I drank my last drink, a huge plastic bottle of cheap French red wine, three years ago. Over the last 1000+ days since then I’ve learned a lot about getting sober, both from my own experiences, and also by squidgy osmosis through other people’s experiences – absorbed from the many books and blogs I’ve read on the subject, and conversations I’ve held with other ex-fuckheads.
It’s due to this big leaky binbag of booze-elimination experiences I’ve gathered, plus the cavalcade of mistakes and bad choices I’ve made along the way, that I feel somewhat qualified to be able to impart a few golden nuggets of advice about what NOT to do. Hopefully this guff, some of which I learned the hard way, will help a few of you readers to streamline and refine your approach to quitting the booze – meaning you should be able to slip into a life of sober-mastery like a vaselined hand sliding into a rubber glove. Schluuuuurp. Ping!
Brace yourself. Here are the eight things NOT to do when quitting booze:
- Trying to change overnight from Keith Richards to Gwyneth Paltrow – It’s a well known fact that fad diets don’t work, and the reason they don’t work is because the large amount of change is unsustainable. Two weeks on the cabbage soup diet, and I guarantee that Tracey next door will be down KFC, gorging on bargain buckets and Viennettas. And it’s the same with giving up booze; the pink clouds will arrive, and you’ll feel like you can take on the whole world with your brand new shiny clarity of mind and bags of energy. It’s a great feeling to be on the verge of this new life, but WOAH THERE COWBOY! Before you go running off signing up for marathons, quitting sugar, and buying up Tesco’s entire stock of kale… just remember to give yourself an adjustment period. The problem with us drinkers is that we’re all too enthusiastic and too impatient. We want it ALL and we want it NOW goddamn it. Before we know it we’re in danger of going full Gillian McKeith (secret fact: she actually EATS POO after she’s poked it). I’m not saying that you shouldn’t start focusing on getting healthier in all areas of your life, but I’m just saying that there’s plenty of time for that. Get comfortable with the not-drinking first, which will naturally bring benefits like better sleep and less bad food choices. Take things at a sensible pace, otherwise you might find yourself floundering in a whole new unrecognisable world of yoga pants, almond milk, and NutriBullets, and running in tears back to the comfy and familiar world of wine and Pringles.
- Being a ‘holier than thou’ dickhead – You know those ex-smokers who cough whenever someone lights up within 5 metres of them? Don’t be like that about alcohol. Let people enjoy booze, let them get drunk, not everyone has the same problems with it that we do. And even if they do, they need to work it out for themselves. You see that smashed guy, swaying and spilling cider all down his shirt, and slurring at his mate about how much he actually loves him like a brother? That was me once, so who am I to judge? Don’t look down on people just because they do something that you no longer can, or you’ll quickly run out of mates. Simple lesson here really: Don’t be a dick.
- Replacing booze with another destructive addiction – I’ve seen people that quit booze successfully, but then replace it with weed – which just turns them into a useless boring bastard. Avoid replacing booze with anything that has the power to ruin your life and credibility, using this handy guide:
- Things that are okay to replace booze with:
- A cup of tea
- One or two cats
- Things that are NOT okay to replace booze with:
- Line Dancing
- Three or more cats
- Things that are okay to replace booze with:
- Letting your recovery define you – I remember a failed attempt at quitting booze, about five years ago, where I was at a Mongolian barbecue restaurant in Huddersfield with my then girlfriend and a couple of mates. In hindsight I know that I wasn’t ready to step away from alcohol, because drinking was all I could think about and all I talked about. I remember sitting there staring at my mate’s pint of lager, and feeling like I needed one of my own more than anything in the world. I was driving that night, so I rushed everyone through their meals and sped home at 100mph, ripping into a bottle of wine before I’d even closed the front door behind me. What a desperately sad situation eh? Booze meant everything to me, in that little bubble – it defined me. And now? Well, now I’m in danger of being defined by the exact opposite. Of being ‘that guy that doesn’t shut up about stopping drinking,’ and it’s something I’m really keen to change. It was my idea to start writing these blogs, and so I have no one to blame, but the fact is that every time I bang on about not-drinking, I’m actually banging on about drinking. I’m making a THING out of something which I haven’t even done for three years. Time to stop it, and focus on the things I do do instead of the things I don’t do? Maybe… but then where would you guys get your fix of wanking stories and badly-written drinking anecdotes? It just wouldn’t be right of me to abandon my adoring fans (both of them). SUMMARY: I don’t want to be defined by my recovery – but maybe it’s different for you…
- Trying to bend your new self around your old life – Man, Wetherspoons and nightclubs are shite when you’re sober. All I notice is the smell of detergent, and how sticky the tables are. I spent a bit of time post-sobriety trying to enjoy the places I used to go when I was a big drinker, but quickly had to accept that they just don’t have the same appeal as a teetotaler. In fact, I’d imagine it’d be a struggle enjoying Wetherspoons if you’re anything less than paralytic. I had the same realisation with attending gigs too – I love music but the journey into London to get crammed into Brixton Academy with a load of sweaty wreckheads just doesn’t seem worth the £50+ ticket prices these days. But it’s all cool man, I just spend the money on new pastimes instead. You can go for a posh meal, or do a track day. Spend the day at Alton Towers. All of this shit costs less than a night out getting drunk at a gig, or crawling from nightclub to nightclub all weekend. Embrace the new life. Accept that a few people might fall out of your friendship circle. Be the spoon.
- Believing that relapse is a part of the recovery process – LIES! Actually, this may be true, but believing it’s okay to fall off the wagon really isn’t going to help you to stay ON the wagon, now is it? If you fall off, then you fall off, and should make every effort to clamber back on. It shouldn’t be an expectation though. Some people may disagree with this point, but accepting that relapse is BAD has kept me away from it. Think about it this way: It’s okay for the contestants on Ninja Warrior UK to fall in the water, but not a single person who gets wet will be successful. I’m sure this all makes perfect sense now that I’ve used a ninja analogy, right? Good.
- Trying to go it alone – You need to tell everyone that you’re quitting booze! Actually, no – not everyone. Don’t go to work tomorrow and tell your boss that you’re an alcoholic and have decided to finally quit after waking up in a bush outside you ex’s house. But do tell the people that you’re close to, and make sure they understand why you’ve made the decision to quit the demon disco-pop. Once they know, they can support you. Also, it’s much harder to fail when you have told a load of people that you’re gunna succeed – so let the potential embarrassment keep you on the straight and narrow. Some people will try and make you drink once they know you’ve quit, but FUCK those guys. (Not literally. Don’t actually fuck them.)
- Assuming you’re ‘fixed’ and can start drinking again – I so, so wish this wasn’t true, but it is: If you’ve got an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, then it’s with you for life. It’s just a fact. In all my years of reading about celebrities with alcohol problems I’ve only ever heard of three things happening; either they stay dry (Frank Skinner), they relapse constantly, each time in a more spectacular explosion of penis-dangling embarrassment (Paul Gascoigne), or they DIE from it (Amy Winehouse). It’s not like a knee injury that will get better after a few months of rest. It’s a fundamental flaw in the way you view alcohol, and the only way to win is to just accept that your time with booze is over. I know that sounds depressing, and AA would probably have you sitting about moping over the fact you have an incurable problem (just my opinion – that approach didn’t work for me), but there is a less gloomy view you can take, and it involves a shift of mindset. What you have to do is fully accept that you can’t drink anymore, in the same way that you would accept the death of a close friend or a pet. Get your grieving done, but there’s no point in wasting energy longing for them coming back. Accept it. Move on. And then… you can start focusing on the positives of your new alcohol-free life:
- No more hangovers
- Lose weight
- Better skin
- No more ‘why the fuck did I wrestle that takeaway owner??’ paranoia
- Mo’ money
- No more weekends wasted in bed
- Renewed interest in hobbies
- Bright eyed, bushy tailed
- Sexy as fuk
- Not punched anyone at a family wedding for a while
You see, sobriety shouldn’t be viewed as I CAN’T HAVE… It should be viewed as LOOK WHAT I CAN NOW HAVE! And when this mindset clicks into place – which might take a couple of years, but it’s worth the wait – then the question when can I drink again? will be replaced with the question why would I drink again? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point at which you’ve achieved total booze-enlightenment and control over your addiction. Kind of a Jesus figure in the world of pissheads.
And so there you have it: The 8 Things To Avoid For An Easier Ride when you’re trying to quit the booze. Tried and tested. Hopefully this will help a few of you guys out, or at least give you something to mull over as you waz back another pint of Strongbow whilst you’re laying there in a puddle of your own piss.
Before I sign off on this, my latest half-assed wanky blog post, I’d like to ask you guys a quick favour: I have a mate from back in my days living up north; thirty-ish, kids, recently married, and diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer. I happen to know he’s a reader of SoberPunks, and a huge advocate of the improved lifestyle I’m trying to promote, and besides all of that he’s a solid gold lad with a fantastic attitude towards life, and less than a year left to live. It would mean the world if you guys would join me in helping to support his family, so that they can make some amazing memories together before he has to leave. Here’s the link to the JustGiving page which tells you a bit more about his story, and cheers in advance for anything you awesome people can do to help. May as well put some of that beer money we’ve saved towards a worthy cause, right?
Keep the faith, you lovely bastards,
Wanna read my big wanky blog from the start? Click here.
Show us some fuckin’ love by buying yourself a lovely SoberPunks T-shirt here.