Growth happens outside of our comfort zone – Annie Grace meets up with Mike, who attended the Naked Mind Live Event in October – and for Mike, this is absolutely true. He stepped out of his comfort zone nearly a year ago and took back control of his life. The changes and opportunities that have come as a result of his decision to stop drinking have proven one thing….he should’ve done it sooner.
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Leaving My Comfort Zone
On the morning of February 23rd, 2018, I stepped out of my comfort zone. For more than 30 years, I had been using alcohol to cover up what I subsequently discovered was a litany of underlying issues, rather than dealing with them. In recent years, this issue had become worse and worse as life threw more and more challenges my way, each hitting closer and closer to home. But I was good at hiding what was becoming a significant problem, from both a health and financial standpoint…or so I thought.
Moderate My Drinking
I had tried to moderate my drinking many times, but in the end, I always slipped back into old habits – ultimately resulting in me pushing my limits further and further each time. So, like my mom did before me, I decided in a moment of clarity that as hard as it might be, I was done. Cold turkey. Not another drop of booze as long as I live. And I was going to do it alone…or so I thought.
Growing up as the oldest of three kids to parents who drank heavily, I was exposed to alcohol from an early age. My dad was often not home because of his job, and my mom would sit up at night drinking by herself. I remember many nights coming home from a night out with friends and having to sit and talk with my mom until she eventually drank herself to sleep. When I finally left and went off to university, I began to binge drink heavily (as many do with the freedom that comes with university life) and my grades suffered. My comfort zone was in the drinking but I was able to get my act together by graduation, largely thanks to meeting my future wife in my third (junior) year.
Love and Marriage
We were married one year out of school. The next 20 years or so progressed fairly normally. We had a dog, a cat, two boys and a mortgage. I was very active in the boys’ lives, coaching their sports teams (hockey, soccer) whenever possible. During this time, I was so busy that my drinking was largely confined to beers on weekends and even then, only when I wasn’t taking one or the other son to a hockey or soccer tournament.
Developing The Taste
Things changed several years ago when we took a family trip to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. I developed a taste for spiced rum. When we got home, I continued to enjoy rum and cokes along with my usual beer and occasional glass of wine. As the boys became less active in sports and more independently active in their social lives over the next few years, I found more and more opportunities to drink as my responsibilities reduced. I found myself trying to hide alcohol from my wife in order to cover up my increased drinking. I also found myself purchasing more and more alcohol with cash and from different liquor stores so as not to raise suspicion.
This continued until the summer of 2015, when my mom was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. My dad was told he’d need surgery to replace a failing heart valve also. My brother and sister lived closer to my parents and took the responsibility of caring for them during this time. That only increased my anxiety and subsequently my drinking. Nine months later, on Mother’s Day 2016, my mom (who had quit smoking and drinking cold turkey 20 years earlier) passed away after a 9-month battle. This resulted in my drinking even more in an attempt to numb the emotions I was feeling at the time. My dad finally had his heart surgery that summer and my drinking increased to the point that rarely a day went by without my consuming at least a couple drinks to help me get to sleep.
Ready to step out of your comfort zone and experience growth? Start reading This Naked Mind today to find out how to stop drinking.
In November 2016, I lost my job of 11 years as part of a corporate reorganization. While I was given a good severance package, I was, at age 47, unemployed and starting over. Able to focus myself enough to get through the initial job transition period, I applied to several positions, getting a couple of interviews but nothing more. During this time, I was home alone during the day. Having the financial means to drink whatever and whenever I wanted, I took full advantage of it. This continued through the summer of 2017. I began to see a therapist regarding the anxiety I was feeling related to my job loss. She suggested I attempt to cut back on my drinking to help deal with my underlying issues. For a few months I did, and my overall health (both mental and physical) improved. In November 2017 I was able to get a new job. I stopped seeing my therapist at that time. Within weeks, I was back on the slippery slope to where I was in the summer previous, when my drinking was at its worst.
On the evening of February 22nd, 2018, I polished off a bottle of spiced rum I had hidden and went to bed. The next morning, my wife found the bottle – I’d forgotten to dispose of it. Not the first time, but finally the last.
My Day One – realizing my comfort zone had grown uncomfortable. Getting some meds and a referral to a psychologist specializing in CBT started the process. Finally beginning the process of dealing with the underlying anxiety/depression issues that alcohol had been masking all those years.
Struggling through the first few months AF, working to accept the fact I was done drinking. Fortunate to have my wife, boys and a close friend as a support team during this time. They talk me down or build me up whenever I need it. Making some mistakes along the way, and alienating some friends through my sometimes over-zealous comments.
It was around the time of my sixth month AF that I discovered This Naked Mind and it changed everything. It was like a “playbook” for exactly what I was experiencing and reinforced my beliefs and thoughts about going AF. I’m now at 211 days and I have completely lost desire to drink. I choose to look at alcohol the same way I do recreational drugs and cigarettes. I don’t need them, either.
Tune in to the complete podcast to hear how Mike left his comfort zone for good.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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