It was #WorldMentalHealthDay on Thursday 10th October which saw an amazing flood of social media posts and videos of people sharing their personal stories, words of encouragement, inspiration and support, and advice to those who may be struggling. We think that every day should encourage the same openness about mental health, in the hope that the associated stigma continues to be reduced.
Many of our members report positive changes and improvements to their mental health when they change their relationship with alcohol, whether it be cutting down or quitting completely. We asked Club Soda member Simon Chapple, who’s been keeping a journal of his experiences, to write about his own journey for us.
I am 44 now and had been drinking red wine pretty much every evening after work, probably for the best part of 20 years, over time I had gone from drinking half a bottle, to a whole one each night and at weekends it was even more. I believed it helped relieve stress, anxiety and enabled me to have a good time (even when I was drinking on my own!).
I knew I was drinking too much, I had done for years, I now consider myself to have been a functioning drinker, I have a demanding career running my own successful business with a big team of staff and I am in the office every day ensuring we remain on top of our game. I never had blackouts (well maybe one or two) and was rarely so drunk I would be incapacitated. I also never drank during the day, 7pm was wine o’clock for me and it couldn’t come round quick enough.
Subconsciously, I used to look for signals of approval to justify my alcohol intake. I was always the first to ‘Like’ the alcohol memes on Facebook or share an article about why red wine has health benefits and often compared myself to what other people were drinking or how they were behaving to make myself feel OK about my own intake.
For the last five years, I have suffered from anxiety and had taken a number of different approaches to deal with it, including CBT, regular exercise and meditation, all with varying degrees of success. Little did I know that quitting drinking was to be the cure.
Several months ago I started to read about the sober lifestyle, I became more and more intrigued and the more I read the more it all seemed to make sense, the big turning point was when I read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, I honestly felt like the book had been written specifically for me, it resonated so much with my life and my own situation. Since then I have read pretty much every piece of ‘Quit Lit’ I can lay my hands on. I particularly like The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley and The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray.
I also joined The Alcohol Experiment online, also founded by author Annie Grace. This is the ideal tool for newly sober people to engage with on a daily basis and provides a wealth of videos and feedback functions to help stay on track and log progress over the first 30 days of stopping drinking.
The day I joined the Alcohol Experiment was the day I chose never to drink again, I knew I never would go back, my mindset about alcohol had changed completely.
One of the reasons quite a few people go back to drinking after stopping is because they continue to have an internal argument between their conscious mind which is saying they should stop and their subconscious which is telling them they deserve or need a drink. The key is getting these two aligned and changing the mindset from ‘can’t have’ a drink to ‘don’t want’ one.
As this was a huge life change for me, I started journaling my alcohol free journey and have subsequently published some of my posts onto the Be Sober blog at www.besober.co.uk – from here a Facebook community has formed alongside a caring, non-judgmental private group of sober warriors who share their ups and downs with each other, the group is growing fast and I am excited about helping anyone on their own path to sobriety.
There seem to be very few sober websites and social media groups that are run by men, I think a lot of us don’t like to talk openly about mental health and addiction issues and I hope Be Sober can be a place where anyone, regardless of age or gender can find support without judgement.
There have been so many changes and benefits from stopping drinking, better skin, brighter eyes, no hangovers, no shaking, no behaviour I regret (cringing thinking about some of those drunken text messages), no stinking booze breath, more energy and better sleep to name a few, but my anxiety has also completely gone now. It felt like a dark cloud that had been hanging over me for years simply blew away after a couple of weeks of being alcohol-free.
Another huge plus has been how much my relationships have improved, I used to be preoccupied with wine o’clock and would be snappy and argue with my teenage son, since I have stopped drinking I have naturally found myself so much more focused and interested in him and what he has to say. We also spend more time in each others company and enjoy more activities together, it’s fun again! He has even commented about how much he prefers the non-drinking Dad and how much more I laugh these days.
It is also great fun exploring the huge range of alcohol-free drinks and discovering new tastes, my current favourite is GinSin with tonic water and a splash of cranberry juice.
Choosing not to drink can be hard at the start, particularly Day 1 and the first week, but once you have taken the step to be sober and put the glass down it gets easier and easier as the weeks roll by and you find yourself reaching new levels of peace and happiness that you probably won’t have experienced since you were a child. There really is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I can’t emphasise enough that changing the mindset about alcohol is the key to unlocking sobriety and enjoying the journey – if you have an internal struggle it will be a struggle. These days I consider myself passionate about being sober and want to do all I can to help anyone who wants to change their own relationship with drinking.