I had always planned to write about my experiences (or lack of) while going through the Dry18 challenge. I’d have a bit more time on my hands, so decided early on to keep a journal along the way! Initially, it was for my eyes only. When I put together the first 100 days piece, it was more for me than anyone else. I very nearly didn’t post it at all. I always tend to have that internal battle, the voice inside the head shouting at me, providing me with many reasons not to. I experienced the same sense of resistance before releasing podcasts or videos too sometimes. But, I can’t let that stop me, and I’m glad I didn’t again with that piece.
The response from it was, and still is, very positive. It’s always nice to hear from friends that it connected with. It’s also nice to hear from people you don’t know that it resonated with too. In many ways, that’ even more powerful. So, when Maddy Lawson, from Alcohol Concern UK got in touch, to say the article was something they’d like to share, I was delighted. It made it all worthwhile. Even better, Maddy asked if me I’d be interested in putting out a series of posts over the rest of the year on the Dry18 adventure. I was delighted to oblige. She suggested that I start with one that gives a bit more detail on my backstory and why give up alcohol at all. So, I put together the following piece to give some context on my ‘why’. I hope you enjoy it.
My relationship with alcohol has been what you might call quintessentially Irish in nature. I don’t drink Guinness (often), but ‘the drink’ has been part of my life for a long time.
I think I had my first drink at the age of 16. The guilt of breaking my confirmation pledge still sometimes floats into my mind (and has just now as I write this). For the first year, it was the occasional alcopop on a Saturday night (didn’t like the taste of anything else). Then one night, that all changed. I was introduced to whiskey. That was the first night that I got ‘drunk’.
For the following 23 or so years, alcohol has always been a part of my life – sometimes a big part. Too big. It was a prominent feature during my college nights (and sometimes mornings) in Galway. Throughout the rest of my twenties nights out, weddings, holidays, and any other social occasion always had a ‘session’ at the epicentre. Even sporting activities, like playing for my local football team, where you’d think getting and keeping fit was the main objective, had booze as a key component. We would often celebrate victories (and defeats) after the match on the Saturday, often into the Sunday, and I seem to recall a couple of Mondays too. Hardcore.
Somehow, I was able to juggle a busy work life with the busier social life and, for the vast majority of the time, I kept the show on the road.
While all this was ‘only a bit of fun’, the pain of the recovery after a heavy weekend, where I may not feel 100% again until Wednesday or Thursday, was outweighing the fun. That was a sign, but one that I mostly chose to ignore until I hit my thirties. I didn’t have the self-awareness to realise, or maybe the confidence to make the change.
Then in 2008, I did. Job cuts where I worked, with the Big Crash looming, gave me an opportunity to leave with a few €uros in my pocket. I hit reboot, moving jobs and cities. My relationship with alcohol started to change too. Sure, they say don’t run away from your challenges, but sometimes a change of environment does help. And it did for me.
Flash forward to 2017. I’d been living in Cork nine great years. I had settled in great with the city, the people and the culture. Work was fulfilling and I was in good place. I had made a lot of positive adjustments in my life, running half marathons, cycling and eating better. Developing a practice for Meditation was a big deal for me too. Lots more on that on the blog page.
Over the years, my relationship with drinking had softened but never completely stopped. There were still a few occasions each year when I’d drink far too much, and I’d feel demotivated and down for a few days as a result. As someone who loves to get the most of my time outside of work, being hungover on a Sunday had a double negative impact on my mood; not only was I feeling like crap as a result of the booze, I was missing out on getting good stuff done in my time off!
I had often contemplated going off drink 100%, but never been able to commit. But as my own life was getting busier, I just had no time for or interest in spending any time with a hangover. Developing Type 1 Diabetes at 35 was an additional wake-up call. I had a lot of incentives to make me want to quit. I just needed do some experimenting.
First up was Dry January in 2017. That was a relative breeze. I came through with flying colours. I learned that going dry wasn’t so bad – the opposite in fact.
Then, on the weekend of my 40thbirthday in November 2017, despite great fun and celebrations, I knew there was gloom and doom lurking around the corner. After two days/nights ‘enjoying’ myself, I felt like enough was enough. As we wrapped up the Sunday night, my friend Richie and I started to pick into the ridiculousness of our boozing and how it would impact our mood for the next few days. Richie started to explain how he heard a guy on the radio the week before detailing how he had given up drink two years earlier.
So, as this conversation developed, both Richie and I started to play with the idea of going off drink. Before we knew it, the idea of a Dry18 was born. Both of us are pretty stubborn so when we make a commitment, we tend to stick with it. We added in some financial incentives that a charity would gain from if either of us were to break. The bet, even though made after numerous pints, gave me a lift.
And so it came to be, that, at midnight on 31 December 2017, Dry 18 officially came into being. It felt right. I like to set goals at the start of every year and try to make them SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. This one had all of these ingredients (even if my friends and family questioned the ‘achievable’ part). Plus I had a big incentive: zero days wasted in 2018 as a result of a hangover.
While the goal was exciting, I was under no illusion that it would be easy. Jumping from 31 days in January to 365 days is a bit of a leap. But I wanted the challenge and knew it would be the perfect year to try this out. With huge optimism, and a clear plan of attack for the year in place, I was ready for 2018. Time to walk the walk.
The article is posted on the Alcohol Concern blog page also here.
Rob is a qualified Executive Coach. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. Rob is currently a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland.
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