Day 214: When I was in hospital I spoke to an Addiction Counsellor who kindly visited my room at around 7 days of me being an inpatient. He spoke to me about his own story of drink and drug addiction to sobriety and finding solitude in AA. He wasn’t selling AA as such but that was his route and he encouraged me to at least explore it. He talked briefly about the 12-steps, the indiscriminate meetings and the sponsor programme. I was in a very bad place at the time and whilst I knew I needed to knock drinking on the head, I hadn’t thought much about the way in which I was going to do it. ‘Paul’ gave me an inspiring story and an option (AA) and at that point in time it was my only option.

Fast forward to leaving hospital and I’d already booked in my first AA meeting. We were still in the midst of Covid restrictions so it was an online meeting facilitated by a Sunderland based AA group. It would be held on only my second day home from hospital. I didn’t really click with it. Zoom meetings are hard work at the best of times and for me, being completely new to AA and still very vulnerable I probably needed that face to face human interaction. The Zoom meeting was stuttery and disjointed. I lost connection a few times too. I never made it to the end of the meeting.

I’ve never been back to AA. I wasn’t sure if that was a bad move in the early days but as I’ve become more at ease with my mental health conditions and more motivated about a sober life I’ve realised it isn’t necessarily AA that keeps you teetotal – it’s yourself. I listen to many podcasts about sobriety and the multitude of speakers I’ve heard from who have never used AA or didn’t find it was for them is rather surprising but reassuring. It’s an option. Works for some. Not for others. That’s as far as my opinion on it will go.

Anyways, I digress. My original story today was about a question I asked Paul about non-alcoholic beer. When on health kicks or designated driver duty in the past I would have 0% bottles of beer – which have become more visible in bars and supermarkets in recent years. A favourite of mine was Heineken 0.0% which in my opinion is one of the closest tastes you’ll get to real beer (I’ve tried many other AF beverages and some are vile!)

I asked Paul if it’s recommended to drink these as an alternative to the real thing when trying to kick the addiction. He wasn’t dismissive of switching to AF completely but said he wouldn’t personally. If you are addicted to alcohol and want to remove it from your life why mimic it with something that looks, tastes and reminds you of the real thing?

I agreed with his view and given my state of mind at the time I knew drinking a ‘fake’ beer would simply keep the thought of beer in my mind. The cravings and feelings of it that dominated my mind and body before I broke would most likely come flooding back.

So for the first 150-170 days or so of Sobriety I didn’t touch anything resembling alcohol. The closest was Ginger Beer or wine. Beer and wine by name but nothing more than a glass of sugar and root!

I’m over alcohol now. I don’t crave it and I don’t miss it. I’ve proven at recent social events I can enjoy myself without it. All that said, a lot of people drink alcohol not for the taste but for what it does to them. Thinking back, did I really love the taste of whisky and wine? No. I kidded myself that I did but they are hardly the kindest tastes to hit your tongue are they?!

Beer on the other hand. A cold bottle of lager beer. Loved it. I’d always enjoy the first bottle. It was the relationship I had beyond the first bottle which wasn’t so tasty!

I guess this is a long winded way of saying I’ve had a few 0% beers in recent weeks and enjoyed them. They haven’t made me think about drinking alcohol again and I don’t feel the need to drink it often. But it’s nice to know I can choose to have one if I fancy one with no fear, guilt or consequence.

I’ll leave alcohol free red wine on the supermarket shelf though.