The Great Escape: 10 things I learned going alcohol-free – Nigel Jones

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

I have learned so much from my 100 days alcohol-free. For simplicity I have narrated this as a Top Ten Tips all working alongside each other… in no particular order.

1. Timing

It had been long overdue. I had been drinking alcohol for over 35 years, Starting at University in 1984. Alcohol was woven into my chosen career in the PR, marketing and advertising world and so became the norm. I never really looked at it as a problem until well in to my 40s, when my body started to tell me that it just could not cope as it used to; the mental and physical affects – which every drinker brushes under the carpet.

The 8th December was my start day – this was particularly good on reflection because December is traditionally a month of drinking and Christmas celebrations including Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. If I could go alcohol-free (AF) then, I could go AF anytime.

2. Change your story

Give yourself a new label and use the power of self-fulfilling prophecy. “I do not drink alcohol. I stopped drinking” is my new label. Make sure you use the correct language when you label yourself. From day 1 I “stopped” I did not “give up” – Don’t give up. Stop.

This is critical as giving up infers something good lost – this something is then more than likely to be missed. “Giving up” basically creates an uphill struggle. With “stopping” I had already reached my destination of alcohol-free – it was not somewhere I was going to; I was already there and I was determined to enjoy this new journey I had chosen.

This new journey really was an exciting new chapter in my life, I was enjoying it – it was akin to other big things I had done like going to University and emigrating to Singapore from the UK in my late 20s.

3. Keep a journal 

I’d written several diaries as a child, as well as many family holiday diaries when the children were growing up. A journal is a great way of keeping a record of my experiences and all the great new things I am learning and being exposed to, so I can go back to them for reference. Nothing will be lost.

4. Healthier lifestyle

From the moment you wake up on Day 2 with no headache or remnants of the day before drinks, I felt great – like a million dollars. What was exciting was I knew it was going to get even better and as the days went on I was proved right.

Today, on Day 100, I have not had so much energy since I was in my twenties! The whole thing is a positive cycle. Having more energy makes you want to do healthier things and so on. I set myself a goal of jogging 1 KM each day. I’d never jogged before. The first day was more of a 200 metre jog mixed in with 800 metres of walk. I timed myself and now 100 Days on I can jog the whole 1 KM and have halved my time. Mo Farah need not worry, but I am planning on doing a 5 KM – 10 KM run in 2022, when things start up again.

I have not gone on a specific diet, I still eat pizza etc. But I started making small changes. I heard about a guy called Anthony William and started drinking the juice of a whole lemon in a half pint of water each morning for breakfast with a super smoothie made up of bananas, oranges, blueberries, celery, coriander and spirulina. I’ve started eating a more plant based diet and I’ve lost a few pounds, but this will now be my focus for Days 100 – 200.

5. Literature 

Quit Lit, Self Help, Philosophy – there are endless books out there. These really help you re-condition your mind, and help you to see that alcohol isn't good for you. They all help you to see it for what it really is – poison. The ones that worked for me, and I would whole heartedly recommend as bed time reads now I had more time, are: Victor Frankl “Man’s Search For Meaning”; Annie Grace “Naked Mind”; Tony Robbins “New Year New You”; and my favourite Craig Beck “Alcohol Lied To Me”.

Here’s a list of the quotes that helped me / made a difference:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.”

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

“Happiness is not a destination. It’s a cultivation”

“Would you run your computer on 25 year old software?”

“For things to change. You have to change.”

“If you don’t believe it, you won’t see it.”

“The past does not equal the future, unless you live there.”

6. Creativity

In the last 100 Days I have started learning lots of new things and building hobbies I already had. I am a month into learning the Piano and can already play several songs using both hands. I am also taking a lead guitar course building on my rhythm playing and I try to learn 3 or 4 new songs a week. I am writing and researching our family history on my mother’s side of the family, as a cousin had completed my father’s side a few years back. And I am also working hard on my photography, experimenting with many new techniques.

7. Mindfulness & gratitude 

This is critical. Learning how to free your mind through meditation is such an amazing tool and so simple. By learning how to be more present in my mind I am less likely to get caught up in stories in my head or fall into reactive patterns of behaviour like arguing and making poor choices.

The biggest thing I learnt from mindfulness is how to build the ‘window of reaction’ that is the time between stimulus and your reaction to a stimulus. For example, the stimulus could be “It’s a sunny evening and I fancy a glass of wine”. One reaction might be to go ahead and have one, another, and the best course, would be not to and go and learn a new song on the guitar instead. If you can control the reaction to a stimulus you are pretty much in control of your destiny.

8. Alcohol-free drinks 

Stopping drinking means you have lots of nice glasses and decanters, which could go to waste. However, the AF drinks market has recently exploded and the choice out there is unbelievable. So if you feel like a drink then have an AF one in a very fancy glass. My go to AF beverages are: Beer – Leffe 0.0% and San Miguel Zero served in respective branded glasses; Wine – Eisberg, Merlot; Cocktail – Martini Zero with Fever Tree and Virgin Mary with extra Worcester Sauce and Chilli.

9. Create a compelling future 

Tell yourself who you are, reinforce your story through incantations. “I am…”. In 1960, Kennedy told the American people the USA will go to the moon by the end of that decade. That was a compelling future.

10. Family & friends 

Sharing the journey with others has helped immensely. Just the mere fact of being able to tell someone else what you are doing and them saying they are proud of you is the most valuable thing of all.

Oh, one other thing. I have saved the best part of £1,500, which I would have spent on alcohol!


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The Great Escape: 10 things I learned going alcohol-free – Nigel Jones