Recently I accomplished something that’s left me rather chuffed. You know what I mean; the feeling we get anytime fate intervenes and helps us achieve something unexpected, like creating the perfect meal on a first try, or fitting into our favourite outfit from high school. Yeah, that’s the feeling I mean; and I’m lovin’ it.
So what is it that has me feeling so warm and fuzzy?
It’s that I recently hit three full years of accidental sobriety. I say “accidental” because I never actually meant to quit drinking, I only meant to take a few months off to accomplish some tasks. However, one day I looked up from my Diet Coke and low and behold; I’d been sober three years! How’d that happen? Let’s see, shall we?
Imagine way back to a Saturday morning in July 2019: Billie Eilish is dominating the billboard charts with “Bad Guy”, Parisians are still reeling from the recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, and Woody and Buzz are back in theatres with their fourth and final Toy Story movie. And me? I’m waking up with a monumental hangover… again.
Speaking of Notre Dame, on this same Saturday morning Quasimodo is inside my brain, ringing those damn bells so long and so loudly I’m pretty sure my ears are bleeding from the inside out. As I suffer through the terrible din in my head, I gingerly attempt to recall the events of the evening before.
Let’s see… I had a couple of friends over for a BBQ and drinks, and then afterwards we went to the pub. A couple hours and several pints later, it was time to take my semi-comatose self home, which I did, staggering most of the way. Once home I made a b-line for the fridge and devoured some leftover chicken and coleslaw, got (partially) undressed and unceremoniously collapsed into bed – probably without brushing my teeth. Gross.
The next morning was absolutely horrible. I awoke (a) feeling like shit (again), (b) knowing I’d spent too much money (again), and (c) in dire need of over-the-counter meds to quiet my resident bell ringer. So off to the bathroom cabinet I went in search of relief… again.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this type of behaviour was not new for me. In fact, for the past couple of decades it was both frequent and rote; and not confined to just weekends either. Looking at that statement in black and white makes me realize I’m a little more than just a little embarrassed.
However on this morning, I was finally sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was fed-up of running on a booze-fuelled hamster wheel that supplied me with bad hangovers and headaches and lame excuses for not accomplishing projects that were supposedly important to me.
Projects like finishing and publishing my book, selling my home, downsizing, finding an apartment – all things that I had to do but was getting zero traction on. So yeah, the struggle was real, only now I was being honest about where to place the blame.
It was the booze; or more accurately, it was my allowing the booze to have too much control over me. As the ibuprofen calmed Quasimodo down, I began thinking how best to (a) silence him for good, and (b) reclaim my life back once and for all.
Since these kind of mornings always began with a trifecta of ibuprofen, Visine and several litres of coffee, a little booze time-out seemed like the most obvious way to get back on track. Sobriety, I figured, would create the time, space and energy I’d need to finish my projects; so I committed right then and there to 100 days sober. If more time was required to complete said projects, I’d stay dry longer.
To be clear, my decision was to abstain for as long as it took to complete my projects.
Once I’d checked these items off my to-do list, fridge doors everywhere would swing wide open once again, and beer would freely, and directly flow into my eager and awaiting gullet. I couldn’t wait! Besides, how hard could 100 days of sobriety really be?
Apparently, much harder than I thought. The first few days I almost caved about a hundred times. I thought drinking ginger ale would quell my alcohol cravings, but it didn’t. Not one bit. They continued to linger about like tween girls at a Justin Bieber concert.
My friends weren’t very helpful or supportive. Before my sobriety we’d all party it up on the weekends, with one drunk always spending the night on the other drunks couch. (Not this drunk. He’d always walk home) I hoped my foray into sobriety would rub off on them, but not a chance.
Worse still, sobriety revealed our conversations -drunk or sober- to be childish and immature at best. I found it all embarrassing and depressing, and decided from then on to only meet these guys for coffee–without Baileys, of course. Sorry boys.
At the one-month sober mark I had an epiphany that, while seemingly obvious now, hit me like lightning in a thunderstorm. The boozy cravings were almost all gone, and I found that being clear-headed gave me more energy, direction and the focus to accomplish things easily and effectively. Just thirty days in, and shit was happening!
My next big sobriety milestone was the 100-day mark. My body was now used to not drinking alcohol, and I felt a sense of clarity of thought I’d not experienced in a very long time. There were still some incomplete projects on my list, so (as promised) I extended my sobriety to last a full year. It was a straightforward and easy decision.
Sobriety was opening up a whole new world for me. Physically, I felt much better. Mentally, I had a clarity that allowed me to make better decisions about, well, everything. My self-esteem was returning, and I felt worthy of people’s trust and attention again. It wasn’t long before this new lifestyle prompted me to ask myself a bigger question… Why had I spent so many years binge-drinking? What was up with that?
While I didn’t drink every day, it was a minimum four days a week, and almost always to excess. Most late nights of drinking were followed the next day by various degrees of debilitating hangovers, and all for what? How on earth did this become my life?
Looking back, I could easily point the finger to:
- Parents who drank every day
- Working in the hospitality industry and being around liquor all the time
- Owning and managing bars made drinking easy and “free”
- Aligning myself with friends (and partners) who also drank to excess
Or, I could freely admit that:
- I truly enjoy drinking (sometimes to excess)
- For me, getting drunk can be fun (until it isn’t)
- My choosing to drink (or not) is a conscious choice*
- I’m an adult; and I am responsible for all my choices
- In the present, I’m choosing not to consume alcohol
And to be as clear, despite the mass quantities of beer, tequila, cheap red wine and bar shots I’ve consumed over the years, I don’t believe that I have, or ever have had, a drinking problem. I’ve simply gone down the booze road long enough to know I don’t want to drink any longer; at least not today. (probably not tomorrow either)
I’ve decided that the best way to avoid the slippery slope of one drink becoming two, and then two drinks becoming ten is by abstaining altogether. This method has worked well for three years, so I’ll keep following this plan; at least for now.
Will I ever drink again? That I don’t know; but what I do know is that if/when I have a drink it would wipe out 1,095 days (and counting) and I’d have to start sobriety back at day one again. At this time, it’s not something I’m prepared to do. What I do know is that I’m much happier living life sober.
Like life, sobriety is fragile. Both need to be treated with care and respect; and that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing moving into year four, and probably beyond.
Oh, and it’s also been three full years since Quasimodo paid a visit to my brain. Waking up in the morning with no headache, no regrets, no wondering what the hell happened the night before, not checking my phone for drunk texts, etc. -all that bad stuff- has been completely and 100% worth giving up booze for.
Even if it was by accident.
Authors Note: When I decided to dabble in sobriety, I wanted some expert advice. These are the books that encouraged me on my journey.
- The Thinking Person’s Guide to Sobriety by Bert Bluymen
- The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
- Mourning Has Broken by Erin Davis
- Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
I also followed a couple of private Facebook pages dedicated to supporting people who want to get, and stay, sober.
*Please don’t write me and tell me for some people, drinking is not a choice. It is.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 112,000 times, and his book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 37 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. and spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.