How Did I Get Sober?

One of the most common things people ask me is “How did I get sober?” There is no short answer. It was a long and painstaking process. It took me many years to realise I had a problem. It took me many more to ease off and transition to sobriety. I will break it down step by step.

How bad was my drinking?”

I would drink most days. I would end up in fights. I would lose things. I would wake up in places I had no idea how I got to. I would black out. I would be abusive. I would put myself in seriously harmful situations. I would gamble excessively. I would end up on drugs. I would miss days from work.

Yadda yadda yadda. You get the picture. I was a mess.

What made me stop?

I think I got to rock bottom. I woke up one morning in a lane way in Sydney. I was pitched in on top of some rubbish bags, behind a rubbish dumpster. I had no phone or wallet. My head was pounding and I had been given a few digs. I think. I didn’t remember. I just knew that things could not go on like this.

I was 33, jobless, pretty broke and visa less and waking up in alleyways in Suburban Sydney. Something had to give. It was either going to be me or life.

How did I stop?

Step one

It began by me realising I had a problem. And up until this time, I didn’t know that I was truly at risk. I thought that the mad scraps I got into were part of the way life was. But I was the lunatic.

I started by telling my friends that I was trying to stop. I was going to ease off on my habits. They were completely cool with that. They knew I had issues. One had ended up in hospital a week or so earlier when he slashed his wrist after getting involved in a fight I instigated with him. When I was drunk of course! I poured a pint of water over his head in a club. I thought it would be funny.

The list goes on and I don’t have time for them all here. But my friends all thought it was a relatively good idea.

So first step: I declared publicly my intention: I was cutting down on the drink.

Step two

A few days later I was out on the town. I was drinking slowly, not getting drunk. I was sipping bottles of cider slowly. We ended up at a late night karaoke bar. I sang a song for a girl who had caught my eye. We got chatting and went home together. It was the luckiest night of my life. The next day we went for a walk and a picnic in Bondi.

I told her what I was going through. She liked it. I felt good about what I was doing then. She found it attractive that I wanted to be sober. I enjoyed that feeling and I wanted more of it.

One night and a day turned into weeks and months and before I knew what I was doing, I had moved in and married this girl. I went gung ho for love and didn’t look back.

So the second step was to enlist the help and support of someone who will back you all the way.

Step Three.

I went cold turkey. This is not for everyone, but I had to do it. I avoided the pub. I avoided big social gatherings. I would meet friends for a meal or call over during the week. I stopped putting myself in positions where I would be tempted and weak.  Instead of drinking I worked on getting fit. Instead of getting drunk, I was getting healthy.

Now I was always into training and the rest of it. So there was not a massive change from the outside looking in. But there was a huge change from my inside looking out. When I went running along the coast in Bondi, I wasn’t just out having a run. I was re-training my brains functioning. I was re-working my inner thoughts.

I took the thoughts of drink and turned them into positive outcomes.

So step three was to avoid booze and get fit.

Step Four (The most difficult part for me)

I made up a new story about myself. This was the hardest part of all. Staying away from the pub and not getting fucked up for a few months is easy (ish). It can be done. Most people will knock the booze on the head for a month or two a year. The tricky part if you have mental addiction issues like I do, is knowing how to stay off it.

This does not come quick or easy. You see, the ideas I had about myself and who I was were deep rooted in my fucked up subconscious. For those of you that don’t know, I was abused as a young boy by a local priest. It affected me deeply and I dealt with it by self medicating. And the story I built up about myself over many years was that I was a shameful person.

And I covered that shame by drinking and taking drugs.

So in order for me to beat the addiction, I had to figure out why I was making a mess of myself. The alcohol and drugs were only symptoms of my problems. I would return to them over and over again if I didn’t figure myself out.

This is where I am indebted to my Step Two: My wife. My wife is a lifestyle and business coach and she understands the motivations of people. She was able to help me understand how I had built up my story about myself. She was able to impart the knowledge to me that I could fundamentally change who I was, whenever I was ready to.

I just needed to truly change the belief of who I was as a person.

For many people this can take years to know and even longer to implement. But in a few short months, I learned how to recreate who I was. It began with my story of myself. I drew a solid line in the sand about the person who I was. I told myself that I would not go back. I created a new version of me.

I began a new chapter. I made peace with who I was in the past and I moved on to the next phase.

Step Five

I made a public declaration that I was sober. This began with the first blog I wrote for Sober Paddy over SIX years ago. I started this site, my Facebook page and my twitter account. I began thinking about sobriety at a higher level. I tried to connect with more and more sober people. I wanted to turn it into something which was bigger than who I am.

This was hard in the beginning. In my early blogs there was a lot of anger and frustration. There were more questions than answers. But I was out there and living it. I was hiding out in the open. I had created the persona which best represented the next stage of the chapter of my life. And I had to come up with the goods.

So declaring my intentions publicly was step five

Step Six

The last six years have been immense. I have opened my mind to a new life. I travel, write, speak and make documentaries. I read and learn and watch and learn. I am resolute in my day to day sober habits. I am not just staying off the drink and drugs, but I am ploughing through the rest of what life has to offer.

When you are so blinded by addiction and the issues underpinning those habits, then the release and feeling of freedom when you are sober is immense.

So I am connecting. I am reaching out. I am challenging myself. I am doing all the things I thought I should be doing but could not have been fucked doing because I would have missed out on the session.

So Step six is expanding your habits and being true to the path you want to be on.

Step Seven

This is the final step for me. It is simple. It is about expansion. It is about not going back. It is just getting through each day, one at a time when things are tough: just getting through them sober…Everyday. Rinse, repeat and expand. Stay sober for a day and try to expand in some other way.

I am doing that over and over and over. I have been doing it for days, weeks months and years. I do it over and over and over again.

Now it is my habit. Now it is my life. Now I am always looking for something more. My mind needs more and more. I am sinking my personality in positive expansion.

So step seven is creating simple good habits and trying to expand.

These are my simple seven steps to sobriety. I don’t think of myself as a recovering alcoholic or a druggie. I don’t think of myself as a reformed anything, even though at times it is easier to describe myself in those terms. I see me as a sober person. I see me as a connecting humanoid, living and learning and loving. So love yourself no matter what state of mind you are in.

Life is too short to waste.

8 thoughts on “How Did I Get Sober?”

  1. Ended up in University of Limerick hospital one time after a heavy day of drinking at a student race day 😔 not cool, not cool

  2. Another great read John! Thanks for sharing some more of your insights and experiences. ‘Rinse, repeat, expand.’ Love it, powerful stuff.

    Keep inspiring,


  3. Really enjoyed your book. Compulsive reading. The sober issue is of course contentious! I could identify with the athletic issues in terms of discipline and training for short bursts and then binges. Any advice on avoiding the binges? Any thoughts on the balance between self flagellation and self discipline?.


    Ps. Actually most of your book describes a lot of my life other than the abuse. But I suppose there is always triggers! Hope all is good in your life at the moment. All seems good now in my drunken reflective ramblings. Not sure what my point is here but I suppose your book made me think.

    • Hey M,
      Glad my book got you to think at least. Life is a process of realisation. For me I realised that I couldn’t keep going the way I did and not have to pay the price. So that ultimately led to me turning things around.
      As for the binges I would say just to become aware of them before they happen. Try to find the triggers that make you think “fuck it” and then work towards getting at peace with whatever that is.

      It is not easy and no one says it is…but if you can find that love of yourself and inner confidence…you will not need to get mouldy drunk again.


Leave a Comment