Spencer Matthews on being sober: “My life is incomparably better.”

Spencer Matthews | May 2020 | 9 minutes

"I wouldn’t be friends with the drinking Spencer of two years ago." For Sober Spring, Spencer Matthews tells us about his journey through alcohol and out of it.

I’ll be two years sober in a few weeks’ time – two years and a week after I got married. But I don’t feel like that sober milestone merits congratulations for me personally. I’ll probably mark it in some way each year, but I’m not counting the weeks or months - I’m just enjoying my new life. Life is incomparably better.

For me, not drinking is a no-brainer of a decision. My drinking was an obstacle in my life that I have now removed and doing so has created such a beautiful difference that I would never want the old way back.

I was dishonest and unproductive when I was drinking too much. Not dishonest in terms of horrible, life-altering lies, but I was never fully truthful about my alcohol consumption. “Oh God, have you been drinking again?” prompted a defence from me, as I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong.

I was dishonest and unproductive when I was drinking too much… I was never fully truthful about my alcohol consumption.

I blamed other people for my shortcomings. Didn’t get a job? It was my agent’s fault. I expected life to dish out the things I wanted. Having been in Made in Chelsea, I thought I could probably land whatever TV job I wanted, but the world doesn’t work like that. You get what you give, and there is no replacement for hard work and drive. Meanwhile, alcohol had turned me a person who would wake up and go, “Pffft, that can wait until next week.”

I was never the kind of person who could have one glass of wine and say, “That’s it.” I’ve always been someone who wants more. I’m all-or-nothing, whether that’s with ju-jitsu, business or drinking.

Back in my early twenties, as a trader and broker in the city, I was able to drink more than anyone you could ever imagine and then get up the next morning, no problem, and hit the gym. Drink, drink, drink, at lunch with clients, socialising in the evening – it was non-stop. But as I got older, I was less able to deal with the alcohol.

There’s absolutely no way I would have achieved my potential had I kept alcohol in my life – and I’m still nowhere near achieving it, but now I have a fit and fighting chance. The Spencer of early 2018 would never have even had these goals, because they would have seemed too big and far away.

There’s absolutely no way I would have achieved my potential had I kept alcohol in my life.

Back then, my mum and dad both spoke to me about my drinking, even though they barely saw me at the time given they didn’t live in the UK. But they still knew, so how bad must it have been? I didn’t want to hear it; I had a wall up.

Since quitting drinking I’ve tried to talk to close friends who I can see are heading in a similar direction and, like me, they don’t want to hear it. Which is fair enough, given I was the same, and it’s not my place to preach. Ultimately, the only person who can trigger a realisation that you’re heading down the wrong rabbit hole is yourself.

I wouldn’t choose to be friends with the Spencer of two years ago. We would have had nothing in common. We wouldn’t have hung out with the same people, even. If I could hop in a time machine and talk to drinking Spencer, I would be kind to him, but I know he wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. He had an arrogant, uncontrollable streak.

My story is no different to millions of people who drink alcohol. And that’s why I’m now tapping into the buzz there is around the no- and ultra-low-alcohol market: I’m the founder and CEO of the Clean Liquor Company. I would love to see people drinking differently. That includes people who drink alcohol – products like mine help people to experience the power of even having one drink less.

My story is no different to millions of people who drink alcohol.

My son’s coming up on two, and I’m expecting a baby daughter too. I feel like I’m a better husband and father, sober. But if my kids want to go out and get drunk with their friends when they’re of age, I’ll say, “Sure, go and drink and have fun, no problem.”

But then, you see what I just did there? I put ‘alcohol’ and ‘fun’ in the same bracket. So many of us do that. And yet, for me, life is more fun – more exciting – without it.

I really relate to Bradley Cooper, who got sober at the same age as me – 29 years old – and has said in an interview, “I realised I wasn’t going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me.” It’s no wonder he plays dependency so well in A Star is Born. I’ve heard that he based his ‘before’ character in the film Limitless (in which a drug opens up unused potential in Bradley’s character’s brain) on his twentysomething drinking self, while he based the ‘after’ character on his thirtysomething sober self. That’s a good comparison for how I feel.

I’ve unlocked 60 per cent of my untapped productivity through stopping drinking. I can’t wait to see what happens next.