Before I decided to take a year long break from booze I’d flirted with the idea but never took it all the way.
Sobriety and I kissed and cuddled on the odd week off at a time, we got to second base by going sober for a month here and there together, but I never consummated my relationship with long-term sobers-ville by going the whole 12-month howd-ya-do-hog.
But then, some time between the births of my two daughters, sobriety and I took it that step further by agreeing to ‘go steady’ together for a full year, whatever happened.
Seemingly just like that I dumped my habit of regular drinking and committed to a year without any alcohol whatsoever. Not a thimbleful of punch; not a single glass of celebratory champers; not a mouthful of thirst-quenching beer on even the hottest of summer days would pass my lips—for twelve calendar months.
The sober decision had been made. A year of living sober. No sweat.
So what had stopped me stopping before that fateful day on 11/11/2011? Had I just been waiting for a really easy to remember date? Or were there other factors getting in the way of me giving serious temporary teetotalism a good
rogering solid go?
In answering that question I’ve come up with my main four obstacles to taking a break from booze. It’s no surprise to me, in the end, it all comes down to fear. And as we know, the biggest fear of all is change.
So, in the spirit of conquering the biggest fear of all, here are my…
4 Obstacles To Taking a Break From Booze
1. Fear of being labelled an Alcoholic
Before starting my YOLS (Year Of Living Sober) I didn’t think I was an alcoholic but I knew I drank more than some. Since doing this blog though I’ve found out I was right to be concerned about being labelled an Alcoholic, especially by people who think anyone who drinks more than one single glass of wine in a single sitting has a dependency. You see, I don’t think that way. Just because alcohol had become a habit for me didn’t (and doesn’t), in my eyes, make me an alcoholic. Lazy? Maybe. Boring? Probably often. But from my experience with ‘real’ alcoholics—dating an Alcoholic, working for an Alcoholic, and working with many Alcoholics (before writing full-time I worked as an actor, musician and music promoter)—I think there is a difference between being an Alcoholic and being a heavy-drinker/binge-drinker/dipsomaniac.
Some will disagree. C’est la vie.
2. Fear of ridicule or isolation from my friends by making such a big change.
Growing up, and like most Australians—and many other affluent westerners around the world—booze played a big part in my socialization. Rites of passage teenage drunkenness; twenty-something romantic dinners with the requisite wine; thirty-something cocktail parties and trendy bar mixers (the kind of ‘mixer’ where you’re meant to impress each other with tales of worldly exploration and career conquest), alcohol was often, if not always, at the centre of friendships and romantic relationships alike. Before giving up alcohol for a year I was probably one of those people who felt confronted by anyone who chose to remain sober in normally boozy social situations.
Guess this fear was one of the karma kind.
But since my wife hardly drinks (and hasn’t had a drop since falling pregnant with our now six-month-old daughter) the only people I could have been worried about possibly upsetting were my handful of good friends. And that’s when I realized I didn’t really have anything to worry about, because I knew my real friends wouldn’t pressurize me to drink (something I was later proved correct about).
So, when I thought about it a bit, I understood upsetting my friends by turning down a drink wasn’t a big obstacle for me. Even if it had been in the past.
3. Fear of missing out on bonding time with my father.
Alcohol has been central to most of the bonding experiences between my father and me. From the early days of sharing beer after open age basketball games to the ritual we formed of sharing champagne before family dinners, alcohol was a common language I enjoyed ‘speaking’ with my Dad. As it turned out, around the time I began my YOLS my parents moved interstate—so it hasn’t been a problem. Then, when we did meet up for a family lunch a couple of months ago the only thing Dad expressed wasn’t disappointment I wouldn’t be joining him in a drink but pride at my long-term short-term sobriety. Still, part of me laments the lost opportunity to clink glasses with him over a bottle of red, and to pretend I know anything at all about whichever grape variety we happened to be swillin’ at the time.
4. Fear of what I’d find out about my life.
Drinking can be fun. It can also be avoidance. Alcohol is great at masking issues which, unless dealt with in sober clarity, generally don’t go away. Before my year off booze I had a suspicion I wasn’t as content with my life as I made out to myself I was. I feel like I’m the type of person who always looks for the positive spin in any situation, and mostly I think I do that quite naturally (the ‘glass half full’ is a worldview which makes sense to me) but I was also worried I’d find out I was more dissatisfied with certain aspects of my life than I let on (to myself and others).
And what I found out (and am still finding out) was, though I always knew what I wanted for my life—a happy family, a nice home, a fulfilling career and a bit of adventure—I may not have always been doing everything I could to make that life happen; I’ve been drunk many times but there are many stories and blog posts I haven’t written once.
Like the one about the guy who let four obstacles stop him taking a break from booze. Until one day he decided not to let fear stop him.
Today is Day 265 of my year of living sober.
Little Booze Joke
A Screaming Orgasm walks into a bar and the relieved bartender says “You took your time.”