John Risby

@johnrisby

Not everything is about technology — and sometimes it’s good to remember that…

As I start writing this, I’m conscious that I may be taking advantage of the followers I’ve gained from my Macbook saga, who are presumably expecting more tech articles.

There will be more, but this isn’t one.

This is about something much more important. Something that affects all of us, in one way or another.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last 14 years of being a sober alcoholic, it’s that we are everywhere.

And by we, I mean both sober and drinking alcoholics.

In the same way when you get a particular type of car you suddenly notice all the others on the road that you never saw before, once you accept you are an alcoholic — and especially once you get sober — you start coming across them all over the place.

To be clear — I don’t preach. It’s not my style. If you can drink happily and safely, then good for you! Seriously. I’m not jealous. I’m not anti-alcohol. I’m not going to attack you or tell you to stop.

But I can’t drink happily or safely so I made the decision to stop in 2004.

It was the best thing I ever did.

Today, at the age of 46, I am celebrating a birthday.

Not mine, that is in September.

And not my ‘sober birthday’, that was in June (one of the benefits of becoming sober is, like the Queen, you get to have two birthdays each year).

No, I’m celebrating a much more important birthday…

It’s impossible to say how my life would have turned out if I had carried on drinking — although I’m pretty sure I’d be dead — but what I can say is if I hadn’t have stopped drinking I wouldn’t be here celebrating the first birthday of my beautiful baby daughter, Julia.

I said getting sober was the best thing I ever did, didn’t I? That’s not quite true. It was helping to bring Julia in to the world.

But that wouldn’t have happened without getting sober first.

Because of the nature of my work, I get the chance to help — or try to help — a lot of people with drink problems.

Just about the only thing they have in common is they rarely have anything in common — except a problem with drink and a desire to improve their lives — and the lives of the people around them.

As an aside, it’s important to note most of the people we serve don’t have drink problems — people are increasingly moderating their drinking and desiring adult alternatives — even in the UK which has been one of the last countries to catch on to this.

But we do have alcoholic customers too, and that — along with my general propensity to talk openly and often about my alcoholism where many others, perhaps rightly, prefer to keep themselves to themselves — means I do get asked for help often.

Getting to know alcoholics, and trying to help them, can be rewarding but it also carries the emotional risk of ‘losing them’.

A bit like when you buy a pet — you have to accept there’s a good chance you will have to say goodbye to it at some point (alcoholics tend to be less likely to want to cuddle up and be tickled though, but on the bright side they also don’t demand two walks a day).

As just one example, a man I had got to know a few years ago as a sober customer died last year after he started to drink again.

He asked for help and we spoke at some length on the phone. He knew he had to stop again. He knew what he was doing to himself.

He was intelligent. He was educated. He had a professional career. Like many readers of Medium.

But it wasn’t enough.

Not long later I had a message from his family that he had died after a drink-related accident. It’s the harsh reality of the disease.

I choose to speak out because I know that every time I do, at least one person — probably more — has that light bulb moment of realisation — ‘that’s me — I need to stop’. And I’ve always felt if my writing or my business can help just one person, it’s worth it.

As I said, we are everywhere.

Like Fight Club — ‘We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep.’

We also run businesses you rely on, prepare your tax returns, develop the soft you use, build the cars you drive, act in your favourite films, police your neighbourhoods, perform life-saving operations on you and your loved ones, and — should it be needed, perhaps for a DUI — represent you in court.

So, for those still reading, I hope you are in the majority who don’t have a problem with drink, but if you do have a problem, just know you are not alone, and there is an alternative. There is a life after drink, and it’s fantastic.

I’ll end with a video I made recently. It was an off-the-cuff recording in reply to someone I know — but not a friend — who had contacted me for advice after accepting they were an alcoholic.

I’m delighted to say they got in touch not long after, thanking me for the video and saying they had started going to a support group and a therapist. They have a long road ahead, but at least they have started on it, and that’s what matters.

As I try to relax, try not think about work for the day, and spend time with my wife and one-year-old baby daughter (seriously, how fast does time fly?!) I hope this video is useful to at least one of you.

For the record, I’m not a professional or a therapist, I’m just someone who managed to get sober and — so far — stay sober for 14 years. I can’t offer a cure — no one can — but if anyone ever needs an ear to bend, feel free to contact me.

And for those who have read this but don’t have a problem, the chances are someone you know does. They may be your friend. They may be sat next to you at work.

Please help by clapping — which helps others see the article — and maybe sharing this article and video directly on social media.

Thank you.

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