Thursday, 15 September 2016

Timing is Everything

I've been thinking recently about how my sober journey would have played out if I'd tried to quit at any other time in my life. In the past I've cut back at times but then lurched from moderation to yet another drinking folly. If I'd tried to quit in my early 30s I would've had a snowball's chance in hell. It would have been a disaster.

At 30 I was still kid free. It was a period when most of our friends were getting married. I was still playing rugby. I was just about to launch my career in journalism. Most weekends the booze was flowing for one reason or another. At my own engagement party my wife and I showed a stunning lack of host responsibly (in case the truck load of booze we bought wasn't sufficient I served vodka and champagne soaked watermelon) and the night finished with a family member falling off our third floor apartment balcony (somehow he was sweet apart from a broken collarbone). She'll be right mate!  

I had no brake on my drinking back then and no reason, apart from all the close calls to life and limb, to see alcohol as anything other than the ultimate vehicle to fun and hilarity. I hadn't yet built up the bank of negativity around alcohol I would gain during my time reporting on alcohol-related harm in the newsroom. I was still years away from becoming a full-time house hubby, when my drinking morphed from the pub-outing-with-colleagues type to the lonely afternoon-indulgence-while-making-dinner type that is so prevalent with at-home mums and dads.

Looking back now I can see the pain and distress alcohol caused me, but at the time I only saw it as a positive force. I was still prepared to experience the physical and mental effects of my benders as an acceptable, and unavoidable, byproduct of my boozing.

Six months ago I realised I was no longer willing to put up with the dark side of my drinking; the shame and the physical effects I was starting to feel more and more as I approached 40. I just knew I had to do something about it. I didn't make the decision to quit lightly. Now I'm 100% sure I'm doing the right thing. Having that concrete certainty is a valuable ally.

I asked my wife last night if she thought at any stage in the 20 years we've been together my drinking habits were a problem and she told me (while hearing me being sick from booze has never been pleasant) she thought my drinking was pretty typical and not out of the ordinary. That surprised me a little. I feel that casting alcohol as the villain is serving me in my sobriety. Of course I've conveniently forgotten the 90% of the times I drank that I kept it tidy and was responsible. I only remember the 10% where things didn't go so well. Now I'm overwhelmingly focussed on the ways alcohol hurt me. It's a loss of perspective I think is healthy in this case, because it's balanced by the overwhelming benefits I'm enjoying in my new sober life.

I also asked whether she'd noticed how quitting had improved my temperament, and she said yes, though I got the feeling she didn't think I'd changed that much.

I feel my life has changed in so many subtle ways in so many areas, for the better, and I know it's probably not that clear to other people. The most important thing is how I feel within myself. I did this for me and I couldn't be happier.  

According to Rolling Stone, one of the best songs of all time, and one of the celebrated civil rights anthems. I just think it's beautiful and inspirational, and I'm all about harnessing the power to change at the moment: A Change is Going to Come  

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