5 years in 5 sentences

1. I didn’t drink when I finished the detox

In some ways this was the hardest part. Sure the physical detox was an absolute nightmare I never want to repeat; and it almost destroyed me. But it was actually after all the attention had stopped, after the constant sessions of support ended, and after the peer group disbanded…that was when I was alone and that is when I had to decide on my own path forwards. I had to do it on my own.

In the physical detox I was substance tested every day, I had to attend group sessions and individual counselling. Once that time was up, instead of the help being provided for me every day, I had to find my own support groups. I experimented with many different types of support groups and some worked and some… I still haven’t decided on (looking at you A.A.)

2. I didn’t drink after losing my job

Throughout the last years of drinking and into my new sobriety I changed jobs. This also became a time when I built a new life in a new town in a new country. The change was good as I was away from many of my old drinking haunts but it didn’t mean I could escape my triggers. Those triggers were within me and travelled with me as I started a new life in a new country.

Sometimes that made it harder not to drink. I was alone, and no-one knew me. No-one would make any comment if I drank or not because I never said to anyone in “my new life” that I had stopped drinking. Again…it had to come from inside me. There were times of great loneliness and doubt and there still are. I struggled but I did it… I built a new life without alcohol in it.

3. I didn’t drink after splitting up with my girlfriend

My first year of sobriety was all about filling that void. I spent a lot of time thinking about what really makes me happy and I had to think about the hard stuff: what to do with my time, who to spend it with and what do I want my life to look like.

These questions were overwhelming at first. I read a lot, and I wrote a lot; and I “risked” a new relationship with someone who wasn’t a drinker. It didn’t work… It didn’t last long but it highlighted to me that there was no running away from my issues by running into someone else’s life. That relationship was an absolute disaster. A lesson I learned during this time of exploration is best summed up by this quote – “The love of another will not be able to fill the void left by not loving yourself.” – Anonymous. Learning to accept who I am, and who I am not, was the most powerful thing I’ve done in sobriety.

4. I didn’t drink after my sister was diagnosed with stage four cancer

This is hard. This is still new. There will always be dark moments in life when you are lost for words and do not know what to say, what to do, how to feel. This is one of those times. I must be strong for myself, and my sister. Drinking will not help me do that…

But I must finish on a positive note….

5. I didn’t drink after running a half marathon in under 1 hour 30 minutes

For non-runners, that is fast even if I do say so myself! But I have to find other ways instead of ‘raising a glass’ to celebrate these days.

Running has been a big saviour in my sober life and something that plays a huge part in my mental well being. I simply couldn’t face all the life struggles without the restoration I get when I am out in the fresh air, running. No music, no companions, just me.

But every year I run at least one “event” and this year I managed to run my fastest ever half marathon. I travelled to a town I had never been to and joined 30,000 other people of all walks of life. I am proud of myself and I am working on my mental health by using physical activity; and if can offer advice to anyone it is this. Find your own path, find what works for you… but a little exercise goes a long way.


That I would

That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy
That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good
Whether with or without you

That I Would Tattoo

I wish that I would… stay sober no matter what happens. I have my horror list” under which circumstances I could drink. Many of us do. Today isn’t on that list but it’s close, it’s a hard day.

That I Would

This song can be interpreted with hope as in “I will be fine whatever”… but it can also be interpreted as wish I could be good. An acknowledgement that you are not there yet.

Well today is a tough day and I’m craving…. But I know that I will be good…. one moment at a time.


Days like these….

Just not drinking is good enough.

Today I went swimming with my son, we played football, we ate ice cream. We had a lovely weekend together. And tonight he goes back to his Mums, and I go home, alone. To a different country, a different life and a different world.

It’s hard, it’s great, and it’s possible because I don’t drink, and it’s why I won’t drink tonight.

Today marks around four years since I last had a drink. I’m reluctant to use the word “celebrate” because not drinking should be a normal life choice, a standard way of life, and not something where I continually tick off the days. So I have actually stopped counting the days since I last had a drink because I don’t think it helps.

What does it matter if I get to 5 or if I get to 50 or if I get to 500. Will one number mean “I’m cured” or I have reached a goal and now everything’s all right?

No. It does mark an achievement, a journey that has good days and bad but I doubt day 1,460 will be markedly different from day 1,500. No point in time will mean I’m past the point of having to be aware of my triggers, or a time when I don’t need my coping mechanisms.

It really did help at the beginning but there comes a point when not drinking should be part of normal life and should be unconscious. And most days I’m there. Most days I don’t think about drinking. But some days I do; some dark days are difficult and some days I just want to curl up under the duvet and not have to fight and not have to face the world. On those days I think about drinking but I don’t. But I do compensate in other ways, some good, some bad.

The good ways, well I run and I run and I run and I run. I run a long long way. It really helps me and helps my mind to escape from itself. It’s like meditating while moving.

I can’t think about life or what’s going on in the world because I just have to focus on putting one foot forward in front of the other. And if I’m running hard that’s all I can think of and I push my body as hard as I can, and those moments of pain and pleasure take away the cravings to drink. Temporarily.

But that’s not the approach I take every time. I have without doubt even after all this time not drinking replaced one addictive behavior with another albeit less damaging. Sugar.

I eat a lot of chocolate. I eat a lot of ice cream. And I eat a lot of biscuits. But that’s ok and even if I binge out and finish the tub or finish the packet I’ll feel bad but at least I haven’t had a drink. And also in balance with the running I’m not in a bad place physically. My weight is pretty steady at around 67 kg which for my height is fine. But I am at least conscious that when things get tough the sugar comes out.

While I push my body harder than is probably good in the long term, I don’t drink and that is the one thing I should be proud of myself.

So I no longer drink and if you no longer drink and it’s been one day, one week, one month; then brilliant. Count days and focus on just getting to a point where you don’t think about drinking all the time. And when you get to that point then don’t beat yourself up if you have a few extra biscuits or a bar of chocolate or whatever it takes to just not drink. Because all the matters at the end of the day is just not drinking.

Your life will be better for it, your life matters.

A good and a bad time to make a resolution

Any resolution that is based on the date in my view has an inherent risk of failure; however if you make a resolution to stop drinking because you woke up in a gutter, or woke up not knowing or not remembering what you did last night; or worse you wake up and you do remember; when you’re filled with guilt or shame… that is more likely to be a driver to change your behavior.

I suspect that most people having a dry January are worried that they are drinking too much already. And that’s quite probably true. But, medically speaking, it’s far better for you to have a consistent two days a week without alcohol all year round. One month isn’t really a long enough abstinence to notice a marked improvement in one’s health, appearance, mood or outlook. By the time your sleep patterns recover from the jolt of sobriety, the month is practically over.

It isn’t easy to make a major change such as quitting the booze. For anyone who has decided not to drink as a New Year’s resolution my wishes and my thoughts are with you and I am willing you towards a better life. You don’t need drink, no one needs drink.

But “dry January” is a bad idea. I struggled through it years ago when I still hoped moderation was possible for me. I considered a dry month as proof I didn’t have a more serious problem. So I filled the fridge full of alcohol free beers and hid away at home feeling ill, feeling depressed and thoroughly miserable. But I thought I was doing myself and my body a favour. It was hell.

And come midnight on 1st February I began an almighty booze binge feeling “I deserved it”. Within a matter of weeks I was back drinking the same amount or more.

So if you have “given up” for January, then it’s a great start, but be mindful of your reasons. I kidded myself I was doing a “reset” of my tolerance and I genuinely believed that over the next months my intake would be more moderate. I was wrong.

For some it is a good time and opportunity to reflect. It is a good idea in that it raises the awareness of the harm that alcohol can do. Just because it was a nightmare for me and did absolutely nothing to help sort my addiction out does not mean it is a waste of time for you.

Just don’t make the same mistakes I did and assume a month off would undo the other 11 months of binge boozing…

So I say F**k dry January… but others have their view:

“Alcohol is the UK’s biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49. This Dry January, we’re  [Alcohol Concern] working with six national charities who tackle issues closely related to alcohol. Through Dry January you can raise money for them and us, Alcohol Concern. Together, we will reduce the harm caused by alcohol”

Good luck either way


That season is almost upon us…

December is party month, and that can be hard. All those work dos, friends meeting up after long time apart, all that excess.

I remember going to a party in the early days and emptying a beer can out and filling it with water so I could wander around looking life I was drinking. I look back at that and wonder why I felt so strongly about not wanting others to know …

I know really. I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd…

I didn’t want to have to explain…

I didn’t want to share with people who probably wouldn’t understand…

And it was shame. I just didn’t want anyone to notice I wasn’t drinking and ask why. It felt like such a big deal and I was convinced that everyone would notice even whilst I was carrying out my subterfuge with the water in the beer can.

The truth is now I know. No one really cares that much about what anyone else is doing or why!

It’s a good trick to have up your sleeve but really, be brave, people generally don’t ask, but if they do just say as little as possible. I started saying “I’m having a night off” and moved the conversation onto something else. I was amazed that what I considered such a major issue for me was just not noticed by others.


‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom

A close friend of mine went into rehab recently, for a second time in 10 years and reminded me of this quote. It comes from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” by the English poet and artist William Blake between 1790 and 1793.

The book describes the poet’s visit to Hell, but Blake’s conception of Hell is not a place of punishment, but as a source of unrepressed, somewhat Dionysian energy, opposed to the authoritarian and regulated perception of Heaven.

But that chaos and wild energy of Hell ultimately destroys us. For those of us drawn into that world, the “outside world” does seem boring and repressed. We fool ourselves we are different, better, wilder, more independent. Not “part of the machine”.

But it destroys us and it robs us of our perceptions. We become deluded into thinking our view of the world is the correct one.

To recover, we must learn to appreciate the energy that was invested in that “Hell” could be of so much more positive value in “Heaven”. The “Heaven” is not one ruled over and regulated. It needs to be an informed awakening to a new way of life.

So in these hard days for my friend, I will be thinking of him. For him, the physical detox is done and the hardest part starts. To reframe that wild destructive life we lived as a “Hell”, and to see a new life as full of opportunities we cannot imagine yet.

“Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion”

…for JC

One comment can still hurt…

And it came out of the blue from someone who knew me well when I was drinking.

I had spent the day working hard and then as it was sunny I went for a 9 mile run, and then went to the gym…and I was feeling good about myself. I was looking forward to the weekend. I had a quick Skype and then I got this…

None of my business, but I got the impression you were a bit drunk earlier… I thought it was great for you to give up drinking, so I hope you can keep it up for your own sake.

That was last night, it hurt. And it still hurts. Why?

I don’t really know why but it upset me a lot. And I still can’t shake the comment. I suppose it is my confidence or pride? I don’t know.

I have struggled so hard to stay sober and to have someone close from my past comment that I seemed drunk triggered an emotional upset I still can’t explain.

Is it like… “I don’t trust you are not drinking”? I know I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself, but I want others who have been affected by my drinking to also feel that I am a different person now. To be accused of seeming a bit drunk undermines that sense that I have shown people I have moved on.

The only good thing is that it has not triggered a “fuck you” feeling that if I seem drunk, then why not get drunk. I am pleased about that, although it did cross my mind.

No, I am just hurt that what has been a long struggle, and just when I thought I was in a good place where drinking was no longer in my life at all…one comment can destabilise that confidence and positive feeling of being a better person.

I will move on…I am just reflecting that it hurt a lot…

Take a shower, wash off the day. Drink a glass of water. Make the room dark. Lie down and close your eyes. Notice the silence. Notice your heart. Still beating. Still fighting. You made it, after all. You made it, another day. And you can make it one more. You’re doing just fine. – Charlotte Eriksson

The monkey is still in the room, but it is off my back

Today marks the three-year anniversary since I stopped drinking.

Three years ago I was struggling to come to terms with the loss of my wife and son, the physical and emotional damage from living in a derelict house that was literally falling down around me, and a dead-end job. I had lost most of my friends and the ones I still had, I felt alienated from, because I no longer drank and they “didn’t get it”.

Today I am writing this in a different country where I now live as part of my new job. I will be returning ‘home’ tonight to my new home in a new country where I still don’t have many friends, yet, but I don’t have a past I have to hide from. People generally never ask me why I don’t drink. I can go for a run up into the mountains and regularly run over 10 miles at the weekend through the woods and fields, and now the weather has warmed it won’t be long before I am able to walk from my apartment to the lake for a swim.

I have seen my son more in the last 3 months than I did in the of the last 6 months of 2016. He has his own room in my flat and has been to stay with me this month and more trips are planned this year. My ex has remarried and has a new husband, and a new baby; yet I will be going to their house for a meal to celebrate my sons first day at school.

I have money in the bank, my health is good for my age, and any damage to my body done by the drinking should now be repaired, or at worst, stabilized.

I have deep scars, physical and mental, but the past; whilst not forgotten; is reconciled and in perspective.

So this is a good day, a day to celebrate, a day to reflect on how far I have come and to be proud of having been able to turn things around from the dark place I was in before.

The monkey is still in the room, but it is off my back.

Finding your inner resolve

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength – ― Marcus Aurelius.

I had a wobble a few days ago, just like anyone else can; be they 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years into their sobriety.

To get through these times the trick is to know how to find your inner resolve. To some this may be asking for support from a Higher Power. For others it could be talking to someone. For me at least, it is a process of looking inwards.


This raises a big question in my mind. Where does our strength to persevere through the tough times come from.

A behaviorist may say it is evolutionary. It is part of the survival instinct.

A “believer” might say it come from God, any God or Higher Power, a deity outside ourselves.

Me? Not that it matters….I think it is a combination. My first reaction isn’t to pray for help but to find a way to get through using my own resolve. This may just be repeating over and over my own “mantra”. I recommend everyone gets one. Mine varies from “it will get easier” to “Accept it, accept it, accept it“.

The latter is useful because these days my desire to drink is usually triggered by an external situation…generally an emotional or frustrating situation outside of my control. If I accept it, the pressure reduces, as does my desire to drink.

If you don’t have a mantra I strongly recommend getting one. I could write a whole article on making one up but the truth is that would just be clickbait.

Just find a simple idea, a few words, yours or someone elses and repeat them when you need to. The mantra should be simple, no more than 5 or 10 words maximum, it also should be easy to remember even under duress.

And it is yours. Don’t Google it!!! Make it up yourself, it will be internalised better and be yours.

Either way, find your own source of inner strength for those times you just need to get through. I made it through a tough patch and it wasn’t because of anything more than identifying the trigger, white knucking through with the help of my mantra, and trsuting that the craving would pass. It does….

I want a drink, I have done since 10am…

It may be coming up to 3 years since I last had a drink but this just shows you can never truly relax your guard. I have gone weeks at a time not even thinking about drinking but since early today I have been really struggling, craving an escape, not wanting a drink, but to be drunk I suppose.

And there is the message to myself. There is no running away anymore.

Today was always a trigger day for me, a day charged of emotion but out of my control. I am in a situation I just have to accept, and even after all this time I don’t want to accept, I don’t want to feel. My mind has wandered onto whether it would be ok to indulge in other ways.

I have done the whole sugar thing, for the last two days I have troughed my way through chocolates and biscuits, I have skipped going to the gym, I have skipped  going for a run, I have skipped meals, I have skipped everything and been left stuck with my emotions with a dose of guilt and self pity.

I know I can ride it out. Some days all the sane and sober advice in the world counts for shit. Logically I know I should talk to someone even though a meeting is logistically impossible, but there is no one. I know I should engage in something healthy and energetic, but I am paralyzed with apathy for life.

The one lesson, the one message I keep telling myself is just get through today, one day at a time. It is such a cliché…but it is true. It will get better, hopefully tomorrow…if not then the day after, or the day after that. It is not worth drinking.

Never assume you have cracked it. Demons lurk in the shadows ready to pounce.

Am I in “Recovery”?

This is a question I have been struggling with for a few months now, and it’s one reason I haven’t posted for so long. Does immersing yourself in the “recovery world” promote a sense of “unwellness”?


If “not drinking” is now part of my everyday life, and if I am not constantly having cravings, or struggling to stay abstinent then am I in recovery?

I am certainly not thinking I am cured. No, I have had enough experiences to know that there is no going back. No “controlled drinking” for me. No “just one drink”.

But I also do not agree with the statement often cited in AA that “I have an illness”. It is not something caught or inherited. Drinking, for me at least, was a coping mechanism for life. I couldn’t see any other way to cope with life without a drink, and the harder life became, the more I needed to drink. And the more I drank, the less effective the drink became…and so the vicious circle started. But I began my journey to break that cycle back in April 2014.

For me, being an alcoholic isn’t a chronic disease.  It was just acute for a very long time… And to say “I am in recovery” could be seen as tantamount to a well-earned “badge of honor”. I am not turning my back on all those that helped me, I am not being complacent to think I am cured. I am just struggling with the concept of whether defining oneself as being in recovery somehow links one to a past I want to move on from.

I have been convinced for the last few months that by dwelling on recovery, by following recovery blogs and by immersing myself in the whole addiction and recovery world that I am somehow prolonging a sense of “unwellness”. I have really come to believe now that for me, after 2 years of not drinking; that to say “My name is xyz and I’m an alcoholic” really doesn’t help. It puts me in the negative place of being a victim, a sufferer.

But I am not suffering. I am not a victim. I am not an alcoholic, I am sober, I don’t drink, but am I in recovery?

I don’t know.

Emotional sobriety…sober without the ‘happy, joyous and free’

What is emotional sobriety? Some might think that it means being “happy, joyous, and free,” a common saying in 12-Step meetings (which has always driven me nuts), taken from AA literature. Of course, people like this definition. It means that if they work hard on being a good “AA’er”, they will achieve physical sobriety (abstinence) and become happy in the process.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this definition puts a lot of recovering people in a tough spot.

Emotional Sobriety

For example, what does it say about a person’s emotional sobriety if they are having a hard time? What if they are afraid, anxious, sad, angry, confused … the list can go on and on. Does this mean that they aren’t emotionally sober?

I believe that emotional sobriety is less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad”) and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings. Being restored to sanity isn’t about getting the brass ring—or cash and prizes—or being “happy, joyous, and free” all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever it happens to look like. What are you experiencing right now? And how about now? Can you be present to all of your feelings without any one of them defining you?

Sometimes emotional sobriety is about tolerating what you are feeling. It is about staying sober no matter what you are feeling.


I’m An Alcoholic: My Name Is…

This show has moved me more than any programme I have watched in a very long time. So much so I have to speak up, and speak out.

What is written below are some small snippets that struck me deeply, quotes but not verbatim.

I was lonely and desperately unhappy. Alcohol made me feel as if everything was alright

When I’m asked about ‘rock bottoms’…it was years of my life. I was robbed of a life by alcohol that was pretending to be my best and only friend.

“Do you know who I am”?  Yes, you’re an alcoholic

I picked up again because I thought I could manage it…. clearly I couldn’t

I get asked a lot “but you’ll be able to have a drink eventually right”?
 – I can’t, I will die if I do
 – The hardest part is admitting to yourself you may never be able to drink again, ever. That’s it
 – It’s much more bearable in your mind to say to yourself I can maybe drink again in moderation, that is less scary than I can never ever have a drink again

Sobriety has been a journey of feeling difficult stuff and not using anything on it

Six months in I thought I might actually end up normal, one day. There’s hope

I felt very strongly that I needed to regain power. I needed to empower myself and I found that running, particularly, has helped me do that

To me it’s not about triggers, that’s too easy; like “my trigger is ‘this’ so I’ll avoid my trigger”. My trigger is being alive

I have a life, and I don’t drink; but the feelings that made me drink are still there so I’ve had to become quite practised at coping with those


My name is Sam. I choose not to drink and I have been in recovery since April 2014

RunnerSamAnd I’m on Garmin Connect.


Accepting Hardship



…when everything feels like it is too much, when the full density of the world is slipping loose from tired fingers and there is just so much that you do not know, let yourself breathe, breathe into the realisation that:

  • I do not understand;
  • I do not need to understand; and
  • that is o.k.

Don’t think too hard about it.  Just allow the world to happen as it will, with you as one if its infinite parts.  If you can do this, a level of acceptance (healing & peaceful) that you probably did not expect or even believe was possible will wash over you.  Acceptance is the nourishment that feeds our stamina and resolve and allows us to keep palms open for whatever small alms the future may bring.


And what if the hardship is one of those persistent nags that continues to pick and torment? Expect that this feeling of acceptance will pass, and that you will fluctuate between the good and bad moments.  But once recognised, no hardship will ever take away the solace in knowing that a deeper acceptance is possible.  Just as you are only one small piece of a vast, infinite and unexplainable universe, so too is it a part of you.

Just hold on…the hardship will pass.

Fatboy Slim: “Being the sober one at the centre of the party seemed daunting, but life’s been much more manageable since”


“Going into rehab was a short, sharp shock”

I left no stone unturned during my 30 years of drinking – I’d developed a dependency. Being the sober one at the centre of the party seemed daunting, but life’s been much more manageable since. It was beginning to hurt and it wasn’t fun any more.

Gary Oldman Says Stopping Drinking Was His Hardest Thing Ever

G Oldman

Actor Gary Oldman is happy for the first time in years. He has a 7-month-old son, a devoted wife (his third) and — at last — sobriety.

That’s the biggest, hardest thing to do,” he shakes his head, tapping his finger on the table top, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done — more than anything.

No one came to his rescue, he says. “It’s you and God, basically.”

Oldman says, “Some bottoms are high, some are low. Sometimes people have to go to the gutter, lose everything before they can turn around and say, `I have a problem.’

“Others don’t have to go that far. I found one of the things that was sort of a curse was that I could do this job drunk, on a good day, a lot better than other people do it sober.”

That’s true. People who’ve worked with Oldman say he’s simply a genius. But genius isn’t enough when you’ve lost your passion for the work and life.

Oldman always managed his job, even when he was blotto. “You ask any director who’s ever worked with me and I’d bet a lot of money he’d say he’d work with me again. I turn up, I’m always on time, I know the lines.”

Still, he admits he had a tough time on “Scarlet Letter.” “I’ve never been shy of coming forward about that. But for someone who was falling down (drunk). . . . I don’t remember MAKING `Scarlet Letter,’ to be honest with you. I know I did it ’cause I’m in it. But I was living every day in Nova Scotia, up there in the middle of nowhere. You had a bad time for 90 minutes,” he laughs.

One of the things that helped revive his spirits was the autobiographical movie he wrote and directed, “Nil by Mouth.”

And though he was able to face that raw look at his own life through directing, acting is another thing.

Step 4 My Way…

It’s been a while since I have written, and that ‘gap’ coincides almost directly with my decision to become more involved in AA. I began to wonder if this blog was an extension of my ‘ego’.

How many hits did I get today? How many comments? Who is visiting from which countries? That’s all a bit ‘me, me , me’ and not the reason I started this blog.

Visitor Stats Where

And so with that in mind over the last month or so I’ve walked away from this blog and AA, to think about my future and my recovery plan.

Talking of which, then does recovery end? Some say never. I guess it’s the same discussion as once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. I used to believe that yes, I was an alcoholic and it’s just “a condition” I have to live with, to manage through abstinence. And that meant that I would forever be ‘in recovery’. Now I am no longer convinced.

I have arrived at a new crossroad in my life and I’m about to start in a new job, move to a new country and basically begin a new life. Do I arrive in this new life as a recovering alcoholic; or do I arrive as someone who just doesn’t drink.


Before I decide whether to close this chapter or continue it, I will hopefully be contributing to an article for AfterPartyMagazine via a questionnaire. It’s surprisingly hard to write answers to questions like:

  1.   What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
  2.   What do you love about being an alcoholic?

But if it helps one person then I see it as worth the heartache and soul-searching and reliving the past, to write down and share My Road to Abstinence.