reached a point where you need to quit drinking, then you have to be prepared to tackle the temptations that will come at you. I’ve had a good think about the stuff that’s worked for me over the last 2 or so years, and I’ve put together a list of things you can do next time you’re presented with a reminder of how nice that booze used to feel, and you’re on the verge of saying FUCK IT and caving in:
- Play the tape to the end. Regular readers will know this is always on my lists, because it’s the best advice I’ve ever been given. Just picture where this whole thing will end if you cave in now. Remember how shitty it feels to wake up hungover and skint. You tried to quit for a reason – do you really wanna go back there? This tip is killer, and has worked for me a hundred times.
- Carry a reminder. If you’re susceptible to FUCK IT moments then you need to be carrying something with you at all times – something that will remind you why you have chosen to go sober. I’d recommend putting something in your purse or wallet – maybe a picture of your kids, or of your ex that left you coz of your drinking habits (oof). Maybe even attach a keyring to your house keys with a picture of your grandparents that you never got to properly say goodbye to because of your drinking, or a picture of that BMW M3 that you’re hoping to buy with the money you’re saving from not drinking. Whatever works man – just DO IT, and stare at that shit whenever you need to.
- Remember, sobriety might not need to be forever. This is a controversial one, and I’m already expecting the sobriety purists to disagree. The fact is, though, that the thought that I might one day be able to drink again has been very powerful for me. The idea of never drinking again is very FINAL, and therefore can be very scary. The fact that one day you might return to drink, therefore, can be comforting. In all honesty there’s every chance you won’t want to go back – does an old man with 40 years sobriety really care about getting twatted? Doubtful. I include this point specifically as a mate of mine, who is also going sober, mentioned it to me recently as one of the best bits of advice he’s ever read on SoberPunks. It helped him, it helped me, and so just maybe it can help you too. I’ve also written a whole load more about this one here.
- Compile a quick mental list of the reasons you are going sober. Picture the scene: You’re 3 months sober, and you’re on a rare night out due to a mate’s birthday. Everyone around you is getting smashed, all your old drinking buddies are here, and the pints and shots are looking tasty. FUCK IT you think – a couple of beers can’t hurt, can it? You join the queue at the busy bar, and you wait to be noticed. At this point you still have a choice, but it sounds like you’ve already committed. You need to take stock of the situation quickly, and the best way to do this is to quickly remind yourself WHY you decided to go sober, and WHAT you have achieved since doing so. More money? Better relationship with the missus? Lost weight? Killing it erryday at work? Kids loving having a sober bedtime story? BOOM. You know what to do. Order a coke, drink up, get outta there. Your health and future happiness is worth more than saving face at a mate’s party, and if they’re a real mate then they’ll understand. Which brings us nicely on to…
- Tell someone. If you’re really in danger of shouting FUCK IT and cannon-balling off the wagon then you need an outsider’s perspective. Call your missus, or your mates, or drop a message to that guy on Facebook that won’t shut the fuck up about how cool sobriety is. People love to help people – so take advantage dude. I could have never gotten this far without my wife.
- Reward yourself for not caving in. A filthy pizza when you’re on a diet is much safer than a beer when you’re going sober. Reward yourself with whatever works. Eat junk food, buy yourself some new clothes, have a massive wank. Whatever works. In that moment that you shout FUCK IT, there must be something else you can do. Do that thing, not the booze thing. Okay?
- Mimic your hero. A lot of celebrities are openly sober these days. If sobriety is good enough for IRON MAN then it’s good enough for you too. There are some inspirational and talented people out there. Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Samuel L Jackson, Danny Trejo, Ewan McGregor, Eminem, Stephen King – all people I’m in awe of, all sober.
I hope this blog helps a few people out in those weaker moments. This whole thing is a journey, and the more we can share our experiences, the easier we make the journey for other people.
Finally a big shout out to Debbie P and Alex B – a couple of friends who are killing this sobriety thing.
Peace an’ fuckin.
Wanna read my big wanky blog from the start? Click here.