The 14th of June 2021 was the date when I finally decided that enough was enough. I was going to give up alcohol for 365 days. I’d had a few too many beers the night before and woken up on “my turn” to get up early with the little one feeling like I’d not slept particularly well, certainly not rested and generally feeling pretty uncomfortable with my life.
The actual trigger was when my little girl decided she wanted to go to the park. It was a beautiful morning and I had that feeling that anything was possible with the day.
I weighed in at 396lbs (at 39 years, 2 months and 12 days old... ouch!) I was going to try (for the 15th or 16th time) to give up alcohol for an entire year. The longest stint I’d done previously was 77 days after which I proceeded to drink around 12 pints.
One of the things not drinking has taught me is that even without beer, vodka or alcohol of any form, I’m not going to become a super motivated person that simply rocks the world. In reality a year is a really short time frame when you are trying to change a lifetime of behaviour.
I know that I’d have struggled a lot more through this process had it not been for some fantastic resources in the sober curious and sober movement space. The biggest help for me personally were Sharon Hartley and Ben Anderson who run the podcast and platform 'Over The Influence'. It was fantastic to hear others experiences, understand I wasn’t alone in this process but also hear from people who honestly seemed just like me!
The first couple of weeks for me were fairly straight forward. I was always someone who didn’t need to drink but when I did, I just didn’t have an off switch.
Around 2-3 weeks into the process, I began to sleep much better. Around 2 to 3 months into not drinking, I started to notice feelings that rose when I would have previously reached for a drink. Often, I’d simply have a drink because I wanted to get out of my own head rather than trying to understand the feelings I was experiencing.
I found alcohol-free beers beneficial. I'd get the taste without the hangover or the following mental health related issues. I’ve been fortunate also to have people around me that have supported my decision. My wife has been amazing along with my friends and family.
There is the occasional 'oh, you're not drinking' comment from people, but I just tell them I’m on a challenge and going forward I’ll just say I don’t drink because I don’t want to!
There have been many benefits to me not drinking. My mental health is the best it's been and I’m not having so many highs and crippling lows. I'm much more consistent in my day to day life at work.
I’ve been able to deal with the huge loss of my father from Covid last year.
Not drinking has given me the confidence to know that I can follow my own path - I don’t need to follow the heard. In fact, I kind of enjoy being different! I’ve attended work functions, my own 40th birthday celebrations, team meals and time on my own without the need for alcohol.
I’ve even decided to come off social media because it wasn’t serving me. I’d have never done that prior to quitting alcohol because I’d have been too worried about what others might think or say.
I don’t care anymore, this is my life and I’m going to live it the way I want to.
I will continue to work on my physical health and my nutrition as I belive this will unlock the next phase of my life and whilst I don’t know what that is at the moment I do think I have the ability to deliver something special my lifetime.
The question is, will I go back to drinking after the year is up? I’ve thought about it long and hard and, for now, I don’t think I will. I can’t see any benefit to drinking, I’m more comfortable with who I am now and I don’t need approval which I think is one of the biggest wins I’ve had from giving up alcohol.
Huge thanks to Mark for sharing his story. Can you relate? What did you notice in your first year off the booze? Are you aiming to take a year off and scared of the outcomes? Let us know in the comments below! We are a community, never be afraid to reach out.