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Finding Sobriety: My Story

25 September 2020

5 mins

Each year in October, Macmillan Cancer Support has ran the campaign ‘Go Sober’ to not only raise vital funds for people living with cancer, but to highlight the healthy lifestyle changes that occur when you either reduce or stop consuming alcohol.

In this blog piece, staff member Sam Chambers shares his inspirational story of giving up alcohol for good:

I have worked at Loughborough University for just over a year and anyone that has met me since then will know me as a fit and healthy guy.

However, I have not always looked after myself in the manner that I do now. The biggest step I’ve taken towards keeping myself healthy – both physically and mentally – was the decision to stop drinking alcohol.

The last time I drank alcohol was 8 December 2019; I was on a night out with my cricket teammates in Nottingham and some of the details of the night remain sketchy, which wasn’t uncommon for me back then.

I’d been considering giving up alcohol for a number of months before that point. Last summer, I had managed to go two months without drinking and then from October-December I again managed to avoid consuming alcohol. However, my tactic of only drinking at big occasions was flawed because I still drank as much as I would when I was a much heavier drinker.

When I was aged 23-24, I was drinking a couple of pints on a Monday through to a Thursday and then on the weekends I was drinking considerably more. Every weekend for a number of years, I was part of a binge-drinking culture.

Monday’s at work were slow and I would roll in looking worse for wear and very hungover. I certainly can’t have been any fun to work with. I never went to a gym and the only exercise I would get was some recreational sport, which was always followed by a few beers.

I get asked by a lot of people ‘why did you stop?’ or, ‘If you’re not an alcoholic, why do you need to say you are not going to drink anymore?’

Well I guess put simply, I wanted to have control and to feel better about myself. I didn’t like how alcohol made me feel, particularly afterwards. In the moment drinking is great, I felt brilliant and everything was a great laugh, but then what follows is not fun.

In the last few years, I was only drinking now and then but I was still binge drinking and I was finding that my hangovers were horrendous. I would spend the following day in bed, eating unhealthy foods and wasting my time away. My sleep patterns for the next few days would be a mess too as I wasn’t using any energy up during the day so I couldn’t sleep at night. My moods would be generally very low too.

The difference I see now is remarkable. I get up every day with a much more positive mindset and so much more energy. I hardly ever have a poor night’s sleep and unless work or life gets in the way, I go to the gym three to five times a week. I also spend time keeping active by cycling, walking and taking part in other sports, as well as doing things I could never be bothered with before like music or reading.

It may be surprising to read that I actually found stopping relatively easy. There have been times where I have craved a beer (a hot day after cricket mostly!) but I just think to myself, remember how it ends up. It’s never just one, I have always lacked that self-control when drinking and it soon escalates into a binging session. So now I have that voice in my head that reminds me how I will feel tomorrow if I drink today.

I’ve been very good at telling people that I don’t drink. From the research I did before stopping, this was a key point others said you need to make people aware of. This should lead to your friends supporting you in your decision and not leading you astray, as well as keeping a check on you.

Making a note of why you are stopping is also a great way of giving yourself that reminder. Keep a list of the reasons: it may be that you want to get fitter, have more money or that you have a lot on at work and need to be more focussed. It’s almost like making a pledge to yourself.

For anyone who has thought about reducing their drinking or even giving up completely, I would say take some time to read other people’s experiences and think about how much a better version of you you could be.

Occupational Health Manager Sarah Van-Zoelen said that employees have fallen into two camps regarding alcohol, either highlighting an increase in their alcohol levels during lockdown, or drinking much less and focusing on their health and wellbeing.

There are a number of health benefits to reducing drinking or stopping entirely, including:

  • Improved mental health
  • Improved physical health and potential weight loss
  • Reduced risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease as well as other diseases
  • Increased energy levels and better sleep patterns

If you’d like support and advice on reducing your alcohol consumption or stopping completely, check out the online resources provided below:

Health and Wellbeing

Wellbeing means being in a positive physical, social and mental state. Wellbeing is important to us as happy, healthy people who achieve harmony in their work / life mix are more creative, productive and help to create a great place to work.

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