How I Found My Alcohol Off Switch – Matt’s Naked Life

Like so many of us, Matt was convinced his alcohol off switch was defective. He could never find traction when taking a break from drinking. And once he started, there was no stopping. Matt committed to changing his relationship with alcohol after an enlightening conversation with a friend. Discover how he finally found his alcohol off switch.

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Alcohol was always there

Alcohol has always been in my life from a very early age. I had a very happy childhood, don’t get me wrong, but it was always surrounded by alcohol and pubs on family occasions. Living and growing up in the UK means that alcohol is always part of your life and culture. We would often go to the pub with my parents as children. As teenagers, we’d try to get served and then it almost became a requirement for work and social life through to the present day. I could tell many stories about how alcohol was part of my journey growing up.

Celebrating alcohol

It has always been part of my life and the culture, as I mention as someone in the UK, it was unheard of that someone didn’t drink! Alcohol has remained a constant in my life from my teenage years through to becoming an adult, a husband, and a father. I also worked in a culture that was heavily based around alcohol, we had a mantra around “Work hard, play hard. Man at night, man in the morning”. You were celebrated if you didn’t go to bed and drank through to the morning sales meeting. It was encouraged not to have an alcohol off switch. Even now in 2023, the culture is still very boozy but it is changing I think. I want to be part of that change.

The impact of my drinking

I guess from 18 through to my 40s I could identify so many issues related to my drinking. Driving while intoxicated, working while drinking, dark moods, depression, and anxiety based on binge drinking. All of this has been part of my life. Some of the hangovers have been truly crippling and made me struggle. So I’d say the usual rhetoric “That’s it, I am never drinking again“… Only to be sipping a beer 5 days later.

Working around my drinking

I used to plan my work around my drinking.

One example, of many, I was traveling to a sales meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, and the meeting would start at 12:00 CET.

Now I could have flown out with some of my colleagues that morning and returned the same day. I didn’t do that! I flew the night before safe in the knowledge that I could drink. So I’d book my flight to arrive the day before at 17:00 CET. I wouldn’t drink at the airport or on the flight, but I would be so excited that this was happening. My wife would often say that before I went away with work I would be “child-like excited” that I was going away. She would later tell me that she dreaded me coming home because she knew I would be miserable.

All in

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Anyway, I would check in, hang my suit up, iron a shirt fresh for the morning, and look at the gym gear that I packed from home knowing it would never leave that bag or room. Then I would then find a bar nearby so I wouldn’t have to experience a chance meeting with a colleague at the hotel bar. My evening would entail sitting alone and drinking 6 – 7 pints of lager beer. Because I didn’t have an alcohol off switch.

I wouldn’t speak to anyone, I would just sit with my phone and zone out into a state of bliss.

The next day I would attend the meeting and go through the motions, feeling the depression creep in because I knew that the visit was coming to end. I would then return home and be unbearable for 24 / 48 hours whilst I came to terms with what had happened.

This happened every single time I went away for work.

No alcohol off switch

I never have an alcohol off switch. I could never go out and just have one drink! That was unheard of! I would quit for a week and promise myself that was it, read books, and listen to podcasts but I would always fail! I’d try Dry January and would do that for a maximum of 14 days and then find an excuse… “Well, you don’t drink much anyway”… “Well you achieved 14 days…” etc etc.

The best I have ever abstained from alcohol in 30 years is 47 Days. I would find excuses and fall back into the lifecycle of binge drinking, hangover, 2 – 3 days of depression, quit for a week… and repeat!

The turning point

A few months ago, I met with an old colleague, who shared identical drinking patterns to myself in the past. He said that he realized he was a functional alcoholic. I was amazed by this and thought well that’s not me. But over the course of the next hour that we chatted everything he mentioned I could 100% relate to.

Planning business trips around drinking. Making sure that if he was going out for the evening he had alcohol at home in case it is needed when he got back at the end of the evening. If he went to the shop he bought more alcohol than he needed because he knew when he started drinking he didn’t want to run out.

The anxiety that he felt before going to the pub, rushing to get out the door so that he could get to the pub as early as possible and any delay from friends or family would make him so angry! Another soul without an alcohol off switch.

It was at this moment that I realized this was me! 100% it was me. That was the turning point and the start.

Finding my alcohol off switch

I decided I needed to dedicate myself to learning how to create my alcohol off switch. I had heard of Annie’s books in the past and then I also heard about Annie, whilst reading a book by Simon Chapple. All these great books started me thinking about my own relationship with alcohol.

What really drove me forward on my own personal journey (and it is a personal journey) was the podcast. I was searching for podcasts and having heard of Annie I looked up if she had a podcast. That got me involved in the programs. Currently, I am coming to the end of the Alcohol Experiment 30-day challenge.

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Keeping my alcohol off switch turned on

I knew I need all the knowledge I could get in order to engage my alcohol off switch. I really enjoy Naked Life Story podcasts. Whenever I listen to a personal story there is always something that I can relate to… “Judgement, Culture, Social Interactions, etc.” It gives me a feeling that I am not alone and we are all on a similar path/journey. I would very much like to tell my own story and/or present a live or virtual event.

I have hope now

For the first time ever and I do mean ever, having tried multiple times in the past 20 years, I do have a path forward.

In the past when I tried to quit, I wanted everyone around me to quit, and if they didn’t I was outraged! I now know that this is my journey, my path and that I need to do this for myself! That is key. I used to think well I am quitting how dare my wife have a glass of wine…

When the reality is I am projecting my problems onto my wife and others…now I realize this is my journey and my change to make.

My advice to others

just don't start alcohol off switch quote

Don’t start!…

Seriously, it would be don’t start drinking… I would sit myself down and say “Look you are one of life’s people that can’t just have one drink or drink in moderation…You just can’t do it! So don’t start..!”

However, if I did start and I still had to pass down something it wouldn’t I would start by saying “Don’t quit for family, friends, or work but quit for you… This is your journey and you need to own it and do it for yourself!”. I would also add “That you will be okay and there is support out there and most of the time when you tell people you don’t drink, they wish they could do the same”. 

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