Vic here - I get emails from all over the world from people that either listen to the Sober Awkward podcast or who've stumbled on my website. This one touched a nerve and I got permission to share.... If you're a young man struggling with sobriety this honest and open message may help. This guy is a huge inspiration - Thanks CJ
Guest post by Christopher Pratt
First of all I want to congratulate you gals on your extraordinary work with the Sober Awkward podcast, it is a breath of fresh air to look upon sobriety with a light heart. It is a pretty gloomy prospect to acknowledge when we have lost control over our drinking choices, and we have to cut it out or get consumed by it, but you really put a lighter ring to it and helped me through a lot.
I thought I would like to share some of my experiences with you because you inspired me to try and help. Briefly here it goes.
When I was 3 years old my parents moved from England to Portugal for a change of scene and lifestyle, I am not aware of the whole story because neither of them are around to tell me the details now that I am old enough to understand it. Portugal is a wonderful place to live, the sun is usually out, there is a lot more freedom to grow up in, and the people are very kind and generous. My mum worked a lot. She started her own tourism business renting out houses in the late 90’s while doing an MBA and teaching English in schools often driving 3 hours a day to teach and she would get back pretty late. I spent a lot of time alone with dad and he was great fun I could get away with a lot of games and mischief so long as we didn’t tell mum. I know that my father was a heavy beer drinker in the UK and that when he moved to Portugal he switched over to wine. From what I remember from spending time with my dad most of it was spent in cafés for long hours on end. My dad was invited to coach the local rugby club where we made a lot of lifelong friends and many a dinner party was had where I was thrown about in a superman costume and challenged to eat raw eggs to everyone’s entertainment.
My dad’s history is full of mystery and stories, he spent much of his time in Africa where his drinking dot him into trouble a few times ultimately resulting in a shady deportation and a forced career change having to return to the UK.
In 2005 dad got diagnosed with oesophagus cancer and a good many other problems and pretty much died from starvation over the course of a year, he was a tall broad man and I recall carrying him to bed after a fall weighing less than 50 kg. I have no doubt that long term heavy drinking and smoking were responsible for his suffering but at the time I idolised him and ended up picking up both habits, maybe to feel closer to him and to walk his shoes. In 2007 when the rugby club got going again, I was eager to join in and fit in with my tribe where rugby dinners drinking games and challenges were part of the game, to show each other and other teams how macho we were, measured by how much and how fast we could put away barrels of beer. It became a problem early on with girlfriends and school managing these long lights and weekend rugby blasts and I was always trying to prove myself as the big drinker at Uni at Rugby and whatever other occasion I attended.
In 2012 I went on Erasmus to Belgium! Land of Beer, parties and general Free roam to do anything we wanted drink as much as possible and be as much of a tit as possible without consequence because nobody knew me there so there was no accountability, and when 6 months were up I got back to Portugal a heavy boozer, with a lot of stories.
I brought all that back to Rugby, lots of daring drinking games and long drinking sessions, I pressured a lot of people into starting drinking or more that they did.
As a master’s student my nights out cost a lot of dosh, so I started working at my local watering hole doing the door, working in bars you get a lot of free drinks after shift and on days off, maybe this was the first time I started to question my drinking, and feeling some degree of shame on the following day. Working nights we see the worst in alcohol, a particular night comes to mind: A young lad from uni at the start of his career in a big multinational tech company was dragged away from his computer by his mates to celebrate his new job got into a trouble with another young army lad, over something as simple as waiting in line for the gents. Resulting in an accidental broken glass blinding one of them and leaving both jobless and with all high hopes and dreams for the future dashed in seconds.
Anyway, about Rugby. Rugger and drinking go hand in hand it is part of the culture to fight as hard as we can for eighty minutes on the field and cordially buy each other a beer at the end of the game to be sure no grudges be left unresolved. I can’t deny that it is one of the most beautiful aspects to the sport. But we have a beer at the clubhouse after the game, we have beer at the restaurant for dinner and the drinking core carry on to the pub and nightclub after.
We play hard and party hard together were everyone enables everyone justified by being a team building exercise to cultivate brotherhood and camaraderie all around. Young players are encouraged to prove themselves to the top dogs and the cycle goes round and round. Some times it goes too far. We have weekly stories of blackouts, car accidents, people who wreck toilets, restaurants who won’t take our dinner reservations, fights and general Antisocial Behaviour.
Only being sober allows me the wider field of view to see how far wrong this goes, something that we all know and love which is rugby drinking culture is great until it gets out of hand, and moderating this is damn near impossible.
I have watched old mates go further and further down the rabbit hole, with progressively worse stories as the years go by, I have had wives and girlfriends ring me up at all hours of the night asking me where their partners are.
Now I am in limbo, I have been near on 8 months sober, and I am fine with joining in after matches on coca cola or alcohol free beer but as the drinks flow I feel more and more out of place, which is weird because I was one of the main architects of this drinking team and now I’m not to proud of it. I get called out now when I stand up for kids who are pressured into drinking after games, and it is going to take some time to break the chain. I don’t want to be part of making the next boozing motivator.
Being new in a group of this nature is never easy, it is a very testosterone driven culture where manhood gets put to the test at every turn, most of these men feel threatened and insecure about their drinking, and go above and beyond to hide it, on the most part I have been tolerated as an ex drinker because of my standing as coach but as the nights go on and the alcohol flows that tolerance dwindles. I have seen and heard it all from regular banter, jokes about my sexuality, pleas for me to join in the drinking to attempts to spike my drinks, I know why they do it, I did it myself for a good many years.
I hope that my experience can help you help someone, young lads need to know that its fine not to drink, that other options are available, you can still have sing alongs, challenges and brotherhood without falling into a slippery trap that can end really badly.
If you would like to share your story please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a photo.