The first sobriety milestone most problem drinkers hit is 1 day. Then you hit 1 week, then 1 month, then 100 days, and then the first real biggie is 1 year. After that they lose a bit of meaning as the novelty falls away, and you’re left in a weird sort of booze-free purgatory; a strange coffee-scented realm which exists between the pink clouds of your new exciting sobriety, and your inevitable grey, sober, lonely DEATH. Slowly it dawns on you; the acceptance that this is your life now. I’ve got no facts or figures to back it up (fuck pie charts and proper research, right?) but I’d imagine this 1 year mark to be the point at which a lot of people start jumping off the wagon.
Ability to stay sober proven.
Alcohol problem firmly disproved.
Time to celebrate by getting twatted and sleeping in a bush.
Oh shit I need help again.
Finding peace with alcohol is a gauntlet, and one which you’ll run a few times on your journey to enlightenment. First you’ll be defeated by the deceptive charm of moderation. Then, after realising that moderation is a bit of a backstabbing bastard, you’ll move onto other bad ideas like changing your tipple for something less strong (but just drink more of it), or stopping drinking alone at home (easy, just spend more time in the pub).
Eventually, if you’re an alcoholic worth his salt, you’ll realise that no matter which route you take through the gauntlet – you always end up back at the dangerous end of drinking. You’ll wake up again and again shaking and sweating, skint, paranoid, and ill from all the boozing which you thought you had under control. You can keep trying your clever little tricks, but a booze-hound is a booze-hound, and a booze-hound will always find a way to turn a quick innocent whistle-wetter into a balls-out wreck-up. Eventually, the smart ones get an epiphany…
ANY alcohol is TOO MUCH alcohol. The only option is NO alcohol. Fuck.
And this is exactly where I landed back in September 2015. I decided enough was enough following a little holiday in France which had a sour ending (read about it here), after which I put the bottle down for the very last time. Ever.
Since then I’ve flown through the important milestones; 100 days, 1 year, 500 days, 2 years. I’ve also done all of my sober firsts: first sober birthday, first sober Xmas, first sober holiday, first sober gig, first sober family wedding. And I have to say, having this here shitty blog as a place to waz all of my meanderings and worries has been a HUGE help in getting me this far – not to mention the lovely kind words of encouragement I’ve had from you guys who take the time to read this guff. You really don’t have to, but I’m glad that you do.
And so here I am at the next big milestone, 1000 days sober, and fuck me has it been an eye-opener. I’ve changed, man. I expected to see a few minor improvements here and there, but the change was much bigger than that. I feel like a different person. Cosmetically similar, but with the circuit boards ripped out and replaced.
So, on that note, allow me to list for you the five big things I’ve learned from spending 1000 days off of the demon disco-pop. Some of them are obvious, some of them are disappointing, all of them are true…
1. Life moves FAST – I think this is probably linked to the fact that if you stop drinking in your mid-thirties, and you haven’t spent more than a week sober since you were sixteen, then you suddenly have a lot of growing up to do. In the last three years I’ve tried to catch up on EVERYTHING that comes with adulting: marriage, mortgage, career… and the upshot of this is that life is flying by in a blur. An acute flurry of activity that’s lasted 1000 days so far, and isn’t slowing down.
Suddenly I’m distracted by the truth of my own mortality, and the velocity at which I’m hurtling towards the grave. I’m halfway through life, having pissed the majority of it up a pub wall in Huddersfield, and I’m not even sure how to make the rest of it really count. What else do I need to squeeze in before I perish in hell (likely sent that way because of the shitting incident)? Also, what about cancer? Suddenly it’s always there, lurking like a sort of vampire-pigeon, waiting to swoop and get you with it’s beak-fangs. It’s already got a couple of mates, and my dad has also kindly pointed out that my family history shouldn’t be something I take comfort from. In fact, I should take the exact opposite of comfort (uncomfort?).
Cancer isn’t a new invention though. Neither is death. It was always there – I just chose to ignore it in my drunken haze of yesteryear – and now that I’m fully aware of it I will use it as a reason to squeeze everything I can out of life. Every. Last. Drop.
2. Getting healthy is easy – In the few years leading up to my decision to quit the booze I spent two or three nights a week in the gym, and I reckon I was hitting it pretty hard, but my chub just wasn’t shifting. But then why would it, considering the calories I was pouring down my throat every weekend, and the resultant drunken takeaway orders? Within one year of quitting the pop I lost 2st, and it was fucking EASY. There are three simple reasons that you lose weight fast after quitting booze:
- No more booze calories
- You make better food choices when you’re sober
- You naturally become a lot more active after stopping drinking due to no hangovers
Nowadays I spend my free time at the climbing wall, or out running up and down the redways, and I kinda love it. There’s no way these days that I can waste a weekend on the sofa, or sleep in until lunchtime. Life is too short for that shit (see point #1 above). I want to be UP and I want to be AT IT! The result? I’m a bit less of a chubster, I’m healthier and happier, and I’m DEFINITELY more annoying. Unfortunately it means I’m like an excited yappy puppy that won’t SHUT UP and FUCK OFF.
3. Music is better with booze – I toyed with this one a lot before deciding to include it in the list, and finally chose to do so in the spirit of openness and honesty. It’s a fact that SUCKS, but a fact nonetheless: Music sounds better when you’re drunk. Actually, maybe ‘sounds’ is the wrong word. Maybe ‘feels’ is more appropriate. For me, music has always been important – and intrinsically linked to memories and emotions. Beer is a great drug for stirring up nostalgia, so I’ve always found the mix of booze and music to be pretty explosive. I’ve spent many a night sat up drunk with my headphones on, getting lost in the masterpieces of The Cure or King Crimson or Guns ‘n’ Roses or Bjork. Even stuff like Beethoven or some mad German techno. My tastes are a bit scattered, but as long as it’s performed with feeling and conviction then I’m usually into it, and the booze just took it to the next level for me. Don’t get me wrong here; I still love music and I always will. I just miss the extra sparkle that the booze gave it. Sorry everyone. Would you rather I lied?
4. A clear mind can bring a whole new perspective – In my drinking days I was convinced that the key to a successful life was money and status, and I accepted that belief unquestionably. It probably originated from watching too many adverts on telly, and walking past too many billboards depicting the perfect life as being only attainable through new cars, big houses, and dinner parties where everyone laughs at your jokes. This is going to sound like some zen bullshit that I read off a postcard from Glastonbury, but my view has shifted in the last 1000 days, and I think it actually only boils down to two things: happiness, and love. These are, as far as I can see, the two main ingredients for a satisfying and fulfilling life. I mean, if you’re proper LOADED you could buy yourself a high-class prostitute and a brand new McLaren P1, but you’d ultimately just be a sad twat that nobody wants and who has to pay for sex. Wanking into £50 notes in the back of your awesome motor.
Sobriety has allowed me to re-prioritise my actions around the goals of happiness and love, and the relief that comes with slowing down the chase to be rich has been cathartic. No more saying yes to shit jobs, or looking jealously upon anyone who might have a more high-powered job than me. Keep it. You can’t take that Rolex with you into the next life, mate.
This new clarity of mind has also led me to question other aspects of my life, and make changes where things didn’t sit well. One example of this is my recent move to vegetarianism (about 10 months ago), which was easily done given that my wife is veggie – so my diet was already 80% veggie meals. Destroying life to fill my belly doesn’t feel right to me, not since I was sober enough to consider it properly, and so I just changed it and now I feel a little bit more comfortable in my skin. Blam! And hereby lies the lesson: Do what feels right.
5. Bad thoughts begone! – Life is hard and stressful, and my experience of living life in the pendulumic pattern of drunk / hungover / drunk / hungover is that things are made waaaay tougher than they need to be, and times can get dark. It got to a point, for me, where the struggles of getting through life perpetually hungover became normalised. This is, obviously, a nasty place to be. You’re constantly wading through treacle, and instead of your goal being HAPPINESS, you’d settle for just being LESS UNHAPPY. The whole thing is fucking rubbish. But this balls situation suddenly becomes awesome at the point that you choose to stop drinking, because things can only get better from that point. Well, in theory anyway. You might get robbed or your cat might die.
After getting sober you’ll slowly start to work through all of your shit; your job woes, your relationship worries, your money issues, and bit-by-bit you’ll make small amends and improvements, and eventually you’ll land on the border between being UNHAPPY and HAPPY. This place is called ‘Meh’ and it took me about 1 year to reach it. After leaving ‘Meh’ you’re firmly in the green. You’re no longer fighting for a normal life, you’re fighting for an extraordinary life. You’re out of the swamp! Things will start to get really good now, and the benefits are far reaching! Personally, I saw huge reductions in negative thoughts: worry, stress, bitterness, jealousy, fear… and then, on the flipside, I saw increases in pragmatism, empathy, confidence, and of course happiness. Just a general all-round LEVEL UP. I went from being a Master System to being a Megadrive – and now I’m working on being a Dreamcast (little retro gaming reference there for you nerds).
In the most basic terms: when you stop drinking the black clouds lift, and the sun comes out and shines on your bottom.
I hope this list has inspired a few people. Maybe, if you’ve started out recently on the journey of sobriety, my strange babbling will give you a taste of what is to come. I’ve tried to be as honest and balanced as possible, but it’s no secret that the positives outweigh the negatives. They positively annihilate them.
To summarise my lessons from 1000 days sober I would say this: Quitting booze has been the biggest and most life-changing thing I’ve ever done. It’s allowed me a level of freedom and happiness that I never thought I’d reach. I owe a huge amount to my sobriety, and it’s improved all aspects of my life…
…except for music, which it’s fucking ruined.
Hopefully the next 1000 days won’t destroy something else that I really love, like pizza or martial arts movies.
If you’re interested in the gritty side of booze, and need a good reminder of why you’re best off without it, then have a read of this horror story about a hangover that I wrote.
Hugs an’ that.
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