The last couple of posts have definitely been a tough task to write so I am hoping this one might be a little easier. I said last week that I wanted to do an up-to-date account of how things were going. This will be a really positive thing for me to write down to measure my progress and see how far I have come over the last two to three months. On Wednesday I will have passed ten weeks without having an alcoholic drink. I think the longest I have been in my adult life without a drink was last year when I was dieting and exercising in conjunction with a structured plan provided by none other than my great friend Ross Mackenley, also know by his alter egos Aesthetically Trained / Millhouse / RMT Gymtime plus many more. I had gone three and a half months whilst on the programme and had taken a special day off the plan to watch the England v Croatia Euros match. A light day and I didn’t overindulge, leading to the incorrect conclusion that I could manage this moderation lark. I am going to surpass this milestone over the next coming months, and my resolute statement of this is a testament to how far I have come. That belief in myself now that I have made this positive change, and that alcohol is not to play a part in my life is highly satisfying. I want to share how I have got to this moment over the last couple of months. It has no way been easy, but boy do I feel a whole lot better. Largely, this has been down to not drinking, but also by not succumbing to the cravings and desires to open a bottle, pull a cork and devour the moonshine it has allowed me to make more positive decisions enabling better outcomes and productivity of my days. I have explained in previous posts and will continue to do so in many more regarding the intrinsic link of poor mental health and alcohol abuse. Sorry to bang on about it guys!
My mental outlook on nearly everything has become a lot clearer. I feel happier than I have done for quite a long time. This is inevitably down to the lack of alcohol I am shovelling down my throat, but it is also the product of many different aspects I have maintained over the last two to three months.
Firstly, through diet and exercise. Once I had stopped drinking, I decided that I needed and wanted to get fitter again. I had got myself into really good shape last year having applied myself to a strict diet and exercise plan. Looking back on the photos from last year when the plan ended, I looked pretty good and very lean. I made the mistake of not carrying this on. If you are following a training plan provided by an expert coach like Ross, then sticking with him after you complete it is an absolute must. He doesn’t just coach you physically, there are a lot of mental strengths he can give you as well. This sounds like a free plug for his business which he will hate… but I genuinely mean it. Having accountability is key for anyone looking to give up drinking or make positive changes to their lives. It is far too easy to go back to the old ways you had before. This is what I did.
I started going to the gym with Jack and instantly started to enjoy it. My previous experiences of gyms were that they are full of pretentious cranks who look down on little weak lads like me. Don’t get me wrong, they are still full of them. But having Jack with me has been great as he is not only very experienced in the gym (you don’t get the nickname bi’s and arms for nothing) but he is also great at putting you at ease in those surroundings. I look forward to going and even have the confidence now to go and train by myself alongside the big lads and lasses! I am starting to lose the weight I had put back on and the positivity you get from walking out of the gym after a good session is great. Summer rig pending, I hope. This leads to better food choices etc etc, you know the drill. But a decent well-maintained diet is another key attribute to the stronger mind. I still afford myself some treats here and there especially at first when I stopped boozing. You need to replace the copious amounts of sugar that reside in alcohol and naturally sweets, cakes and fizzy drinks can fill that void. Anything is better than gassy lager though, right?
Therapy has been going well. At first when I had started going, I was really not into it at all. It was a chore to be going and trying to discuss feelings and emotions I had kept inside me for years. Through the alcohol support counselling I have been attending along side this, both have been instrumental to feeling better. Claire, my support coordinator for alcohol has been really supportive and there with me every step of the way, from when I was still drinking to now where we are almost at a point for me to be discharged from her care. I still want to carry on for a while longer with this though as I feel I am still only at the start of what is a long road to navigate.
My therapist at Northern Guild has also been incredibly patient and understanding with me. I don’t think I was really opening up at first in those early sessions. Now I feel like I can go to these appointments and unburden fully on whatever it is we decide to talk about that day. She helps me to look at myself and issues from angles I would never have thought to do myself. If you are struggling with your own mental health and/or any alcohol related issues, then I can’t recommend these services enough. Feel free to send me a private and confidential message and I can help put you in touch with someone who I know will be able to help. Talking and addressing your issues is the only way you can make the positive changes to enable yourself to feel stronger and happier. In my opinion, doing it alone or with your own willpower will not be enough. And I speak from experience here. Accountability and support are king.
Keeping busy has been another key aspect of my recent success and sobriety. Sitting at home, along with nothing to do is the gateway back to previous bad judgements. Of course, downtime for yourself is needed but I have tried to keep as active and busy as possible without burning out. As I have mentioned going to the gym five or six times a week is helping but I also have the new cricket season just about to start on Saturday which takes up the full day and then training during the week. The social aspect of this is also something to look forward to before, during and after the games. I am also involved with a fantastic charity which I am going to do a full post on very soon. This is on Thursday evenings. I have been volunteering with Foodcycle since the pandemic and it is not just an essential service to the community, from a personal side it is a great charity to be involved with and it has definitely assisted with my rehabilitation process. I am very lucky to be a part of it and enjoy helping out once or twice a month. Getting out and about socially whether with friends, family or my partner has also been a lot of fun. I have felt the energy to do more and generally get out and enjoy myself. Prior to stopping drinking I didn’t really do anything other than maybe the odd night a week around at Jack’s house or an occasional meal out. I have been going to comedy shows and was fortunate to be at the Sam Fender gig last week in Newcastle. An unbelievable show. I even attended this by myself due to some unfortunate circumstances which meant a friend could not go. Previously this would have been a messy night and I would have made it more about how much I could drink in that evening rather than being present in that moment and enjoying the outstanding show that Mr Fender put on. I have started reading more, some fiction but also some really great sobriety books and immersing myself in as much content as I can on staying sober and its wide range of benefits. Podcasts as well, as many podcasts as I can on mental health and life without the booze. I can’t recommend them enough. Staying active and not sitting still has steered my mind away from wanting to drink and feeling low, anxious, and despondent.
With all this combined I am feeling in a much better place. Yes of course there are still moments and feelings of doubt of whether I can maintain this and keep ploughing forwards. When you are drinking heavily, feeling low and depressed there can be a very strange mindset of wanting to feel like this, it is very hard to explain. The cycle of getting pissed and feeling atrocious the morning after can be easily remedied by another drink to pull yourself around. Then you start to feel drunk again and so on. Its easier to make that bad decision and carry on wallowing in your own misery. Breaking that cycle as I have explained in other posts is not easy, but it can be done I promise. It would be easy for me to nip to the shop now or drop into pub and sink a few jars, but I don’t want to do that. I have come this far, and I have a responsibility and dedication to myself not to fuck this up.
Thanks as always for reading and I hope it has been a good insight to how I am feeling now. I want this positivity to remain and to keep driving forward. Next week I want to recount a memory from my early twenties and a very ugly episode from my past. It’s all healing, I think…
Thank you, goodnight, much love.