Close up of Jo wearing a navy blue woollen polo neck jumper against a teal blue sofa and smiling at the camera. One hand is raised in a little wave.

The time I stopped drinking

I've just woken up on a cold, bright weekend morning. The sun is poking its head above the trees at the bottom of the garden and is starting to shine directly through my study window and into my eyes. There is a carpet of grass laid out in front of me, sparkling with dew.

The word that springs to mind is "clarity".

Everything is fresh. The light is bright and the volume on the morning bird-song is right up. I am alert and tuned in to all of this in a way that I wouldn't have been back in my drinking days. I can see and hear everything in high definition.

Eight o'clock in the morning and the clarity of the day outside is mirrored in my mind. I am full of energy and purpose and raring to go. I have a plan for the day and am feeling excited by it. I want to get stuck in and get things done.

This is not how I used to feel on weekend mornings when I was drinking.

Although it's a struggle for me to remember how it was for me when I was drinking because I'm so far removed from it now, I can remember that my mouth, my breath, my mind, and sometimes my body were hot with stale alcohol on weekend mornings. I can remember that I was as far from "raring to go" as someone can get. That I was infused with fear rather than energy. That I was scared to wake up and talk to my partner for fear of what I would find out about what I had done the night before.

This week someone asked me when it was that I decided to stop drinking. And I tried to remember the specific point when I made that decision. I say "tried" because I couldn't really remember a definitive single point in time. There had been several - I had tried several times before I actually did it.

I remember one of those times really clearly. It was another weekend morning several years' ago, where I woke up clear-headed and full of optimism, having determinedly not drunk anything the night before. It was a Sunday, it was very quiet and peaceful and I went for a walk on my own through a sunny spring morning in the countryside, enjoying the beauty of the nature around me.

Hangover-free for once.

As I walked, I was rewarded by the appearance of lots of animals (I love animals and nature). I came across riders on their big and beautiful horses; I passed fields of sheep and I even saw hawks and buzzards wheeling around in the sky above me.

I was so intent on appreciating the loveliness of the moment that I even saw beauty in the crazy rainbow-like colours on the flies crawling all over the sheep poo in the field I sat in to have my packed lunch. I was full of hope and positivity. I was almost tearful with the beauty and the hope of it all. I could imagine my future without alcohol. We were about to move house and location and I could picture clearly starting a new life, a new career and making it work. I felt certain that this was it. This was the end of my relationship with alcohol.

I think it lasted a week.

This sunny morning walk with the nature, the wildlife, the jewel-like flies on the sheep dung, the positivity, the certainty and the hope was a weekend blip in an otherwise alcohol-laden year. It was like today's sun poking above the trees ahead of me and then sinking back down again.

However, that brief glimpse of sun that day, that positivity - that experience of the beauty of a sober morning walk in nature - that imagined future and that hope rooted in me somewhere. And, when the time was right, it gave me the motivation, the experience, the knowledge and the strength I needed to stop for good.

Although I can't remember the exact moment I took my last drink and decided to stop, what I do remember is noticing and marking a change in my identity. I went from being someone with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol to a non-drinker. It was like a switch in my head that went from one to the other. It was as simple as that. It was a belief that took root.

I knew from the moment I had decided it that I was now a non-drinker.

And, because I knew I had the tools to make it happen, there was no doubt and no uncertainty. I was totally confident in my ability to do it.

I think this moment came from practice. It came from all the times I had decided to stop and then started again. I learnt from all of those experiences. It came from fear. Fear of what would happen if I carried on. It came from all the reminders I’d had to give myself about why I’d decided to stop – all those times when I’d needed the pain of the hangovers to remind me how bad I felt when I was drinking. And, it came from a desire to create a different future for myself and to carry on living.

Looking back from where I am now, as I’m writing this and thinking about it, I can see that everything I imagined on that sunny Sunday morning walk has happened. By imagining a future of hope, positivity and fulfilment, I have created it. I’m now living the life I dreamed about that day. It doesn’t matter that it didn’t happen straightaway, it matters that I made it happen by bringing what I imagined to life.

You have to start with imagination.

It’s a powerful tool. When you imagine the future you want, you’re telling your unconscious mind that it’s possible. And when something becomes possible you can make it happen. The more you focus on what you want, the more attention you give to it, the more detail you give it, the more real you make it. To feel positive and motivated, you have to have hope. You have to believe it's possible and you can do this by imagining all the different ways your life is infinitely better when you're living it sober...


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