Monday, 21 March 2016

Join me on the 90 day challenge...

Nearly 6 years since I started this blog, and who would have guessed in June 2010, that 
I 'd be writing and living in Bangkok, 2016. That's after having being in Johannesburg for 2 years, getting married, graduating from the University of Cumbria (BA Hons) and passing my CELTA, qualifying me to teach English Language.




So, driving on, I've set another goal, inspired by the One Year No Beer campaign. 
I'm taking the 90 day challenge; 90 days without alcohol. This has been gathering steam for years now and I've really psyched myself up for it. 




Since moving here, I've so many friends who don't drink, they'll think it remarkable that I'll find it a challengeI'm not a heavy drinker, never during the day (apart from St Patrick's), but nearly always a few glasses in the evening. A habit formed over years, something I do without thinking and very much part of my culture.

I've had alcohol since I was a child, it's never been something that was hidden in our house, but having said that, neither of my parents were alcoholics or heavy drinkers. Being half Irish, drink was always going to be difficult to avoid as it's somewhat a national pass-time. Find me a town in the world without an Irish Bar, I'll find you a town in Thailand without a Wat. My kids either don't drink or very rarely do, which is a credit to them.

When I joined the army, you couldn't have possibly been a non-drinker. You would have been grouped with the gays and blacks, then socially exterminated! Those were my heaviest drinking years, when getting drunk was something so normal, you couldn't recognise people unless they appeared blurred. There were two main categories...

The violent drinkers: a good friend of mine Dave, referred to it as the 'red mist', which would come down after a certain level of consumption. They couldn't help but pick a fight, and next day, couldn't understand why they had been beaten up, again!
  
The passive drinkers: (Me) First I would start to slur my words, my eyes would go into 'independent control' mode, and I would need to sit down. I couldn't drink over a certain amount as I would be sick, a great safety valve (not always). I would then just fall asleep, regardless of where I was.

Along with children came responsibilities, too many sometimes! Drink became an evening thing, rarely during the day, it was a 'before bedtime' habit that lasted through my entire life, until now! Yes I've had some of the best times of my life with a Guinness in my hand, and I'm not sure if I would change that if I could. Just as smokers congregate around smokers, drinkers are much the same. If you lose your habit, you lose many of your friends, not because they disown you, because you are not doing the same thing any more. Like when you have babies, most of your friends become other parents, because your child-free friends are moving in different circles.

At the age of 62 my Father became allergic to alcohol, so at 60 I thought I might be lucky too. He wrote to me, and talked about how different life had become without drink and how his perception of everything changed as the 'fog lifted'. You can read that letter on my 'family blog'; which brings me to the subject of blogs. 
I was going to start one about my 90 day challenge, but decided not to, because how many blogs can you keep up with? It'd be like having 8 diaries and wanting to start a 9th. THIS is my main blog. I know a lot of it is about prostate cancer, but I never wanted that to be the main theme, it was always about life during, and hopefully after. I have several blogs relating to my degree in Wildlife & Media which I never update now, even one on the 6 Nations rugby which I tried one year and gave up on. I have a 'family blog' which is by subscription to family only and other blogs which are parked until the end of this year. 
So THIS is my one stop blog.

What after 90 days? I simply don't know. My idea is not to become a 'non drinker', it's to not let alcohol rule my every evening and every morning (that feeling). I asked my friend George why he gave up, and he said, "Because I got fed up with feeling that way every morning". That comment was a key moment for me, but he said it 4 years ago.
I rarely eat meat, but I'm not a vegetarian. I don't want a label, but I don't want to have alcohol as a regular partner, thinking I'm missing something if I don't comply. After only 3 days, I feel huge benefits, more alert in the morning (Beverley would disagree), less tired during the day, eating less and spending less.

If you think this might be for you, read on... 

Join (FREE) and look at www.oneyearnobeer.com , it could change your life for the better. You don't have to give up alcohol for a year or become a non-drinker. You can take the 30, 60 or 90 day challenge, just to show yourself how different you could feel without 'the beer'. I chose 90 because many have said you don't feel the full benefit until 4-6 weeks.

My only fear is that because it's such a drastic change to my body chemistry after all these years, that if something happens, like a recurrence of my cancer, or another disease creeps in, the tendency will be to blame my lack of alcohol. I've also read that it can increase my chances of having a stroke, but hey, so can some of the things I see every day in Bangkok.

Read this, from Ruari Fairbairns, co founder of  'One Year No Beer' who was born on The Isle of Mull in Scotland....


In an earlier blog post I explained that I experienced a number of fringe benefits during my 90 days off the sauce. I wanted to explain what I mean by this and also share with you this particular experience. I hope this helps…

When I say “fringe benefit” I mean there were upsides to going dry that I never expected. I had the typical expectations in my head when I started the challenge, such as weight loss, getting better sleep, being less irritable and feeling generally a lot healthier. However, I experienced much more than all this.
The main fringe benefit that I experienced was about anxiety. At the time, work was full on, a lot of travel, presentations, responsibility, blah, blah, blah. We all have a lot going on, I realise that. I won’t bang on about it.
After just a few weeks in of the OYNB challenge, I noticed the change. Firstly, because I was simply better at my job – I was able to focus on work more, I procrastinated less, made decisions quickly and generally worked smarter. Secondly, more importantly, I worried about it all less. Rather than tying myself up in nots about all the little things, I let it go. I was able to pick my battles better rather than always feeling like I was on the back foot.
These advantages were mostly professional at first, but they did have positive affect on my home life because I wasn’t bringing any work crap home with me. I was able to separate my work and home life much better. I played with my kids without having that sense of loathing and anxiety about the impending work day.
So every was rosy. I was happy. Mentally I was chalking up another ‘win’ for me and my little social experiment. Woop!
 But… It seems there is always a ‘but’. In my experience, and I believe other OYNB members agree, there are many bitter/sweet moments with this challenge. There are huge upsides, but sometimes these leave you feeling flat when you realise how bad the situation had become. It dawned on me that I had never before had any problems with anxiety, ever! I didn’t even notice when this one crept up on me. In fact, I still considered myself to be a laid back guy, like a teenager. One of my late Step-Father’s friends once gave me the moniker “the white Jamaican” because of my over-use of the phrase “no worries” (He was Jamaican. I took it as complement). So what had happened to me? How long had I been like this? It seemed to me to be dramatic shift from my core personality.
I felt like Edward Norton in Fight Club, that moment when he realised he had been leading a double life with an alternate persona.
Now, I can’t in good conscience tell that the blame lies squarely with alcohol. I am not na├»ve, there are many influences to anxiety and I don’t need a scapegoat for my own behaviour which was also to blame here. Sometimes daily life, both personal and work, beats you up a bit. I will admit that, on occasion, I had a few drinks to deal with it. Never a lot, less than a bottle of wine each time. I wasn’t drinking until I blocked it out or anything nefarious like that, it was just a few drinks. I was/still am just a moderate drinker. Which is why I was so surprised when I realised I had anxiety. I came to the conclusion that this must have happened over a long period of time, but ultimately the combination of life and alcohol has my changed my personality.
This was a big wake-up call for me. I wanted to find my inner teenager again. Do the things that I held true to be my core personality. Of course this had to be a measured response. I have two kids so I wasn’t skipping off to a rock concert anytime soon. However, I found that even small steps that I took to regain my personality feel like giant leaps forward.


An earlier post from Ruari....


addict (noun): "to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively"
I find it interesting / convenient the word 'addict' is more commonly associated with drug taking than alcohol consumption. Why is that? I will tell you why, it's because we don't like to share any commonality with this group of social outcasts. We all like a drink, so bringing up addiction and alcohol is too close to home for most of us. Statistically, at least one person in your close social group will consume more than the recommended average. More than 9 million people in England drink more than the recommended guidelines - that is 1 in 5 people. How is it possible for this to be the social norm? 
We live in a time where people are more self aware and health conscious than ever before. So why is it so hard to stop doing something that's killing you?
x
Taking a look at the NHS guidelines it is easy to see where the problem is. The NHS say we should consume no more than 1 pint of (strong) beer / 1 standard glass of wine (which is small by today's standards) a day, or 7 a week. For many of us, who clock up a week's worth of units in one sitting, this is so far away from reality it becomes easy to dismiss as unrealistic, or out of touch with today's society. 
Let's talk about our illustrious society for a moment and you can draw your own conclusions about how alcohol has a strangle grip on everything we do: 
  1. Alcohol companies have been advertising to you since you were old enough to drink, earlier probably. 
  2. Almost every social gathering is deeply associated with drinking. Well, it would be rude not to bring a bottle wouldn't it? 
  3. Christmas, although originally a religious holiday, must be the biggest season for booze companies. Everyone suddenly wants a 'Christmas drink"
  4. There is almost no alternative. Imagine yourself in most bars, your choice of non-alcoholic drinks are water, coke, lemonade or fruit juice - or even a granny style tea or coffee. That's it. It's a f@#ing joke. There is more choice between the dusty bottles of champagne behind the bar. 
So there it is, we are destined to fail. We have all, every single one of us, been tee-total at some point, either the designated driver, on medication, or maybe mandated by a significant other. It is no wonder why this was the most sinfully boring experience. 
It is time for change. We are the rise of the Tee-total Socialites, It is time to listen to our bodies, and not the strange societal conventions we are now accustomed to. It's time to stop associating sober with boring.

Follow these 5 hacks to survive a sober stint: 
  • Don't be a Hermit - so many people fail giving up alcohol because they change their very natural requirement - being sociable. So just do it differently. Take up a new sport, go hiking or, mountain biking on Saturday mornings, try a spin class, juice bar crawl. Everywhere you will meet people on the same journey
  • Build your Stats - Everyone says, I stopped drinking and I felt better. What does that mean? Go get your body composition done, track your sleep, take the online NHS wellbeing test, weigh yourself - then do it again after you've given up for 90 days and show people in hard FACTS... this is how much better I felt.
  • Replace the Booze Go to www.alcoholfree.co.uk and order a mixed case of beers - dump the old ones and restock your fridge. So when the neighbours come round for a bbq you will be holding a bottle and they will barely notice. Plus you get all the psychology of drinking, and none of the hangover. AWESOME!
  • Why are you not drinking? - At some point someone is going to ask you.. why are you not drinking? It's not a time for weakness - you need a well prepared answer that hits back. "Are you kidding me.. kids + hangovers don't mix" "I've entered the London marathon and I want a sub 5hrs" "I'm doing a year off and I'm on day 57" etc. 
  • Find people just like you - You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Are you a booze fiend? or a healthy, happy, loving caring individual? Join a club / community / sport and get among others like you.
These are just some of the hacks that we have an abundance of in our new challenge One Year No Beer. Whether giving up for a month, 3 months or a year - we have a thriving community to support you and tons of tools to make it easy.   

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