If you would’ve told me this time last year that I’d be coming up to one year of sobriety I’d have laughed in your face and poured another pink gin with sprite. Coming from Belfast I grew up surrounded by alcohol and the age-old stereotype that being Irish meant being a drinker. Entering the big world of booze at 14 it became everything for me: my confidence and my confidant, the one thing I could rely on to make even the worst of days bearable. For years, I lived off this larger-than-life persona who wanted to be the life and soul of the party, who lived this crazy adventurous life and made many a drunken mistake only to reframe it as a story for the inevitable autobiography I’d write one day. The alcohol and my identity became so intertwined that it was almost impossible to separate the two it was at the centre of my life (so much so my 18th birthday cake was in the shape of a bottle of Echo Falls Rosé!!).
As my tolerance grew the level of amusement my trusty sidekick provided me shrunk. It was fun until one day it wasn’t. I wish I could specify the point when fun turned fear but it trickled in slowly, As I entered the end of my teens and embarked on my twenties I was able to hide behind the guise of being a student doing what every other student does, the perfect mask with which behind I could justify excessive spending, countless days lost being stuck to my bed barely able to lift my head other than to vomit and groan as I promised I’d never drink again only to be up and at it again a few days later. Despite my parents often fuming at me about my behaviour and needing to wise up I never had anyone tell me they were genuinely concerned with my drinking but growing up in a society and culture so engrained by alcohol it was hard to differentiate a Paddy with a pint from a Paddy with a problem.
The pandemic had a profound impact on my drinking, I felt scared about my future as a recent graduate who felt like with the world of work essentially frozen had no prospects, I grabbed onto the first opportunity that appeared and I packed my bags moved to England and began teacher training. Living in Liverpool was the first time where I became concerned for my drinking. I was in an unknown city, had not got many friends, I felt distanced from my family and putting up with lockdown after lockdown on top of a stressful and demanding Postgraduate course the alcohol that I once found confidence from turned into something and at times felt like the only thing, I found comfort from. During this time, I embarked in a relationship and for the first time someone addressed my drinking and expressed concern that I could potentially have a problem. I would love to say that it was enough for me to stop but sadly it did the opposite I became defensive and protective over my drinking habits, I didn’t have a problem he was just a bore! As real life became harder to deal with, I chased the party lifestyle to forget it all and to find refuge for a few hours where the only things I had to worry about was pouring one drink after another and chatting rubbish to people whose names I’d never remember. After a few drink fueled incidents which involved being attacked and the end of a relationship instead of facing the facts that alcohol was impacting my life, I packed my bags and I ran away to Dubai but this time it was going to be different: A fresh start, Dubai is strict on alcohol as well surely that will help me regulate my drinking?
To answer the question above briefly, it didn’t. After the holiday mode and excitement wore off, I found myself in the same pattern of drinking for confidence, drinking to cope and drinking because that’s just “who I am” the only difference was I swapped the grey skies of the UK for a
sun drenched sandpit. I won’t bore you with the in’s and out’s but eventually I had to come to terms with how much money I had been spending on alcohol (£15 a drink was taking it’s toll) I was in a financial mess, working a job I hated and last but not least absolutely bloody miserable I knew something had to give. I owe my sobriety to social media, I once contemplated buying The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober in 2018 but it was spend a tenner on a book that I might not even read or spend a tenner on 2 double gins at the weekend, I have sometimes wondered where I’d be now if I bought the book a damn sight richer I can guess. However, I stumbled across people on TikTok and Instagram talking about all the benefits they noticed from giving up drinking and I knew I wanted a piece of it. The Bee Sober podcast was mentioned on someone’s page and ever the binger I dived in spending hours catching up on all the seasons (I’m so thankful there was so much content for me to sink my teeth into!). I can’t describe it any other way than like having a light go off in my head almost every single problem I encountered in the 5 years prior had alcohol involved in some shape or form. Listening to Alex and Lisa made me feel like I had two friends in both ears who understood everything I was going through, I realized there was a whole other world out there.
Telling people I was going to quit drinking was no easy task. I knew they were going to be skeptical both friends and family, I knew I was probably being spoken about and I knew that this decision was not something I could just make half-heartedly I had to go all in. I went public on Instagram documenting my journey from the off (@aodhanwithoutalcohol don’t mind the cheeky plug!) because I knew it would hold me accountable, there’s one thing about me and it’s that I never like to be proven wrong there was no way anyone who doubted me was going to be proven right. I know that sounds like a silly reason but in the beginning that was truly one of my motivating factors. I am coming up to one year of sobriety in 3 months and I can confidently tell you other people no longer play a role in my sobriety because every other benefit I have found completely obscures it from view. I am happier, healthier, (slightly) wealthier but for the first time in my life I feel contentment. The connections with loved ones are stronger than ever, my skin is glowing, I could honestly go on and on about the benefits. The most important thing for me that has come from my sobriety though is that for the first time in my life I am able to tackle the issues I’d been using alcohol to avoid from my lack of self-esteem to my incessant people pleasing. It is so liberating to take that mask off and for the first time truly discover who I am and what I want from my life. One thing I repeat to myself frequently is that I am so glad I made this decision at 25, I have my whole life ahead of me to find true connection, to lead a life filled with adventure, experience and fun. I’m going to make sure it is everything that I dreamed of when I was that insecure, overweight, confused gay 14-year-old who found comfort in a bottle not in himself.
Crack open the Nozecco because everything you want is one the other side of giving up!
- Find people to confide in, I know going public with your journey is not everyone’s style, but I found connection on social media with others on a similar journey.
- Celebrate the milestones: ten days, ten months, ten years. Whatever feels important to you don’t let it pass find something to honour the occasion.
- I absolutely love a night out still but I know it can take time to adjust but make an effort to still see friends socially there’s so many mocktails on the market these days
- If it’s not too painful try and focus on what was the reasoning behind your drinking and if your able to begin to work on healing those issues.
- Take up a hobby, I am a Language Teacher by profession and have decided to start on Italian. I look forward to ordering a drink senza alcool in Italy soon.
- Breathe… some days will be harder than others but I promise push through it and you’ll remember why you made the decision to Bee Sober.