The end of an era – the moment I decided to quit drinking alcohol
I decided to try and give alcohol away after landing in Kununurra hospital with alcohol-related pancreatitis. Pancreatitis, by the way, is no party trick! I couldn’t lift my head up without throwing up and I’d thrown everything there was to chunder. After 10 days I sort of walked out of hospital, but I had a distinct wobble towards the left that took quite a bit of exercise and practice to overcome. I had done some brain damage in my enthusiasm for upholding the creed of the north… drink until you drop!
I was so sick it wasn’t hard to give up after getting out of hospital. The drug and alcohol people had come to talk with me while I was taking up a hospital bed so I decided quit drinking alcohol – it was time to do something about my drinking. My drinking problem had progressively grown and shrunk over the years. I used to kid myself that I was a “functioning alcoholic” sometimes. But that viewpoint would morph into outright denial under pressure from friends or ex-lovers. Now after having blood pressure off the charts and feeling the devastation that only serious illness can bring, I was finally ready to change.
I had lingering thought
in the back of my mind;
‘one day when I'm a bit older
I'll be able to drink in moderation.’
I cajoled a mate into co-founding a local branch of AA after reading up on that organisation and resonating with it. We did get the branch up and running but soon my work took me away from town into the bush. That was in 2004 and for 5 years I stayed off the turps. But I always had this lingering thought in the back of my mind that ‘one day when I’m a bit older I’ll be able to drink in moderation.’ This was a dangerous ambition to house, but I just could not bring myself to believe or even to say that I would never drink again.
The sudden impulse
After 5 years of quit drinking alcohol and enjoyment of good health, a clear mind and stable relationships with those around me, the idiocy of that inner belief in ‘time heals all ills’ came back to haunt me. I was in Darwin and went to an Asian restaurant for a curry… it was a beautiful beef curry. In fact, this curry was so good one thought took over my mind… a glass of red wine would make this curry complete.
Surely one glass wouldn’t be a big problem, after all I’d handled not drinking for 5 years without any hiccups. I knew how to control the ‘urge’. So, I ordered a house wine from the waitress and yessss – it was so good and went so well with the curry that I was feeling on top of the world. I only drank that one glass of red that night and I walked back to my motel feeling very happy with myself. All was well… I had faced the dreaded alcohol and had come away on top of the encounter.
The next day I ruminated on this momentous occasion and came to the conclusion that maybe, after 5 long years of quit drinking alcohol, I was ready to ‘drink responsibly’ but I wasn’t tempted to follow up at all. Then later in the day, I was walking past the busy bars on Mitchell Street on my way back to the motel and stared for a while at the crowds of happy, boisterous drinkers. I thought to myself, ‘look at all that mob, I would’ve been right in there once upon a time. But I can’t enjoy life with them because I have this ‘illness’ that stops me from drinking’. This made me feel very alone and very unhappy for a moment. I should have known that thought was my old enemy, my mind is setting me up, but I let it pass.
That glass of red wine
was the beginning of
a 4-year binge of ups, downs
and almighty stuff-ups
Then I remembered my strength in the face of that glass of red wine and I walked back to my room full of strength again. The following day the nagging sadness returned, and I decided I was ready to give 1 or 2 beers a try. I wasn’t really a wine drinker. I was a beer drinker from my teens onwards and this would be the real test. That first time I only had 2 beers but that was enough to make me a bit tiddly after 5 years. Yet, I was still proud of myself that I got up and left the bar before getting drunk.
Back to where I started
Long story short, within 3 months I was drinking as much – if not more than I had been drinking 5 years before. That glass of red wine was the beginning of a 4-year binge of ups, downs and almighty stuff-ups. I won’t bother to go into those 4 years, but my mind found all sorts of rationalisations and ‘reasons’ for my return to the drinking life. Eventually I wound up back in Kununurra hospital on a deja vu visit.
It wasn’t pancreatitis this time it was sheer alcohol abuse. I was 60 kgs (from a normal 75-80 kgs) and so weak I could only walk about 5 meters before I had to sit down on the ground and catch my breath. I was out bush, as before, and I had to fly into town, as before, to get to hospital. A mate met me at the airport and drove me to the emergency door… I took a last swig of my disguised orange juice bottle, laced with Bundaberg Rum as I walked through the door and binned it just inside.
When I reported to the nurse, they were expecting me and straight away I was hurriedly shuffled back into the emergency observation room for the expected withdrawals. The Indian doctor who scored my case noticed I had a couple of books on Buddhism with me and was delighted as a Hindu to have a conversation with me. Hindus are very open-minded and accepting of other creeds. He also informed me that my “liver was going to leave me”. He said the enzyme count that should have been between 30 and 50 was over 4000… the highest he’d ever seen or heard of. He solemnly told me that cirrhosis of the liver was very probable, but we would wait and see.
A second chance
After 5 days in hospital my doctor friend came in excitedly telling me, ‘Mr CB, your liver loves you.’ I was equally excited and asked if the count was back to normal at which he pronounced, ‘no it wasn’t.’ It was 2000 but heading in the right direction. The drug and alcohol worker came to see me. She was very concerned and very compassionate so I decided that this time had come again but I couldn’t do this on my own this time. I needed more tools in my toolbox to handle it this time.
The lovely lady booked me onto the waiting lists for 3 different rehab facilities in Perth. There were heaps of people needing rehab as it turned out, so I would have to wait. I waited 2 months with no answer from any of the 3 facilities. I was in fact writing an email to accept a job offer from a well-meaning acquaintance. He had said to me that I had beaten it for 5 years once before and I should just come back to work and do it again. He and his staff would support me.
This was a very generous offer, and I was totally thankful, but I knew deep down that I really needed those extra tools to beat this ‘thing’. I did not want to go another 5 years just to bust again and have to go through the same old same old all over again. But with no word from any of the rehabs and the job demands coming up I was at the point of accepting the offer. But, thankfully, before I had finished penning the email, I got a phone call from the Salvos Bridge Program people wanting to know if I still wanted a bed in their rehab facility. I immediately jumped at it and within a week I had flown into Kununurra and on to Perth.
Long story short once again, the 4-month program that the Salvation Army advertise turned into 6 of the best spent months I’d spent in 40 years. I was 60 then. I could write a book on that brilliant experience, and I wish I’d done it 20 years before. But I’ll skip the details of that great journey only to say that it gave me not only the tools but allowed me the time to turn a very important corner. I was the oldest patient in the place and just about all the other people there were dependent on ice or heroin or multi-drug sufferers.
If you've tried and fallen off the waggon,
just jump right back on.
It's not a failure,
it's just another step in the process.
A week before I left rehab, I had an epiphany. I literally felt like my brain had moved in my skull and a great weight had disappeared magically off my shoulders. The counsellors had all said that I would know when it was time to leave the facility. And they were right. But I didn’t expect the absolute revelation that came with that knowledge. I knew I didn’t need or want to drink again.
Quit drinking alcohol for good
I ‘knew’ deep down that I didn’t want to touch alcohol again as long as I lived, and I could openly and honestly say it! I’m now 69 and after 8 years of sobriety, going 9 in November, I still can say very loudly I will never drink alcohol again.
If I could say one or two things to anyone who thinks that this battle is just too hard, I’d say if you’ve tried and fallen off the waggon, just jump right back on. It’s not a failure, it’s just another step in the process. Think long term! Never underestimate that niggling mind burst OR that one glass of wine. Or maybe you just need to go through a bit more before you’re ready. I suffered badly with clinical depression along with the alcohol dependency and both conditions disappeared when I got determined and really concentrated on my recovery program and accepted the help that was offered.
If a weak-willed idiot like me can achieve this goal, absolutely anyone can. You won’t do it alone, but you can do it if you get fair dinkum and accept help. Then don’t ever be distracted by other peoples’ problems or programs. Just put your head down and you’re harden up and concentrate on your own program and do it till it works.
You’ll know when you’ve done what you need to do!
Oh, and start to love yourself. Yes, with all your foibles and warts. just love yourself… because your mum loves you, she can’t be wrong.
Just do it, it’ll be the best thing you’ve done in your life. Just do it! A brilliant life full of colours, flavours and freedoms awaits everyone who persists. I can say that ‘for sure’ because I’m there 🤗 🙏 ❤
44 CommentsAdd a comment
Wonderful honest story. Very inspirational. This will help a lot of people. Many thanks and very, very well done mate.
Thank you soooo much for that beautiful, honest story of your life. It gives me so much hope!
Such an inspiring story and a great read. Congratulations for putting yourself first and respecting yourself. Thankyou for sharing your bumpy journey 🙏😊
Heartened by your words that a failure/blip is “just another step in the process”. Feel strengthened and self-forgiven to try again x
Absolutely inspiring CB.
Good for you, well done! As a mum and another person who’s alcohol free and glad of it, may I say I’m proud of you!
You wrote of your final time in rehab that you will “skip the details of that great journey only to say that it gave me not only the tools but allowed me the time to turn a very important corner.” This is the very stuff that people on here often want to read! What are those tools? What enabled the shift?
Lots of the stories I read on here follow an arc ( I dont read them all, asmittedly): I was a drunk, I struggled to stop, eventually I did, it is great, and now I am X years sober.
That is wonderful and inspiring, but it is the “how you get there” that matters to many readers, not where you are. If that makes sense. Like, what is the roadmap, to oversimplify? I hope you and others will write more on the tools.
Well done, I will show this to my brother in law who has fallen back again at 59. All the best
Brilliant story. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on your sobriety 👍🏽😎
Thanks for sharing CB. Coming up to my 3 month mark (I know, nowhere near your achievements), and I remain very worried about the very thing that you’ve described here, so needed to read this today.
Beautifully written, please write that book! Admirable journey and one definitely to share. Thank you. I needed the reminder to not underestimate those niggles that arise now and then. I’m loving my life of peace and consistency.
Thank you!…your words of inspiration mean so much to me right now.
What a great story you have shared. Good explanation of how just that one drink can cause trouble down the track. You think you’re ok because you can take it or leave it . But it opens the door to trouble , and even if you dont walk through straight away, youre always aware in the back of your mind that alcohol is an option again, an easy solution if you’re feeling discomfort or wanting a lift. It gets you later on ..
Ripper yarn mate! Glad it all worked out for you
What a remarkable story, love the true blue Aussie story rather than an edited “social media” recount, feel this story recount will resonate with many and help strengthen their belief in their own sober journey!
That’s an excellent story. Very motivating. Good on you !!
What an inspirational message.
Thank you so very much for your awesome truth.
At 65 and 2 months sober I feel your story.
Your words have helped more than you could know.
Great story. One thing I would add is that you must find THE RIGHT help for you. It’s never one size fits all. I read a dozen books, had semi successful CBT, prescriptions for every suspected helpful medication, but it was only when I found HSM, found the daybreak app, found the right books, the right therapy (for me the 30 day alcohol experiment) did it all make sense. No secretive shameful cold church halls with chain smokers and Nescafé, just a sensible smart approach.
Nearly 3 years now form 100 plus drinks a week 🙂
Hello Peter. Loved your post . Where do I find the 30 day experiment please? I need help.🙏🏻
Annie Grace – This Naked Mind
Well done, fantastic!!! You have certainly inspired me to stay alcohol free! Thank you for sharing your story 😁
I can so much resonate with this wonderful story and am 65. I too had a long period of sobriety then have been drinking again under the guise of moderation (grey area drinking). I do however crave the peace, clarity and stabity of sobriety again and this story encourages me to do so. Thank you CB
Mate, well done ! I’m in my 6th sober year,and I sometimes,not often,have that niggling thought of enjoying a beer like the “normal” people. This is a great reminder to put that thought in the bin, thanks,and best wishes to you.
Well done CB! I loved your story, not just for your remarkable recovery but also your writing. What a gift … I look forward to reading the book you’re going to write one day.
Agreed! What a touching and beautifully written story. I’d love to read the book!
A great read – just right for this morning of reflection and joy in being 5 years sober and knowing the risks I can take – thinking that I can ‘drink normally!’
Thank you CB
I really enjoyed reading your journey thank you for sharing.
I’m 10 months sober on 31 August. It is a challenge but I know if I touch a drink again I won’t be here. That’s what keeps me going on the sober journey.
I’m nearing 3 years AF, and it does some times cross my mind whether there will come a time when I want to drink again…..
Reading your story really resounded on how quickly it can bring you down again, and reinforced that diverting off the sober trail can put you back to square one, and I can say with confidence “no thanks” to that!
Thank you for sharing your story to help others, it does work. Wishing you all the best in living your best life alcohol free!
You are an impressive individual.
Well done CB
Such an inspiring story, hats off to you CB.
You bloody legend mate. Love this whole story but especially the final few paragraphs – brought a tear to my. Thanks mate and all the best to you and everyone
Wow what an achievement and beautifully told. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for your amazing story it really helps me ❤️❤️❤️✊✊✊
You are a remarkable human being. What a teacher. I really needed to hear/ read about your journey. As I am 56 — had time away from booze for 13 years, started again and dug a hole so deep, I thought I would never come out of again. Your story has just come at the right time, as I was thinking maybe now that I am older, I could have a couple. How destructive is addiction and how cunning and self sabotaging Addiction is. CB you are a life safer and thank you so much. I wish you the best life possible, as you certainly deserve it.
Thanks same applies to me, for what ever you written. Thanks CB.
Your story spoke to me directly CB – I was told a long time ago it’s not about how much you drink but how you drink. Today is my 65th life day and I’m still battling – I’ve had periods of sobriety but always return to drinking. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thanks for sharing CB! I’m nearly 60, you’ve given my on and off again fight with the booze a well needed boost and I know my Mum will thank you; she asked me how I was going with it only last night, I know she worries, though she never pushes, just checks in quietly now and again. 🙏
Thank you for sharing your experience. I also have that thought… that one day I can drink again. Yet reading your account gives me much pause. … Why even think that?!?!? I need to continue on a sober path and not waste energy on thinking about alcohol. Thank you! Lorie
Thanks for sharing your story CB. You are so right – it is an absolute freedom to escape the pull of alcohol. Hard to do, but so very worthwhile! I too declare loudly (and proudly) that I’ll never drink again.
Inspiring! Thanks CB
I’ve got my fingers crossed,but after reading this I’m feeling extra positive.
Thanks for the insight
A great story CB and good on you. It sure resonates with me. Living up in the North West of WA, where drinking is just part of the lifestyle. I gave up for 10 years whilst I lived there, raising a young family. NO toolbox, very few books on giving up alcohol then, no fancy mocktails/or non alcoholic drinks. Thought it was all behind me. Daughter turned 18, what the hell… once glass of bubbles won’t kill me. The first drink after 10 years was disgusting, however 3 months down the track…. mmm… let’s try that again. Now, over the past 5 years, my drinking has increased again!! Weeks of not having any and then back to it. Drives me nuts, if I gave up for 10 years before, why am I struggling now. ??? Thank you for posting . Lorraine.
Thank you so much for your story it’s inspired me so so much 47 otherwise my dad at 72 alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver by drinking wine everyday after my parents separated on a messy of fair that he had and I struggle every day at the moment and drink wine everyday just like he did and I’ve been in and out of rehabs so I’ll do it again Northern Beaches hospital Sydney Australia but here is story like yours that’s just yeah helped me today cos I’m sick of tired feeling sick and tired but to read stories like this just makes you think well there is help out there for us and it’s just an illness it’s a disease and it’s been my family luckily not off my mum but my dad my dad other people that have had traumatic things happen and all recent friends partner killed himself being in and out of really happened just couldn’t give up the demon so thank you I really needed to read this story today and I’ll help myself and go back into rehab yeah look after my liver thank you