I’m sober….now what?

First off, Happy belated Canada Day to all of my Canadian readers and Happy Independence Day to all of my US readers.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

I’m 19 months sober. What does that mean? How has it changed my life? What is next?

Social drinking

I’ve always been a social drinker on weekends and with friends at parties. In hindsight, I was a heavy social drinker, normally getting drunk in situations where other people were drinking. My wife isn’t much of a drinker, so she drove us home a lot.

I never really saw it as much of a problem; a lot of my friends drank. I always thought they were super drunk, just like me. It seems like this was more of my reality though. As a sober person hanging out with the same people, I think other people seemed way more drunk than they were because I was drunk. My perception wasn’t reality.

Note: Drinking modifies your perception and your reality.

The accident

Car Accident 2014

I believe I started drinking more in 2014. Not only was work extremely busy and stressful but I was in a bad car accident in March 2014. I was coming home late from a hard day in the office. It was a late winter rainy day. So the roads were slick. I was exactly 1 block away from home when another vehicle blew thru a stop sign and my car slammed into his going 40-50 km/hr.

It was a fairly violent accident as my car and his collided and “smushed” together. I’m left with life long injuries. I started drinking more after the accident to manage my pain and trauma. I really don’t remember my drinking habits as much pre-accident. Drinking wasn’t really a problem yet. But I started to drink more after the accident.

Note: Life events can modify your drinking habits and you need to be aware of significant changes.

COVID

Then COVID hit in March 2020. I started working from home. All of a sudden, there wasn’t a commute to and from work. I could start drinking 1 minute after signing off from work. I was isolated. We couldn’t go out. So I stayed in and drank. I drank while playing video games. I drank while watching tv.

It started with a couple of drinks and escalated from there. Soon, I was drinking at least 2 beer and 2 whiskey/coke a night. Then I added Scotch. And some nights, there was leftover coke, so I had to have one more drink. It was 4-6 drinks on weeknights and more on the weekends.

I woke up a lot of mornings with headaches. But since my accident, I frequently had a headache in the morning. I honestly didn’t realize that I was actually hungover with a headache most of the time. I saw a specialist numerous times about fatigue only to realize after I quit drinking that fatigue was likely caused by consuming too much alcohol.

Now, when I wake up with a headache, I know it’s from neck pain or a severe weather change. I sleep better, so when I’m tired, I’m really tired. By being sober, I’m much more in touch with my body and how I physically feel. There is a drawback to this. I feel the back pain. I feel the headaches. But, honestly, feeling is better than the numbness.

Note: Drinking can mask pain or cause physical symptoms (fatigue, headaches, stomach issues).

The incident

It’s not my proudest moment. This was my low point of drinking and perhaps the lowpoint of my 40s…

I was playing online video games with friends and I wanted some help. No one appeared willing to help. I was drunk. I lost my temper, told everyone where to go, and logged off.

Drinking impacted relationships. I lost my best friend as we worked thru my outburst. It impacted my social circle. Later I found out that it wasn’t just one incident but my personality had really changed because of alcohol. Alcohol in excess really changed my attitude and outlook on life.

I literally quick drinking “cold turkey” the next day. How did I do it? I just decided to quit and then quit. It started with pure determination and a will to change. I replaced old drinking habits with new sober habits.

That was Dec 18, 2020. Dec 17, 2020 was the last time I had a drink. I also stopped any marijuana products. I don’t like any type of alcohol in my food as it can persist. And I mostly stay away from non-alcoholic drinks that taste like alcohol.

Note: Sometimes you need a harsh kick in the butt to see the need for change even though you were staring it in the face!

In Hindsight

Yes, in hindsight, I had a drinking problem. At a minimum, I started with 4 drinks a night. Occasionally I might have a drink-free night. On the weekends, I would drink more. I would frequently be drunk and/or feeling the affects of liquor.

I talked to a close buddy about drinking and we both took efforts to cut down during COVID. I was never really successful with drinking in moderation. I just don’t have control to have one or two drinks. Sure I could make a small change, but it never lasted.

So I quit. And it’s for the best!

Note: Things are easier to see and understand in hindsight. Why is this even a saying? It’s just so true. We are so blinded by the present sometimes. I was self aware and I knew it was an issue. I just chose to ignore it until I couldn’t any longer.

The Good

I can’t explain how good physically and mentally I feel sober compared to previously. The difference is life changing! I have so much more energy. I’m running and in fantastic shape. I’ve lost a ton of weight. I’m really healthy! Every day, my liver is stronger and recovers from the years of abuse.

My mind is clear. I’m no longer fuzzy most nights. I have the energy to do more around the house. I feel like it’s hard for me to sit still.

IF I need to drive somewhere late in the evening, I CAN! (…like going for Blizzards!!!) If you start drinking at 4pm, there is no way you’re leaving the house any time that evening. The first few times I drove somewhere in the evening sober, I was amazed. Wow! This is cool. Now it’s just a fact of life. I can always drive. I am the designated driver, all of the time.

NO HANGOVERS! This might be the best thing. No more headaches after a night of drinking and days filled with groans of recovery. No more hair of the dog. No more feelings of super dehydration in the mornings. No more alcohol fueled diarrhea.

Well, quick update, I got super dehydrated over the weekend and had a heck of a headache. But it wasn’t from alcohol. I think I just had too many fizzy drinks over the weekend and didn’t drink enough water. So it’s still possible to have a dehydration headache, but less likely!

I save a lot of money. I used to go to a big discount liquor store at least twice a month. According to my sober app, I’ve possibly saved over $5,500. That’s a little hard to believe as it’s only an estimate. And I do spend more on ice tea and lemonade and other soda. But it’s safe to say that I’m saving $200-400 a month; multiple that by 18 months and that’s a minimum of $3,600 in savings!

Cheap tabs. A night on the town is a couple of pops. I can go out to see a band and have a $10 bar tab. Some nights I feel really bad, and normally leave a big tip. I’m a real cheap date now!

Note: A lot of good things have come from my sobriety!!

The Bad

Is there any bad to this? I don’t really think so, but I’ve had to make some adjustments.

I live with back pain. Alcohol helped me “not feel” that pain. I feel it now. So I’m usually in some sort of discomfort. This led me to trying to manage that pain better with regular appointments to physio and massage. I use a Theragun most nights, I have air compression leggings and I have a regular stretching routine. But some nights, I’m in pain. Occasionally, I’ll take a Tylenol for a headache or some pain or some muscle rub. But mostly, I just feel the pain. That’s life for me. I’ve accepted it and have decided to live the best life I can regardless of the pain.

There is no real escape from my thoughts. Alcohol provides a numbing of your mind. At least for me, it did. I’ve built other coping mechanisms now. I’ve spent a lot of time studying mindfulness and practicing meditation. My monthly appointments with my psychologist are key to staying mentally healthy. I’m much more in touch with my own feelings and no longer need to hide from them using alcohol.

Insecurity…! Yes, I can be insecure. I used to think I was the life of the party. Now, I have no idea. Am I still fun at a party? Am I the non-drinking party pooper? Quite honestly, people around me seem to drink a lot less. Or was this just my perception of thinking everyone else was just as drunk as I was? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just adjusting to being aware of myself during a party because I’m not drunk. Either way, I’m adjusting.

Note: I’ve had to develop other coping mechanisms for physical and mental ailments. Alcohol isn’t a healthy coping mechanism.

Society

Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

Drinking is everywhere. I’m constantly bombarded and presented with alcohol.

Facebook and social media is littered with alcohol/gambling content and memes about drinking. There are lots of public posts about drinking at parties, drinking because of a bad day, excessive drinking, etc.

I watched a lot of the NHL playoffs. Almost every commercial during NHL playoffs was gambling related or alcohol related. In fact, this is true of most sports TV. It’s very disappointing.

Drinking events aren’t as fun anymore or I haven’t fully adjusted to being sober at a drinking event. Or maybe it’s just old age! I look at the Oilers outdoors party and it just looks like a drunk-fest to me. What’s the point of me attending Whiskey-fest or Beer-fest or the beer gardens? Don’t get me wrong, I can attend an event and have fun without drinking. But some events “feel” like they are a drinking-fest. And I’m really not sure it’s for me anymore.

TV shows are littered with drinking. If you haven’t noticed, try watching a show and take note of the drinking and the context. Lots of excess drinking. People drink because they are stressed. Lots of casual drinking. Almost everyone on TV drinks after a bad day at work.

Sadly, this week, I was watching a show and a sober person reached their tolerance of stress and started drinking again. This happens a lot. The sober person on TV never seems to stay sober. They almost always regress back to drinking. Thankfully, in this case, the person “woke up” and got sober again. It’s very rare you’ll see a sober person on TV. Why is that?

I wish TV and modern media showed alternatives to drinking but I suppose that it doesn’t make good TV to have someone take a couple of deep breaths after a tough day in the office instead of grabbing a drink.

Note: Alcohol is really everywhere in life. You need to learn to deal with it.

Wrap up

My ironic whiskey shirt!

I’m sober. I love it. I love everything about being sober. I love how I feel. I love having a clear mind. And I think I’m still really cool to hang out with. I’d like to think I’m more present at every event!

If you drink, that’s ok, I’m not going to judge. And I have no problem being around people drinking. But if you have a drinking problem, please seek help! If you have an addiction problem, please seek help! See hotline information below at the end of this post. Take care of yourself. Find healthy alternatives. It’s really worth it!!

I can only hope that my experience can help or impact someone else. As always, thanks for reading!

Alberta Wide Addiction Hotline: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/findhealth/Service.aspx?id=1008399&serviceAtFacilityID=1047128

Alberta Wide

Telephone
1-866-332-2322

4 Responses

  1. I think this is fantastic – both for you and your family (and I own a whisky store).Keep up the good work and stay well.

  2. I am glad that you are on this journey. I didn’t care for you as a drinker and ofter worried about your relationship with my baby sister. I have to tell you now, I like you, I really like you! And I see how much more affectionate and considerate you have become. Love you brother in law! Pam

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *