I was born in '71.
For us, the 70s were about boiling hot summers, my younger sister arriving, my dog Jill, water shortages, and general happiness.
In the 80s, a few key things happened. I recall spending a lot of time at a desk at school that was isolated from my peers – I was fidgety and couldn’t focus so was a distraction to the class (typical ADHD behaviours but I didn’t know it at the time).
As I started to hit my teenage years, I was slow at developing physically and was bullied mercilessly for most of my school life. Fitting in and wanting to mix with the cool crew was so important, so getting to a house party seemed to promise to be the elixir of life.
I associated drinking with being cool and feeling wanted.
My dad was a policeman, but my mum did a reasonable amount of partying and homebrewing at the weekend. As a working-class family, the homebrew vat and demijohns were constantly on. Drinking felt cool at home, too.
I grew quickly, and at the end of '89 I was a 6'3 floppy-haired dude who was coming into his own.
In the 90s I started work at the Halifax Building Society on 3rd July 1989. I met my future wife on that first day at work (although it took us several years to get together). She was mad for the raves so I tagged along, thinking I was cool as f*ck. I got off my nut as much as I could afford to.
Then it started to turn bad.
In the 00s, one son followed quickly another – and whilst I’m a complete renegade, I did take the responsibility of fatherhood seriously, so I bumped my way up the promotion ladder to provide for the boys. My wife did the same.
The extra cash, however, meant I had more expendable income for drinking.
There are too many tales of drunken work nights out, making rash and stupid decisions, pushing my marriage to the brink, and eating so many pickled eggs on the back of a drunken bet that I didn’t go to the toilet for a week.
I had turned up the heat – in for a penny in for a pound.
As I entered my 4th decade, my sister-in-law got cancer and eventually passed. Work was a real struggle immediately following the economic crisis. And the kids were going through challenges of their own.
I drank, daily.
A wine at night was my reward for getting through the day, and when I say ‘a wine’, I mean a bottle. After several pints.
Tough times continued at work, alongside substance abuse and family struggles.
When I reached 50 – half a century old – in 2021, I’d learned to drink whilst working as a result of the various lockdowns. I could smash 10 cans of Thatcher’s cider during the day, two bottles of red at night, and then really go to town on a weekend.
My sister is a nurse, and once we worked out my alcohol intake in one week, she was mortified. Even still, I laughed it off.
I was surviving, but that's all it was. It certainly wasn't living.
We’d sometimes go away to enjoy ourselves, but invariably I'd be so pissed I didn't remember most of it and I certainly did not relax on our holidays.
I did have one escape and that was Roscoe the dog. I'd also signed up to be a mental health champion given what I had learned supporting those close to me. It allowed me to apply to others what I should have been applying to myself.
Eventually, I acknowledged I had a problem. I’d always known to an extent, but acknowledgment was key.
I had gotten to a point where life was alcohol, and alcohol was life.
And it was shit.
Lying in bed with anxiety forcing your heart through your chest, surviving off 3 or 4 hours of broken sleep, is not a way to live.
I did have good times but they were becoming less and less.
Something needed to change. I tried AA (and hated it), did online tests about alcohol addiction, got blood tests - the works.
One night I came across This Naked Mind free on kindle. I started to open my mind to the idea that alcohol is not as glamourous as we’ve been made to believe.
I wanted to consume more content. After trying out a few podcasts that were a little preachy, I came across the OTI podcast. It was then that my adventure really started. I became more and more educated about alcohol and felt a real connection to these people.
OTI gave me a platform to be a better, healthier, and happier person.
I'm not going to say I'll never drink again, but for now, I'm saying 'no thanks'.
Being AF is cool, I reckon if I was single it would secure many more Tinder likes (my eldest hardly drinks and tells me this is the case).
100 days is my target.
I have regrets and I wish I'd done this sooner. I'm a much better person now, but I can only be happy I managed to find my way onto this journey.
If you've found OTI (or they found you), take control and choose to drop constant anxiety and worry.
Be your best self, embrace the support that exists, and don't give up.
You will get there and the OTI community will help along the way.
Thank you Jonny for sharing the story of your wonderful journey - we are all very proud! If you have a story you'd like to share as part of Sober October, don't hesitate to get in touch! Join our community for support, understanding, and a bunch of extra AF content.