- Ollie McCarthy
2 years sober- this is what I have learnt
Yesterday was the two year mark of me quitting drinking.
I recently came across a post from a friend who had said he was a year into quitting drinking too. When I congratualted him he turned round and said it was me that had been his inspiration to stop.
This got me thinking and I decided to put something on paper for anyone who is toying with the idea. The good and the bad and what I have learnt along the way.
Firstly, lets talk about the problem I found myself in.
I wasn’t ever reliant on alcohol. I just had no ability to stop. If you can resonate with this then you will probably know the feeling.
“Why don’t you just have a few less drinks, then you won’t get as drunk” my pals would routinely say to me.
I tried. And on those nights I would undoubtedly go the other way and be the drunkest person in the room.
When I drank I wanted to drink until I couldn’t drink anymore. Whether it was family gathering, night out or a quiet meal with my other half. If there was booze involved I wanted to end myself.
It spiralled out of control with the predicaments I found myself getting in becoming more and more precarious. I had wanted to stop the years leading up to me finally making the plunge but I never built up the courage to. Even with the incidents I got into gradually becoming more and more serious.
I was creeping towards the possibility of either ending up in prison or a morgue. And then the day after my birthday I arose from drinking two bottles of red wine on my own once my family had gone to bed and realised enough was enough.
Some deep seeded insecurities told me Sober Ollie would lose all his friends and be boring. That I would miss out on loads of fun. The reality was different.
I finally took the plunge.
The first 6 months were hard. I drank a lot of diet coke and lemonades. My family were supportive and the pandemic helped by putting a stop to any social life which enables me to get a few months sober under my belt.
From then on it was relatively easy to continue to where I am now.
Here are some lessons I learnt along the way.
Lesson one- Clarity
Completely eradicating booze from my life has enabled me to have more clarity and as a result be more productive. Anyone who has cut it out for any period of time will know what I am talking about.
As a self employed business owner this was a huge advantage and as someone who was now struggling to earn money in a pandemic it really helped. I was more productive and did more. There were no booze filled voices playing on my insecurities. I just cracked on.
Lesson two- missing out
When normal(ish) life did resume and I went back to socialising, one big fear that held me back was missing out. Would I miss out on those big funny booze filled nights. Well yes and no. I would still go to them and socialise. But inevitably I would end up slinking off early.
I feel we perceive that a lot of our nights drinking are great nights. Where as in reality a lot of them are just pretty standard with you remembering only the very good bits or bad bits the next day. Sure you can have some great conversations with people but in reality you can have them sober. That just takes a bit more courage.
In the 15 years I drank, I can count on two hands the “epic” nights I had. More often than not that was a result of the people I was with and the place I was in rather than anything else.
For me I usually remembered nothing because I was always black out drunk. So actually the quality of my nights improved and I spent less money. Win/win.
Lesson three- money
I never had any money. I was in debt. And when I was drunk I would happily spend every penny I had on getting drunker.
Funnily enough when I stopped drinking my money situation drastically improved. I now am out of debt and have some savings.
I have actually learnt more about money and investing rather than being a champion spender.
I feel this is an easy point to make. Stop spending money on booze and you will have more money overall.
Lesson four- dating
This was probably the thing that held me back the most when I was drinking.
As a young single bloke I couldn’t see how or why someone would want to date someone boring and sober.
But actually, most people found it very refreshing. Once I got over my fear I just got out there and had some great dates.
Do you have to be brave? Yes. Is it as bad as you think? No.
Drink or no drink you will be nervous before you meet someone. But ultimately you can’t fake a connection with someone when you meet then like you can with booze.
I was upfront before I met them (told them I didn’t drink) and just got on with it. Funny how we think need to go to bars etc to have a good date when actually just walking around a park or having a chat can be just as good.
If you have a connection with someone you have a connection with them. And that is enough.
Lesson five- there will be nothing fun to do.
If you can’t think of anything fun to do apart from drink then maybe thats part of the problem.
There is loads to fill your time. Luckily being a personal trainer and avid runner I just threw myself into that. But I had more time to do there stuff too. Walks, trips to beaches, dinner with mates, I cooked more. Realistically you have more time to do different things. Less time hungover and more time when you used to be drinking. You can still socialise and have good conversation/connection with someone without booze.
Lesson six- peoples reaction.
When I first gave up another of my big worries was how people would react to me telling them I didn’t drink.
heres the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone who is worried about that.
STOP GIVING A FUCK.
If someone is a prick about you not drinking then that is more a reflection of who they are and their own insecurities than anything else.
I have genuinely only really had positive responses from people I have talked to about quitting drink.
0.001% of people have been negative and to be honest, I probably expected it from them and have no desire to have them in my life anyway.
Stopping drinking makes you a little more ruthless with you friendships and who you spend your time with. This is probably because you don’t have the mask of disguising fake friendships or liking someone through booze.
Most people I encounter (even the big sesh heads) are positive and its surprising the amount of people who say “I wish I could do that” or “mate I have been toying with doing the same.”
I have had nothing but positivity from giving up booze. I could never return to drinking like I used to and am happy with how my life is without it.
The mental clarity and emotional stability it has given me has been huge, far outweighing the drunken nights/days I had before.
If you are thinking of quitting then I hope this has helped. Reality is that your life will be different in some respect. But that doesn’t have to be a negative.
I can only speak from my own experience so if you are thinking of quitting and want to know more feel free to reach out.
About the Author:
Hi my name is Ollie McCarthy and I am a Running Coach and Personal Trainer in Tunbridge Wells. I help people to build fit, robust and capable bodies that look good but also perform well. This is done through a combination of running, mobility, strength and conditioning work.