Mikhail was a childhood drinker who had his first taste of alcohol while a preschooler. After 30 years of drinking, he decided an alcohol-free life was his next goal and he’s living it with This Naked Mind.
I have been an alcoholic for over 30 years. I am 37. Growing up in Russia, a sip or two of champagne was given to me at dinner tables when celebrating New Year, birthdays, and other holidays. I was four or five. Adults would tell secret stories to kids, and it was very exciting to hear. They also let us stay up late, do things we normally were not allowed to do, and we saw adults having so much fun talking, eating, arguing, dancing. Obviously, the magical solution to having fun was alcohol! In the mind of a five-year-old boy that was clearly an attraction.
When I was seven, I got drunk for the first time that I recall. Three glasses of champagne at my dad’s friend’s wedding. I remember my dad asking me how I felt. I felt fine, but I was more worried that he would see me drink another one or that I would not be allowed to drink champagne ever again!
At seven, eight, nine years of age we would drink magical juice that our parents would give us every time while camping or hanging out. While camping, we’d go in the woods and pretend to have a grown-up table decorated with snacks and, most importantly, the grown-up drink. We would take turns sharing with pride and joy while making toasts, just like adults would.
When I was around 12, drinking beer regularly became the norm. We would go on evening walks with my friends and drink two, three, sometimes four beers each. We could easily buy them from small kiosks that flooded the city at that time. No laws, regulations, or age restrictions.
From Childhood Drinker to Binge Drinker
When I was turning 14, my best friend and I planned to celebrate my birthday at a night dance club. Yes, when I was 14! We bought a fifth of vodka and a loaf of bread. Obviously, we couldn’t afford drinks at the club so we had to drink beforehand. After every gulp of vodka right from the bottle, we’d dig our noses in the loaf of bread and take a deep breath to break the taste of vodka with the smell of freshly baked bread. 15 minutes later the bottle was gone …
The drinking continued all throughout my teenage years. I would always count my tolerance and then brag about it to my friends: when I was younger, I could drink four beers a night, then it was six, then eight, and on and on. When I moved to the United States, I went out with some coworkers. After drinking a six-pack in 30 minutes I’ve earned some reputation points, how exciting! I was 16.
No need to say much about my college years, my drinking continued with more booze, more frequently. Drinking 12-15 beers a night became normal. Frankly, I no longer even counted. I would just drink all night long non-stop until I fell asleep in the morning hours.
In my middle 20s, the pattern continued. 12-pack a night was normal, every night. At some point, I’d take Sundays “off.” Few years down the road, I’d stop drinking for a month. I did that maybe three times just to prove to myself that I am not addicted.
I have witnessed family and friends suffering and dying from alcohol. My uncle passed away too early, tired of fighting the addiction. A childhood friend’s father fought it for decades and lost. My father’s ex-wife drank herself to death. Being an adult now and remembering their struggles terrifies me. Am I next??
In my late 20s, I realized that I’m drinking too much, and it might be impacting my health. Maybe not now but clearly it will in the future. Thoughts of quitting or reducing my alcohol consumption had been on my mind more and more frequently. When you start as a childhood drinker the years add up quickly. It was time to try.
Tired of the Battle
My daily mental battles were overwhelming. I would wake up in the middle of a night so angry with myself that I drank again the night before. In the morning I’d set a goal of “not drinking today!” But 3:00 p.m. would roll around and my mind would magically change itself. I would agree that today is not the day to skip drinking and I’ll just have a few beers tonight, maybe just a six-pack. BUT tomorrow will be the day to take a break from booze! When I get to a store, I’d decide that a six-pack might not be enough, and surely, I don’t want to ruin a relaxing evening by running out. With a 12-pack in my hand, the pattern continued for years.
I realized that I cannot quit on my own! I started to research how to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption altogether. But the thought of not drinking ever again would terrify me: “I could never have fun again??,” “I could never relax after work again??” Really any activity without the booze seemed impossible!
Mixing the Methods
AA didn’t seem like an option for me. The program’s success rate in the low teens and the social awkwardness of the process eliminated that option for me. I started to research by reading a variety of books about the subject. One book suggested taking a certain prescription pill and then drink all you want. Supposedly, the desire would stop after one to two beers; not in my case. Then there was a method where I’d take an unbelievable amount of pills, vitamins, and supplements. If I recall correctly, I had to take about 65 pills per day for the first couple of weeks. Then pill intake would taper off to about 40 per day for another four weeks. It was insanity!
Frankly, I did quit drinking for about four months! But then I decided it would be ok to have a few drinks one day. A couple of weeks later I had another drinking “session.” A week later another one. Shortly, I was back drinking full time. I tried that method again at some point and I quit again for maybe a month, and I picked back up yet again.
Scared to be Alcohol-Free
One thing I must admit was that before now I was never ready to give up alcohol for good. I wanted to quit, but I wanted to still drink on occasion. I wanted to be a social drinker, but it was impossible in my case. The only way I can reduce the consumption is if I quit altogether, forever, never another drink again. That thought horrified me!
In June 2021 I had my last drink. I do not remember the date or what I was doing or much about it. I decided those things were not important to remember. What was important is that June 2021 was the beginning of the rest of my life alcohol-free. Thank you to Annie Grace and her book, This Naked Mind that I have read four times so far, which allowed me to understand some of the life-long beliefs that had been ingrained in my mind for as long as I can remember. Not surprising when I was a childhood drinker. Some fundamental changes had to take place. I had to change my subconscious beliefs about alcohol and this book empowered me to do so!
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Share Your Story
I did not really know what it’s like to have fun without alcohol. I thought it was impossible. What I learned is that it’s ok to be tired or frustrated and that booze is not the solution, but a parasite that lives on those subconscious beliefs. I have never felt about alcohol the way I do now. I am finally free!
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