I haven’t done a piece solely on alcohol for a few weeks, so I thought as I land on four months of being booze-free this was a good moment. Over the weekend I actually felt the urge to drink for the first time since I stopped. I saw a lot of people enjoying the bank holiday and that included many Instagram photos of beers, wines, and other drinks. This shows, that even though I am four months sober I still have many hurdles and challenges to overcome. But I didn’t succumb to the temptation. I ignored my cravings and did not allow myself to get into a position where I could have a drink. Of course, I could have gone to the shop or local pub and drank but I didn’t. I chose not to. I was strong and resolute in my decisions and feel better for it on the other side of the urges I had over the weekend. What I didn’t do well was talk about how I felt. I kept the feelings to myself and that wasn’t the best course of action to take. Moving forward when I have similar thoughts, I need to make sure that I speak to someone about it. If you are feeling like this yourself, then I am telling you the best thing to do is address it and speak to someone close to you who understands how you are feeling.

This week, I am looking at ‘beer fear’. If you are reading this and don’t know what I mean by that then simply, it is the feeling of deep anxiety one gets when they are hungover and not recalling the previous night’s events. I have to say that I am an expert in this particular subject, unfortunately.

I can recall a lot of instances where this has occurred for me and the anxiety you feel is palpable. To wake up and think, hell what have I done the night before? What have I said? Who have I embarrassed? Not just myself. It is one of the things I enjoy most now about not drinking. Waking up on a morning and thinking, what a relief I haven’t got anything to worry about. I have made countless mistakes when being drunk, that is not exclusive to me but that still doesn’t negate the feelings you have about yourself. There would be so much self-loathing and thinking of why I have put myself or anyone else through this again. This paranoia would set in for at least two to three days after a heavy night. I would be scared to look at my phone and receive messages from friends, family or girlfriends telling me of my previous night’s exploits. After a few days had passed and maybe nothing too serious had happened I would think I was once again invincible. In reality, people may have been kinder to me to not make me worry. I would think that I was fine to do this again and nothing bad was going to happen, but I was just incredibly lucky that nothing serious did ever occur. That being said, from an earlier (controversial) blog I told you about how I had punched a window out and had caused damage to myself and the property. I had a few visits to A&E over the years and in a couple of weeks’ time I will tell you a story about a New Year’s Eve night that went seriously wrong. The truth is that I was kidding myself for years that I wasn’t damaging myself or relationships around due to excessive drinking.

In 2018, I went on holiday with my girlfriend at the time plus five other friends. On one of the first nights, I got so drunk that I needed to be escorted home. This wasn’t an uncommon end to a lot of my nights, but I was on holiday, so it was fine, right? Wrong. The next day Ross gave me a dressing down (he wont mind me mentioning his name here) and rightly so. I had likely ruined the night of the people I was with. He may not have put it across in a way that I particularly liked but looking back he was right to do it. I think for too long no one had actually laid it out plain and simple for me that what I was doing was selfish and affecting people around me. I didn’t view it like that at the time and certainly resented the way in which I had been told. But he was right, I see that now more clearly than ever. My only regret is that I didn’t have the epiphany earlier. Maybe less damage would have been done after because I didn’t stop making mistakes after that holiday. They were ever present for the next three and a half years.

So why did I carry on drinking after the many times I had messed up? It is a really good question and one that I am only beginning to understand and be able to answer. I guess one way of looking at it was that I wasn’t prepared to give the alcohol up because I felt it had become part of my identity. Friends would know I was going to get fucked up on nights out I thought this was almost something that was expected of me. I was in no way a big drinker, but I could consume a fair bit and go past the point of knowing when a good time was to stop. This wasn’t the case on every single night out or day drinking session but near enough. When I was drinking at home, I felt a lot safer in the knowledge that I was less likely to do something stupid because I wasn’t going anywhere. Yes, I still had a phone and could write stupid tweets (I do that sober) or regrettable messages, but my physical actions were under more control. The beer fear was less existent when I drank at home that was for sure.

I want to discuss one other case of major beer fear with you but first let’s look at a bit of the science behind it. Tammy Richards who is an expert on the subject wrote, “‘Beer fear’, is often used as a throwaway term however, it is very real. It is all chemical related and a lot of the time, we have no control over it,” as our liver processes the alcohol, and it begins to filter out the system there is a chemical imbalance left within us that leads to the fear aka anxiety. The chemical Glutamate, which is in our brains, plays a role in the learning and memory functions. When we drink this is lowered, hence the memory loss you get after a heavy night. The suppression of Glutamate will lead to black outs and periods of time we cannot recall. This is obviously a very unnerving thing to go through when you are also feeling dehydrated and hungover from your night out. When we try to recall the night’s antics, we will go to the worst-case scenarios and in some cases fabricate in our minds what has actually happened. Higher than normal levels of anxiety will then lead to, you guessed it beer fear. Knowing that it is a scientific process that in a lot of cases can’t be controlled I find is quite interesting. If you are a heavy drinker like I was then this was inevitable and unavoidable to some degree unless you were able to control your intake. But as we have already established this wasn’t the case for me. I would estimate there are varying levels of beer fear for different people.  

Last year I went to my friend’s wedding. It was a lovely couple of days spent with some old school friends. On the first night (before the wedding) I probably had two or three drinks too many and went hard at the booze. But my attitude was that it was a wedding and a very joyous occasion and likely everyone was getting hammered. On the day of the wedding, I had my first drink around midday and carried on into the afternoon. I recall at one point going for a lie down for an hour or so to try and pull me around for the evening session. I went hard at it again like most of the people there but don’t recall getting back to my room that night. There are a few hours that I don’t remember at all. I woke up the next day full of fear. What had I done? What had I said? Had I embarrassed myself. i made my way sheepishly down to breakfast and a few people had made comments about me being pissed the night before. I felt ashamed and horrified that I could have potentially embarrassed my friend on his wedding day in front of his family or new in laws. I made my apologies and got out of there as soon as I could. For days after I felt horrendous not wanting to contact anyone from the wedding in case, they told me something that I didn’t want to hear. I eventually messages my friend to apologise for my antics and hoped that I hadn’t ruined any part of the day. He assured me that I hadn’t, but was he just being nice? I don’t know. Another episode from a catalogue of regrettable stories that I could have gone to here.

Leaving the alcohol behind was a tough decision. But enjoying the clear conscience the next day is something I really recommend dipping your toe into and experiencing. I have made a multitude of mistakes that I have to live with. However, knowing that I won’t do anything I regret whilst under the influence of booze is very liberating.

Thanks for reading. Still getting loads of messages weekly regarding other people’s experiences which is great, and I am always happy to chat to anyone about anything I have written or if there is something you want to discuss then drop me a message.

Lots of love.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts