Motivation to Change

hi I started to do a series on recovery how I had recovered and in this one I want to talk about the actual change the actual motivation to change.  I talked in the previous video in the series about how much alcohol meant to me.  I used the phrase and one or two people have picked up on it that I found the bit that God had left out when I found alcohol.  It seems to have resonated with a few people.  But for me I think it was so important, it gave me a character, it made me interesting, it made me intelligent, it made me fun, it made me sexy, it made me … you name it, it made me.

So alcohol for me was incredibly important, so why would I give this up? Why would I stop drinking when I’m getting so much out of it? well the answer to that one is that it stopped giving me good things and it started giving me lots and lots of bad things.

But it didn’t happen all at once and I said in a previous video that when people change their thoughts start to turn towards change.  For example, you may think I must go on a diet, I must go on a diet, I must go on a diet, I really must go on a diet, or I must get fit, or I must stop smoking.  It takes a while to go from the first thought of change to the actual change and even then it takes maybe a number of different attempts.

For me it was no different.  People had been telling me for a number of years I should stop drinking or at least cut down my drinking.  I’d been to the doctors a few times and the doctor said you know uh you know you must go to AA and he gave me pills and he was going to refer me to a psychiatrist.

But I didn’t want any of that, I really didn’t want any of that.  As far as I was concerned I didn’t really have a problem or if I did have a problem it wasn’t one that would be cured by giving up drinking, maybe cutting down a bit, maybe controlling my drinking but certainly not not drinking.  That just seemed horrible to me and for many of you who talk to your drinker there you may hear the same thing, “well I’ll cut it down or I’ll control it but give it up oh no no no no no no”.  That was just too scary to contemplate, but things were getting worse.

I was finding myself in situations where, looking back in it now, I’m surprised I wasn’t seriously injured or even killed. I was drinking and some really hard pubs in Glasgow and I was doing some really stupid things because the alcohol made me arrogant and a few occasions I woke up and I had been assaulted or I had a black eye or a tooth broken.  One time somebody stuck a beer mug in my face.  You know these things were happening, but I tended to blame on other people rather than me.  If I just watch what I’m doing if I just don’t go back to that pub again.  So, there was change happening, it just wasn’t in my drinking.

Stopping Drinking

My wife begged me, pleaded with me to stop drinking on numerous occasions.  And that’s what I did, I started stopping drinking.  And what I would do is I would say okay I’ll stop.  But I wasn’t stopping for me or stopping for her and that is actually very, very important.  Because I didn’t really want to stop but I wanted to have a better relationship and because of that I will give up drinking for her.  So I tended to follow a very similar pattern and that was I’ll have a farewell to alcohol party.  I’d just go out and get absolutely legless because tomorrow I was stopping drinking.  And then I would go through a period where it wasn’t very nice, I would suffer withdrawals and it was as I said it just it wasn’t very nice, I was anxious, it was nervous, I was sweating a lot.  Physically I felt awful, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and then I would start to feel okay.  And then I would think, hey I should have done this years ago.

Then I would start to think how dare she, how dare she tell me to give up drink.  You know I’ll show her.  And then the next thing I knew I was drinking again.  The longest I would ever go without drinking was about two months.  And this happened in a regular basis.

Then my wife phoned AA, stuck the phone in my hand and said speak.   This guy arrived at the door to take me to Alcoholics Anonymous. He said, so you’re an alcoholic, are you?  And I said well my wife seems to think I am.  So we were driving down to this meeting and I said, how often do you go to these meetings? He said, oh I go every night.  So I said and what does your wife think?  And he said ,she’s just glad I’m sober.  Then I said, how does she know? she never sees you.  He just looked at me and I thought I really don’t want to be among these people.

 So I went to my first AA meeting and I sat there and there was a sign above the door that said, you’re no longer alone, and I have to say it to think of it a I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone in my life.  I saw among, what I saw was, the elephant’s graveyard.  You know there’s all these people who were telling stories about how they drank and how things were nasty and I thought I can’t cope with this.

So I celebrated on the way home by going to the pub, fell in the door and said I told you I wasn’t an alcoholic.  And things went on their merry way again and again and again and this sort of thing was to repeat itself.  I would go to the doctor I’d go to Alcoholics Anonymous.  I was moving towards change.

Then my wife left me.  I remember the day well.  She stood there and she said I don’t love you anymore, I don’t like you and I’m leaving before I hate you and she stormed off.

 You would have thought that would have brought me to my senses and I would have done something about it.   My attitude was – well good riddance, because you are the problem not me!  And off I went to the pub to celebrate.  I almost skipped up the road to the pub. And then I found myself at the bar saying the immortal words “my wife doesn’t understand me”.  And even as I said them, I thought – Oh no this is what I have come to.

Then I went on a bender that lasted for a couple of weeks in fact it lasted for a couple of months and I wasn’t sober the whole time.

I thought once she’s out of my life, once I have this freedom, then I can drink like a gentleman.  The problem is I had never actually drank like a gentleman.  So why was I gonna start now?

I came over that bender and I was ill. I was very very ill.  And I went to Alcoholics Anonymous again but again I just didn’t want to be there and that again was to repeat itself. But what was happening now is, because she had gone, that excuse had gone.  It wasn’t about her anymore it was actually about me.  And I started to realize I am really addicted to this alcohol.  I was spending money as if it was going out of date and it wasn’t mine to spend.  So I was heavily in debt, my flat looked as if the bin men made deliveries. I mean the place was a tip there were cans and bottles empty carry out bags everywhere.  There were  crisp packets everywhere because I didn’t really eat very much, I just drank.  I didn’t see any point in eating because it would just sober me up.  And again, I went another bender but this time it was different!

This time was different because even in the midst of this bender, I felt as if I was in hell.  Alcohol just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.  All it was doing was taking away the fear and all it was doing was taking away the terror that was inside me.  But it was only taking it away for a short period of time.  I was full of hate I was full of resentment and most of it was at me.  I loathed what I saw in the mirror.  I hated it and this time I just felt I’ve got to change; I’ve really got to change.

All the negatives were coming in.  People just didn’t want to stand a drink with me, because I was a menace.  I was dangerous I wasn’t physically violent, but my mouth used to run off.  As I said I was drinking, and really rough pubs and I look back now and I have to shake my head because how I didn’t get killed in some of these pubs I’ll just I’ll never know.

But the alcohol took away that fear, so I wasn’t really aware of the danger I was in half the time.  It was really difficult for me just to get from my house to the pub and from the pub to the house because I was falling all over the place.  Physically I was a wreck.  And then I went to work because my work phoned up.

I was working in a psychiatric hospital, they phoned up said, are you coming back?  And I went back and that night I went into the DT’s in the middle of the ward and as I have said before, they took me off the ward and the manager and the hospital manager said to me we’ll get help for you.  And I said – I’m just a hopeless case and he said to me – you may be a hopeless case, but you are not a lost cause.

And something about that got through to me.  Something about it just touched me.  Maybe, just maybe I could do this.  This time I went to Alcoholics Anonymous and I went with a completely different attitude, completely different.

I sat there in the middle of these people I still didn’t want to be there; I didn’t want to be among this crowd.  But I was scared of the alternative, I was terrified of the alternative.  If I wasn’t there, I might be drinking, and I didn’t want to drink any more.  The psychiatrist told me that if I continued to drink and take drugs then I’d be dead in six months.   I had liver damage and I had brain damage.  And that was scary but not nearly as scary as what I became in alcohol.  Because I could now see myself for what I was, and it wasn’t pretty it was not pretty.  I hated that person and I just did not want to become that person any longer.

So, I sat around these meetings and I got bored at these meetings and I hated being in these meetings, but I knew had to be there.  I went to see a psychiatrist on a regular basis, and he sent me to other groups and I went to those groups as well.

I would go anywhere at that point, anywhere at all if you told me to stand in the corner on my head for an hour day I would have done it, because I really did not want to drink anymore and I was terrified, I was terrified that I would drink.

I had dreams of drinking and I would waken up sweating.   I would cross the road if I was passing an offsales or a pub just in case a drink would come charging out and pour pulled itself down my throat.

I still smoked at that time I wouldn’t go into an offsales to buy cigarettes I’d go elsewhere because I was terrified.  I was terrified of drinking but I did not want to drink.  And then I got a month, two months, three months ,six months, 11 months.  And I thought am I going to get a year?  And I I was terrified that I wouldn’t get the year.  I had all these dreams that  I was on the bus to go to this meeting and I got off the bus and went into pub and got drunk instead.

But I didn’t and I got that year.  I managed to get a year sober.  And I had been in a group on and off and one of the leaders of that group came up to me and he said I would like you to come and share at our meeting tonight.  And I said to him why because I’m such a good example?  And he said, no, because if you can get it anybody can get it.  And I felt a bit deflated by that, but looking back he’s right.

He’s right because I was closed-minded I defended alcohol all along the way.  I didn’t want to stop drinking until I was forced to stop drinking.  And that was my motivation I was forced to stop drinking.  It was the negative things that happened to me that made me stop but it was the positive things that happened they kept me stopped and continue to keep me stopped.

I’ve said before you know I gave up alcohol to save my life, I stay away from alcohol to have a life and it’s still the same today.  I have so much in my life today so much that I could lose by picking up a drink I just don’t do and I’m happy I’m happy. In the next one I’ll talk about getting sober somebody asked me what’s the difference between being sober and a dry drunk and there is a big difference there is a big big difference and I will talk about that. I’ll talk about getting actually sober rather than getting dry.

So anyway so the next time thank you.

11 Replies to “Motivation to Change”

    1. Hi John and Lou
      I have been sober since 11th December 2020, I found sobriety through AA but the biggest thing is through AA I found God !!
      I was wondering if you could advise me from here, I do not see my future in AA , going over our drunk stories.. also having different opinions on the steps..

  1. Hi, thank you for sharing your story. It brings alot home to me. My brother is currently struggling to give up Alcohol…..It’s a very difficult time, he’s just out of hospital AGAIN…. our family very fractured by all these events. He came out of Rehab 8th of Jan and went on a bender and ended up in hospital AGAIN… just got out yesterday.

  2. Powerful! I can relate to soooooooooooooo much of this. Thank you for telling your story. I’m five years sober and working to make it to six which would be the longest sober stretch for me. Hopefully this turns into lifetime sobriety. Good luck sir and remember if I can do it so can you!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Does the struggle to stay sober remain an active struggle? Or does the balance tip at some point and you find it becomes second nature to be sober, can’t imagine drinking again?

    1. At the beginning staying sober is difficult but as time passes, it most definitely gets easier. I can honestly say that, since my first year of sobriety, I have never felt that craving would overwhelm me or that I would drink again. That includes during times of birth, marriage, divorce and death. I am now over 35 years sober and it is most definitely my way of life.

  4. Thank you Jon, so your wife leaving you was the beginning of the rock bottom that triggered your recovery. I wonder how things would have turned out if she’d stayed?

    1. That is a good question Christina. It is my belief that I would have ended up in the same place. I was already aware that my drinking was out of control but, in my bravado and denial, I blamed my wife. I think it may have taken a little longer but I would still have eventually faced my demons and gotten sober.

  5. thankyou John this was one of the best videos I have seen about stopping drinking. I did have a telephone call with you last year about my son who is living with me and we are all really struggling. His alcohol struggle just goes on and on. He did a detox and was dry for 3 months how wonderful were they! All his chances and work have been ruined by drinking including relationships. we are at the end of our tether. Perhaps we should throw him out but that would be onto the streets with nothing. I am going to try and get him to watch this video but I don’t think he will. Thanks again I really enjoy your videos and advise.

  6. Thank you. My brother is battling with alcohol – has been for about three years in earnest, though his dependency got a firm grip many years ago. It is horrific watching and trying to support him as he detoxes, relapses, fits, relapses etc. Your work gives me the hope and strategies to keep supporting him without losing my marbles. Thank you again.

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