Quitting Booze Successfully: A Paradoxical Wanky Climbing Analogy

It’s now been a month since I had my balls mangled, and everything is pretty much back to normal down there. I’ve got a couple of empty cups at home that need spunking in and emptying into a post box for a doctor to taste (“mmm yes that tastes lovely, and I’m glad to report it’s sperm free”), but that’s not due until September.

For the first two weeks after my operation I didn’t do any proper exercise, as per the doctor’s advice, and this gap in my usual schedule left me with too much time to think about stuff. In my turbo brain-whizz I came up with a new approach to my usual weekly exercise routine:

OLD (pre ball-mangling) weekly exercise routine:

  • 2 x climbing sessions
  • 3 x 10k runs

BRAND NEW (post ball-mangling) weekly exercise routine:

  • 6 x climbing sessions
  • No running. None. Fuck running.

My reasons for this were pretty simple; I really enjoy my climbing sessions, and I always look forward to them (see my original blog post about using climbing to combat alcoholism here). In complete contrast I had begun to see running as an annoyance and a chore. The problem with running, in my experience, is that the better you get at it -> the longer you need to run -> the more time you spend bored out of your mind pounding up and down tarmac. I was due to train for my first full marathon this year having already completed a good four or five halfs, but honestly I just couldn’t face the training hours required and the mindless, endless grind it entails – so I shitted out like a big girly twat.

I’m now two weeks into my new climb-heavy routine and so far it seems like the right decision. I’ve put a bit of weight on, which I expected, but it feels like good weight that’s sitting in the right places: muscle bulk on my shoulders, rather than wobbly belly podge. Also my average climbing grade has jumped up and my general fear-of-falling has reduced – both cool benefits of putting the extra hours in at the wall.

Hang on! You came here to read about beer problems! Not some bellpipe banging on about his wanky fitness routine. What has all of this shite got to do with booze recovery?

That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked.

In the world of climbing there exists this weird paradox whereby the more afraid you are of slipping and falling, the more likely it is to happen. The only way to guarantee success is full and total commitment. It’s something I have learnt during my increased focus on climbing, and it’s something I think is also recognisable in the world of booze recovery. Allow me to explain, amigos…

99% of the climbing I do is indoor, since all of the best outdoor climbing sites are back up north (gah, I obviously didn’t think that one through when I decided to move from Yorkshire to Milton Keynes). Indoor climbing is generally done on big boards with colour-coded holds attached for your hands and feet, and these holds are periodically stripped and re-set to keep the routes fresh and interesting. The routes are rated by difficulty using numbers followed by letters, generally going from around 3 (piss easy) to 9c (fucking impossible mate). I currently peak at about 6b, and anything beyond this will usually leave me in a crying, bleeding heap on the floor.

The holds come in all different shapes and sizes, but it’s one in particular that I want to talk about: the foot chip.

Imagine stuffing three pieces of Hubba Bubba bubblegum into your mouth, chewing them up like a badass, and then spitting the gooey lump out and sticking it to a lamppost. This will give you an idea of the average shape and size of a foot chip. It’s designed for your feet, or more specifically your tippy-toes, and trusting it with your body weight can be quite a daunting prospect – even more so when you’re stepping onto one at 30ft in the air, and hoping your foot won’t slip off as you drive your weight down onto it to push your body higher up the climb.


A chip. No, not the ones you lot have for your tea every single night

It’s here, at the point of stepping on to a chip, where the paradox comes into play. You see, if you don’t step onto that chip with full confidence and commitment then you will likely not apply your full weight – instead trusting that your poor weedy arms will hold you onto the wall via whatever holds you have your fingers wrapped around. The more weight you apply to the foot chip, the stronger the friction between the chip and the rubber of your fancy climbing shoe, and the less likely you are to slip off and be left dangling. Take a half-assed, non-committal step across and there’s every chance you’ll be face planting a nice painted wooden panel.

  • Step on with confidence and commitment = successfully move on up the climb
  • Dilly-dally around worrying about what could go wrong = it probably will go wrong

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how easily this translates into the world of booze recovery. Sooooo many people get as far as understanding that they have a problem with the booze – whether it’s causing issues with work or relationships or health or money – but rather than grabbing the problem by the pubes and getting it sorted with a confident stride into sobriety, they do the ‘moderation dance’.

(The moderation dance is like a really bad version of break dancing, somewhat akin to that seen in early 90s music videos, but with much more crying and puking.)

Learning that moderation isn’t the answer took me probably ten years. That’s TEN YEARS of slipping off that little bastard foot chip due to my inability to commit fully, each time falling and scraping my elbow or bruising my shin, and coming home battered and sore week after week until finally…. it clicked! The only way to make it stick is to go all-in. YES it’s scary, YES it’s a step into the unknown, but every single one of the professionals will tell you that it’s the only way up that wall.

The journey doesn’t stop here either (or rather, I haven’t yet run out of wanky climbing analogies).

When you take that first confident step on to the foot chip, and your foot holds firm as you move on up the climb, then something else also happens inside of you. A little bit of the fear of falling vanishes, and it keeps shrinking until you hardly think about it. And why is that important?

Another great question. Well done.

It’s important because scared climbers are more likely to fall due to over-gripping with their hands. The over-gripping means that they run out of energy faster, and low energy = SPLAT! Failure due to over-exertion in the early stages.

This also relates to the world of booze-recovery, in the sense that trying too hard, too early, can lead to relapse.

Quitting drinking is hard, and if you’re a problem drinker then quitting is likely a huge lifestyle change. In the early stages this is the only thing you should be focused on. Sure, it’s tempting to become an overnight health guru and switch sleeping in bushes with pissed trousers for kale smoothies and yoga, but it’s all too much too soon. You’re in danger of turning your sobriety into part of a fad, and fads don’t last.

Change one thing at a time, and make normalising sobriety your first priority. The yoga pants will still be there in 6 months time, you fucking hippy.

There’s a whole world of amazing new experiences that comes with getting sober, but just chill your boots cowboy. Slow and steady.

So, to summarise this rambling and confusing blog:

  • Climbing that wall begins with a confident step in to complete sobriety. Anything less can lead to a fall.
  • Once you start moving up, your fear will begin to fade. Keep climbing.
  • As the fear-of-falling vanishes, you’ll relax your grip. This results in better endurance – giving you the ability to go the whole distance.
  • Don’t try any fancy shit until you’ve nailed the basics.

Once you put this into practice then you’ll be well on your way to reaching the top of that big scary wall.

At nearly 3 years sober I’ve managed to get a peek over the top of that wall, and do you know what I found there?

…some fucking dust, and an old plaster with some blood on it.

But I also found a new way of life that totally karate-chops the old one in the TITS.



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4 thoughts on “Quitting Booze Successfully: A Paradoxical Wanky Climbing Analogy

  1. Tom says:

    As a climber (scared shitless of heights, but can manage a grade 5b), your post is spot on mate – it’s bloody scary once you get into the tricky bit, like half way up the wall / the first 30 days of soberness, but once you chill out and plod onwards, you hit the top of the wall. That banging the top with your fist, 40ft up and the achievement hits home, you feel like absoloutely fantastic (and f**king relieved it’s over). The same stands for giving up the booze: 30 days down, sober as a judge, chuffed you’ve managed it, and then knowing that you can manage to do another 30 days with no problems at all. Build up, go steady and keep climbing.

    Great blog, great post – goods skills for a 6b climb too pal!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom says:

    I’m a Brummie (sorry….) and there’s a centre called Creation that we visit. Been going for over 10 years and it’s a cracking plase. It used to be a climbing session then a drinking session, but now I can run a 10k instead of sinking 10 bottles!

    Liked by 1 person

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