Today marks ten years to the day since I had my last drink of alcohol. That’s 3,654 days without a drink, or 87,696 hours, or 5,261,760 minutes. If you can’t live without a drink, you know how big those numbers are. I quit cold turkey on September 30, 2007. Most people can’t do that and it’s much harder for them. I was lucky that I could simply turn it off – but I had gotten to a point where if I didn’t turn it off, I might not have lived to write this post.
I tried Alcoholics Anonymous and an addiction therapy group for about six months after I quit, and for me they just didn’t feel right. I joined a men’s therapy group and spent over six years working on my demons and just normal issues to help make myself as whole as possible. You don’t have to use groups like this to get off the sauce, but for many people they can be great anchors.
It amazed me how much of my personal growth had been stunted by my alcohol abuse. I had moored myself in the age where I really got going with my drinking. The literature backs this up – many drunks stop maturing in their thoughts and actions once the booze takes over their lives. I was what many people call a “functional alcoholic”. I did my job – and not so badly – but when I got home, I had to have a drink. Over the years, I needed to drink more and more to make myself feel what I though of as “good”. The bottles became better friends to me than my actual friends, or even my wife.
When I first stopped drinking, it amazed me how embedded drinking is in our culture. Some of that embedding is simply about enjoying life to its fullest (think a French country meal without a nice glass of the local red), but far more often here in the USA, it’s about partying and going crazy. (If you’re doing a lot of the latter, you might want to think about your relationship with alcohol.) In many ways, we’re taught that alcohol = fun. Without drinking, we’re missing out.
After I quit, it amazed me:
- That going out with friends was actually more fun in many ways
- How good I could feel waking up in the morning
- How much more time there was in the day – drinking is a time consuming job
- How I no longer wrestled with my “oh, I could quit anytime if I wanted to” nonsense discussions with myself
This isn’t just a self-congratulatory post, though. (I admit – it does feel pretty good!) I want to help anyone I know out there who feels like they may have a problem. Addictions are crazy things; when we are in the middle of them, we can’t see them – once we stop, it’s like a grey cloud has been lifted.
I’m not here to preach to anyone about their own choices. For me, stopping my drinking was – I believe – a matter of life or death. But it doesn’t have to be that serious for it to be a good decision for you. Alcohol cheated me out of many good years, and probably many good relationships. When you’re a drinker, you don’t tend to blame the alcohol or yourself – you blame others.
In the last ten years, I:
- Started my own successful business
- Wrote an open source library used by thousands of people around the world – SPServices
- Became a Microsoft MVP for SharePoint
- Traveled the globe speaking about SharePoint, collaboration, and knowledge management – all my passions
- Regained the love of my wife (despite all my other failings)
- Tried to be the best Father I can be to our awesome son Calder (aka “The Dude)
- Took back control of my life
Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed so much of that time. (Into every life some rain must fall.) For many years, I had thought I needed the booze to keep me grounded and happy. The image I had in my head was of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol. I don’t know why it was that image, but it stuck with me for years. Without the booze, I’d no longer be grounded, plus the booze was a burden I deserved. By casting off my alcohol-laden Jacob Marley chains, I have felt lighter, and breathed more clearly than I did in the time I was drinking.
Now that I look back at that thinking, I can’t believe it made any sense to me. I consider myself reasonably intelligent, yet I was able to convince myself of the value of a way of life which was totally not what I thought. That’s the insidious nature of a substance like alcohol – it rearranges the way your mind works so that you can make sense of your own behavior.
If you ever want to have a conversation with me about what my journey was like, I’m here. No one should go through the suffering addition causes without an opportunity to make big changes. But the only person who can make those changes is you. Oddly, there’s little stigma to drinking, yet considerable stigma to being an alcoholic, even if you can quit. I’m here to tell you that any amount of stigma is worth it to live the full and happy life you deserve, despite yourself.
Thank you to everyone who has been with me on this grand journey. I’m not going to list names, but many people in my life have been important parts of what amounts to my rebirth. I also want to thank all of the people who read this blog, because your thanks and knowing I’m helping some of you do better things with the technology I love to work with give me sustenance every day. If you’ve made it all the way to this point, thanks for spending a little time with me on what is – for me – an important day.
Next time you see me, let’s raise a glass of club soda together. And m. and C. – I’m here for you.