• Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Sober

“Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself."

- Rob Lowe


I usually like to keep my blogs (or flogs – fictional blogs, or in my case semi-fictional blogs, so Semiflogs??) light-hearted and mostly filled with nonsense. Today, I’d like to try and be as serious as I can be. That doesn’t mean there won’t be the odd sprinkling of daft bullshit in here, but there you go! I am what I am!

Anyway, on the 17th of March 2020, I passed a fairly significant milestone. It was the two-year anniversary of my self-imposed sobriety. I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs and online, so most of you know the score, but I’d like to get some thoughts on the matter out there, mainly so that I can try and put into words how I feel about it all. It still feels strange to even say it. Sober. I was always a big drinker. From a very early age, I used to do the same thing that all teenagers did – sneak out and get drunk. Mostly harmless nonsense, just me and the lads running around like idiots, but this is where it began for me.

Just like an awkward teenager, I couldn’t quite work myself out. I’d been a shy boy, and that had progressed into my young adult years. I couldn’t speak particularly openly to my friends (or at least I didn’t think I did), and I could barely speak to girls at all. Alcohol opened me up. It gave me the artificial confidence to be myself or at least a drunken version of myself. Suddenly, I could talk to girls, suddenly I could be outgoing, suddenly I could be me, or the me I thought I was.

Fast forward to Six Form College and the sniff of freedom it gave me. That first year was spent in a drunken blur. Needless to say, I had to restart the whole thing, but I still drank most weeks at whatever party or student night that was taking place. I was lucky to get out of there with a handful of C’s. Even luckier to get accepted at Huddersfield University, but history (which, coincidentally, I studied while I was there – I use the word studied liberally) repeats itself. That first fresher year in Huddersfield was another drunken blur. Another opportunity wasted. I restarted, but the writing was already on the wall.

So, you might be thinking - that’s just what students do. They get wrecked and have a good time. This used to be accurate, it still might be, but I don’t know any students so I can’t say for certain. I don’t want to sit here and demonise drinking too much. In moderation, it’s great. If you can handle it, there’s no problem, but early on I’d started along a process of using alcohol as a means to be confident. That carried on beyond my time as a student. The first thing you do when you meet people is to invite them out for a pint (that’s if you aren’t drinking already!) You have a drink together and get to know each other over alcohol. That was me in a nutshell. Always having a pint to relax, to unwind, to be confident. If you can control that, great, but I don’t think I could. Not easily, anyway.

It was quite frequent for me to have a couple that would turn into four or five. Or stay up and finish most of a bottle of red wine when Nay went to bed. Or stay up until 5 am smashing the booze after a night out. Again, if you can handle that, there’s no problem, but after a while, and as I’ve grown older, I noticed that I couldn’t anymore. But like a stubborn bastard, I pushed on anyway. Alcohol was my thing, my hobby, it’s what everyone does. Drinking craft ale, rum, whiskey and coke, gin, cider... The list goes on. There was always another drink to get into. Always another new version of a classic. Always another fad.

Suddenly, I couldn’t remember the end of nights out. Suddenly, the hangover lasted for two days rather than one. Suddenly, the hangovers were so brutal that I could barely think straight and I would spend the days rattling around the apartment in a dark mood. Of course, I reduced my alcohol intake at first, but for whatever reason, that made it worse. Now, not only did I have all those symptoms, but I was a lightweight as well.

It came to a head in quite undramatic fashion. The night before St. Patrick’s Day, me and Nay were out at Beer Market Co in Midtown in Houston, and I was acting like a moody dickhead for no reason. I was being argumentative over something that I can’t even remember when I had a moment of clarity. I do remember that part clearly. I just thought to myself, this isn’t worth it anymore. It was crystal clear. A sudden realisation.

I needed a break. In my mind, I felt like it was over, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, so I opted for a thirty-day pause instead, a bit like Dry January. We had a few things on but nothing major. The timing was perfect. The thirty days passed without incident, and I felt amazing, so I pushed it forward and said I’d take three months off. After that, I felt even better. I was losing weight, my head was clear, I felt motivated. I started to write. That was the catalyst, I think. I tried to start a few times already and just deleted it in a pointless rage. Now, I could get motivated enough to keep going, and when I started, I couldn’t stop. It’s like I’d spent my whole life not knowing what I wanted to do with myself and then it suddenly presented itself, and I just leapt in headfirst. No fucking around.

Three months became six months, and I knew it was over. I had now quit drinking. I was sober. For a while, I said I was taking an indefinite break or that I didn’t want to put any pressure on it. I still do say that occasionally, but I don’t think I’ll go back. Why bother? Why go back to hangovers and being miserable when I can be happy and healthy? It’s a no-brainer! The only thing I can’t work out is why didn’t I think of it sooner? How many opportunities did I throw away for a single night out on the lash? I try not to think about, to be honest. There’s no point dwelling on the past. I was a different person. Just like I’ll be a different person in the future. There’s no need to worry about what happened or what might happen. I’m happy now, that should be enough.

To be fair, sobriety has made me the ultimate hipster. You can now see me in coffee shops, eating a low-fat flapjack with my ginger (and grey and getting greyer) beard, sipping an almond milk latte. Or you can see me in a bar with Nay drinking a herbal tea or a decent N.A beer (yes, they do exist – Wellbeing Brewing, Athletic Brewing Co, Partake Brewing, to name but a few.) The writer gone sober who likes to ramble on about politics and philosophy but mostly just talks absolute shite. Early twenties Harper would hate my guts, but that’s his problem, not mine.

I’d like to finish up by saying that I’m not dead against alcohol and that I don’t look down on other people who drink. I don’t feel that way at all. I do even occasionally miss a nice glass of red wine at a restaurant. Basically, I’m happy with you drinking if you are happy! The only time I may disappear is when tipsy banter turns into roaring drunkenness, but that’s fair enough, I think. I imagine this is what pregnant women have felt like for generations, but that’s not for me to say. I just don’t want people to think I look down on them because they are boozing. I really don’t, but if anyone doesn’t think it’s working for them anymore, you should know that you can come and talk to me about it.

Thank you for reading this blog. I promise I’ll be back with more typical Tales of Yorkshireman where I terrorise Nay in some (hopefully) comical way, but I just wanted to share with you how I feel at the moment. Happy and motivated. Until next month!

That was a tale of a Yorkshireman living in Texas.

A bloke with a ginger beard who writes.



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