For the lifestyle you want

He took his first alcoholic drink at 13, now he’s sober and showing us how to do it

John Risby looked in the mirror,”Who is that? That’s not me!” After years of drinking heavily, the face he saw was one he didn’t recognise. It was then and there he decided, to give up alcohol.

John’s background is not an unusual one. He was born in Moston, a suburb on Manchester’s North East side. Like so many inner city areas, Moston had a reputation for having a drinking culture.

The fact that John took his first drink at 13, wasn’t out of the ordinary. Everyone, knew how old he was. He remembers the landlord of his local pub serving him with his first legal pint, and not turning a hair, as he’d he’d been doing exactly that for the previous five years.

Drink was always available in the family home and on one occasion, John was able, with parents out of the house, to raid the drinks cupboard and get monumentally pissed, with his best mate.

Starting full time work as a computer programmer, didn’t alter his drinking schedule. On top of that, he discovered cannabis, speed and acid. They took over from alcohol or rather augmented it, from time to time.

John, now 49, admits that he has an addictive personality and at that point in his life it was given free rein.

Working close to home, he was easily able to drop back for lunch. With a bottle of vodka in the fridge it was no problem to have a quick drink, not for any other reason than to, as he says, “maintain the feeling.”

He was on a treadmill. Drinking, blacking out, waking up hungover and struggling to work. When the four o’clock bell rang in his head, the cycle would start all over again.

That’s when the mirror came into play, and he came face to face with a face he didn’t like.

Where to go now? The obvious place for most people would be Alcoholics Anonymous and it was John’s first choice too. Even though he went to a meeting and sat with a room full of empathetic people, he couldn’t stop himself drinking that day.

“It’s an alcoholic’s trick,” he admitted,”there’s always a reason, not to stop!” He knew he was kidding himself, but the pull of alcohol was too strong and he drank himself, once more, into unconsciousness.

There has to be a tipping point for a drinker like John and that last drinking session was his. Two words set him on a different path, ”No more!”

Saying,”no more,” was the relatively easy part, the hard part was yet to come. Over the next few days, living without a drink was physically and mentally punishing. After a week though, he found, with the alcohol out of his system, he could see things more clearly and was, above all, starting to cope. That was 17 years ago.

But as John says: The problem is that you may have stopped drinking, but alcohol doesn’t disappear. There are drinkers all around you.”

One Christmas John wanted a drink with his lunch. A drink, and this is the important part, that was alcohol free.

The following discussion with his, then wife, Christine, led in 2006, to both of them opening the online Alcohol Free Shop, using John’s programming skills. It’s a community project, not just for alcoholics, but for those who want to drink, alcohol free.

“After I stopped going to AA I felt guilty,” John admitted. “They’d helped me and I felt I wanted to give something back.”

He’s very pleased with what has been achieved in that time.”The amount of people who’ve told me, that we’ve saved their life, is incredible. But I tell them, we haven’t saved your life, you have!”

‘A book seemed like a natural next step and 12 Weeks To A Sober Life, is available now’

John, who now lives in Malaga in southern Spain, insists the title is not a promise. The book is basically a journal. One where you can write down day to day what you’re grateful for. In other words, how your journey without alcohol is progressing.

“Those first three months are crucial,” he adds,” It doesn’t mean that you’ll have it fully cracked by then, but, if you can make it through three months, that’s an excellent sign. The alcohol’s gone from your body and you can start to think clearly, alcohol free.”

John’s keen to stress though that heavy drinkers who want to stop should seek professional help in the first instance. Drinking heavily for an extended period and suddenly stopping can be dangerous. “Your doctor,” he adds, ”is your first port of call for help.”

Then there’s the ‘slipping-back,’ factor. Even John, has been known too waver. Passing shelves of craft beers in a supermarket, has been known to make him stop momentarily, and think. When that happens, he remembers three magic words,”I don’t drink!”

For the book, click here.

For advice and support check out: The Facebook Alcohol Free community

Peter Reeves
Peter Reeves is a radio broadcaster, university lecturer and writer. He has scripted for Count Duckula and Bob the Builder and is currently producing a book with illustrator Korky Paul.

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