Well, it arrived. I’m now two years sober!
As with most big changes, they usually happen in phases. These phases are often hard to predict, because each one usually helps to shape the one that follows. Only looking back now, can I connect the dots.
The first few months were difficult. I really missed a glass of red wine in the evening. I also felt awkward when out with friends or colleagues – relying on non-alcoholic beers to soften things. That said, the short-term tradeoff (no hangovers and less anxiety) was so obvious, I was able to push through. At this stage, I wasn’t sure where the journey would end. I hoped I would arrive at a place where I could have a couple of glasses of wine now and again. You know – take it or leave it.
At around six months, things started to get easier. It became more normal to not drink alcohol. Yes, I still missed a glass of red wine, but much less so. I continued to drink non-alcoholic beers to fit in, and it still felt great to be hangover free and to have less anxiety. I remained hopeful that this would help me build a better relationship with alcohol. Maybe then I could introduce it back in less frequently.
Around this time, I also started to build better habits in my life. I didn’t realise it at the time, but being free of alcohol played a part in me starting this. If I was able to change my habits for alcohol, why not a bunch of other stuff that would make me feel better too?
At about the year point, quite a few things clicked. The big one was how important sleep was for my mental and physical health. I was just an all round better person with more sleep – more optimistic, more confident, less anxious, more productive, and happier in myself. I also noticed how much easier it was to be consistent with my new health habits when I was well rested. When I was tired, I was much more likely to skip workouts, eat processed food, drink enough water etc. The light bulb had gone off. I now started to prioritise my sleep much more than ever before. I still consider it the base of the pyramid for self care.
The second thing that clicked was the relationship between alcohol and poor sleep. It’s not like I didn’t already know this. This message had been coming through loud and clear for a while now on some of the podcasts I listen to.    And it’s not like I couldn’t see it for myself. Almost every time I had a drink, my Whoop metrics were a mess the following day (if you want a free Whoop and one month free, use this link).
And then it all finally came together. It wasn’t that alcohol was the real problem here. It was that alcohol was causing poor sleep, which in turn threw everything else off. Another light bulb had gone off. Being sober might actually be for good. How can I have something in my life that so obviously disrupts my sleep, and then holds me back so significantly? It’s as if a decision to have a few glasses of wine is choosing to give myself a week’s worth of anxiety and low confidence.
You’ll notice I used the word ‘might’ be for good. I was 90% there. But, I still wanted to believe that there was a way to have my cake and eat it. I wasn’t sure how, but committing to being sober forever felt like a massive decision.
In the last few months, something changed in me. I started to identify and become comfortable with someone who didn’t drink alcohol. Up until this point, I always felt a bit awkward and embarrassed to tell people I didn’t drink. But, now I started to like standing out and being the guy who didn’t drink. I didn’t care at all what anyone else thought about it. I liked what it stood for. I liked that it showed a level of discipline and commitment that was uncommon. It showed I was in control of my life. I had decided to put something that wasn’t good for me in a box and throw away the key.
And that’s where I find myself today. Two years sober, and convinced I’ll never drink again. I’m a much, much better version of myself without it – why would I go back?
I’ll leave you with this clip of Steve-O (from Jackass). I haven’t seen anyone else so elegantly describe why giving up alcohol can be so powerful. His take on ‘kind of having alcoholism’ is so perfect. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to give up. You might just want to release the handbrake and starting living life to the full.
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