James

James

Want to know who your real friends are?? Stop drinking.

 

It’s a popular quote you hear once you quit the booze.

It’s something I gave no thought to when I decided to go sober but soon became apparent that friendships would be tested like never before.

My best friend is called James and we found out that when one friend stops drinking it tests the foundations of your relationship.

We have been great friends for almost 20 years.

In that time we have been the biggest drinking buddies you can imagine.

When I stopped drinking there was a point where we both thought that our friendship would fizzle out because it was about to be tested to its limit.

But we have proved that if you have a real friendship and connection with someone it doesn’t matter one bit what is in your glass.

James and I bonded over dance music, drugs and the whole party scene. We would always be bouncing off each other and probably end up at opposite ends of the city in similar states of intoxication. The phone calls the next day piecing the night together could last for hours and were hilarious but I could not tell you a single word of them.

House parties, raves, Ibiza trips, birthday meals and football were our thing, which always involved getting trashed and having the best time.

Covid brought us closer together ironically. James owns a barbers and of course he got told to shut down for months whilst I was furloughed and homeschooling.

We would speak on the phone maybe 6/7 times a day, all lengthy conversations. We would start drinking as early as possible, opening cans of beer in tandem and drinking the same wine, all whilst sitting in the glorious sunshine until night fell when we would facetime each other for hours, every day!!!

I went through a breakup and seemingly a mental breakdown during covid and I lost my house and my life as I knew it was turned on its head.

Of course James was there and he helped get me through by always being himself and making me laugh whilst fighting my corner when needed.

When the late night conversations turned into something deeper and my mood darkened he would just listen and let me talk.

For two years when I lived alone he was my friend, therapist, drinking partner and when we were out boozing we were thick as thieves.

James couldn’t see that my drinking was becoming a problem but signs were beginning to worry me.

We would get into trouble together and chucked out of bars for being drunk.

A big red flag moment was a trip to Milan 4 months before I stopped drinking. We were drinking non stop the whole time we were there, mixing with shady characters and one night we were both found in the road outside the hotel.

This behaviour was not becoming of a father to a 6 year old daughter who idolises her dad!!!

This paired with a trip to the doctors for horrific stomach pains led me to my decision to give alcohol a break to at least give the tablets I’d been prescribed a proper chance to work.

So when I told him I was stopping drinking for 2 weeks before a trip to Ibiza he supported me.

It was always the plan to drink in Ibiza and as soon as I met James there I went for it!!!

I was slaughtered for the 48 hours I was there, spending the whole day drinking in the pool before going out clubbing together, but this would be my last blow out and my last drink ever. I just didn’t know it yet.

I made my decision to try and stop drinking on the way back during a solo flight.

I was the drunkest person by the pool and James had to hold me up just to get me into the clubs.

I was mortified with myself so I stuck on a sober podcast the moment I got home and my journey began.

The next few weeks that followed were full of discovery and euphoria.

I had discovered the amazing sober Instagram community and was making headway in resetting my mind.

But then the months that followed were full of uncertainty and searching for who I was and who the fuck I’d become.

In those months the phone calls never stopped but obviously there weren’t as many and the 3am facetimes finished as I was in bed by nine.

This is where we were tested as friends, I was pulling away to work on myself and James was feeling like he had lost me and us forever.

I was over thinking and taking offence to comments that would not have bothered me before.

But we still spoke everyday and discussed our weekends although they were completely different now.

I made the mistake in the first few months of sobriety to still carry on doing the things I used to do, just minus the booze but it is very hard and you end up sitting there sort of looking at yourself from above.

James invited me to his to watch some world cup matches in the lead up to Christmas but I felt uneasy and as soon as the matches finished I would go home and people would comment saying “You going already?” But I did, I drove home after every match happy but aware that this was a new me.

The hardest day was Christmas Eve which was always a big night for me and James. Before, they have gone on until the next morning when I’ve had to walk home from his before it got light. We arranged to meet in the local pub and when I got there at 6pm everyone was well on their way.

I sat there with my 0% lager trying to join in conversations but couldn’t seem to speak loud enough. Everyone was bouncing from one person to the next hugging, talking into each other’s ears and nodding vigorously to everything that was being said.

I just sat there.

James got me a drink and he told me how proud he was of me. I know part of him wished I was drinking just to lighten up a little but he didn’t let on.

A group photo was taken and posted on Facebook, I dreaded the comments as I looked like I should have been sitting with another group!!!

I drank my drink and left, I didn’t make an announcement I just turned to James and said “Merry Christmas”

It was 6.30pm, I’d lasted 30 minutes.

That night I drove home thinking I’d made a mistake going sober and I hated this new me, who was boring and had no conversation.

The look on James’s face stuck with me, even though he didn’t seem to know me anymore.¬†

But he always supported my decision and has celebrated my milestones, whilst never questioning or saying anything to destabilise my sobriety.

He is a loyal friend and this is what I needed to help me navigate these early days.

 

I’ve seen some newly sober people mention that friends have fallen away or some that have taken offence to their sobriety and their relationship has crumbled, I want to say that the friends that stick around and realise that you are doing something that is going to test your friendship to it’s core are ones that will be around forever regardless of what you drink.

 

I’m 13 months sober now and I’m completely comfortable with who I am. I spend a lot more time with James now and it’s just like the old times, we laugh just as much and I stay for longer.

 

We recently went to watch England play cricket together and it was one of the most enjoyable days I can remember. James drank alcohol all day and I drank coffee all day. We both laughed and sang all day, the only thing that was different was the liquid we were drinking.

 

So thanks James for being there for me and for being the best friend ever.

Life is good and when you are around it’s that little bit better.

Love you man