The moment I decided to quit drinking

I always liked drinking alcohol – for more than 30 years. For most of my adult life, I considered ethanol as something necessary for life. It was a key prerequisite for me to have ‘good’ social contacts and fun. Even when I was alone, I liked to be a little tipsy or drunk – just delightful!

All that time, I considered myself to be a pretty cool guy to live that way. But as the years went by, it became apparent that drinking clearly robbed me more than it gave back, first some of my health, then sleep, and my energy and passion for life.

For lots of years I put it all down to ‘age’ – I had already passed fifty, after all. I did nothing about it. I thought that it was simply normal that, in the course of a lifetime, energy and desire for life slowly decreases. I vaguely suspected that this could also be due to alcohol.

I continued to drink – thinking more about others than about me

Besides this scary imagination of losing something I loved and needed so deeply, there was something else that kept me from making the right decision. It was the fearful question of what others would say if I choose ‘soberness’ and perhaps never drank again. Would I then look like a fun-free abstainer, a moraliser or a dogged health fanatic?

Images came to my mind – these were images of disappointment, snide looks, sad, questioning or doubting fathers, brothers, brothers-in-law, buddies, colleagues or bosses. Would they still like me? Would we stay ‘friends’? Would these people turn away from me?

These thoughts and feelings were not really wise. And as I found more and more of it, it made me increasingly angry at myself – because that wasn’t the life I wanted to live. In truth it was the life of all these other people.

I got scared and ashamed of myself…

I saw myself drinking far too often, and I saw how much I frequently wanted the alcohol. I saw how voraciously I drank and how little I was often able to control this. I felt deeply ashamed of myself because I wasn’t doing anything to change it – and if I tried – I failed. I always thought it would be absolutely exaggerated to stop drinking completely. This seemed to me possible only as a sad consequence for really heavy drinkers whose lives had already been completely derailed. For the ‘addicted’ ones, for ‘other’ people, but not for me.

Making the decision

More than two years ago, by chance I read about a woman in a similar situation as myself. This woman had long watched herself harmed by her drinking, but she did it again and again and often regretted it. She was a smart, healthy woman, had friends and an exciting and inspiring job in a bustling German city. She described her decision as to simply stop the nonsense. First tentatively, then for longer, and finally for good. No doctor advised her to do so – She wasn’t forced by anyone or anything. She just did it.

When I read her interview – once, twice – I was not only surprised, but was at the same time incredibly envious of this woman’s decision and realized what that would mean:

No more hangovers on the weekends! No more waking up in the morning with a raven black conscience! No more analgesics on the nightstand next to the bed. Being able to be fit and to be lighthearted again – just to live, like in a long time before, when I didn’t drink! No more nagging thoughts about what might be wrong with me because I need alcohol so badly. And: no more having to be secretly ashamed of still drinking so much in my early fifties.

Instead: A spirit of optimism. Curiosity. A spirit of discovery. A desire for new things and to live. And finally – yes, really finally, having a consistent and strong feeling of doing the right thing. 

‘Go for it!’, I said to myself. 

‘Be different! Let the people around you think and talk whatever they want. Just dare!’

‘Jump!’ After that I would only have to… live. Free forever – and it would be possible today with just one little decision! Finally… if I would only manage to force myself to make that decision.

Jumping joyfully into the new

The desire to change myself seized me with sheer violence. I decided to go for a walk in the woods. I felt doubtful – filled with shame, depressed and afraid as I went into the forest, but resolved – filled with happiness, confidence and full of drive as I came out again. Do you know the 6th Symphony by BEETHOVEN? What was translated into music here is how I felt – it felt as if my heart made such leaps in the air!

In the evening of that day I talked with my wonderful wife. We were talking about a planned vacation to the Greek island of Corfu with all its enchanting colors, scents, landscapes and people. It was to be expected for us that I would drink every day during the stay – even more than I already did in my everyday life. Courageously, and knowing I would say something completely unexpected, I told her that I was planning to abstain from alcohol for once on this vacation.

She looked at me in surprise and disbelief. Then she smiled. Still a little doubtful and uncertain, but she smiled with an expression of even more cautious, but genuine, happy and with true joy. All at once I knew that I had made the right decision.

📸  Image credit: Daniel Peters – Unsplash

32 Comments

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  • Thanks for sharing – a really brave and inspiring story!

    By Catherine
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing your uplifting story Tom and well done in finding a more desired way to enjoy the later years in life.

    By greg
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    July 31, 2021
  • Love this, thank you

    By Vicki
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Congratulations and thank you for making the time to share this!!! I loved it and could relate to every word.

    By Jen
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Amazing. Thank you for sharing your story of bravely moving forward and away from alcohol. Compelling and inspiring read.

    By Tammy
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • I want to hear more! How did it turn out? Are you still dry?

    By Todd McConnell
    |
    July 31, 2021
    • I had initially resolved to stop drinking for one calendar year – if only to see whether it would work and what life would be like if I stopped drinking altogether. At first I felt like an explorer in a completely unknown, new world and made my uncertain attempts at walking. After about two months I suddenly realized – and this was really sudden – that I was doing so strangely well lately – all in all. Fitness-related. Health-related. Psychologically. I was getting better at my job, becoming a better partner. I rediscovered old, long forgotten interests – and it became more and more fun to be like I used to be (when I still drank lemonade for refreshment… 🙂 ). The sober life was already after a short time for me personally uncatchable ahead! When the year was over, I felt really fit – and fit enough to try another one. The whole thing was over two years ago now;; Regards and thanks, Tom

      By Tom
      |
      August 6, 2021
  • Thank you for being so honest about every aspect of your journey. It’s been very inspiring for me. Thank you again

    By Lisa
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Wonderful story. Life changing and difficult decision as we observe all the social considerations and that treacherous feeling of loss, that is actually a lie. Well done. Thank you for sharing.

    By joanne wilkinson
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Wonderful story!
    I hope you made it to Corfu and had a brilliant time without any alcohol. X

    By Bettina
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • So inspiring, I wanna know more … how did you go ? What unexpected delights of a holiday not drinking bring ? I hope you had a fabulous life changing trip

    By Allie
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Great sobriety story, the social impacts are the hardest I think. And I’ve had to leave friends behind because of it. Well done!

    By Nina
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Tom, your story is exactly my story – in Sydney, and my decision was 22 months ago!
    Like you, no regrets …….life is better on the other side and feels great to dare to be different!

    By Irene Bennett
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Good for you Tom . If someone told me there was a medicine that would make me feel younger , fitter , and more energetic with the plus of also being good for you , of course I would take it . I have found exactly that medicine , and that medicine is by NOT drinking alcohol .

    By David
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Thanks so much for sharing your story. I really enjoying reading these as they help with my resolve to keep going. Im now 425 alcohol free…best decision I have ever made. Yes I’ve lost friends along the way who just cannot understand but I am doing this for me, for my mental and physical health. I feel free and happy at 53.

    By Sooz
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Thank you for sharing your story. It is very inspiring. Well done.

    By Lynne
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • I just did 5 weeks dry July, I didn’t miss hangovers and found more energy. Your story has inspired me to keep going alcohol free.

    By Bry
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • I wish I had the strength and desire to quit drinking. Just haven’t quite got there as I like drinking too much.

    By Shaz
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Thanks Tom. I’m like you, the drinking part, but am focusing hard to be like you, the sober part. Well done.

    By Dave
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Wonderful and inspiring story❤️

    By Helen
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • Lovely story! Thank you for sharing. May your journey of sobriety bring you much joy

    By Cindy
    |
    July 31, 2021
  • What an inspiring share. Thank you for the inspiring post. I hope your trip to Corfu is spectacular.

    By Jessica
    |
    August 1, 2021
  • Brilliant story – thank you for sharing, and it holds a huge amount of parallels with my own journey. 30 years of non-stop drinking for all occasions, and now 5 months into my new found sobriety. The best decision i have ever made.

    By Paul
    |
    August 1, 2021
  • Great story I would love to read that womens story

    By vicki
    |
    August 1, 2021
  • Well done Tom you inspire me. I’ve just agreed with my husband and doctor not to drink for three months. I’ve tried before and somehow this time I feel different about it.

    By Lyn
    |
    August 1, 2021
    • Dear Lyn,

      thanks for your feedback. I had also tried many times to straighten out my dealings with alcohol by taking occasional breaks and interwoven periods of abstinence. For me, it was a never-ending story of attempts and subsequent failure. Most of the time the failure came surprisingly quick and my motivation evaporated like a leaf in the wind within a few days or weeks.

      I thought very, very often about what was actually different for me over two years ago and why it worked this time. I think it was something very new for me to fundamentally question and ultimately reject alcohol as a “friend” or a “help”. I said “no” to alcohol and mercilessly threw it out of my life. I gave him – pardon the phrasing – a “kick in the butt” (I even took a running start and it was huge fun.) I said “No” and rejected drinking all together.

      In contrast, in my earlier attempts, it had been the case that I continued to say “yes” to alcohol. I said “yes” and deep down in my little heart I really wanted to keep drinking – “controlled” of course, more “reasonable” and less. My goal was a kind of “controlled drinking”. And that’s exactly what didn’t work for me – this “yes” on the one hand, and “no” on the other. For me, a fundamental decision was necessary. It was a personal decision. However, this may be a little different for everyone. Stay focussed an find out…;; Regards; Tom

      By Tom
      |
      August 4, 2021
  • Thank you for sharing Tom. How did your trip end up?

    By Focused
    |
    August 2, 2021
    • The trip to Corfu … this week of vacation was different than many before and I really needed a few days to get accustomed to all the new things.

      It was new for me to jump into the sea in the morning on vacation … without a headache. I used the cool water to swim in it with pleasure – and not only to cool my tortured head.

      It was new for me to say goodbye to the alcohol-drinking part of the fellow travelers quite early in the evening and instead of drinking until midnight to go down to the beach with my camera, take photos, play with the sand and the water and sort shells by size and color.

      It was new that I consciously concentrated during the day on the many colors, shapes, smells and so much more around me, which had completely nothing to do with alcohol.

      It was new to order a typical – and delicious! – country cake in a small cafe in the early afternoon – instead of two beers.

      In the aftermath, I wondered how intense and rich in impressions and experiences this vacation week was and how much more beautiful than so many vacation weeks before. I suddenly had the impression that I had already given away quite a lot of life through all the drinking. Drinking seemed for me suddenly to be incredible repetitive…

      I decided to investigate this more closely over the next few months and quite soon I secretly didn’t want to go back to my “old” life. The “new” one just seemed so much more attractive to me… so much life wasted, so many moments given away … I’ve stayed with it – still with a smile – and I’m now at day 841.

      Kind regards…, Tom

      By Tom
      |
      August 14, 2021
      • Well done Tom. I have tried many times to give up and failed. But you have inspired me to give it a real go this time. I gave up smokes nearly four years ago, so now is the time for the alcohol to be out of my life. After reading your story, l have tipped my last four beers out, and am now ready to start my new journey🐣 Lynne

        By Lynne
        |
        August 18, 2021
      • Dear Lynne,

        from today’s perspective I can only encourage you to do this – if you want to.

        For me, it was one of the best decisions of my life to simply let go of all this nonsense of drinking day by day. At first I was – besides all the desire to change – also very afraid of what would happen to my life and to me. Later I saw more and more that there was no real reason to be afraid. This had to do with the many, many very beautiful, important and often very touching new experiences that I had made for myself by not drinking. Of course, there were cherished things, situations or experiences that I had to say goodbye to. Some of them were a pity. But on the other hand I got so many good things in my life that I didn’t want to go back and still don’t want to. Today I am glad that everything came exactly as I was allowed to experience it.

        I wish you much success. In my opinion, it is very important to make sure that your motivation does not diminish over time. This can happen very easily – for me it was so that it became easier for me from month to month. I found it very helpful to look at my life every single day and to ask myself what was more beautiful today than in the times when I was still drinking. Or in other words: Be aware of the new, the good, the beautiful. Pay attention – especially in the beginning – to the many positive things you gain and don’t look too much at the few things you lose. All the best for you, greetings…, Tom

        By Tom
        |
        August 20, 2021
  • Thank you for sharing this inspiring story!

    By Chris
    |
    August 7, 2021
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