Matthew’s story: “I was complacent about looking after my health”

Matthew | August 2020 | 7 minutes

In this blog, Matthew shares his story.

Turning 18 and being able to buy alcohol made me feel like I was finally growing up. I often turned to it as a substitute when friends weren’t around, and I had grown to rely on it to make me feel better when I put myself down or when I had been let down by others. I also felt like I deserved it every now and then – I would think to myself: “oh I haven’t had a drink in a while, I might as well treat myself.”

I don’t apply the label of ‘alcoholic’ to myself but I do love a red wine or a beer down the pub. Sometimes I would hear this voice in my head putting me down. It would tell me alcohol would be a good cure for the loneliness and despair I was feeling. I didn’t care about the consequences; I wanted to drink to feel better regardless of the effect that might have on my health. This never caused me concern initially – we all have negative thoughts sometimes, and those stressful days when we find ourselves at the pub… But two particular instances made me stop and think more deeply about my relationship with alcohol.

"Sometimes I would hear this voice in my head putting me down. It would tell me alcohol would be a good cure for the loneliness and despair I was feeling."

The first was a night out with my friends. We had been pre-drinking and
playing beer pong with straight shots of gin. I unintentionally ended up
being too drunk to enter the club so we had to abort plans and take a
taxi home way earlier than expected. I was so drunk in the taxi I
couldn’t stay awake and was hardly aware of when we had reached my
house. When I realised later how drunk I’d been I passed it off as
something that "happens to everyone”, but at the same time I knew I
could never get that bad again.

However, it happened again. This time was at my work Christmas party. I don’t know how many glasses of red wine I had! I underestimated the effect the alcohol was having on me as I felt fine, but then out of nowhere I started feeling really unwell. I woke up still drunk, not knowing what I’d done the night before. It was after this time that I knew for definite something HAD to change. In both situations, I didn’t realise the effect alcohol was having on my body until it was too late.

That’s when I decided I should give up alcohol for a period of time. I wanted to be in control – not allow myself to be reliant on alcohol. I also knew I’d be doing my body and health a favour and thought it would be a good thing to help with my charity fundraising.

In September 2018 I signed up to do a sponsored trek across the Sahara Desert. To take part, I would have had to fundraise a massive £995. When planning fundraising ideas, the one that looked best to me was to give up alcohol for 6 months. I decided to grow my hair at the same time – this would save money and help towards my fundraising target. In June 2019, the trek sadly got cancelled. I still stuck to having no alcohol because I knew it would be better for my health. I am now enjoying alcohol-free drinks, and it’s far cheaper too!

"I wanted to be in control – not allow myself to be reliant on alcohol. I also knew I’d be doing my body and health a favour..."

I’m glad I gave up alcohol when I did – it has made me feel happier and healthier. My friends didn’t understand at first, but it didn’t bother me. I used it as an opportunity to open their eyes about the dangers of alcohol. Alcohol-free products have helped me stick to my resolve, especially when I attended Reading Festival in 2019!

I don’t think I’d be in the good place I am right now if I didn’t have music and especially my faith. When you find a song that sings your emotions, you don’t feel so alone in this world! I became a Christian at 17. My favourite band, Shinedown, sing the song ‘Get Up’ - it’s about depression, anxiety and fighting through the dark times. Another band, Skillet, sing ‘Victorious’. In John L Coopers words: “I wanted to write a song for people who suffer from depression. I wanted to tell them that they are not alone. This song is both simultaneously sad and inspiring. Hopefully, it can encourage people to transcend the dark places they live in.” I hope you find music that helps you like it helped me!