Giving up alcohol has had many positive effects on my life. It takes time and patience to discover what hidden gems are hiding behind the false pretence that alcohol cloaks your being with, but as time goes by I notice things that are truly exciting, as though life is starting again but this time it’s being played out in a happy place.
One of the most striking differences between now and then is how the world has begun to open up, like a flower unfurling beneath a blazing sun. If you drink on a regular basis, and you drink until you are inebriated, your world closes down. Opportunities are shut off to you because you are incapable of thinking further than when that next drink is coming.
My days, my life, centred around wine; everything was a precursor to booze, so a walk in the countryside was nice but only because it led up to a cosy pint in a pub; a romantic meal in a restaurant I always enjoyed, particularly because it involved at least a couple of bottles of expensive red followed by a liqueur and then a few drinks in a late bar; Christmas, fantastic to spend time with the family, but you know what Christmas is great for – getting hammered and nobody really noticing, the one time of year when it’s fully acceptable to go out and drink to your heart’s content (or stay in and do the same).
But when the drink dries up, your horizons expand. Days cease to be about counting the hours until the wine can be uncorked, and become instead yet more hours in which new experiences can be tried, plans can be hatched and projects can be developed. Sheffield, my home town, all of a sudden seems small. It’s really a great city, but in recent months I have become aware of how familiar it is to me; there aren’t many corners of it that I don’t know and I have begun to fantasise about living elsewhere, travelling, experiencing new cultures, spreading my wings. I want to grow.
Great achievements have been accomplished by human beings down the generations because of how we operate when we aren’t sozzled. People have always drunk, but momentous inventions, life-changing leadership and innovative architecture and design were not dreamt up by those who were perpetually sloshed.
I am filled with a passion and a drive for living that has grown slowly over the last couple of years, ever since I stopped drinking alcohol. It pushes me to do things that I would have previously shied away from, propels me to want more from the world.
When people talk about giving up drinking, they often focus on the immediate benefits; improved health and the chance of living longer and healthier lives, better state of mind, more money, more balanced home life – when I knew that I wanted to quit drinking for good, these were the things that I was striving for and hoping would occur as a result of becoming teetotal. But the way in which the world opens up and becomes a cornucopia of never ending possibilities, that to me is the greatest gift I have found in ending my destructive relationship with alcohol.