Masculinity and alcohol consumption are often intrinsically linked. Though society is progressing, many men feel inhibited when it comes to expressing emotion. Drinking, for all its foibles, offers a fast, and reliable, gateway to fun, self-expression and communication. But as we become more aware of the perils of drinking (cancers, liver and heart disease, anxiety and depression through to lethargy and gout), a growing number of men are waving goodbye to their alcohol-fuelled lifestyles in favour of sobriety.
Here we have the perspectives of five men who have all opted for a booze-free life, and their advice for anyone considering doing the same.
Roger Ajogbe is a senior event manager from east London. Upon discovering a ‘post-party’ amount of bottles in his recycling he realised his reliance on alcohol had become habitual.
“Going sober changed my social circle. I stopped hanging out with work friends as they'd start talking about drinking at noon. I wanted to be free of drinking but it was too much of a way of life for them,” he says.
Roger’s advice for going sober: self-kindness “Be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up for backsliding but stay away from scenarios where drinking is likely to occur for three months at least. Particularly if you have issues with discipline.”
William Gordon is a sales director based in Leeds. He had been a self-proclaimed ‘all or nothing’ drinker since his teens “One drink was too many and a thousand wasn't enough”.
“Stopping suddenly left quite a whole in my life. The actual stopping bit was relatively easy, it was working out what I was going to do with the time I had just "bought" by giving up the drink,” says Will.
William’s advice for going sober: be prepared “Have a plan and stick to it. Be prepared for the fact that everyone will have a view on it. Steel yourself for the ‘I knew you were an alcoholic’, ‘but you can handle the drink, you just need to drink less’ brigade. Everyone’s an expert so have a strategy.
Hanish Gajjar runs his own yoga and breathwork practice and lives in north London. He found drinking was becoming less and less enjoyable, scuppering his professional and personal progress.
“I was losing days and felt like I was trailing behind my fellow workmates, but I only realised it was a problem when I’d quit, and looked back at my life.” He reveals “During my drinking days I would say I was in full control by being completely out of control”.
Hanish’s advice for going sober: find your tribe “My advice is to surround yourself with people that are on the same path. I recommend yoga or meditation, which allows you to become present, encourages your nervous system to slow down and inspires you to want to be happier and more compassionate to your needs.”
Rob Yates is a teacher based in Doncaster. He started drinking at 13 and found that his drinking got worse when he had children, drinking at home where there were no limits.
“On a weekend when it hit 12 I would start drinking and carry on until I fell asleep,” Rob says. “I always tried dry January or Sober October but I could never get past a few weeks. More problematic was that, after each failed attempt I seemed to drink more with a vengeance, maybe making up for lost time or succumbing to my fate of being controlled by alcohol forever.”
Rob’s advice for going sober: treat yourself “When you go sober you will go sugar mental - I drank a can of coke and had at least one Dairy Milk bar every evening for the first year! Don’t fight the sugar cravings. It is not worth the fight or extra stress,” he says. “Stock up on fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolate and never feel guilty about eating them. Fight your sugar battle another day.”
Fred Ehresmann is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Children, Young People and Family Mental Health and part-time lecturer in Mental Health based in Bristol. He realised he had a problem when a neighbour commented on his recycling, saying, ‘Must have been some party’. The empties were all Fred’s.
“I went to see my GP because I wasn't feeling great,” he says. “She told me if I carried on drinking at the rate that I was, then the damage to my liver that I'd already done would actually be irrepairable.”
Fred’s advice for going sober: just do it “If you simply think about having a curry, you're not going to end up with a curry. You have to pick up the phone, order the bloody thing and eat it,” he explains. “That's the metaphor I use; ‘stop thinking about it and just do it’. Really, really do it. One of the gifts of being sober is that I have no regrets. No regrets at all.”
A word from an expert…
Janey Lee Grace
Janey Lee Grace is a broadcaster and author of five best selling books on holistic living. Her latest book is Happy Healthy Sober - Ditch the booze and take control of your life. Janey gave a TEDx talk ‘Sobriety Rocks - Who Knew!’ and runs the website and community The Sober Club.
“You have to remember that, you're doing this for you, number one, that's the most important thing.” says Janey
“I use this phrase, ‘Keep the ritual, change the ingredients’. Absolutely Join your friends for a drink at the end of the week, if that's what you always do. But they can have their choice drink and you have yours,” she advises.
“It's a case of choosing a new identity. There's nothing wrong with that,” Janey adds. “Why would anyone want to assume the identity of someone who is actually making themselves ill when you can choose a new one?”
“Yes, we can keep focusing on all the negatives, and how bad booze is for you,” Janey says. “We can go on forever one day about that, because it actually is, and it actually will make you unwell on every level physically and emotionally. But how much better to actually focus on how much better your life's going to be without any. That's the bit nobody talks about.”