I posted recently a photo of me one year ago from France when I was a regular consumer of alcohol, a binge drinking machine.
Bear in mind that this was August 2016, when I was self-employed and not ravaged by 190 days of teaching.
By Christmas, I’d given up on alcohol for good.
I’d lost the stop button you see – that tiny voice as you finish a gin and tonic, glass of wine, bottle of cider, saying “Go on, have more.” I listened to it and not my wife.
I poured more and more.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think I was alcoholic, I never felt the need to drink during the day and could skip days; but those weekly unit warnings seemed to have become a daily target for me.
Not good, mentally or physically, or for my family.
So I stopped.
I went to the Doctor’s with my wife, admitted to drinking heavily and regularly and was told to stop.
No tablets, no counselling, just an NHS bollocking.
I stopped that day.
Going cold turkey made me initially irascible but beyond a bad temper, I’ve never touched a drop in almost 8 months.
I know I won’t again.
So what has not drinking done?
- Killed any social life. Going out with friends or having friends round for food and drinks has gone. It’s not been a conscious step – it just happened naturally. My social life may have gone into coma, but the rest of me, particularly my brain and liver, has been resurrected.
- Led to weight loss. It’s not just the alcohol that is calorie-laden; it’s the junk you shovel down your throat when you’ve had too much to drink. My obsession with eating cheese, coupled with red wine, has disappeared. I occasionally have a Babybel but that longing for Stilton has evaporated. Crisps aren’t purchased.
- Allowed me to buy a new car. We had planned to drop to one car, for budget reasons, but not drinking has made me work well and save money. So in June I bought a brand new BMW. Not giving it the Big I Am, I’m just showing not drinking has allowed me to have better financial control. That costs me less than I drank and ate in a month, I’m certain.
- Focused. I’ve had a torrid time in the past four years in Norfolk and education, but before Christmas the scab healed, when a letter dropped through the door and I decided to stop looking back, drowning the past in booze and regain control. Control of my future. My life. My businesses: both Get Pro Copy and 321 Websites.
- Earning power. I keep asserting this but it’s worth repeating. In November 2015, when I launched Get Pro Copy, I earned £25 for a couple of writing exercises, in a month and half. I’m no Coca Cola (you’ve seen the motivational quote about their bottle sales in year one) but my earning power has exploded. Particularly since going sober for life. Coincidence or a major factor?
- Physical health. As well as the new car, I decided to become the fitness freak I was in my 20s and substitute gin and tonic for gym as tonic. I go to Bannatyne’s several times a week, work permitting. Those endorphins from weight machines, rowing, running, swimming, make me physically and mentally well.
- Depression. If you’ve never experienced depression, I hope you don’t. It’s debilitating and devastating. I suffered from it from 2013 onwards but that black dog of depression seems to have left the building. I’m better. Stopping alcohol, leaving teaching, exercising and doing something I love – writing and social media marketing – means that I rarely look backwards and, if I do, I quickly remind myself to face forward.
Now don’t get me wrong.
I miss the taste and sensation of alcohol – that first sip of a fine red wine, a cold cider or gin.
But it was hindering my personal life, business, financial, physical and mental health.
If something is having such an adverse effect, it’s time to stop doing it.
So I’m not Sober for October, having a Dryathlon for January – this is Stuart Walton, sober hero for life.
My journey is only 8 months old; others I know personally and professionally have had years or decades of not drinking.
I aim to emulate them and make my family, friends and professional connections proud of the life decisions I now make.
Sober for life.