An over-indulgence of anything, even something as pure as water, can intoxicate. – Criss Jami
Three years ago on this exact day, April 11th 2015, I decided once and for all that I would quit drinking alcohol.
The decision to quit has taken me on an interesting journey, and upon one year of not drinking, I wrote a relatively brief article detailing my story, detailing why I decided to quit and my subsequent experience living a life without alcohol.
However, since writing that article, and with the benefit of time and new experiences, it’s only now, three years on, that I can fully comprehend and understand my decision to stop drinking.
Over the course of the last three years, a lot has changed in my life, and I want to document the full, uncensored story as well as my viewpoint on alcohol and quitting with the hope that I can help other people who are struggling with an alcohol addiction.
It’s important to start off with a bit of context, as what I have become is a result of all experiences that preceded this moment. So let’s take it back to the very beginning.
Alcohol was an extremely sensitive topic growing up in our household. Ever since his early 20s, my father has battled with an alcohol addiction. I’m grateful he’s still alive today, since several years ago he came close to death when he had a stroke due to a blood clot.
My earliest memories of my dad weren’t great. I recall seeing him passed out, hanging off the sofa, out of control of his own body, unaware of what was going on around him. Events like this were frequent, and he would go to great lengths to cover up his addiction, sometimes stashing his bottles in bush in our garden, or filling up sports bottles and pretending he was drinking a soft drink, even though the smell on his breath and state of being said otherwise.
As a little kid, you don’t really understand what’s going on – you take what your father says literally, you don’t judge, because he’s your role model isn’t he, and you want to be exactly like him when you grow up.
My mum tried her best to help him, but he didn’t want to change. Over time things got worse and worse, eventually leading to the demise of their relationship. My mum had enough and threw my dad out and decided to take on the arduous role of bringing up my two sisters and I by herself. Little did she know at the time though, that in a few more years, 3 children would become 5 and that job would become even more difficult.
Time went by, and as I grew older, stumbling into my teenage years, my father wasn’t around much. Instead my Grandma, Nana Sally (my dad’s mother) – still the most intelligent and inspiring woman I’ve ever met – took on the role of my father, helping my mum bring up my two sisters and I. We were relatively poor as a family of 5 with one single parent, but my Grandma cared a lot and helped my mum make sure we all grew up with the things we needed, placing a big emphasis on making sure we got a good education.
As I moved through my teenage years a lot of unrealised anger began to build up inside me because of my father’s neglect and his relationship with alcohol. At the time, and very naively of me, I couldn’t understand why after coming from such respectful, intelligent and hardworking parents that he would choose to waste his potential at the expense of drinking alcohol.
I was a very competitive teenager, and most of my friends who played in the same football team shared similar traits. There was a lot at stake growing up in the north of England. Your social status and acceptance in the tribe was determined by several things: what brand of clothes you wore, how good you were at sport, how good you were with women, and last but certainly not least, how good you were at drinking alcohol. It’s pretty sad to think about it now, but if you were good at all of those, you would be considered strong, worthy and respected by the peers of the tribe.
So naturally, like father like son, from about the age of 12 onwards, I wound into the thick of it all with alcohol becoming a regular fix every weekend. Monday through Friday I lived for the weekends, and went all out as soon as soon as the evening rolled in. By nature, I am a small lad, and obviously, even though it struck my ego and I wanted to keep up, my tolerance to alcohol was simply a lot lower than everyone else’s. Nevertheless, I had no limits, and I would often drink until I physically couldn’t stomach anymore.
As a result, there would be three likely scenarios most times I was drunk: I would be sick, I would fall to sleep, or I would get angry. The first two were relatively harmless and best case scenario, whereas the last scenario was always destructive.
I noticed very quickly that if I drank the wrong drink (cider would send me crazy), all that anger that I’d been bottling up would come to the surface and I’d spend the rest of the evening walking around with a huge chip on my shoulder, picking fights with anyone who looked at me the wrong way.
This caused a lot of pain for myself and for the people around me, both physically and mentally – I’m not proud of that and I’m terribly sorry. Between the ages of 17-23, I got in about 30 fights, and had my nose broken 3 times, as well as countless other stress and damage. One time, I was walking home drunk when I got jumped in a dark alleyway by a guy who I’d being give a hard time to on the town that night. He beat me up badly and I woke up in hospital with my nose the shape of banana. I ended up needing Rhinoplasty surgery, which involved the surgeon cutting my nose from the bottom, peeling back my skin and smashing my nose back across my face, resetting the bone back into place, and leaving me with black eyes looking like a panda. In addition, I had a pot on my nose for a month, and had to inject salt solution up it daily, while coming to terms with losing functionality of 40% of the nerves of the nose that determine smell and taste.
The physical damage I experienced or inflicted on others wasn’t a big enough lesson to give me the wakeup call I so dearly needed. Shamefully, I got arrested and locked up twice for Drunk & Disorderly. On both occasions I was thrown in the cell for the evening until I sobered up. I’m not proud of this, and I’m lucky that in both instances there were no criminal charges/record and just an £80 fine and warning the next day.
Interestingly, all of this destruction and violence only ever happened while under the influence of alcohol. When I wasn’t drinking, which was pretty much Monday morning till Friday evening, I was a calm, hardworking and obedient student who was top of the class, achieving high grades in every subject I studied. When I think back, it reminds me of the tale of Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde – something switching in my brain as soon as I took to an alcoholic beverage, turning into someone I didn’t really want to be.
For seven years, from secondary school all the way through university, I caused continual devastation on my body and the people around me as a result of drinking alcohol. No control. More fights. More stupidity. More pain inflicted.
The way I was heading, the future certainly wasn’t bright. My health was in jeopardy and I was destined to turn out worse than my father, since he already had one up on me because he was always a relatively calm drinker.
At the end of university, I was faced with two options: Eventually kill myself with alcohol or make a change to my life.
After finishing university, like most graduates, I was confused and didn’t know what to do with my life, so I decided to follow Joe – one of my best mates from university who did know what he wanted to do with his life – to Australia for a working-holiday visa followed by a year of world travel.
To cut a very long story short, it was here, by going out into the world that my perspective on life slowly began to change. It was clear that I’d been living in a little bubble in the north of England and it was the first time in my life that I was meeting people living completely different lives to me – many of whom I looked up to as role models and mentors.
Blown away by the early impact travel had on me, I decided to embark on a journey around the world hitchhiking and Couchsurfing, putting myself in some very challenging positions, while learning and opening my eyes to different ways of living from all the people I spontaneously encountered along the way.
About 2 years into what was a 4-year journey, I found myself hitchhiking through Romania with a couple of good friends. I was still drinking at the time, but my anger had started to subside. I wasn’t fighting anymore, and it was clear that I was a lot more relaxed when drinking alcohol – albeit at the expense of harsh hangovers the day after. On a rainy morning in Timisoara, Romania, a day after a big night out celebrating the arrival of a good friend from America, I was chilling with my mate Marius, nursing one of the worst hangovers I’d ever had in my life when I jokingly uttered the words “I’m never drinking again”.
Marius looked around, laughed, and replied “not a chance, you won’t quit Dan”.
“Yeh I can – easily, but will you as well?” I nervously replied.
“Ok, let’s make a bet” said Marius.
“Done. Game on”.
Although that sounds like a bit of an anti-climax, that bet was made exactly 3 years ago on 11th April 2015, and since that day, I haven’t touched alcohol.
I had begun to realise on a deeper level that alcohol didn’t serve me, and whether I knew it or not, my travels and the people I had encountered through hitchhiking and Couchsurfing had slowly encouraged me to shift my beliefs, what I valued and how I saw life.
Initial Struggle “Tipping Point”
The first couple of months were some of the toughest of my life, due to the ill-informed belief that I couldn’t have fun without alcohol. Going out was a drag, and I struggled to socialise without having alcohol guzzling down my throat. I was also incredibly embarrassed to tell people that I didn’t drink anymore in fear that they would judge me as weak for being the only guy in the room who wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t having fun, and it also annoyed me to be around other drunk people too.
These kind of painful experiences went on for at least the first several months, and then something inside my mind began to change. I call this the “tipping point” (coined by Malcom Gladwell, but used in a different context here). Suddenly, I no longer craved alcohol. It wasn’t on my mind as much, and the slow process of reconditioning my brain to realise that I could have fun without it was well on course. I began to notice a difference in my behaviour and I was no longer thinking about where my next alcoholic drink would come from, instead, looking for my next glass of water. It was clear that I was beginning to free my mind from the ill-belief that I relied on alcohol to have fun in life, and now understood, very clearly, that I could live a very fruitful life without it.
Life Without Alcohol
36 months on my life looks a lot different now. I have a healthy relationship with alcohol, and I want to talk about some of the changes I’ve experienced:
My desire to impress other people has subsided over time. Of course it’s still not completely gone, but I now realise that the biggest reason I drank when I was younger was to fit in socially since, funnily enough, I never actually liked the taste of beer/alcohol.
When I first quit, a lot of friends were disappointed with my decision, and I was also embarrassed to tell new friends I didn’t drink anymore. I got called a ‘fun sponge’, ‘boring’ and the rest of it, but over time I’ve grown to realise that’s nothing to do with my world, but rather, theirs.
I’m on healthy terms with how I feel about alcohol, and I’m proud to let new friends know I don’t drink because now I’m coming from a place of abundance not scarcity.
I own a hostel in Bucharest, Romania, so my lifestyle means that I am constantly surrounded by people who love to party and drink alcohol. However, in my 16 months living in Bucharest, I’ve only been out once or twice on a proper night out. I no longer enjoy clubbing – the loud music, the crowdedness, the drunkenness. I may sound like an old man, but sleep and being well rested have become a much higher priority for me. I’m in bed by about 11pm most nights, and I’m up by 6am to enjoy the quiet and stillness of the mornings with a nice run. I still love going to bars and cafes to socialise with friends, and I’ll order a water or lemonade, but it’s safe to say that my days in clubs are over.
When I decided to quit alcohol I lost contact with a lot of friends who lived their lives constantly partying and clubbing, simply because we no longer had much in common. However, that opened up space for other people to come in my life, whom I’ve grown to care for a lot.
In terms of genuine connections with people, I now realise that many of the friendships and experiences I created while under the influence of alcohol were somewhat superficial. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of funny moments that I will hold for years to come, but depending on how drunk I got, the day after I would often have no clue of what went on the previous night and would base the success of the night on some arbitrary evaluation of how hungover I was.
Probably the most obvious benefits of quitting were towards my health. It’s important to remember that although alcohol gives you a short-lived high and feeling of confidence, scientifically speaking it is a depressant. That means its main purpose is to alter your brain chemistry, suppressing your nervous system, consequently influencing your thoughts, feelings and actions.
Now that I’m not drinking the obvious health benefits include:
•No more hangovers – I wake up feeling fresh and well rested most days.
•Less bad food – Alcohol impairs our decision making so giving into those late night kebabs or for the northerners, ‘good ol’ chips, cheese and gravy’ is no longer a worry.
•More sleep – Drinking and late nights used to go hand in hand which often led to sleep deprivation – no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape it. But no clubbing or late nights out means more sleep, a better mood the next day, and feeling well rested.
•More energy – Less drinking, going out clubbing means more space and energy for other things that matter to me in life (see section below).
•More water – I drink much more water now than I did when I used to drink alcohol.
I’ve noticed that I am a much calmer person these days. I used to react and boil up very quickly, especially when drinking. After all the fighting and violence in my teenage years, I now hold the view that violence and inflicting pain on other people isn’t necessary and simply perpetuates more pain, hurt and anger.
I also noticed a change in the clarity of my thoughts and thinking. My mind is less volatile than it used to be, and mood swings are a lot less frequent.
With more space and time for priorities other than alcohol, I’ve found that I now direct a lot more time and energy into things that I enjoy, which I previously shoved aside for alcohol. Since I quit drinking, I’ve spent a lot of time developing my passions for building my business, running, writing, reading and travel. I also have a lot more money to spend on doing the stuff I enjoy now that I am not spending it on alcohol.
I found that after about 2 years, I began to experience the world in a different way. I began noticing the subtleties in my daily life. When I was under the influence of alcohol, my experiences were often vague, blurry and generally less intense. Sure, being under the influence felt good initially, because I was given a mask and false sense of confidence which made me believe that I was the most confident man in the world. But now, by facing the world without my alcoholic mask, the potential for richer experiences, of all shapes and sizes, both positive and negative, are now allowed to come to surface with no alcoholic filter. In turn, i have no choice but to deal with whatever life throws at me, and I’m completely ok with that.
My View on Alcohol Now
Healthy in Moderation
Over the last 3 years my perspective on alcohol has changed, and may surprise some people. Naturally, I started out being against anyone who drank alcohol, encouraging people to follow me and quit too. However, upon deeper reflection I’ve come to realise that alcohol isn’t inherently bad for anyone unless you make it so yourself.
Like most things in moderation, alcohol is no different. You can see loads of examples of alcohol being used healthily and productively in society – e.g. one glass of red wine a day is said to be good for the heart or comedians using it to improve stage performance.
Reliance & Dependency
Like with any addiction, I think it all comes down to dependency. And like the quote at the beginning of the article points out, excessive dependency on anything can become a downward spiral.
In my situation, I was clearly using alcohol as a form of escapism – a way to get away from reality and mask the pain I didn’t want to feel and experience because of the failure of my father. In addition, I was so caught up in the act of drinking that I didn’t even realise it was affecting me. I didn’t see the pain I was inflicting on others or myself. It’s now clear, looking back, that I had created a dependency on alcohol, but worst of all I was in-denial and not even aware that it was ruining my life.
Denial. It’s this issue where things get sticky. If you ask people who are clearly addicted (I was one), most will create complex rationalisations to prove to themselves they are not addicted. And now, having the experience of once being in that position I can clearly see it when I meet other people who are addicted to alcohol.
In addition, alcohol is a very interesting substance, because it also has a lot of social baggage, expectations, and stigmas attached to it in many cultures around the world. For example, where I’m from in England, it’s manly and “laddish” to drink, and if you don’t you’re likely to be seen as weak and ostracised from the group. Therefore, when kids are faced with such tough social pressure and false narratives like this, is it any surprise that they fall into the pressure of binge drinking from such a young age?
In summary I think it all comes down to how each person sees alcohol and the perspective they hold. If alcohol genuinely isn’t a problem for someone, and they also believe that in their heart, they are right, it’s not a problem and a healthy relationship with alcohol with no reliance is harmless. On the other hand, an unhealthy dependency, reliance, and denial is not sustainable for living a healthy lifestyle and is something that we must work on addressing in society.
My View For Those Who Want to Quit Alcohol
An addiction becomes a problem when you become reliant on a substance. But what if you’re in-denial and can’t that you’re addicted in the first place?
Here’s my view on quitting in 3 steps:
1 – Acceptance
If you think there’s a problem, it’s all comes down to acceptance of that and doing everything in your power to get real with issue (I certainly didn’t for 10 years).
Here’s a few useful questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you think alcohol is a problem for you?
- Is alcohol and when the next drink is coming regularly on your mind?
- Can you go out and have fun without alcohol?
- Are you using alcohol to escape from the pressures of daily life?
- Do you prefer the personality of the person you are when you’re drinking or the person you are when you’re not drinking?
Great if you have the self-awareness to realise the problem yourself, but what if you can’t see you have a problem with alcohol?
In this case, it’s really important to have close friends and family, particularly those who you look up to and respect that you can approach in confidence to ask for their honest opinion, help and guidance.
If you don’t feel comfortable going to family and friends, then what about a neutral perspective from therapist who doesn’t know anything about you or your background?
Or what about asking a non-drinker, particularly someone who has recovered from alcoholism? They’ve already walked the journey and have their own experiences and perspectives which may help shed light on your own journey with alcohol.
The bottom line is that you can only start walking the road to change when you decide that alcohol is a problem.
2 – Change
Once you’ve accepted that alcohol is a problem for you, the next step is to begin the process of transformation, which requires you to change your current circumstances.
First of all, remind yourself that quitting alcohol, like changing anything else is a journey. If you find change difficult in other areas of your life, I recommend starting incredibly small. Drink one less drink when you go out. Then slowly but surely, systematically reduce your intake week by week.
You can’t expect to become sober in one day, so another good method which i wrote about in my previous article about alcohol is substitution.
Substitution is a powerful way to trick the brain, and lessen your tolerance over time. For example, if you enjoy drinking a lot of hard stuff like vodka and whiskey maybe you could start by substituting that for beers. Then eventually take it one step further to something weak like shandy (lemonade mixed with beer). Once your down to the shandy, you can then think about switching to soft drinks, and then make the final switch from soft drinks to water.
I’m not denying that it will be easy – it was incredibly tough for me – but over time I promise you that if you stick with it your brain will form new habits and your body will become accustomed to not drinking alcohol. It’s difficult to pin point an exact point in time that the habit change will take place because our bodies are all different, but the change for me came after about 3 months of no alcohol.
3 – Commitment (Accountability)
The most important thing to remember: You mustn’t give yourself an out.
You mustn’t rationalise why it would be ok to have “just one” drink. A good way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to create accountability. Accountability can come in many forms. It may be making a bet with a best friend (like I did), ideally someone you look up to and respect. Alternatively, it may also be pledging to donate a certain amount of money to charity if you break your no drinking commitment, or if you’re disciplined enough to do it yourself, maybe a reward after X amount of months have passed could be a good place to start.
On your journey to sobriety you’ll come up against yourself and get the urge to drink, and yes, it will also suck the life out of you to try and socialise without alcohol, but trust me, if you stick to your pledge to quit, in a matter of one year you won’t be thinking about alcohol anymore.
There’s no doubt that quitting alcohol has been one of the most important and beneficial decisions I’ve made in my 27 years of living.
It’s now clear to me that on a broader level it was travel and my personal journey meeting people all over the world that ignited the process to quit drinking alcohol.
However, and quite ironically, quitting all came down to ego, and that big ego that encouraged me to start drinking in the first place ended up being the very same ego that encouraged me to quit.
I’m not sure what life would be like if I was still drinking, but as each day as a non-drinker goes by I am forever grateful for finding the courage to make a decision that has changed my life for the better.
On a final note, if you want to chat in private about anything related to alcohol/addiction please feel free to contact me – I’m very happy to listen and be a soundboard for you. Alternatively, if you know someone suffering from alcoholism please pass on this article to them if you think my story and struggles can benefit them.
Thanks for reading, and all the best,
Daniel Beaumont, Wednesday 11th April 2018
About the Author
Hello everyone, I’m Dan – a 28-year-old social entrepreneur and writer from the north of England, living in Bucharest, Romania. I’m currently writing my first book about my 4-year journey around the world seeking wisdom and life-lessons from everyday people I met hitchhiking and Couchsurfing.
I discovered that travel, if approached with the right mindset, can be life-changing, and a trip combining travel, purpose and introspection is a great way to learn, challenge oneself and change for the better. Now my mission in life is to share what I’ve learned to inspire others to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and use travel, entrepreneurship and technology as a means to make the world a better place.
I’m also the founder of Podstel – a vision to help humanity belong and grow by creating a worldwide network of ‘homes’ that bring locals and travellers together to share their stories, passions and skills. The first two Podstels are open and thriving in Bucharest, so if you’re passing through, be sure to come and say hi, or stay the night with us.
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