My first memory of drinking was at the age of 14 years old. I went to a ‘mods’ party and drank Cider. I think I threw up everywhere. I suppose I was a typical teenage drinker, experimenting with all the beers and spirits, walking in to night clubs and falling out, you know the kind of thing.
By my late twenties I was known as one of the local drinkers. I quickly earned the nickname ‘Gluggs’, because I could certainly put the pints down. I was known to do the entire Sunday shift at the pub, from midday until chucking out time at 10.30 pm. Back then I used to drink because I just loved getting pissed, I was a typical lad, who used to be the life and soul of the party, especially if I was shitfaced.
In my early thirties, I bought a house out in the sticks. It was too far from the local pub, so I started to drink indoors. I found this surprisingly enjoyable as it was much cheaper and I didn’t have to stagger home after the last bell of doom. At home I upped the ante quickly, going from a few beers to the ‘three- for- a- tenner’ bottle of wine deals in the local supermarket.
I started to pile on the pounds very quickly and with the help of trusty Google, I found out that vodka was the best alcohol for those who want to avoid the calories, so I ventured down the slippery slope of a few double vodka and tonics each night. Those few vodkas soon turned into nearly a litre a night. Looking at it now, I was well and truly screwed as living alone made it so easy for me to do this. I had nobody to judge me, or pick me up off the floor when I landed there whilst trying to stagger up the stairs to bed.
As time went by, I had lots of thinking time as I was no longer the life and soul of the party. I started to realise that my drinking had been a big massive cover up for a lot of pain in my life. My Mum had left the family nest for another man when I was just 14 which had impacted me. I then got married quite young and four years into my marriage, I walked in on my then-wife and my brother- in- law having sex in our bed. Years later, I found another relationship ended when I discovered she was having an affair with a stuntman! Getting pissed everyday had been a way to block these thoughts from my past.
In 2014, I met Emma, who is now my wife and at that time she had no idea at all about my drinking. The thing is, when you have a dependency you can become devious and cunning. Our relationship moved quickly, and it wasn’t long before I had sold my house and was moving in with her and her four kids- panic stations! I was in so much denial before moving in, I just thought I would be able to cut down, or even stop. No chance of that! My life felt stifled as I couldn’t be the drinker that I had been for so many years. I was being watched, I was slowly getting found out – and eventually it became impossible to ignore that I was in fact a functioning alcoholic.
It got to the stage where it really started to make an impact on not only my life, but Emma’s life, in fact everybody’s life. I drank more and quite often slept in the other room in order for me to stay up later and get even more pissed. Towards the end of last year I knew that if I didn’t do anything about it, I would lose everything.I tried cutting down but that didn’t work. I started hiding bottles in order to secretly top up, because cutting down was proving too difficult and I found that I increasingly needed access to more.
One day, Em came into my office, she looked terrible- washed out and drained. She told me that enough was enough and that if my drinking continued, she couldn’t see us making it. As she left, I knew then that things were at rock bottom.
Shortly after, a very good friend of mine dropped me a text on a Monday morning, just after new year. I had a stinking hangover, again. I looked terrible, again. The text read as follows - “Dave, how about we both give up alcohol for three months, to see how we are in our health, our marriages and in our general wellbeing?”I thought ‘three fucking months?? I can’t do three days!’That being said, the proposition kept popping into my head throughout the day…I began to wonder how things would be. How would me and my lovely Em be if I did quit? How would my health be? How would I be?
That was more than six ago months ago now and I am committed to working at my sobriety and to making this a change that is forever. In the last six months me and Em have slept in the same bed every single night. Our marriage is back on track- even better in fact. My blood pressure is back to a healthy level where a year before the Doctor literally frogmarched me into the Pharmacy! I have lost nearly two stone in weight, my sleeping pattern is amazing and being told how well I look on a daily basis is so good for the ego!
I have had more than two years-worth of counselling to try and work through all the hurt and pain I had in the past and it’s a work in progress, but anything beats drowning my feelings in vodka! I haven’t found it easy, but I absolutely know that if I have one drop of booze again, I will be right back to where I was before.
I tried AA meetings which are helpful to so many people, but after a while it just didn’t feel like it was for me. My main support system is the fantastic Instagram sober community, which I have had the chance to discover and engage with ever since I started to share the highs and lows of my journey through my Instagram account @sober_dave_today. I also connect with others by attending sober events, through public speaking and I have also taken part in a couple of podcasts.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, especially as summer arrived and the weather became warmer. After 40 years of heavy drinking, walking past overflowing pub gardens, watching people guzzling copious amounts of alcohol isn’t easy, but I keep reminding myself that right here and now, I am in the best place I have ever been in on so many levels. The drinking party may be over, but so many brand new doors have opened and I feel fit, fabulous and excited about the future.
You can find Dave on Instagram @sober_dave_today