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OTI Member Stories: Tim (aka Crumpled Tiger)

There doesn’t have to be a ‘rock bottom’. You don’t have to be labelled ‘an alcoholic’. Something has to happen though, to change your mindset, to let the realisation finally sink in that you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It doesn’t matter what your partner says, what your friends say. Ultimately, only you have the power to change.

I’d been drinking regularly and heavily for the last year or more. I’d been drinking to escape. The emotional pain of my partner’s miscarriage and knowing that it had been my last chance to become a father if I remained in the relationship was too much to deal with, so I drank to forget. Life had become too much and I just couldn’t face it.

I’d become obsessed with a local craft beer place and would regularly stop to try yet another new ale, to make sure I never missed one. My goal had been to join their illustrious 100, 200 and eventually 500 club, by drinking 500 different craft beers from the venue. An engraved glass, a t-shirt and my name on a plaque on the bar were the rewards. I kept my numbers up during Coronavirus lockdowns by having the new beers regularly delivered to my front door. Beers which I would drink alone, in the kitchen or garden, so nobody knew how many I’d had that evening.

In August, following a heart scare due to ongoing issues after contracting COVID in March, I spent the day in A&E. Such was my obsession and dependence that, as I drove myself home after a battery of tests, I stopped off on the way to drink my 500th beer. The celebratory picture shows me raising a glass, with the plaster still on my arm from the drip I had just come off. The ECG pads were still stuck on my chest. Yet I smiled and I drank.

When I made the decision that I had to stop, I told my partner. She didn’t really say much, other than to acknowledge that it was a good idea. She didn’t know how far I’d fallen. I had one false start, drinking again two days later but that was my new Day One. All of the alcohol I had then went to friends, or down the plug hole.

I really felt alone on my journey to begin with. Online access to hundreds of people in a similar position was my answer; I was no longer doing this on my own. I got through my days listening to alcohol free podcasts, which kept me focussed. I was delighted when I discovered ‘Over The Influence’. Down to earth and inspiring, amusing but with its roots firmly grounded in the serious endeavour of helping listeners change their relationship with alcohol, I listened to them all in a few days of lockdown.

And now, here I am. Sober. I’m completely off antidepressants, I’m not tired all the time, I can remember conversations from the day before and plot lines in TV shows. Life is simply just better without alcohol.

How have I managed it? Four things really.

First, some pretty strong reasons why I needed to stop. Second, access to and regular interaction with like-minded people. Third, an array of helpful podcasts, quit lit and Instagram profiles. Fourth, replacing beer with good quality alcohol-free beer. One or two of those when a craving or ‘trigger’ hits is enough for me to move through that tough time and leave the urge to drink behind.

I remember, early on, asking "When will I stop always thinking about being alcohol free? When will that cease to be a conscious and continuous thought". It was like a new identity and whilst it kept me on the straight and narrow, I found it a bit disturbing how much it dominated my thoughts. Looking back, it’s been like a relationship break up for me, I started to notice the times I wasn’t thinking about the other person, more than the times that I was, with a sense of relief. I realised yesterday that I hardly think about ‘not drinking’ anymore, it’s becoming part of who I am. I don’t drink. Other things are starting to take over my mental space, which is pretty limited on a good day!

I used to be a daily, excessive, beer drinking, junk food eating misery. Now, I don’t drink. I seem to have also switched to a plant-based diet and have given up caffeine. How did THAT happen...?!

I keep feeling the need to change my social media bios to reflect who I am, or probably, more accurately, who I want others to see me as, as is the way of the online profile. ‘Craft beer lover’ and ‘coffee addict’ have been replaced with ‘alcohol-free’ and ‘plant-based’. My identity is changing. I’m changing. I’m proud to write these new bios. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. This is who I am now. This is me.

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