Ending my relationship with alcohol led me to write This Naked Mind – which led Michael to end his relationship with alcohol.
Hi, I’m Michael Stokes from Cambridge, UK. I’m 26 years old and on the 1st April 2019, I made the decision that the time had come for ending my relationship with alcohol forever, following reading the wonderful This Naked Mind of Annie Grace and several other prompts including Kevin O’Hara of Alcohol Mastery. Being something I’d toyed with for several years, and as my consumption of alcohol became more and more frequent with greater tolerance, I knew I had to make a decision.
On the 31st March 2019 a relationship of only three months had come to an end. As a reflective person, I was able use the energy and start something new out of the end of something that had been. The breakup wasn’t related to my relationship with alcohol, but clearly it didn’t help at points as I can recall. I was thankful and I practiced gratitude that evening. That same evening it became clear, there was a prompt. It was profound because I had realised that this life given to us is for us. We have choices to make, and a great abundant life to live. I began writing a declaration on a rough notepad multiple times, and I even recorded a YouTube video.
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My Drinking History
I can recall having my first drinks around the age of 13. Clearly it wasn’t something I could access myself, but would do so having older friends. I can remember the first time I drank too much and I was with my girlfriend at the time and her group of friends. I was near 16, but after an evening of drinking (obviously too much) I rushed to the toilet and threw up all over a poor carpet. The next day I carried on, but felt terrible.
Also, I can remember going to one of those pubs (the kind that serves you but shouldn’t) with a bunch of friends at the time and even having ‘social gatherings’ where, in fact, I would stay over and there would be drinking. The drinks at the time seemed to be the cheap bottles of cider, spirits, larger, and so on.
It was around the age of 16 to 18 where also my nicotine addiction began. I started smoking cigarettes – packs of them. I would buy a pack of 10 each day and smoke much more when I went out. I smoked throughout college and certainly during parts of university, although mostly as a social smoker (thankfully), but there were times where it became more frequent. I felt that smoking made things better, relieved stress, and that several cigarettes would result in a much more enjoyable evening. Not to mention how I’d convinced myself how great smoking was with coffee and alcohol, in the morning, evening, before dinner, after dinner – of course these were all lies.
At the end of 2017 and into most of 2018 I began vaping, buying several vapes and liquids and again I varied between full-time and part-time. I tried to quit on several occasions, although I would always justify that vaping helped me with stress. It would help my circumstances. Thankfully at the end of 2018 (just before Christmas), I decided to no longer be a slave to nicotine. I quit cold turkey following watching a documentary called Heroin(e)on Netflix along with visiting several web resources including Allen Carr’s Top 10 Tips on How to Stop Smoking.
The documentary highlighted to me how chilling addiction of all substances is. Whilst it is about Heroin, it demonstrates how addiction destroys lives.
I can recall emptying my vape of its liquid and squeezing out the e-liquid into the bin. Three days later, and with a good reinforcing why, I didn’t look back and haven’t since.
From the age of 18, I remember increasingly going out (living for the weekend). At that age I was already hooked, spending an absolute fortune as I danced the drunken nights away and felt terrible the following day. Up until University and living at home with parents, my relationship with alcohol was probably more the binge type – but not regular. Both my parents were quite comfortable with their daily drinks, be it wine and what not.
I was 20 and I went out more and more. As I reflect, it was clear that my consumption and tolerance were increasing at a staggering rate. With all the events and independence at university, I went from drinking socially to drinking alone. I would stumble home from nights out, being held up by my flat mates as I’d drank yet again too much. I never seemed to learn. It was even from the first year where I began to consume whole bottles of wine to myself regularly and frequently – then tried to discard the next day at the bottom of the recycling. It continued on and increased. I seem to have used alcohol as a coping mechanism. Rather than having the conversations needed or rather than just enjoying an alcohol-free night, I would resort to drinking to numb and comfort.
It was throughout University where depression, anxiety, and panic attacks became more apparent and I finally acknowledged them. I’ve now been taking SSRIs (50mg per day) for the past 4 years, which essentially increases my serotonin. I’ve been on and off of these for several months at a time. Currently, I have again (after the past year) come off them and am currently in withdrawal but each day I am getting better and feeling better. Like alcohol, we have to take great care of ourselves and what we’re putting into our bodies and decide whether it is doing us any good. We should also consider other factors including our social environment, work, hobbies, etc.
I recognise that alcohol, being a depressant, in no way would help anyone (let alone someone experiencing depression). Alcohol has that stimulating effect. It is incredibly clear that as you drink more of the depressant to feel better, you’re becoming more and more depressed and the longer it takes for the body to rid itself of the toxin.
Increasing My Relationship With Alcohol
Following graduation at age 24, I moved back home with my parents and again my drinking was still frequent and regular. I can recall purchasing the multi-pack deals and thinking I was getting a bargain – clearly, I was the fool. I remember laughing about drinking whole bottles of wine, which clearly was not something to laugh about. Various attempts to reduce my alcohol intake including, alcohol-free beer and abstaining,, but it was difficult as the glass of red wine sat on the table at dinner. I’d usually drink socially with my parents. It seems quite sad that most evenings spent would be with alcohol and TV, rather than having proper intellectual and stimulating conversation.
During most working days I could recall looking forward to those evening drinks as I missed the moments of the day. I moved out within a year into my own place. The first night I remember ‘treating’ myself to a bottle of wine. And there we were again, living a 30-second walk to a pub (which I didn’t go into for a month as I didn’t want to get comfortable with it). After I went to the pub (eventually), I did for several more times.
I tended to drink more and more on my own so no one could see me.
I would buy those 3L packs of wine and could easily drink half of them in a single session. There was a period after I’d broken my collar bone in November 2018, where I was out of my usual evening sport classes and routine – and that was when I increasingly drank. More nights than not were filled with bottles of wine.
In December I knew something had to change, and only I could change my life. It was up to me. I could carry on like this or I could do something about it. I began reading a book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which highlighted the law of attraction and how thinking, acting, being positive yields positive things into your life, and likewise for negativity too. I’d reduced my drinking, but there was no declaration as such. It wasn’t reinforced that I needed to stop drinking, but rather to just reduce.
January 2019, I remember going on a date where we both had 1 drink each, which seems reasonable and innocent. By this time, I’d really cut down my drinking a considerable amount. I would venture into the pub once or twice a week, often having 2 or 3 drinks. This became a struggle, though, as my tolerance increased. I wanted to drink more, I wanted to drink alone, and on occasions I’d buy packs of larger and share bottles of wine (often having most of the wine myself). Wanting to keep drinking but only in the pub, it crept back into my life. I’d be out at work again looking forward to those evening drinks and I’d rush home or to the nearest shop come 5 o’clock.
Taking It Easy
I went away on holiday with my girlfriend and I drank most evenings (but not to excess) The average holiday involves more frequent than not drinking, be it over dinner or at a bar, as alcohol was much cheaper. As I reflect, I didn’t need the alcohol, but I just drank it because it was there. It carried on a bit like that for the next few months. I would drink at the pub or share a bottle of wine or have some beers with some friends.
Following the end of my relationship with my girlfriend, I decided that, in the end of something, I would start something – and I did. I’d come to realise that moderation wouldn’t work for me – there was no moderation. As I drank, my tolerance would increase and I became more and more hooked on that feeling. It became clear that alcohol is something I do not need and each day I am getting stronger. Ending my relationship with alcohol is a beginning.
From Now On
On the 22nd April, my mum had messaged telling me that my Granddad was told to stop drinking from his doctor. He would not be able to have his already reduced amount of 1 or 2 gin & tonics a night. My Granddad would usually enjoy white wine after 5pm and would drink throughout the evening – before, during, and after dinner. He never really questioned how much he was drinking – no one did. He had been drinking like this for years and was incredibly functional. In 2019, he had a scare regarding high blood pressure and being overweight. He cut down significantly on carbs (which also meant alcohol), but continued to drink a single shot of gin (or at most 2) with tonic most evenings. The prompt confirms that years of damage to his liver had been done. Looking back, there is no surprise once you consider the volume of alcohol drank on a frequent basis. That volume, which is so ‘innocently’ consumed by so many people. My Granddad will continue on and will now live an alcohol-free lifestyle. I hope that he will be well, but certainly this is reaffirming my “why” and I hope it will reaffirm many others too.
Its nearing the end of May and I’ve not had any alcohol now for the entire time, which is now almost 8 weeks. I intend to carry on. Thankfully I’m back with my girlfriend, who is incredibly supportive and inspiring. She does not consume alcohol frequently but rather on the rare occasions in small amounts, which works for her. I’ve already been in many settings where I’d have previously drank plenty. Thankfully, I politely declined and had alternatives ready, including herbal tea and cordials. The beauty of these events is that the conversation has been incredibly alive and meaningful. I’ve never been so present before.
I would like the following month to be alcohol free, the following year to be alcohol free, and that this lifetime can be alcohol free.
Admittedly, its tough to put such pressure on ourselves – saying never. I feel that we don’t need to, provided we know our reasons why we stopped drinking in the first place or no longer drink and simply enjoy life being here right now. Already, it has become so clear how much better life is. Each day I wake up refreshed and recharged – ready to take the day on.
My evenings are spent wisely and productively, achieving and doing what matters to me. For example, working on my mobile app and web development business, learning Spanish, and now I feel inspired to start writing properly. I’ve started to make better decisions, and the right decisions for me. My life is moving in a good direction. On alcohol, I’d become stagnant and comfortable. I was in a job that I didn’t like and living in a place that I didn’t want to live in.
Is This It?
Frequently I’d ask myself “Is this it?”, and I knew deep down that there must be more. There is more and all it required was to make a change. Whilst it seems like a big change, most important is to get started. I continue to adopt a great growth mindset, and great habits, such as mindfulness, meditation, reflection, and living more presently in the moment – in the now.
Cutting out alcohol has inspired me to know that I can do more than just make one change. I can make many changes for the right reasons and that I am able. We are all able. At this time in my life, I am incredibly open to change and being challenged. It’s not that I don’t have a foundation – I do. I do have a belief system and I have my principles and values but even those can change. Not only has it been alcohol, but it has also been food. I’ve most recently ventured into alternative foods and eating more plant-based foods. Thankfully, I continue to be nicotine-free. It is certainly an interesting time after cutting out items that we often associate with pleasure. It feels more like a mindset shift. I respect and love myself more than ever in the most humblest, yet boldest of ways.
Ending My Relationship with Alcohol
Thank you so much to all those who have helped in ending my relationship with alcohol and certainly This Naked Mind of Annie Grace, which led me to start The Alcohol Experiment 30 Day Challenge which was filled with inspiring, informative, and challenging content each day, including the prompting questions, journaling, and public forum and community. Going through the days felt like a mighty achievement and it was exciting to see the days content. The website and book provided so much support and enabled me to do this successfully and also strengthened my knowledge and my “why”.
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