Niel took his last drink on January 9th, 2020. This is his story of living alcohol free (AF).



Odette’s weekly installment of: Finding Your Better You



A few weeks ago, Odette heard a phrase that she hadn’t heard before and it struck a chord with her. It was different from the usual catch phrases that people use.


“Awkwardness is an indicator of learning”


Do we talk enough about the uncomfortable moments while on this journey? Are we allowing those moments to happen and normalizing them? When the decision to quit drinking is made, awkward moments arise, because we are feeling everything now. When we feel awkward, we feel vulnerable and feeling vulnerable makes most people want to run and hide. Odette phrases this into if/then questions to find a new path. Choosing yourself and living AF is often awkward and that’s ok! Let it feel weird until it doesn’t anymore.




[6:59] Odette introduces Niel.



Niel is 56 and lives in rural North Eastern California. He is a forester. He is married and has two children. For fun he likes to be outdoors. He misses swimming. He plays and builds guitars, any type of woodworking. Biking and hiking he also enjoys.



[10:08] Can you give listeners some background on your story?



Niel said he grew up in family where drinking was part of the culture. He started drinking irresponsibly / binge way in high school. He joined a fraternity in college and drank there as well. After he passed the bar exam in 2004 his drinking began to be problematic. In 2016 he stopped for a year, but then began drinking again in 2017.



[12:27] Tell me more about your year in 2016.


Niel said he talked to friends who were AF before this. He began exploring the idea that he might have a problem. Although he went back to drinking in 2017, he needed to experiment and decide is maybe this time it would be different.



[15:00] Given your level of drinking, how was your day to day?


Niel said he characterized himself as high functioning. However, he did have the repercussions of drinking that much. He found himself waking up feeling “thick” and he was irritable, unable to sleep, his weight was up, his heart was always racing, there were all kinds of manifestations.



[16:39] How were your relationships at home?


Niel said he was more on the irritable side. Emotionally until you pause and look in the mirror you don’t realize how bad you can be. Your actions are all reflections of your wellness.



[20:08] What’s one of your worst drinking memories?


Niel said there’s a highlight tape of horrors in his head. His worst memories are those about missing out on memorable moments in his life. Raising his kids, being around them for their successes. Those memories are foggy and not sharp.



[21:57] Tell me about the beginning of this year.


Niel said the first 3-4 days the cravings were strong towards the end of the day. He kept those at bay by distracting himself. Usually he would go outside and exercise. He replaced the liquid with soda water and lime. His cravings were more nuances. It was more about figuring out the trigger and dealing with those emotions. He’s felt so much better in the past months that it drives him to keep going. Emotionally the peaks and valleys are more manageable. Thinking through his actions and distractions are what works for him.



[26:29] Do you get any push back along the journey?


Niel said he’s received a lot of support from friends and family. There’s a few that don’t understand. It’s a matter of understanding any challenge from a friend, it’s from a place of not understanding or challenging their own drinking.



[28:02] What are a few things you do daily that keep you grounded?


Niel said he’s a very driven person. He wakes early and starts his day with the dogs. His workday is long but when he’s home he focuses on exercise. It allows his mind to detach and reflect on his day and his emotional intelligence. He helps around the house and with dinner and closing down the day. He checks in with Cafe RE at the end of the day and enjoys learning about other people’s journeys. He then starts is over the next day. When he’s traveling he listens to podcasts.



[31:16] Has your sleep improved?


Niel said he now sleeps mostly like the dead. His anxiety is manageable. He remembers his dreams now.



[33:02] Tell me the difference in your journey from 2016 to now.


Niel said he was a dry drunk in 2016. He just stopped drinking rather than trying to fix the why. He didn’t reach out for any tools to help him stop drinking, he didn’t have or seek support. He now listens carefully to other people’s similarities. He focuses on others tools. Niel looks to community now. He tries to laugh more now because humor is a great healer.



[37:28] What is your why?


Niel said a big one is his ability to now remove a large amount of self-inflected stress. He can step back and examine all the taxing moments in his life and move through them now without alcohol. His why has now become his how. His ability to resolve his issues of why he drank is creating the solution to how he’s stopped drinking.



[43:00] What’s your favorite NA drink?


Arnold Palmer or a soda water with lime / a little cranberry.




[44:20] Rapid Fire Round


  1. What would you say to your younger self?

Stop now you dumbass.


  1. What has recovery made possible?

Having memories. Giving himself a renewed lease on life.


  1. What’s your favorite ice cream flavour?

Chocolate, anything with chocolate.


  1. What parting piece of guidance would you give to listeners thinking about ditching the booze?

“If you’re going through hell, don’t stop”

Don’t stay in hell, get out of there. Listen to the similarities, the differences only give us an excuse to keep drinking. Decide and stop.



You may have to say adios to booze if…


your 60 lb labradoodle falls asleep on your chest after you pass out, and you don’t wake up.




Odette’s weekly challenge:


Not only is this journey awkward, it’s also imperfect. We often only see other people’s highlight reels and happy moments. We don’t often see the struggles, the setbacks, the cravings. Keep this is mind.



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