I realised this morning that my birthday kind of whisked quietly by this year, yet last weekend I spent 3 happy days visiting family and celebrating. 

 

Last year it was an event, “my first sober birthday”, it felt like we were celebrating two achievements – over 6 months sober and officially surpassing any risk of joining ‘The 27 Club’. 

 

I ensured that the house was booze free and while it was a small gathering, it was also a fucking huge moment. I was turning 28 sober, the first birthday in 10 years where I hadn’t touched a drop. My massive smile was real. 

 

To be honest, I thought this year’s birthday would be more of a doddle – over 19 months sober, in a great place, living a good life. But on the eve of the celebrations, of course, my mind wandered. 

 

It conjured up some anxiety about being around alcohol again. Since lockdown, I’ve had no exposure, we’ve been living in bubbles and I’ve gotten used to not having to put my shield up on a daily or weekly basis. 

 

In the days running up to it, I built up what it would be like faced with people clinking a glass in front of me, cracking a can, or popping a cork. When in reality, throughout my sobriety I have visited pubs with friends, gone to gigs, been to BBQs where people are drinking. 

 

But, was it just the fact that I haven’t had to put my shield up for 4 months, or was it that when the distraction of a large celebration wasn’t there (my first sober birthday) my mind still holds onto birthdays being a huge piss up? 

 

I laid in bed and thought back to old birthdays and realised… I can’t actually remember many. 11 years of birthdays are almost forgotten. I do remember my 21st and my 26th, but that’s pretty much it… here’s why.

 

It was the year after we’d graduated uni, back when me and all my uni pals still lived in Cambridge. I was working and living in the pub at this point and we loved a drink. 

 

I remember planning birthdays, almost like a schedule from school. I’d have an intricate plan of the times we’d pick people up, or people would come down the pub, all centred around being there as early as possible. This wasn’t just a night out, this was a weekend-long-bender. 

 

I remember it being a sunny day, beers in a pub garden, then back to the house to change and get ready for the evening. Probably about 10 pints deep we walked into town, continued smashing pints until we went to a club. 

 

A couple of years earlier there’d been a joke, centred around by how much I drank and my love for Jagerbombs, that I should drink a shot for each of my years. Well, I wasn’t going to turn that down, especially if they were paying. 

 

If I’m honest, most of the day and night I have described is blurry and not all there. However, the shots, the shots I can remember. I can play this out like a movie. 

 

I thought I was the king. The bartender lined up the first 10 Jagerbombs. Jesus, I can almost taste it typing this. 

 

There’s a big group round me of all my friends, all waiting for me to drink this stupid amount of booze in one go. I felt giddy, I felt alive, I felt like The Man. Bang, bang, bang, bang down the hatch. I remember feeling a sweet fizz come up my nose of Red Bull, I remember gagging silently as people cheered and slapped me on the back, which didn’t help. 

 

I settled with a beer back at the table, until someone suggested the next 10, then a last one to finish. I remember thinking ‘nah, not now, I can’t do it now’. My head had gone fuzzy, I was more than drunk. 

 

I headed back, bartender smiling, people gathering. Me grimacing and them shouting “bring it on” it was like I was about to win some medal in the Olympics. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Down they went. Crowd cheered, I stepped back, but this time, my body wasn’t happy. 

 

I waited until the crowd dispersed, then was sick on the bar. Luckily, due to not eating all day, it was liquid. No one noticed. Someone just spilled a drink right, I mean that’s what it smelt like. Gross. 

 

The night went on.

 

Now sure, I know, I was 21, of course I was going to live it up and get smashed – true. But what I didn’t know, is that when I went down the pub to drink off the hangover, continued with a roast on the Sunday and staggered into work Monday, that this would actually be my daily routine 7 years on. 

 

My 26th I now remember for a different reason. I was in Greece, sailing around the Greek isles. Beautiful boat, places, food, you name it. 

 

At this point in my life I remember thinking “I’ve settled now” gone were the days of 21 shot birthdays, puking on bars, getting thrown out of clubs. This was civil, and although the drinking wasn’t reckless, the way I was drinking was still questionable. 

 

Looking back I realise now that my alcoholic mindset was in full swing, I just didn’t know it. It was difficult to notice when I was 21, because 21 year-olds do that, right? 

 

In Greece, my mind centred around where the next drink was the whole time. I’d tell myself, and others, “hey, we’re on holiday!” Looking back now, I’d say I was obsessed, but at this point also secretive. 

 

It’s funny how self conscious you are. I never wanted to be the first one to mention having a beer or a gin, yet as soon as the word was said, I was pouring those drinks faster than you could pop ice cubes into them. 

 

We were staying on a boat and I had trouble sleeping, so I always made sure my last Gin was a healthy measure so I was able to sleep. I remember a few times I took them to bed with me. 

 

This was one of the best holidays of my life, and I still remember it as such, but it’s also a pivotal point that I look back on and realise that all my behaviours on that trip were of an alcoholic nature. 

 

I think we all look back on specific times when our drinking was bad, like birthdays, Christmas, Easter, anniversaries, etc. but, in reality as alcoholics we didn’t need these calendarised holidays – we created events to drink. 

 

Towards the end, I made my life about creating events where I could drink, without judgement. See that’s the key, without judgement. Opportunities to get leathered without attracting attention, without being different. 

 

Before I was a morning until night drinker, essentially unable to control myself, I’d still want to drink all the time, but a lot of the time I’d stop myself because it would seem “out of the ordinary”. 

 

I’d go out, create, attend anything I could, even if I wasn’t interested in order to drink. See, I was a social drinker, until I had to, I didn’t want to drink alone. 

 

Drinking a litre of vodka on your own, is vastly different from doing the same at the pub while you celebrate someone’s birthday you don’t even know. When you are alone, it’s a problem. 

 

I’ve created so many of these events throughout my life, that now they need redefining. But it takes time, I can’t manufacture events like I used to, especially in order to not drink… 

 

I’m at peace that these events will come slowly over time and now, just like my birthday, I’ll be able to redefine each one. 

 

Turning 29 felt quiet because I didn’t have an itinerary of pubs, friends, and drinks. I was with the ones I love, having a pretty lovely, normal time. 

 

And you know what, I’m loving the new normal.

 

And I definitely don’t miss hangovers.

 

Love, Ben xx 

 

It’s been a month since I wrote. I needed some time to recharge, explore some uneasy feelings and focus on myself. It’s also become increasingly more difficult to write when your daily life feels a bit like Groundhog day. 

 

But anyway, this morning I felt an urge to write, the first time in weeks. I’ve distracted away from things for weeks, I’m trying to sit with them, actually feel what I’m feeling but it’s tough. 

 

Have you had those shit nights? The ones where you writhe around for hours on end? When you wake up questioning reality? Questioning sobriety? Questioning what you’ve just worked your arse off for 19 months?

 

Me too, and this week seems to be a never ending slew of “those nights”. In fact, through most of lockdown, they have been a common occurrence. 

 

Take last night for instance. I laid in bed happy and content from a cracking day. I played golf, made us a favourite dinner, played some PS4 (I’m a newly converted gamer) and set my head on the pillow. 

 

As I felt my eyelids close, I could feel a wave of boozy thoughts. At that moment I tried to fight, but they were coming like a dark storm cloud over a sunny bay. 

 

I’m not talking about dreaming, but the thoughts we can control. And isn’t it interesting how I almost indulge in them. I let them happen, I don’t push them away, think about floating down a river, I let them play out, every time. 

 

I re-lived a few memories that make me cringe, like really cringe. Ones I’d rather forget, ones that embarrass me, ones that shock me, ones that might shock you…

 

I was out of the country, away with work. I was part of a huge project, one we had worked on for weeks, one I was meant to be a key player in. Truth be told, during the planning of this, I hadn’t pulled my weight. I knew I was on a slippery slope, and this trip was the deciding factor in this job. 

 

I don’t think I’d quite grasped how much of a problem my drinking was until this trip. Sometimes it takes a change in circumstances, breaking the usual rhythm, to realise the power it has over you. 

 

As we were all making our own way to the airport. I woke up early, dragged myself to the shower, hoped everything was packed, grabbed my bag and headed downstairs. I entered the kitchen to put the leftover gin and orange juice in a plain bottle, as to not  spook my Uber driver. 

 

Last night, as I thought about this, I could physically feel the nervousness I felt then descend over me as I watched the driver getting closer to the house.

 

I was going to a strange place, I didn’t know where the off licences would be, I didn’t know when I would next drink, I was spiraling in my kitchen at 5am. 

 

I grabbed whatever I could find in the kitchen and drank it. But not the orange concoction, that was for the car. I remember standing there, looking out a dark window, and warmth coming over me as my nervousness eased. I saw the headlights and walked out to the car. 

 

I sat there, feeling like death, swigging on my ‘cocktail’. We arrived at the airport, I met up with some colleagues, fuck knows what they thought, I definitely stank of booze, blood shot eyes, faking a smile. 

 

We went for breakfast, sat down, I felt dread, fear and panic. Then from across the table I heard someone say “right, how about bucks fizz?”. My head darted up from the menu, I remember becoming instantly animated. 

 

I didn’t eat, to which people questioned. I lied and said I’d had breaky at home, but truth be told, I couldn’t eat and didn’t want anything getting in the way of that alcohol getting into my bloodstream. 

 

I got to my seat on the plane, sat down. The fear has returned. I was now working out the minutes until the trolley came round, but at the same time I couldn’t order booze at 8am, on a work trip, with my colleagues, could I? 

 

I went against it. I sparked a conversation up with a woman across the aisle. She was my distraction. I chatted to her non-stop the whole flight. Colleagues noticed and even took pictures of me captioned “Ben’s made a new best friend”, it was undoubtedly funny to the group. Little did they know that it was a plea to not let my head remember, I wasn’t drinking. 

 

Fast forward to the hotel. The room that through the course of the week started out as my sanctuary and then turned into my prison cell. This week was so rough, every time I see the brand name, I flash back to these moments. 

 

I checked in, threw my bags down, got my phone out, and headed for the nearest “Kiosk” (newsagents). I pointed at a bottle of Svedka – it makes me judder to even type that brand out. The whole time I was there I was glancing over my shoulder, in case someone walked in I knew. I bought a bottle of coke too, and headed back to my room. 

 

I’m not sure I’ve ever cracked the seal of a bottle faster than I did in that moment, I poured half a glass, with a topper of coke, and downed it in one. I stood hands on the sink, staring at myself in the mirror thinking “It’ll be okay, it’ll be okay, you’ve got booze now”. Comforting myself, reminding myself that my best friend was again, just by my side. 

 

I drank another and another. There were texts flying round the group WhatsApp inviting people to go for a walk round the town, find some lunch, make plans for the evening. There I was alone, holding a bottle of vodka, responding that I was going to wander alone. Truth was, I didn’t leave my room.

 

The Kiosk became my church. I’d go there twice a day everyday. Once before we headed out for the day, once when we got back. I’d finish the two bottles, putting them in various containers and taking them with me, everywhere. 

 

I’d always ensure to leave a half a bottle for the morning. I’d wake up, drink half that, get a shower, and pop the other half in an orange juice bottle and take it to the conference centre. 

 

A lot of the trip from here on out is a blur, if I’m honest, but I do have some very specific memories, of perhaps the worst moments.

 

The days at the event were long. There were no drinks allowed through the security gates, so I was stripped of my stash from 9am – 6pm. I could physically feel myself weakening around lunchtime everyday.

 

I’d make constant excuses to leave. I discovered one beer truck and a bar upstairs. But with a whole team of people with me, it was like a James Bond mission everytime I wanted, no needed, a drink. 

 

I got through the days, fuck knows how, and before every evening activity, we went back to the hotel to get changed, freshen up, and… down half a bottle of vodka. 

 

Luckily, I was with a very sociable group, who liked a drink in the evenings, attended the ‘close party’ on the last night, socialised with the clients and guys we were working with. 

 

Unluckily, I never quite made it to any of these events. I drank so hard when I got back in the early evening, that I’d black out and not wake up. I slept through the first ‘opening dinner’ and woke up to 20+ messages from our team asking where the fuck I was. 

 

I missed the closing party, because I passed out. A guy who was meant to be a key player in this whole project was a mess, the whole week. 

 

As I write this I remember all the little things too… Like how I used to clear out my hotel bin everyday, because whoever cleaned my room, who I’d never met in my life, might know I’m an alcoholic. How I’d take vodka down to breakfast in my own glass from my room, people must have questioned why I was doing that? How I’d stand outside the hotel to try and look ‘sociable’ with a GnT and cigarette, when really it’d be my 7th and I’d have been there for hours. 

 

I’d never felt more relief when that trip was over, I could now go back to normal. 

 

It was a trip that I look back on now and wish it was different. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever had a chance to work on, yet, I made it a trip I want to forget. 

 

Over the last few months, it’s felt like my mind wants to go to these places. I thought I’d been getting used to this way of life, but it seems I was just creating more things to distract myself, getting better at pushing my mind away, and when these were removed, I was left feeling uneasy. 

 

I chose to take a break, a week off. 13 weeks has been enough inside my one bed flat, so I went to visit my parents and friends. 

 

After giving my mind time to reset, I now see that recently I have actually allowed my mind to go to these places, allowing myself to “live in that moment”. But is that a bad thing?

 

It’s made me to properly sit with things, gain knowledge on what I’m lacking in my recovery, what’s causing the fantasies, and how I can better deal with them. 

 

I think it’s important to realise where thoughts come from, and why we interact with some, but not all… take the time. 

 

I’ve discovered a big thing for me is almost not acknowledging how far I’ve come. Self praise doesn’t come easy to me, but it’s something we should learn how to do.

 

In the sober community, we praise each other for where we are now. We celebrate sober-versaries, congratulate each other on our triumphs. But often what’s missed is people’s past. 

 

I know for me, I view the “past as the past”, it’s not me anymore right? But it was. 

 

Celebrating milestones, sobriety, life, relationships, health, money, clear heads, no hangovers, is all amazing stuff. I’m not knocking celebrating any of it, but sometimes all this celebration masks the past. 

 

It’s important to remember and reflect on the past and where we have come. I’m guilty of not doing so, and I often minimise my addiction, especially the role it has played in where I am today. 

 

But the past can’t be masked, because I can’t forget what it used to be like. Where alcohol took me, what alcohol made me do, what relationships alcohol broke, what money alcohol stole, how it nearly took my life at 27. It keeps me safe to remember.

 

When I did my appearance on The Sober Sessions, I noticed my story was perhaps a little different from the panel. I think in a way, because my story is a little different I almost don’t tell it as much. 

 

For example I haven’t done a “This is my Story post” I haven’t told it from start to finish. It ekes out in what I write, but is never perhaps defined. In that session I laid out my story, and opened up about it perhaps more than I have before and people’s reactions said it all. 

 

It was those reactions that made me feel genuinely proud. 

 

But then, I sat there questioning why I couldn’t do that for myself? Why couldn’t I be proud without having someone basically telling me how far I’ve come, I know my past and present better than anyone… 

 

I’m ranting now. 

 

The bottom line is; it’s been 19 months. I did end up in a bad way. A close to death way. A way only professional help could help me out of way. A way that if I go back, I probably won’t be sitting here anymore. 

 

See, typing that makes me uncomfortable. It seems like I’m entering a dick waving competition. “My problem was worse than yours” “I drank more than you” and it’s not about that. But it’s the truth. 

 

I love where I am, and I don’t want to forget the past, but I do feel it’s slipping slowly away. 

 

Okay, this was very much a sporadic free flow of thoughts and feelings, of which hopefully some of you can relate. And now lockdown is lifting I should be able to get back into a regular flow, so the rantasaurus rex doesn’t return. 

 

Love, Ben xxx

 

On Friday, I felt a real sense of freedom. 

 

I met up with someone outside my home. Actually not just someone, a new friend living a similar journey to me, Dave (@SoberDave). We had a great afternoon, walked round the woods, took some snaps and shared stories, struggles, joy and sorrow. 

 

Just being with someone in the flesh who you relate and look up to was brilliant. I was on cloud nine. 

 

But when I got in the car to leave, thoughts came into my head. As I watched people lining up at the cafe, chatting, laughing, my mind suddenly flashed to memories of pub gardens and summer drinking. 

 

It was like my brain replaced the folding tables and coffees outside the cafe, with rows of benches filled with pints. Strange, I thought. 

 

This was the first time I’ve ‘socialised’ in twelve weeks, seen someone outside of our house and once I was alone again, my head automatically paired socialising with alcohol. 

 

While this took me by surprise, I now realise it wasn’t just a fleeting thought but a deeper anxiety. It’s the realisation that this current situation we are in will eventually come to an end. 

 

Over these last twelve weeks, I have created a bubble. A safe bubble. I have lived within the four walls of my flat, done minimal shopping trips and interacted, in person, with no one but Emma. 

 

At the start of Lockdown I wrote about how I would need to develop a huge mind shift. I was anxious about how I’d make it work. The change in daily rhythms threw me and I didn’t know how I’d react being left alone with my thoughts. 

 

But I’ve adapted. My rhythms have changed, my mind is at ease and I feel safe in my bubble. I’ve spent time building up this bubble, layers of safety, armed with tools to fight off intruding thoughts. 

 

But that’s just it, no matter how much I build this safe bubble, thoughts have managed to float in. 

 

Deep down my memories of drinking still remain euphoric and almost positive, but the reality is hugely different. 

 

It’s hard to tell you how many times a day thoughts of alcohol come into my head.  Unless I’m entirely engaged, they just pop up. Where others heads might wander to food, music, their evening, work, weekend, friends, family, whatever, mine goes to alcohol every time. 

 

You might be thinking “fuck, thats stressful”, and to be fair it is. But, in an odd way, I welcome it. It reminds me that I am an alcoholic and I was mentally and physically dependent on alcohol. But, that’s in the past. 

 

Perhaps so much time alone has made me realise how prominent these thoughts are. In my day-to-day life, I would be distracted by the world around me. But I’m being left to sit with them now, which I guess is why I feel this nervousness about lockdown lifting. 

 

After discussing this with friends, they say “can’t you just stay away from trigger points for a bit?” – but, I’m not triggered at specific times. Thoughts come and go, whenever, wherever, however they please, it’s how we deal with them that matters. 

 

I personally have very few specific places that trigger me. For others, places will make up 90% of their thoughts, flashbacks, feelings, desires. Saying that, there is one place I avoid at all costs… It’s a beautiful walk, but I shudder when I walk past it, I’ve ruined it. 

 

The Old Green Railway Line, Nottingham

 

Around midday hits, I’m at my mums 2 months before going to rehab. I’ve drunk whatever’s left in the house and am pining to go to the shop, rattling my head for any excuse. 

 

Why not just go earlier?, you ask. Well, despite being a raging alcoholic, there was still a part of me that was ashamed. Didn’t want people to know and if I went to the shop pre-12pm for wine, then they might see my problem… 

 

I venture out, a short walk to Sainsbury’s, feeling sick, dizzy, faint, all the usual. 

 

Through the garage forecourt, looking down with every step, as my vision blurs more and my head pounds. The strong petrol fumes nearly kill me. 

 

Anxiety courses through my veins as I think “will my card work” “What if they ID me” “what if they refuse to serve me” “what if I drop it” “is she looking at me funny”. 

 

I slowly walk over to the wine fridge. To continue my disguise, I carefully browse the bottles reading the labels – you know, to pick the best bottle for dinner this evening with the family… 

 

Bollocks. 

 

I picked out the second cheapest white and rose, headed for the till, and prayed my card worked. It did. 

 

I walked around the corner to The Green Line. A long path lined with trees and a few benches at the start. Secluded enough, it was my wine spot. 

 

Only wine here, because that’s all I’d buy from that Sainsbury’s garage. I fear I frequented it too much to buy vodka, then they’d know I was an alcoholic. So the disused train line was the wine stop. 

 

I’d go to the second bench and sit with my rucksack, which in those days never left my side. I reached in to pull out the rose, always Rose first. Why? Because it was a bit easier to gulp than white, so it was my starter. 

 

Fuck. Pushchair. I sit staring at the trees waiting for it to pass. It’s like they are walking at snail-pace… “fucking hell, come on” I thought. If there is one thing worse than not being able to drink, it’s not being able to drink when you’re holding it in your fucking bag. 

 

Finally she’s gone. Before I hear the next pushchair crackle on the gravel, I chug. It burns. My stomach feels like fire. I gasp for a breath, and chug again. I hear a crackle. I stop. Back in the bag. 

 

Although my stomach is trying to turn itself inside out, I feel a wave of warmth and calm come over me. My head suddenly slowed from the 100mph it was, to a manageable 25mph. I just stare into the trees, I feel like I’m melting into the bench and boy it feels good. Relief. 

 

I drink the last of that bottle, rose done. Onto the white…

  

So yes, while specific places do play a role, I’ll never set foot there again. It’s more the everyday that makes me uneasy, that’s the reason I started this blog.  

 

How I feel now is very relatable to how I felt when I left rehab. I’d been living in a safe environment, where I spent 2 months, then had to navigate the world, all over again.

 

And, if I could do it 2 months sober then, I certainly can do 18 months sober now. 

 

I do see the positives in what Lockdown has brought, it’s allowed me to be alone with my thoughts, actually feel them instead of bat them away. It has made me very aware of the (still) present pin-prick thoughts of alcohol, which may have previously been distracted. It’s added another layer to my recovery onion, which is continuing to grow.

 

It’s not going to be easy. But I’m armed with my toolkit, just as I was when I left rehab and when I entered lockdown, I might just have to take it slow, back to square one, while I readjust. And that’s okay. 

 

While living through Lockdown 18 months sober hasn’t been a walk in the park, it’s all part of my journey and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

 

Love Ben xx 

 

PS: While lockdown lifting will be a joyous occasion for many, just take the time to ask someone how they’re feeling about it, as it may bring more uneasiness than joy.  Just by giving the time to talk may help that person to start to build their toolkit for coping.

 

 

As we move towards the end of May, and into June, a slight dread comes over me. I remember feeling this when I was 5 months sober last year, and back then I squirrelled away, but this year I’ve got no nuts to hide.

 

It’s Summertime and no matter what your situation, drinking is a hot topic for discussion. Drinking goes into a new level of activity, even in lockdown. Recovering addicts will detail how it’s a tough time and drinkers often discuss how they ‘feel’ they should “cut down” after a day in the sun, drinking.

 

It’s no secret that it’s an uncomfortable time for me, but not always for the reasons perhaps people might think. 

 

 Yes, of course pub gardens, endless sales of 24pk crates, cheap prosecco and a new flavour of Gin are all triggers. When I really thought about it this week it’s not the liquid itself, but the activity.

 

As addicts, we often hear “It’s not the substance, it’s what we used it for” –  so true. 

 

This week as I sat in the garden, sun shining, birds singing, my head kept returning to the same thought “a beer would be nice”, “just one would be lush”, “imagine if I was drinking right now” – I was craving, yearning, longing for a drink. 

 

I distracted myself, by looking at my phone, munching a Magnum and flicked through an old  box of  stuff, but none of these tasks lasted more than a short period and my mind returned to its original thoughts.

 

But, when did drinking become just an activity? The fact is, if I had a beer in hand, I’d be happy as Larry sitting outside all day, with no phone, no ice cream, without any distraction. It wasn’t just an activity, it was my hobby, passion, friend… I’ll say it again, it was my life. 

 

Am I sad that I can’t just enjoy sitting in the sun, without a river of thoughts, without having to distract myself? Of course I am. Truth is, I miss alcohol and wish I could drink normally – but that’s simply not an option. 

 

I’d love to be able to sit, staring at the clouds, thinking about… well, anything. But I can’t. If I have to distract myself, to dismiss thoughts and in turn stay sober, then I guess I won’t be doing any cloud watching any time soon. 

 

I recently had this chat with someone and they commented “Get onboard Alcohol Free beer man, they’re great, feels like the real thing, I look forward to them” 

 

I then asked myself “Do I have to distract myself  because it’s boring to drink water or Diet Coke?” Definitely not. 

 

I personally don’t drink AF (Alcohol Free) drinks. Not only would it perhaps tip me even closer to the real thing when basking in the sun, but I don’t want to even risk 0.5% of alcohol going into my body. Booze free zone right here. 

 

Some call me crazy, but this even goes down to the food I eat. I check every packet of premade stuff that’s likely to have alcohol in. This means sometimes eating a roast without gravy, or missing out on profiteroles… but it’s worth it to me. Complete alcohol free body & mind. Before you say, I don’t care that it’s cooked off. 

 

Alcohol. Free. Zone. 

 

Thing is, beer wasn’t exciting and neither was vodka with water (a favourite of mine – gets it down quicker, looks the part). Looking back the ‘connoisseur’ vibe I emitted to family & friends was perhaps just a smokescreen. It was all about just getting the alcohol into my body and feeling that “buzz”. So I should just be content with whatever soft drink I have, even if it’s not a fancy AF wine, lager, or prosecco…

 

And I genuinely am. I don’t care what (AF) liquid I’m putting in my body, it doesn’t make a difference. The uncomfortableness sits deeper than that and I’m learning to be okay with that. 

 

The sun may be an excuse for people to drink more than they should, stay out late in the beer garden, have boozy BBQ’s, dance in the moonlight but for me it’s about continuing to manage my recovery. 

 

I wish I could grab an ice cold AF beer and feel that ‘summer feeling’ again, but it’s not that simple for me. I may, and I’d like to, get there eventually but for now my sobriety comes first. 

 

By the way, I’m all for AF drinks and people drinking them. I think they’re a fantastic alternative and should be enjoyed when you feel good and ready, I’m just not there yet.  

 

I spent a lot of last year being that squirrel, hiding away and I’m okay with that. 

But this year, year two of sobriety, I’m determined to make summer great, enjoy the outdoors and begin to feel at peace with just sitting. 

 

This feels like it’s been a bit of a rant, but sometimes you’ve just got to let it out as it happens…

 

Have a great Bank Holiday weekend. 

Love, Ben xx 

 

PS if you have any old boxes that need sorting and a sunny garden, let me know!

 

Last week’s post was inspired by Mittal’s question about the balance between recovery and life. What started out as a brief chat, turned into an insightful, honest, and somewhat harrowing conversation.

 

I’ve looked to the past a few times in recent posts exploring whether alcoholism has always been part of my personality, waiting to break through since my early 20’s. 

 

Little did I know, as the conversation unfolded with Mittal, that exact question was going to be answered, along with a big slap of reality. 

 

Mittal and I met during uni, in a pool hall in Cambridge after a freshers event and, when everyone else was going home, I wanted to stay out. I lived out of town and taxi fares home were expensive so I often stayed on his floor. He remembers leaving for lectures and finding me still asleep in his room when he returned. 

 

“To be honest, I didn’t care, it was expected behaviour – we were first year uni students.”

 

He’s right, we were first year uni students, but as he said this, my mind can’t help but be cast to a recurring thought I’ve recently had: “I really did justify drinking, all the time”. 

 

At the end of the first year, Mittal and many other friends had gone home for the summer, but I stayed in Cambridge. I’d never seen it this way until now, but it seems I latched onto lots of different groups during uni. I didn’t like down time, but looking back this fluttering probably led to the breakdown of what could have been great friendships. 

 

“Yeah man, luckily we were a constant, but you moved around a lot. You latched onto a lot of different groups. Usually expertly timed when they were on the lash, then when the next one came along, you ditched that group for another.”

 

Drinking, to me, meant I was accepted. If I drank with a group, I was ‘in’. 

 

In my second year some friends staged an intervention, led by my partner at the time. Mittal wasn’t there but he felt the aftermath, for sure. 

 

“I said I didn’t want to go [to the intervention]. You were my friend and to be honest, I didn’t think that type of intervention was useful. I knew you wouldn’t react to it the way they hoped. Like clockwork you rang me afterwards and, as a result of being pissed off, we went out drinking.

 

It hits me suddenly, I knew drinking was a coping method in my later years, but it has always been my coping mechanism. It was my go-to and my best friend was usually part of it, but did he feel torn about us drinking to solve a problem? 

 

“You would say “let’s go to the pool hall, pub or beer garden”, it always involved drinking. You would talk to me about how pissed off you were about something or an argument you’d had. It seemed to be your way of coping – going out, leaving the house, getting pissed.

 

“You’d say stuff like “The house will be so annoyed I’m going home like this, super drunk” but you’d do it anyway and I’d be there with you, perhaps sometimes against my better judgement.”

 

Alcohol allowed me to vent, let my feelings out, become vulnerable and welcome advice. Mittal was the guy I trusted most, but we still needed that golden nectar to unlock our subconscious. 

 

“Often you’d just crack a bunch of beers and then we’d have a night where we’d talk and listen to music, which in fact was one of the most enjoyable things we did. But this involved a certain level of drinking.

 

“We’d buy a crate, just for this night because we knew what we were gonna do. We did this throughout our friendship, it was a way to let stuff out, for both of us. We’d get pretty deep if we hit that point, but it wasn’t what we talked about that left an uncomfortable feeling in the morning…”

 

I’ve never been able to bear hangovers, I could never lie in bed feeling shit. I know later in my journey I used to solve them by drinking first thing, but it seems the foundations for this were built in my early 20’s. 

 

“I’d lie in after a heavy night, wake up and you’d be gone. This is the point when I really started to wonder and become concerned. I remember thinking you’re hiding something, that your behaviour is just weird. We’d stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning, I’d have a horrific hangover and then I’d find out you were in the pub where you worked, hanging out with locals – who does that?” 

 

Let’s not forget, we were in our 20’s, both drinking a lot, as you do. But it’s becoming apparent that it wasn’t the fact that we drank a lot, it was the nuanced behaviour around drinking that caught my best friends eye. And when he didn’t  agree with my way of thinking, I turned it on him. 

 

“We day drank, sure. But it makes you tired. I’d go home, have dinner, but you’d just stay, not eat, and carry on until 2am. I couldn’t handle that. You’d always say “Oh, I just have to get up, because if I don’t, then I’ll lie in bed the whole day like you…” And I said “hey, don’t make this about me!”

 

Working in a pub during this time certainly didn’t help anything. It meant I had drinking buddies all day, every day. Looking back it became my excuse, my justification to drink. But it seems I wasn’t fooling anyone. 

 

“You were given industry cards, you got early entry to the beer festival, tasting sessions, and all the rest. You took authority on alcohol, you were the booze guy, making it basically, your life. It was the justification to what you liked to do, but you don’t see many people needing  to justify their hobby, do you?”

 

We lived above the pub, for about a year and a half. Without me asking he transitions into talking about that time. It hits me that this is perhaps something he’s held in for some time.

 

“There were so many things you started to not notice about me. You were my close friend and housemate, yet you never asked, or noticed that I hated living in that little room.

 

“I didn’t want to get drunk all the time. But you just didn’t see it. You were having late nights, speaking to different people, chatting up girls, and I’d just be upstairs in my room trying to play games or watch TV or something, alone. You’d just always be working – well, or drinking – towards the end, I didn’t know which it was. 

 

“I tried to talk to you about it and you just said “yeah, yeah, yeah”. So I got to the point where I was like, I just have to get out of this fucking place.”

 

This cut me deep. This gave me flashbacks of whenever this discussion came up, trying to get him involved, to ignore the conversation, pushing it away with alcohol. What friend does that? 

 

Usually friends or family say there is a specific point where they notice the amount you drink creeps up and therefore become concerned, but this isn’t the only sign. I asked Mittal if there was a ‘turning point’. 

 

“I didn’t think there was a particular standout time, we’d been as drunk as we possibly could together, I never saw you in a state I hadn’t seen you in before. 

 

“It was the consistency. You’d have routines. If you had a big night you had Guinness when the pub opened to ‘settle your stomach’, if the sun was out it was a gin and tonic, if it was raining it was an ale. It was like a weird ritual, planned consumption almost.” 

 

I never ask friends if they thought they should have interjected. I know I wouldn’t have if I was on the other side. It’s not something you want to come to terms with as a close friend and probably something you never think is possible. 

 

“Sometimes I thought maybe I should talk to him. But I countered it by thinking “he’s just young, we’re both young, we’ll grow out of it. He’s running a pub, he’s a manager he’s doing really well”. You didn’t show any signs of fucking up, you had it together. 

 

“But it was those nuanced behaviours I was always curious about, not concerned, just things I never understood at the time, until now.” 

 

We eventually moved out of the pub into our own house. During this time some friends came to live with us. I remember this time fondly, it was great fun, but as usual my brain has blocked out the parts it doesn’t want to remember. 

 

“One thing we should talk about is when Lee and Beans moved in. It was a heavy summer for us all and we all loved a drink, but there came a point when life became real. Lee was looking for a job, we were all a bit lethargic and arguably worn out. 

 

“You’d ask if anyone fancied the pub, and when you received a no, due to financial reasons or just wanting to chill,  you’d march in the door 10 mins later with a crate. It kept happening, like it was groundhog day. 

 

“No one wanted to turn you down because it was your house, but you’d initiate drinking sessions constantly, when really, people wanted down time. You were never happy just chilling out.” 

 

Hearing this makes me cringe. I kept coming in the door with booze and feeling like I was helping out, because that’s what I would have wanted. But, those guys just wanted to get their head down, find jobs and start their Cambridge life. But nope, the sober police were patrolling every night, and this wasn’t on. We were drinking. 

 

After 2.5 years of running the pub, I secured an internship in London and eventually moved there, but for a long time, Cambridge still felt like home. I used to visit every month, to see Mittal, Lee, Beans and others. Until this moment, I’ve always had a fond memory of them, until I learned the truth. 

 

“You did visit yeah, but it wasn’t what you thought. I remember talking to Lee about it, saying how we missed hanging out with you, but every time you came you were just hammered.

 

“We’d go out of our way to meet you in the morning, to catch you before you got drunk but that wasn’t possible. You always said “I’m on holiday” as you walked off the train with a GnT in hand, after drinking three on the train and I remember thinking “for fuck’s sake”, and this was every time. 

 

“It was just annoying, all we wanted to do was hang out with you, but all you wanted to do was get pissed – you just ended up slurring and drunk. 

 

“I remember feeling horrible, and I made the decision to not bother meeting you anymore. But I couldn’t do it, one time you were calling me and calling me and I was like “Ben, I don’t want to go to the pub”. I made up excuses, you just kept saying “please please, it’s been so long”. By the time I got there you’d forgotten I was coming, I was so fucked off, I just left. You’d been on the phone to me for half an hour, and just fucking forgotten.”

 

The tone in his voice sticks with me as I write this and I can feel how pissed off he was – half the frustration of not being able to see a friend and half that after making a big deal, I clearly didn’t care if he was there or not. Fuck. 

 

We lost touch for a few months, it seemed alcohol hadn’t only got hold of our friendship when we were together, but it was also controlling me in ways Mittal didn’t know. 

 

The next time I got in touch was after my seizures and during rehab. The theme continues as I hear from Mittal that I didn’t own up to why I seized. 

 

“The first time you told me that you had a seizure. You didn’t say it was to do with alcohol. I cut in and said “Ben, you had alcohol withdrawals”. You kept saying it was to do with something else, and although it was a convincing lie, I was having none of it.”

 

I was embarrassed – I had just seized due to withdrawal, at 27. My friends were working hard, busting their balls to progress life and I was checking into rehab. 

 

“I wasn’t shocked you’re gonna go to rehab, I was shocked you seized. After looking into it, mainly how much you needed to drink to seize, I said to myself “Jesus Christ, this must have gotten pretty bad”. 

 

“I was just so glad you were doing it. But if I’m honest, there was a part of me that thought “he’s not going to go, he’s just saying this”. Having known you for so long, it didn’t seem like something you’d do, I just had this feeling. 

 

“I feel bad about that, but you used to lie about everything, it was a common theme. About everything big and small, you flaked on plans, lied about stuff that didn’t even matter. I wanted to believe you, but I couldn’t.” 

 

Mittal was one of the first people I called from rehab, when I could. I had no emotion, didn’t talk about my feelings, mainly talked him through the schedule, but there was clearly a part of me that wanted him to know I was there. 

 

After having the above conversation with him, I had to sit in silence for a while. Mittal’s honesty brought many things to the surface, but my overall feeling as I type this is of amazing confusion. 

 

Even in my twenties, my illness was putting my boozy lifestyle above my friends’ well-being, lying about most things and putting alcohol before our friendship. Yet he looked past that, gave me far more chances than I deserved and held on to perhaps the best  bits of Ben he remembered. 

 

That call I made from rehab was confirming the best version of Ben he knew, the sober Ben, was coming back and this time to stay. 

 

Thank you, Mittal. 

Love, Ben xx

 

Beyond the Bottle was intended to be an outlet to write about my week-by-week experience living life in recovery. However, due to ongoing current events my week is limited to the walls of my flat. So while I can’t write about going out, specific battles, challenges and trigger points, I can share what I’m experiencing during this time. Slightly different, but hopefully we’ll be back to normal soon. 

 

 

Lockdown has brought many things upon us. Admittedly, many negative, but one thing I have loved is the increase in communication between friends in far away places. 

 

This week I talked to one of my best friends, Mittal. I lived with Mittal for four years, and nearly half of those included living above the pub that I ran, so as you can imagine, we drank… quite a lot. 

 

I haven’t spoken to him for a while, probably since starting this blog. This week we chatted, caught up, the usual, and then the conversation turned to my recovery. 

 

However, it didn’t take the usual tone of ‘how’s it going?’ ‘how’s lockdown?’ ‘must be tough’ ‘you okay?’. Mittal is a philosophical man and asked me something I’d never come across before.

 

“I was just thinking, do you feel like your sobriety is getting in the way of you living your life? As in, focusing on being sober so much and taking away from other areas of your life now? As you spend so much time writing and thinking about it?” 

 

Normally I respond to questions pretty quickly but this really made me think. 

 

We live our days through the eyes of someone in recovery. So all the reading, writing, breathing, meditating, therapy and chats all come naturally to us. We developed this new way of life when we gave up booze. 

 

I’ve never stopped to think how much time I spend on recovery, it just comes with the job. But for someone who isn’t an addict it may seem like it does take over our lives. After all, it’s what we post on Instagram, what we write about in our free time, who we talk to on weekends, the sober meetups, it goes on… 

 

And the more me and Mittal talked about it, the recurring theme for everyday was what I did to stay sober.

 

The fact of the matter is whether I spend 10, 30, 45, 60 hours a week doing sober-related activities, it’s a lot less than the time I spent glugging booze down my neck. 

 

More importantly, it’s opened my eyes. The only restriction I now have is whether I have the balls to do things. I’m not hindered by a hangover, the shakes, the incessant need to be near alcohol or have it in my bag the whole time. 

 

I almost felt like I was justifying my sobriety to him as I rattled off all the things I have accomplished, which sounds like a bad thing. But actually, sometimes we need to step back and look at what we have achieved to keep on nailing this disease. 

 

I’ve discovered who I am 

“See that glassy eyed, sweating, dribbling fella over there knocking back Guinness like St. James’ Gate is running out?” “Ah yeah, Ben, he’s cool.” 

 

No, that Ben was not cool. This Ben is cool. I was convinced alcohol made me who I am. But it didn’t, it actually took away all the good qualities I possessed and mangled them into a contorted, lying, careless, shell of a human.

 

Well now those good qualities have re-emerged and I’m less bothered about what people think. I am proud to be me. I am proud that I rant too much, have annoying OCD on occasions, worry about stupid things, love to cook and I’m fucking emotional. There I’ve said it. 

 

I care without trying

I’ve always cared about the people I love, but arguably in the wrong way. I always did what I thought people wanted. I always tried to please with petit gestures because I thought it distracted from revealing who I really was. Because I didn’t really care, I just cared about the next drink. 

Now I care with all my heart and I don’t even have to try. 

 

I enjoy the little things 

People always say “It’s the little things that matter”. Well it’s true. Getting drunk and buying expensive gifts doesn’t save relationships and bringing home expensive wine as a treat doesn’t hide the fact you’ve had eight pints on the way home either. Fuck the grand gestures, just be real. 

 

It’s sending your best mate a birthday card even though you haven’t bothered for five years, the random call you make at lunch,  cooking her favourite dinner when she’s not feeling so great, putting facemasks on and pulling all your beard hair out. I LOVE every one of them. 

 

I’ve Realised your friends are everything

As I delve into my drinking habits with my closest friends, none of them seem overly surprised I ended up where I did. My personality says it all and that hasn’t changed – all or nothing Ben! Thankfully the one thing that hasn’t changed is their love and support. 

 

As best mates do, we used to get battered and if I’m honest some of those times were the best we’ve had… but that doesn’t define our friendship. 

 

My birthday used to be ‘an occasion’ at the pub from morning ‘till night. For my first birthday sober, I walked around Cambridge with Mittal and Bakewell playing Scrabble and finding “spooky doors”. We had the most intelligent discussion we’ve had in years. I found it baffling that they weren’t having a beer, but I realised 1) they didn’t need a beer to have fun 2) they were supporting me. At that moment, six months into my sobriety, that day made me realise I don’t need booze to have fun. 

 

Freedom 

I used to get asked, you’re 28 and you don’t have a driving licence, why? Well, if I’m honest I just never needed one. I lived in cities, didn’t have the money and couldn’t be arsed. When I was 26 I thought it’d be a good idea, so I put in for my theory. I turned up to the test centre six pints deep, and before you ask, nope I didn’t get kicked out, I actually missed passing by one point. And looking back, thank fuck I did. I probably would have killed someone down the line. 

 

Throwback to eight months into my sober life, I got my licence – passed first time, just saying. That day, for the first time in a long time I felt my age. A month later I bought a car, saw the monthly payments, and then I really felt my age! It was a huge marker in my new life and one I cherish every time I drive. I still often think to myself “fuck, I own this car” because 16 months ago, I could hardly get into one. 

 

I’ve Rediscovered my love of food

Anyone who knows me well will say I eat like a horse. But before  rehab I wasn’t eating – if I ate I was sick, if I was sick, I wasted booze. So it didn’t happen. I used to be a podgy kid and always loved eating and happily that kid returned when I discovered my hunger again about two weeks into rehab. It was heaven. 

 

Now it’s my chosen social activity. We can laugh over a stupidly sickly sundae, cry over a sourdough pizza or feel like a buddha in Dip & Flip. Food has always been a time to come together and that’s what I truly love most (except if they have wings then it’s a close second).

 

 

I love tasting, smelling, cooking and everything that comes with it. I draw the line at ‘All You Can Eats’ – they can get messy. 

 

Spending my money before I’ve ‘earned it’

I drank myself into serious debt. When I walked to the store I used to check which card had the least negative number on it and prayed it would work. I’d rejoice when Capital One sent me a text which read “We’re increasing your balance”, so I’d celebrate on a bench slurping the £8 white, instead of the usual £5. Why? Because it hurt my stomach less.

 

It’s hard looking back now to know I was 28, no job, in over £10k of debt. The reality is without my family I’d have been on the streets. 

 

Fast forward to now. I’m in no way ‘well off’ but I’ve cleared my debts, I have a job and I can treat myself once in a while. About five months into recovery I went to Denmark St. in Soho, browsed the guitars, played a couple, but then felt guilty. I couldn’t buy one, it felt wrong. I felt I didn’t deserve it after everything I’d done, it wasn’t time to reward myself yet. 

 

Don’t worry, a few months later I did. I welcomed Amy to the guitar family. For all you guitar folk, she’s a Gibson Firebird, jet black. 

 

I’ll stop there because this list could go on, ending with describing how I love my new shower products. 

 

I think Mittal’s overall point looked to explore the balance between recovery and life, which relates to a discussion I have had many times, leading with the question ‘Can you become addicted to recovery?’ 

 

However you live your life, and I’m very guilty of this, it’s important  not to have a pinhole vision around recovery. While things like milestones, meetings, check-ins, steps and therapy might be important to you, recovery is about the life you live, what you achieve and the freedom it brings. 

 

I like to relate it to when I first learned guitar; lay the foundations, take lessons, then branch off to your creative world. 

 

Work a program, stick to a structure but make your recovery your own. Find what works for you and reap the benefits of a sober life. 


While this post may seem to be all about me blowing my own trumpet, and that’s exactly what it is, I want you to celebrate your achievements, look at your journey and how far you have come. 

 

If you are yet to start your journey, you can do it and bring  a multitude of joys back into your life. 

 

In fear of becoming too preachy, I’ll leave it there. 

 

Love, Ben xx

 

It’s no secret that I was in active addiction for years, but in 2018 it took a destructive turn. This was the year that I lost my job, relationship, home, moved back into my parents’ house and went to rehab.

 

But before that, I moved in with Jake and his then girlfriend, Imi, in March 2018 for around 6 months. 

 

 

It was only a short tenancy, but Jake and I bonded pretty quick. Like any normal mid twenty guys, this involved alcohol.We would regularly visit the local watering hole, participate in boozy lunches and watch Chelsea at the weekends (I don’t even like Chelsea). 

 

But little did he know there was a secret side to me, a side that no one knew about. At least that’s what I thought… 

 

Unbeknown to me, my addiction actually poked its ugly head out a couple of times. But luckily for me at the time, nothing bad enough to warrant my housemate and close friend suspecting I was, in fact, a raging alcoholic.

 

This week he kindly agreed to talk with me about his experience from the moment I viewed the house, to the present day.  

 

Welcome to Jake’s perspective. 

 

“One of the first things I remember is when you came to see the house. We were doing viewings for the spare room, me and Imi. A lot of the people that came were couples or really boring, just people that I’d turn to Imi and be like ‘yeah, I don’t want to live with them’.

 

“Then you came, and I’m pretty sure I had just cracked a bottle of wine, I showed you the house really quickly, picked up my glass and asked ‘do you want one’? Without hesitation, you said ‘absolutely’, slung your bag down and collapsed on the sofa – before you were even invited. 

 

“But, I was like, I like this guy, this is a man after my own heart. Confident, funny. You left and in my mind I said to myself ‘I’d happily live with him’.”

 

This was the first very encounter we had and it sits awkwardly now to know this is how I acted. 

 

The truth is that right before knocking on the door, I’d cleared about five GnTs in the pub around the corner, telling myself I needed courage to go and meet them, but as I later discovered, they were a couple of the nicest people I’ve ever met. 

 

Move in day came around fast, and I think both Jake and I knew we were going to be mates. 

 

“I remember thinking, ‘this guy’s just like me’ – pub after work, GnT on a Wednesday, glass of vino after a hard day, definitely.

 

“We drank more than Imi, but I don’t remember thinking ‘wow, Ben drinks fucking loads’, but probably because I was drinking a lot with you.

 

“It wasn’t out of the ordinary in my mind, I guess I thought we were both in this together – mid twenties, probably drinking too much – but it’s a time in our lives to do that. I never thought you were on another playing field.”

 

By this point I was fully dependent on alcohol. I was heavily drinking in secret, with my housemates blissfully unaware. 

 

Looking back, as we started spending more time together everything seemed to revolve around booze. There was always drink involved and I was always trying to push it further and further. 

 

But perhaps this is my alcohol-tainted view on the situation, because from Jake’s perspective, this wasn’t that out of the ordinary. 

 

Most of the things I was doing with my mates  tended to involve drinking anyway, or have a drink tacked onto it in some way. 

 

“I guess there were exceptions though. I played five a side on a Monday night orI might go see a film with my other mates. We never did that.”

 

As time went on, my drinking habits became more apparent. But as Jake has aptly mentioned to me in the past, he didn’t know me before I had a problem, so there was no baseline to compare my behaviour with. To him, that was just how I handled life. 

 

“The longer we lived together and the better mates we became, after a while I did begin to think ‘Fuck, he drinks more than anyone I know’. In fact I had that conversation with one of my mates, saying that ‘while we drink a lot, my housemate Ben, fucking hell, he doesn’t stop’. 

 

“I think I did refer to you at some point as my housemate, the one who probably drinks too much. It sounds stupid but even as the months passed by and I began to realise more, it never really clicked in my head that there was a massive underlying problem of addiction, probably because I was only aware of what I could see. 

 

“In fact, if I drank the same amount that I saw you drink, I wouldn’t have thought ‘wow that was a messed up week, I need to slow it down…’ So from my side, it wasn’t to a level where I would have thought  ‘we need an intervention’.”

 

I was a master of disguise, and as time went on my drinking got worse and worse. A few months into our friendship, I was drinking all hours of the day, morning ‘til night. Everyday, without fail. 

 

I remember times when I’d be crouched by our ‘drinks fridge’ in the morning. Listening for where Jake was upstairs, so I knew when it was safe to decant whatever spirit we had into my water bottle. Or waiting for him to leave for work, purposely making myself late, to have a drink before my commute. Always ensuring I got home first to refill it before he noticed.

 

When he was around, I used to have bottles in my wardrobe which I’d drink from throughout the week. I’d always get juice or tea before my shower, take it up stairs to ‘drink while I was getting ready’, after I’d put a good glug of something in there. 

 

These are just two examples of my drinking tactics and while I knew I was an expert at hiding, lying and manipulating situations, I must have slipped up once or twice, surely?

 

“You know, I do remember seeing a bottle of whiskey of mine slowly go down, but I just thought ‘you bastard’ and shrugged it off, or came to the conclusion it could have been me when I came in pissed. 

 

“But saying that,  there are two specific things I can clearly remember…  

 

“We were quite late in the tenancy and it was the height of summer. It was a Sunday about 10.30am you marched in and said ‘right I’m going to have a gin and tonic, do you want one?’ I said ‘Pwoar nah, I’m alright man’. 

 

“I kind of did a double take and thought ‘wait, why does he have a gin and tonic at 10.30am?’. You said ‘it’s just stress man, I’ve just had an argument, it’s Sunday fuck it, I’m having a gin and tonic’. 

 

“It was at this point I logged it in my head that gin at 10.30am on a Sunday in response to a stressful moment, that’s dependency. I thought ‘there’s probably a problem playing out here’.” 

 

What strikes me about this situation is that for a minute, I risked exposing my secret. The likelihood is that I’d drunk my stash, Jake was around but I needed a drink. 

 

The addict inside me took over, made me take a huge risk, potentially exposing my illness, all by playing it casually with a gin and tonic at 10.30am. Sheer desperation. 

 

“The second was another weekend morning, we were sat watching TV on the sofa and you were just going and getting Ribena after Ribena, non-stop. By this point I had some suspicions and I’d begun to build up a picture in my head. But it was so difficult because I still wasn’t certain. 

 

“I really wanted to just reach over and drink a sip of it, to catch you out. But at the same time I didn’t want to – you’re my friend, you’re an adult. I didn’t want to embarrass you.“

 

Jake says now that he didn’t feel comfortable because  we drank together and ‘calling me out’ would have put him in a ‘parental role’, almost telling me off for it being a bit early. 

 

He goes on to say how torn this left him, as a friend. In a strange situation, not knowing what the right call was. 

 

“To be fair, I didn’t need to prove it unequivocally, I didn’t need to have a sip to know that you were drinking. It was this situation, you basically waving it in front of me, plus the previous gin and tonic incident where you hadn’t even tried to hide it, that ticked me off. 

 

“I thought, right, this is now. Let’s get real, he’s definitely got an alcohol problem, it’s significant.”

 

We take a moment to discuss how this feels now, looking back at those situations now, knowing that I am an alcoholic. 

 

“I can vividly remember when we first had those conversations where you outlined to me just how much you were drinking for the duration of when we lived together; the bottles in your wardrobe, solo pub trips, sneaking drinks, and all this was when we were pretty close friends.”

 

I got an eerie feeling at this point, a coldness hung over me. The last line “when we were pretty close friends”. I was living a double life and while I was someone Jake considered to be a close friend, I had a whole other agenda.

 

“Despite all this I didn’t ever go trying to catch you out by going through your wardrobe. I guess I almost didn’t want to admit that it was happening to someone I was so close to. 

 

“We spent a lot of time together in such a small flat, so I’m more surprised I didn’t catch you slipping up once. It’s not like I ever heard a clinking sound every time you moved something, but then maybe it’s because I wasn’t looking out for it. 

 

“Second thing is despite how much you were drinking, you always seemed to have it together. Getting up for work, paying rent, shopping, money. I don’t know how you did it, knowing what I know now!”

 

But behind closed doors, I did not have it together. I’d spend nights writhing in my sleep, waking up and drinking anything to get back to sleep again. I’d wake up in sweats, gagging, trying to get the stale smell of booze off me before finding another tipple. I’d drink in the shower to feel human before work. I’d avoid everyone at work. I was amassing debt left, right and centre. 

 

The sentiment changes in his voice, from justification to anger at himself. While it’s true you would never want to believe your good friend has been lying to your face, you would also never suspect it. But that seems to bring anger that he didn’t spot it and perhaps intervene sooner. 

 

“When we first had this chat and I knew the extent of your addiction, I felt  pissed off at myself. I wasn’t pissed off at you, because I get it, you’re battling an addiction. But I just felt like a real mug.

 

“How the fuck didn’t I notice and put it all together when I saw little dribs and drabs of it. How did I just see dribs and drabs instead of the whole picture?

 

“I’m supposed to be your mate and housemate, how did so much of that slip past me?”

 

When you don’t want to believe something, you’ll do anything to not confront it. Jake cared for me and he didn’t want to admit that a good friend was going down a path of destruction. 

 

As far as he knew, I was a work hard party hard guy, who got his shit done. 

 

“I realised at one point that maybe this was normal for you and passing out on the sofa often with your shirt off, in my head, just meant you were a bit of a slob. At the end of the day, it could have been from excess drinking, or just you had a fuck off burger and a bottle of wine.. Which is fair enough. I didn’t have a normal healthy living Ben to compare anything to”.

 

Now, fast forward to when I left London, went into the care of my parents and went to rehab – Jake was by my side. He was in constant contact with my family as they tried to unscramble the seriousness of my problem. 

 

He was one of the first friends I admitted my problem to after I was hospitalised. He was also one of the first people I called when I made the decision to go to rehab. He’s a real special guy. 

 

It can be incredibly painful and uncomfortable to relive some of these moments. Especially when you realise how much you took advantage, lied, deceived and most importantly made a friend feel anger that they didn’t see your problem and justify to themselves why. 

 

I do feel ashamed and guilty of the things I have done. I am thankful that I have people in my life who are willing to give me the chance to rekindle friendships. 

 

It brings me peace to know that over the last 14 months, he has gotten to know the real Ben and not the guy that hid behind a cloud of alcoholic bullshit. Our friendship has flourished. He was the first person to visit me after rehab and the first to come on holiday with me after I got sober. He has helped me explore sober life to the max and continues to be one of the most supportive friends I have. 

 

I can’t change the past but, through conversations like this, I can begin to bring peace to the past. It may take a while, but I’ll get there. 

 

Jake, thank you for sharing your memories, being there for me throughout and helping me see what a sober life can bring. 

 

Love, Ben xx

 

When I first set out on the adventure of sobriety I discovered what it was like to have a clear head again, be more mindful, have feelings come back, and I would often find myself with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. 

 

In recovery we are always grateful for many people and things but we can’t spend our days saying thank you, we have to live our lives, so we often take time to be thankful; with a gratitude list, Instagram post, diary or calling a loved one. But this week I felt gratitude flood over me, similar to what I felt when I first got sober.

 

Hundreds of people have come into my life as a result of my reaching out and it truly touched me. So today, I’m sharing just a little of my gratitude and encouraging you to take a moment to think about what you’re grateful for today. 

 

I turned sober at 27 and 1 year ago I would have said that I didn’t have a choice “I had to get sober, my body was giving up, I couldn’t do it anymore”. 

 

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t my choice, I could have rolled over and surrendered, but I didn’t, I stood the fuck up and faced it head on. 

 

I don’t know what the next 60 , 70, or 80 years (fingers crossed) of sobriety will look like. It does scare me, but I am more grateful that my brain decided to change when it did.

 

I’m grateful for the people that got me medically fit. It was my GP at the time who actually planted the seed that what I was doing to myself was deadly. The health implications were always something that scared me. While being sensitive and cautious, she managed to plant a seed which eventually grew, albeit taking a while. 

 

 

The hospital staff who were there at my true time of need after my seizures. The nurses who stood at the door blocking my exit after I had escaped twice to get alcohol while in detox and let my mum stay with me while in psychosis. To the doctors for their honesty and time explaining what I’d need to get clean. And the always joyful nurse who changed my IVs and took my cobbled together nonsense jokes on the chin with a smile. 

 

I’m grateful for the Taxi man who took me home after my second hospital escape. I have to admit, I have no recollection of this. Whoever you are, and if by some miracle you’re reading this, if you took a psychotic 27 year old alcoholic from a shop by Queen Mary’s Hospital to West Bridgford – thank you. 

 

I’m grateful for my family and them never turning their back on me, even when it looked like there was almost no light at the end of the tunnel. 

 

My mum and Andy who went through hell and back reliving the same routine over and over, everyday, ending with the fear that the next day wouldn’t exist for me. Who stood by me, hugged me, made me feel loved, despite what I was doing to myself and everyone around me. 

 

My Dad and Ellie for always being strong and not giving up, letting me have time before I broke, giving me practical advice and helping me get back on my feet. I look up to my Dad more than he knows, so to hear him say “I’m proud” is one of the greatest gifts of sobriety.

 

My cousin Sophie who held my hand on her first rehab visit, walked round the shopping centre with me and said that I was going to be okay. I remember it like yesterday and feeling embarrassed that you had to see me like that, but at the same time so happy you were there. 

 

I’m grateful for all my aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, who have all sent and passed on messages of strength, hope and love. Every message brings joy and reminds me that this is what sobriety brings. 

 

I’m grateful for the staff at rehab for setting me straight, holding my hand when I was weak and laying the foundation for this whole journey I am on.

 

Perhaps even more, I am thankful for the other residents, who in those two months became my housemates, my family and my support network. We’re still in touch and you’re all wonderful people.

 

I’m grateful to have an understanding and caring boss who took me on a couple of months after rehab. He gave me purpose, motivated me and it certainly helped build my recovery to what it is today. 

 

I’m grateful for my friends. It would take me about a week to detail out what you’ve all done for me, but you guys make my sobriety special. None of you turned your backs despite me disappearing for a few months, none of you judged, but more importantly, you see me for me – the same Ben just without 14 pints in him. I used to think alcohol made me everything I was. You’ve all helped me see I can be confident, funny, sarcastic, serious, emotional, deep without the bottle by my side. 

 

I’m grateful for my therapist. Who slowly grew the seed of change inside me to think about rehab over weeks and weeks of therapy, but he never pushed too far. Never made me feel like I was being attacked, he just supported me until I made the right call. He was the first person I called when I had made my mind up to go into rehab and I’m so glad he picked up. 

 

I’m grateful for Emma, not just her pretty face, silly humour, infectious laugh, daft monologues and severe lack of cooking skills, but for not judging me when I admitted I was an alcoholic on our first date. She didn’t make up some excuse about how she’d forgotten to feed her cat and it would die in the next 20 minutes unless she got home. She listened (as I almost certainly rambled on, which makes it even more special) and saw me for the person I was, not the illness I fight. 

 

Lastly I’m grateful for my strength & determination, which I get from my Dad. I’m an all or nothing guy, but I never knew I had it in me yet here I stand, over 500 days clean.

 

I think about alcohol everyday. Every single day. But it will not enter my  body in a physical form again. 

 

Sobriety has brought me so much and that’s just the tip of my gratitude iceberg. 

 

One of the biggest gifts I’ve given to myself is that I can now think about the future, in a way I couldn’t before. I can plan, fantasise, day dream, knowing I’ll be sober, knowing that everything is a possibility and not going to be shut down by the demon inside of me. It feels freeing. 

 

While yes, there is more to change, I’m on a journey and I couldn’t ever be more grateful to be on it. As tears gather in my eyes while I write this, I can’t help but think about all of you, along with my growing recovery family. This blog is dedicated to you guys. Thank you.

 

Love, Ben x

 

We continue on in lockdown, living out the routines we have created and aside what we have for dinner, not much changes. 

 

Turbulent weeks have become a norm, but this week instead of recapping on my week, I want to take you back to a specific day, to live in a moment. 

 

I have mentioned before that I keep a little yellow book where I scrawl things down, usually when my head runs wild or I feel I need to let something out. The below is from said book. 

 

I feel a little more unsettled pushing ‘Publish’ on this one, a bit nervous putting it out there. Probably because it exposes my immediate, unedited, brash, flipping thoughts, but I think it’s an important insight. 

 

Here are my jottings from Wednesday morning moments after I woke up, word for word and unedited.  

 

 

 

 

6am – 15 Apr 

 

Drink dreams are coming hard and fast. I can’t control them. I don’t know why they’re coming either. 

 

People say it’s because your mind isn’t occupied, or you’re not using your brain, but I am. It’s not like I’ve turned into a rock over the last 2 weeks. 

 

But whatever it is, I wish it would stop. I’m sitting here in the dark with anxiety & panic. 

 

Feels like I’m back in my addiction due to a fucking dream. A vivid one, but still. 

 

I can almost taste the booze from the last gulp just before I woke up. I can taste the shame when I drank it. Even in my dream I know it’s wrong, it feels like I’m naughty, but I still dream it and do it. 

 

My head feels heavy, like it’s bored of all this. I can recall everything, it’s so vivid, accurate and there’s no doubt when I woke up I questioned if it was real.

 

But it’s not. 

You’re safe.

Stop. Breathe 

 

Now write it out. 

 

I was back in Cambridge, going into my old house with the blue door. I open it, stagger into the kitchen and flip the kettle on. I slammed a bottle of Glen’s vodka down on the counter and took particular notice of the RRP – presumably thinking whether I could get another bottle. I take a swig and the kettle flips off, I go to pour the water in my Pot Noodle and miss completely. I sack that off and go for a piss.

 

Blank

 

I’m now at Cambridge railway station – the old one before it was done up. 

 

I stand in the ticket hall, but the barriers are open so I head for the toilet. I go in a cubicle and get out a Ribena bottle, take a swig, gag, and take another. I read “Lets get fucked!” on the door, and I actually see myself cackle – probably because I was fucked. Idiot. 

 

Blank 

 

We’re back in the house, my mate has just left. I open a can out the fridge and call him. I make up excuses for him to come back and that I’d get him a cab to the station. 

 

After what I can only think was a big weekend with him, I did not want to be on my own  – the realisation of being alone with your addiction, no thanks. 

 

I know I’m doing something wrong and searching for someone to normalise it. 

 

And now he’s gone, I’m not normal, I’m an addict.

 

I fucking hated being alone. 

 

I felt it. I felt it in the dream. 

 

*Why can I not shake that? When I think about booze, a lot of it comes back to this – the guilt, shame, embarrassment – but from who, myself? Talk to therapist about this* 

 

Then I’m in the shower, drinking. Somehow a thought of visiting dad comes in – he’s always home. But I immediately realise how much harder it will be to drink there, where can I hide it?

 

Blank 

 

I’m in a cab now, drunk, but trying  to act compos-mentis. I ask the cab driver to stop at a shop for something. I come out with 3 Ribena bottles and vodka. I’m trying to fill them up in the back seat. Cab driver keeps looking and I tell him it’s not going anywhere. I’m now swigging vodka in the back of a cab out of Ribena bottles. 

 

*Is this a flash back to the tube days? Ribena bottles every morning? Things are getting mixed up – London with Cambridge.*

 

Now I’m on a train, but I don’t have to get a train to Dad’s. Doesn’t matter. I’m still drinking the Ribena bottles, but I’m paranoid, there’s a family who is definitely on to me. 

 

The cart comes and I order GnT’s  – what fucking train am I on?! Certainly not Thameslink or Greater Abellio. 

 

I drink the Ribena and GnT together  – which probably brings more attention to it. 

 

*Fuck, I bet I tried to hide drinking so much that I often brought more attention – not so clever, hey.*

 

This is a bit nasty but … I sat on the train toilet and liquid just fell out my arse like battery acid. But that’s what happens when you haven’t eaten more than 2 bits of bread in two days, or a few Oreos. 

 

Christ, I don’t miss liquid lava shits. I heard the call for my stop, I opened the door to a woman staring at me, she looks me up and down. Not sure why. 

 

I’m back at Cambridge, but now the station has been done up – seems I’ve gone round and round. 


I called dad, waited 2 mins, calculated how long he’d be and ran to that shithole of a pub next to the station.

 

I’ve got my bike with me. I’m wheeling it round like a dog. I don’t lock it up, it’s always with me, even when my mate was here, I always had it. 

 

*I always got that panic when I had to travel anywhere. Like now when I smoke before any journey, no matter how small. I needed a drink right before any journey.*

 

I sit with a Guinness, neck it, barman comments (they always did – twats), get a GnT, phone rings, dad’s here, finish it, get in the car. 

 

Blank – that’s it, all I got, dream over

 

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – 

 

Can’t shake the reality though – often have dreams, well every night, but they’re often in places I don’t know, people I don’t know. 

 

This was one of my best mates, my shared house, my dad, a station I knew, and the worst thing – I feel it now. 

 

“When your brain isn’t used…” blah blah blah – Fuck that, it’s happening for a reason. 

 

Need to shake this off, this will mess my day up.

 

The bike is significant – during the last of my drinking days, I’d always say I was going for a bike ride to mum and I’d ride round the corner, stop and get off – otherwise I’d probably be hit. I’d wheel it all the way to the shop, up the old railway path and then home. 

 

Why didn’t I just lock it up somewhere and then get it on the way home?

 

^ oops, trying to be a better alcoholic right there.

 

This one has rattled me. 

 

12pm – 18 Apr 

 

It’s now 12pm and it’s still sitting heavy and my mind is still spinning it. I haven’t had these feelings in a while, these are the feelings I had when I was 2 months sober, not 14 months. But it just shows you what a situation like lockdown can bring.

 

Call more people today and reach out to stay active. This is all stuff to talk through Friday with my therapist

 

This dream has really gotten to me. 

 

I know they’re not real and they’re all in my head but it both fascinates and scares me how strong that addict brain is. That’s how much this addiction is steering my  life; it’s taking over my dreams. 

 

There’s no doubt someone could easily be triggered to reach for the bottle by this in the morning – hell I was, the first thing I thought was of happiness, back to my drinking days, feeling content – I just didn’t act on it. But someone in a different place might have. 

 

Doesn’t matter though, I didn’t act and I AM SOBER. 

 

I’m grateful for everything. My life, support, people, love, care, health, SOBRIETY.

 

505 days ago I was fucked, probably blacked out face down on a plate of food at my parents house. 

 

505 days ago my mum thought I wasn’t going to wake up  most mornings and hovered outside my room until I made a sound. 

 

505 days ago I would not be writing and reflecting. 

 

505 days ago I had a brain that didn’t think I was an addict.

 

But today I know I’m an addict.

 

A proud recovering addict. 

 

I’ve worked fucking hard for this and no shitty dream is taking that away. 

 

Or lockdown for that matter. 

 

And it shouldn’t for any of us in recovery.

 

 

Addiction is no easy road and recovery is even harder, but it’s the road I’d rather be on. Anything to not live out that dream, again. 

 

I’m strong enough to have dreams like this and while they scare me, in time I can rationalise and reflect on them. 

 

While a dream ruined that day, there’s plenty of days ahead and they will be sober ones, just like today. 

 

Your addict brain will come and go trying to tease you back, but you’ve got to recognise that and just gently, but firmly, put it back in its cage. 

 

Stay safe and keep talking. 

Love, Ben x

 

This week I hit 500 days sober.

That’s 1 year 4 months and 14 days. 

Around £17,500 saved and 25,106 units not drunk. 

 

But more importantly getting sober has saved my life. 

 

I always look at milestones as a point of reflection. The reality is 500 days ago I was walking into a rehab facility, slurring, malnourished, depressed, totally lost and a skeleton of the young motivated man I once was.

 

I often question whether I’m honest about my recovery. I mean, yes I’m sober, I’m managing it and I will remain sober. 

 

But when people ask “how’s it going, do you find it hard?” I feel a wave of self consciousness come over me and I often wonder “should I tell the truth, how it really is?” I normally just say something like “Yeah, it’s alright, you know ups and downs. But everyday sober is a good one!”. 

 

But the reality is, 500 days later, it’s still hard, isolated or not. 

 

When I look at this logically; I’ve been sober 500 days, which is 10% of my drinking life (3650 days), or 22% (2190 days) of my active addiction. So, yes it’s still hard, a battle, a struggle, a mental fight. But one that I will continue to work hard to win. 

 

After leaving rehab with my discharge plan in hand, I had no idea what the world would throw at me. You have to adapt, reflect and rewrite what works for you and the Covid-19 situation is a prime example of that.

 

As a 28-year-old addict, I’ve had to relive and relearn how to do many things. It may sound stupid, but things like; dating, getting the tube, flirting, making friends, sex, confidence, working, ordering a drink and learning to like tea. But, as those that know me will tell you, I used to hate being on my own. Like, hated it. 

 

As an addict, a lot of the drinking you do is on your own. There’s not many mates who will crack open a cider with you and watch Good Morning Britain. 

 

But, despite relieving so many extreme negative feelings – either from the day before, or general emotional pain – it never felt normal. I knew that it wasn’t normal. 

 

The times when you were in a rush, it didn’t matter, you didn’t have time to think. You threw it down your neck and got out the door. But, when you had time, no official drinking plans until after 12pm, it was a lonely place. Because it’s not like you could just plop yourself on the couch beside your housemates with a couple of crumpets and a side of Gin & Orange. 

 

So you drink in secret, behind closed doors, often trying to do something by yourself to normalise it. But deep down it doesn’t normalise anything, because you know at the end of the day, it’s you with a bottle. Which I hated. 

 

This means you take every opportunity to try and normalise drinking, because as long as someone else is drinking, then it’s okay, right? 

 

Weekend routines included planning a very carefully curated playlist of social hangouts, going from one to the next to the next, ending with one I thought was probably going to be a late one. Genius. 

 

Socialising my addiction as much as I could gave me the illusion that what I was doing was normal. I was just having a big old pre-drink before the 12pm party.

 

So when there were no plans, I hated it, I hated myself. 

 

I’ve had to overcome this in the last few weeks. Isolation has forced me to sit with myself for long periods and, I’m not going to lie, parts of it have been shit. 

 

But, I’m still here, I’m still sober and I’m still writing this. 

 

I’ve used the 500 day milestone as a point to reflect on the past, but also look at how I’ve been handling the Corona situation and more importantly be, for extended periods of time, with myself. 

 

As I write this, I’m almost cringing at some of the things I’m about to write, but it’s this slightly embarrassing, weird, bat-shit stuff that’s keeping me sober, so keep your opinions to yourself! 

 

Monday

 

 

I find the start of the week the hardest. Despite it being much like any other day at the moment when, compared with the weekend, a sense of uneasiness comes. 

Perhaps because before all this, Monday was the day we were most productive. I went to work early, got my shit together and started the week, but now, it’s just another day to fill. 

 

“Drink dreams” are becoming the norm, they’re stronger when I’m anxious so a Sunday night always brings a good old mix of memories or visualisation. 

 

Part of me thinks this is because my mind isn’t used, therefore not tired at bedtime, so it has a chance to run, dig up things I’ve tried to forget. Part of me thinks it’s because alcohol is on my mind far more than it has been in recent months. 

 

Either way, I deal with them. It seems odd to say, while I currently have all this time, but it’s paramount to take time for myself. I don’t mean have a shave or clear out my wardrobe, I mean really take time, focused and uninterrupted. 

 

We’re all guilty of rolling over in the morning, opening Instagram, news apps, Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit and scrolling through the array of content. 

 

 

I worked out very quickly this can be triggering. Seeing people do the “Drink 5, Donate 5” on Instagram or the many Pub Quizzes with booze in hand that have taken place, honestly just makes me want to take part.

 

Seeing this on top of my drunk dreams first thing in the morning would be too much to start any day.

 

I’ve started everyday in lockdown spending 15 mins outside. Usually reflecting on the dreams I had, naming them, pondering on why that memory appeared and putting it to bed. It helps centre me for the day and not compound the ever-growing triggers that surround me during the day. 

 

When anything gets too much, I try to take five. Slow down. Breathe. Relax my head. Think about why my mind is running. 

 

Before lockdown, I was  certainly guilty of never taking time for myself. My recovery is very much built on running from one thing to the next which allowed me to build a new life, so this is alien to me and it might be to you too, but give it a go. 

 

I find myself on my living room rug, staring up at the ceiling quite a lot throughout the day.The old me would have said you’re mental but, you know what, it’s damn nice.

 

Tuesday

 

Video calls have become our saviour in lockdown. They’ve settled me down many times during this escapade, they allow me to keep up with therapy and connect with people in need. But while a pixelated face is nice, it dawns on me that I miss human interaction a lot. 

 

AA meetings aren’t the same online, half of a meeting for me is feeling people’s emotions and feeling their pain or happiness. I’ve walked into meetings with the sole intention not to share, then someone’s story, strength, sadness or fears hit you and I suddenly find myself blabbing on for five minutes uncontrollably. 

 

Tuesday we sat in the house and we both needed to interact with something else besides each other.  

 

Side note. I realise I am so very lucky to have a wonderful partner who is here every evening (she works long shifts for the NHS). Without her this would be infinitely more difficult and I am truly thankful for everything she does to support me. 

 

It feels like as we sit in the flat looking around for some inspiration, we both miss freedom. The thriving community I’m part of has faded, it feels like it’s us against the world and I start to resent the situation we’re in. 

 

So, what to do from a first floor flat, other than try and attract the local wildlife for a Snow White type scene in our living room? A pack of god awful Rhubarb & Custard biscuits came to our aid, we smashed them up on the windowsill and stood expecting a flock of birds to swoop in like it was their first meal in a week. 

 

We might have been waiting for a good hour, but eventually a little robin landed on a branch opposite and eyed up the pink biscuits. It swooped in, grabbed a bit, then retreated. We both watched in amazement, with huge smiles on our faces, like we’d seen some sort of mythical being. 

 

Some of you may think I’m mad, but this little robin made all the difference. 

 

For that hour I didn’t think about drink, I didn’t battle and I felt happiness. We should all cherish that feeling at times like this. I’m now wondering what treat might attract a squirrel, any tips?

 

Wednesday

 

I’ve been actively trying to stop my head racing when it’s triggered, but isolation is making triggers more prominent than ever. 

 

For example; a Mercure Hotels ad took me back to drinking vodka in a hotel every morning on a work trip, a guy drinking a Kronenbourg on the street makes me wish I had a can in the hot sun, a picture on Instagram of Brancott Estate wine flashes my mind back to stashing endless bottles under my pillows. 

 

They’re endless and I can’t control them. But what I can do is control how I interact with them.

 

I’ve started picking a repetitive, remedial, simple task everyday. A task that can be approached when “I just need a minute”. It provides a focus point, a time to blank your mind, a time away from triggers, another morsel of time to myself. 

 

Wednesday’s task was turning a god awful green box into a lovely oak-stained masterpiece. Throughout the day I applied six coats of stain – that’s six times I needed 10 mins away, six times I could have got into a right struggle. 

 

After reflecting on this I think there is more to it than what it seems. I think it’s a replacement for the times I’d grab a drink. I often reached for the bottle when something triggered me, I was bored or frustrated. My little painting exercise is replacing the booze.

 

Thursday

 

While trying to look after myself in all this, there has been a constant guilt that sits with me. I think about all the other recovering addicts who might not have the support, technology, confidence and strength to do the things I have engaged with. 

 

There are undoubtedly addicts who are struggling, crawling the walls, white-knuckling their way through lockdown. Most likely alone, vulnerable and at risk. 

 

We are all aware of the power the media holds and now, more than ever, the stories it puts out have a greater impact on us. So this week I set out to use media for the greater good. 

 

I wanted to reach out to all those suffering in silence, let them know they are not alone and they will get through this. While also raising awareness of alcoholism outside the recovery community, to encourage people to reach out to those in need. It will change lives. 

 

I sent out my story to many news desks, podcasts and newspapers, through connections I have made at work, and I was interviewed for a slot on Sky News. 

 

I was shit scared, but I told myself by reaching out, swallowing my nerves and getting on with it, I might just help someone in crisis. 

 

It’s my mission with this blog to raise awareness of alcoholism and the struggle it brings, while giving strength and hope to other recovering addicts, and on this particular day I felt like I’d taken one further step in my mission. 

 

Friday

The morning fizzled into nothing, I can’t remember what happened but I knew I didn’t want to do much today. I had no motivation or inspiration, just one of those days. 

 

We decided to play The Sims. For those who don’t know, The Sims is a simulation game – you build a character, house, go to work, get a pet, get married, eat, sleep, pee – everything you’d do in real life. 

 

I’ve never been a gamer, my Xbox has been on about 20 times in its seven year life, but I played for nine hours solid. 

 

Nine hours of creating a pretend life. I got a job as a gardener, I got a dog, I started a relationship, got engaged and built myself a deck in the garden. 

 

I got absolutely lost in a world on my screen. There was no Coronavirus there, no isolation, no queues at supermarkets. I loved it. 

 

Me being me, of course I overthought why I was so engrossed. My addictive personality counts for why I couldn’t stop playing. “I like it, I want it, I do it.”

 

But why did I engage with something that I’ve never engaged with before? 

 

I think I just wanted to live an alternate life for a bit. Where my only worry was if my dog had shit on the deck or my cooker was on fire. It felt great. I’m not going to think any more about it and just embrace the fun, but if you can’t reach me, you’ll know why. 

 

Isolation is a challenge for us all, for many different reasons. But more crucially it’s something that can really help every one of us evaluate what’s important, and taking the time to do this is priceless. 

 

I’ve had to take my recovery back to Step One and I’m now rebuilding it for a lockdown life. I’m facing my biggest fear and relapse triggers head on.

 

Panic has been replaced with thought, logic and reflection. Anxiety still thrives but for reasons I now understand. 

 

One day at a time, stay safe. 

Love, Ben x