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What 8 years of sobriety taught me

I used to be 150kg (left) and myself again 8 years later

2012 was truly a life-defining moment for me and it was somewhere during this time that I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in a long time, decided that enough was enough.

My health was deteriorating, my liver failing, knees buckling under my 150kg frame and my headaches were making it painful to even step out of bed. My source of comfort was that can of booze in the fridge or my favourite pit-stop at a bar that would begin at 3pm and wouldn’t end till the wee hours of the morning. Throw in the horrible food choices, lack of rest and exercise and we have a real recipe for disaster.


The first thing that I knew was messing up my body was the alcohol and rightfully, this became the first thing I decided to remove entirely from my life.

The withdrawal symptoms didn’t come immediately but I knew something wasn’t quite right within the first two weeks when I would gravitate towards the alcohol section of a food menu when it was presented and the pounding headaches just wouldn’t go away. Every time someone asked me if I wanted a drink it was as though a life line was extended to me and I could surface up for air.


Lesson 1: If a change doesn’t quite work out, modify your environment as well

I decided to go cold turkey and cut out social meet-ups, hanging around places that would tempt me and spending more time alone so that I could discover the beauty of being sober the whole day. Distancing myself from sources of temptation made it easier and along the way I even picked up healthier habits such as meditation and reading. It was roughly 3 weeks before I felt that looking through a menu with alcoholic beverages became less of a temptation once I knew how wonderful it felt to be sober and to make sound decisions.

Lesson 2: In the face of temptation or putting something off, think about how you feel afterwards

A constant reminder to keep off the alcohol was that feeling of a pounding headache from the hangovers as well as the guilt from using a drink as a way of release. These reminders served me well for at least two years after which I curbed my addiction.

Lesson 3: Habits take a long time to cultivate and a short time to lose

Trust me on this one. Cultivating and building good habits takes a really long time and even more effort to maintain. To top it off, it takes only a short while to de-cultivate these habits so it requires a certain amount of positive reinforcement and determination to keep going. Importantly, it requires something deeper than an extrinsic motivation to keep the habits alive.

Lesson 4: Find your intrinsic motivation

What are you doing it for? What was I doing it for? Initially it was to lose weight but I realised that it wasn’t good enough. I actually wanted to lead a more fulfilling and active lifestyle and to ultimately always become a better version of myself. Once the motivation becomes intrinsic and there is no more requirement to seek validation or can be measured by an appearance, the momentum will keep going.

Lesson 5: We’re not perfect and we need to accept that

Was I still tempted? Did it ever occur to me after a long day that maybe a drink would solve my issues? Of course it happens. That’s the beauty of being human and that we are far from perfect. In our imperfections, we then need to find new sources of strength as we hold onto the vision of what we want to achieve in order to keep moving forward.

Lesson 6: Keep moving forward

Even when we do slip up, we have to find the courage to pick ourselves up and to keep moving forward. In my own journey, I’ve lost some weight, gained it back, started an exercise regime, lost an exercise regime, lost more weight and gained more weight all within a span of a year. These things will happen but we have to keep moving forward. Some of us are fortunate to find the few things we can do for a long time whereas some of us will move from one point to another. It doesn’t matter, keep moving forward.

Lesson 7: Just because you have a great intent doesn’t mean everyone is on board

When I first started, it became quite clear that not all good intentions are necessarily reciprocated. But that’s life right? One thing I realised is that we are accountable for ourselves and don’t forget that.

Lesson 8: Always test your limits

This is where the fun part is. Once you’ve made the changes then it’s time to keep pushing new limits and I’m such a huge fan of this. Our bodies are truly only limited by our own minds and continuously testing ourselves allows us to develop a greater sense of self-belief.

Eight years of sobriety and eight lessons I’ve learnt that I will never forget. Life truly is our greatest teacher and is something we should never take for granted.

Share your thoughts with me on your own life lessons in the comments below and remember to keep moving forward!


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