It’s 4am in the morning. Tuesday I think. I’ve not been able to sleep, which happens occasionally. I usually have no problem. I get up early, battle through my working day, get home, make some excuses and sink a few drinks. I then resign myself to a night of restless and uncomfortable sleep, countless toilet visits and a thick head in the morning. It’s the same old pattern… ever since I can remember, coffee has provided my get-up-and-go and alcohol my means to relaxation. You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise from the pages of this blog, but appearances can be deceiving.
Until recently I never realised I suffered from anxiety. Or perhaps I did, I just didn’t acknowledge it for what it was. Just lately I have felt a new wave of all-too familiar anxiety rising up, and it’s threatening overwhelm me again. Anxiety about work, my physical health, my weight and appearance, my relationships, money… I’ve been here before, only this time I have recognised the signs. The happy smile is becoming harder to fix and the air of ‘joire de vivre’ less convincing. My mood has been deteriorating and my drinking to relax becoming steadily heavier.
I’ve dabbled with the notion of going alcohol free for a while – even entertaining Dry January one year. I remember it was a challenge… but I felt great and wrote about it with gusto… I ran every day, waxed lyrical about sobriety and told the world how awesome I was. I stayed true to the end and eventually broke my 31-day booze fast with a huge blow out – the account of which is somewhere in these pages. At the time, it was like the hangover dragged me down from the pedestal I’d built for myself, gave me a good slap and I simply fell back into my old routine. That was several years ago.
Now, the fact that I am up in the small hours, on a school night, means that it is on my mind… I can see it now, on top of my other constructed anxieties. A moment of clarity in the darkness. I’ve decided to document my reasons to change, for no other reason than to get them down in black and white.
- Alcohol is making me ill. I am so used to the headache that it barely registers and the booze messes with my guts. I constantly worry about what I’m doing in the mornings and how far away the nearest toilet will be. I can no longer go running in a morning – I desperately want to run. Why would I want to be constantly ill?
- It increases my blood pressure, for which I take medication. Yes, you heard that right. I take medication to reduce blood pressure in order to reduce the pressure on my kidneys. This, in turn, will ensure I live longer and in good health. Why would I want to increase my risk – quite substantially – of a premature death?
- Alcohol doesn’t make me happy. In fact, it makes me downright miserable. Guilt, tiredness, lethargy and emotional turmoil are part and parcel, but it’s a habit that’s become so entrenched it’s become my way of life. Why would I want to feel guilty and miserable?
- It costs a fucking bomb. Four cans of cider costs £4-£5… and if there’s wine involved, it’s a tenner… a tenner a day! And I’ve just told you that I’m anxious about money. I mean, what?
- Alcohol makes me a slave to the sofa. The ironing doesn’t get done, I don’t prepare nutritious meals, I forget important tasks, can’t be bothered to go shopping, I casually neglect my family and I have lost my running-mojo. I can’t run when I’m drunk and don’t want to run when I’m hung over. This is no good for anyone.
- Alcohol makes me fat. I’ve often said that weight loss is 90% diet and 10% exercise. I can run 50 miles a week and not lose a single lb if my diet isn’t on-point. Having battled with my weight for 2 decades, I’m still kidding myself that ‘liquid’ has nothing to do with diet. Get real. There’s one primary reason I’m overweight and we all know it.
- It’s socially irresponsible. I can’t drive when I’m drunk, but because of my routine, I have to drive when I’m hung-over. This comes with obvious risks, and when I neglect my social responsibility, everyone is at risk. I never knowingly drink-drive, but I’m sick of the guessing game.
- It sets a terrible example to my son. He’s 12 and impressionable. He also loves his Dad and looks to me as a role model and for guidance. One day he’ll turn into me and whilst I fundamentally like who I am, I wouldn’t choose this path for anyone.
So there, in no particular order, are eight huge reasons to change. Each has been playing on my mind, and each has been sloshed crudely away with yet another swig of Thatchers. Change starts at home but I’m petrified. I know I can and will deal with the fear and I can and will get my shit in order. I’m making the change now.