Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Never Drinker's Perspective

One of the main reasons I write about my sobriety is because it seems it has a butterfly effect on others. Occasionally I've shared my blog with people I think might be interested. Last week I was emailing back and forth with a mate of mine and I remembered he had mentioned when he visited last he didn't drink alcohol. I didn't ask him about it at the time, but it stayed in the back of my mind. His response was more than interesting. It turns out he has never drunk alcohol - ever. But alcohol has loomed large at times in his life, touching the lives of those around him. I asked him if I could use his thoughts on booze because I thought his perspective on it all could be valuable to a great many people.

As I head past five months' sober I am finding reading about the experience of others hugely valuable.

So here it is, practically in its entirety. Let me know what you think. 


I was planning on replying to your note today and woke to hear you had another earthquake in the 'hood. No fun in that and I hope all is well with you. 

But the real reason for writing was to let you know I've read every line of your blog and I am very impressed. You are a terrific writer and it's interesting how you can make your words both personal and educational at the same time.

We both come from a culture that is blessed and cursed with alcohol; blessed because it can be a social convener, but cursed because it can be a massive limiter to one's personal growth. You explained how alcohol is used by people to allow them to be comfortable in their own skin during social interaction. However, conversely, alcohol limits their ability to overcome that discomfort, as it can be used as a crutch. Some people use the crutch throughout their lives and don't even know that they are doing it.

A well known alcoholic ... said the wisest words on this topic for me when he said, "People look at alcohol as the problem, but alcoholics look at alcohol as the solution". Those words really opened my eyes as to why people drink to the extreme and I feel bad for them.

I have had a lifetime of sobriety among a cadre of heavy drinkers. I am the most popular designated driver on the planet. I spent all my younger days in pubs seven nights a week, drinking orange juice that I'm sure most people thought was vodka and orange. I was a shy person by nature, but was dragged into all the drunken carousing by being part of the gang. The beauty was that I could act like I was drunk, and have great fun but, as you mentioned, the morning after was solid for me. 

Not drinking did bring extra responsibilities, such as cleaning off my friends' suits of vomit before we took them home to their parents, fishing false teeth out of toilets, breaking up fights between friends (who wouldn't remember the scuffle the next day) and all-in-all being a sober eye when things went awry. The problem was that I was too immature to see that my friends were self-harming and some, as I mentioned before, died way before their time and I miss them.

I have no idea why I did not drink; my father drank every day, but I only saw him drunk once. After I left for [the country I would settle] my younger brother became an alcoholic, but thankfully has been sober for approximately 35 years. Interestingly, when I arrived ... people assumed that, because I didn't drink, I must have a drinking problem

There were many times when I was working in a high stress job, where I would come home to [my wife] and say "today is a day that I wish I was a drinker!". But innately I knew that alcohol was not going to solve my problems - the problems were tough enough for a sober mind.

Here's a mantra that my mother used when I would whine about how the world was mistreating me. I have made it my own and I use it to give myself a head shake when I am wallowing in self pity. It's part of a longer poem that you can get on the web - written probably a hundred years or more ago, but it resonates big time for me!

"Don't look for the flaws as you go through life,
And, even if you find them,
Be wise and kind, and somewhat blind,
And look for the virtues behind them."

And that's my sermon of the day. Keep right on writing on!

Best to you and the lovely tribe.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Too Busy to Drink

These blog posts have become less frequent, as I've had less and less to write about. As the days pass I've been feeling a little bad for neglecting this online space I've carved out for myself. I think about my mate and fellow blogger MIT, and how his posts have petered out somewhat and I wonder if he's still trucking along on his merry sober way. My silence has been because life has gotten in the way of the navel gazing required for this blogging caper, which is just fine with me.

The truth is I've been too busy to pop online and blog. I've had an intense period of work, interspersed with chasing a outstanding debt from a transaction gone sour, and pouring 9 - 12 hours a day into finishing a book project I've been helping a good sober friend with. The manic rushing around and late nights laying out book pages was on top of my primary role as a stay-at-home-dad. Madness. For the last week alcohol hasn't been either at the front or the back of my mind. I just haven't thought about it. I've had no time to let a period of boredom, and inactivity set in and lead to thoughts of a counterproductive exercise such as drinking booze. Would booze have aided me in getting through the last furiously-busy fortnight? Hell no!

It's funny. A couple of months ago I was writing about how intensely a newly sober person can become focussed on sobriety. It had become my latest obsession. I questioned whether it was just another thing for me to do well at until I was bored with it. I think I even mused about whether boredom (with sobriety) would lead to me packing it all in and drinking again. I looked into the future and wondered whether it (drinking) would be something I never thought of much, if at all. I feel like the last week has given me an insight into what a life without booze can be like - hectic, chaotic, stressful, joyous, satisfying, full. Yes, full. Is this what a life lived to the full is like?

I love my life right now - the way I feel in myself. I used to err on the side of staying in safe zones - places where I knew the boundaries, kept within my limitations, didn't put myself out there too far, stuck to what I knew. I've always been a person that works hard and effectively in bursts to achieve things, but then crashes to a low ebb shortly after and needs time to veg out on the couch and do pretty much nothing to recharge the batteries. I'm an all or nothing kind of guy (which is perhaps why moderation is not for me). I've taken on so much lately there is no longer room in my life for couch time, and I don't miss it.

I have purpose, and you need a bit of that.

I've opened myself up to opportunities.

I'm embracing the unpredictable. It no longer scares me.

Life's not so safe but it's far more interesting.

Booze is the last thing on my mind, which is the state of being I wished for when I decided to kick that shit out of my life.

Till next time.

Sober Man xo



Tuesday, 1 November 2016

When 'no' means 'no'

My head is still foggy after my midnight flight back from Melbourne yesterday. I was there to surprise my oldest mate for his 40th birthday lunch. I was only in Australia for a day and a half but the travel has taken it out of me. I'm struggling to catch up on the sleep I missed and my brain is functioning at about 60% capacity. I had a great time catching up with my friend and his family. They were a special part of my early life, and still are. I didn't miss alcohol. Drinking would only have detracted from the purpose of the visit, to spend quality time with a friend I don't see often enough. I'm grateful I didn't fly back into the country with a hangover. In fact, I haven't had to recover from an alcoholic hangover in 137 days (if you add my few months of moderation, when I hardly drank, I haven't had a hangover in more than seven months).

That is something to celebrate.

I'm reluctant to drag the details of my mate's 40th into this blog, because I don't want to be seen to criticise his or other people's view of alcohol, and their view of people like me who don't drink. They are still on the other side of this, in the world where alcohol plays a role in their life, where they haven't questioned drinking to the same degree as I have. They may not need or want to question it and that is fine. It's up to them, not me.

It wasn't a particularly boozy affair. A few quiet drinks passed a few thirsty lips, but it wasn't a piss up. However my mate did notice I wasn't drinking, and I told him I'd given up. He then asked what I had been drinking at my own 40th which he came to a few weeks ago, and I replied:

"A couple of virgin mojitos, a couple of ginger beers and water."

He had just assumed I had been drinking that night.

Later, after everyone had left and there were just a few of us around the table talking, and the top was taken off a particularly potent smelling Chinese spirit called Dragon's Blood. A box of delicate coloured shot glasses were produced and my mate said: "You'll just have a little bit won't you?"

I called this post "when no means no" because I've found that often when you tell people you've given up drinking completely, they think that you must still have some from time to time, that you surely haven't given up totally. It's not like I was ambiguous when I told my mate I don't drink at all. Maybe he was struggling to separate the old drinking me from the new non drinking me. He has known the drinking version for a lot longer after all. Maybe he thought I wasn't being totally serious. Maybe he didn't completely understand the depths of my decision and the level of commitment I have to it - and how could he? Only I can truly understand what it is that I'm doing.

I drank shots of tap water as the others sipped the potent Chinese fire water. As his partner snapped photos of us clinking our glasses I wondered about how a photo of me seemingly drinking spirits would go down among my sober friends.  

Perhaps because of my non-drinking, conversation centred on alcohol (specific types of drinks), drinking stories and even one of my own drinking follies, for what seemed like an unnaturally long time. I felt a little uncomfortable, but it wasn't consciously done to make me feel that way. It's just part of living sober in a world where most people drink.

In the morning it came up again and I had the opportunity to talk more about the benefits of my sober life, and the reasons for it. It was good to be able to add a bit of context in a sober environment.  

It's interesting, because back in the day when my teenage mates and I were rushing headlong into copious amounts of beer drinking, this particular mate only ever had one or two or none. He was always a bit of an outlier in terms of not-going with the crowd in stuff like that. I admired him for it. He was far more wise and mature than the rest of us.

Far from feeling confronted, criticised, or undermined about my sober decision, I came away from the weekend feeling stronger about it. I accept that alcohol is a part of other people's lives. It is going to be at probably all of the big celebrations I attend in my life. I'm comfortable with who I am. And I don't mind shining a light on my sobriety if someone asks me about it.