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  • Writer's pictureMark J. Keenan

Happy birthday

Today marks three years since the day I decided to give up alcohol.

A lot has changed in that period of time but one thing hasn’t. I still don’t drink. At the time that I made the decision, things were not that great. One of my sons was suffering from mental health issues and had been hospitalised. I was was over-worked, highly stressed and, as I now know, suffering from depression myself. I was also overweight, nearly 90kgs, eating poorly and with a drinking problem. I was an alcoholic.

That’s when I got the text message from my wife. We had been tag-teaming at the hospital for our son, hardly seeing each other over the four week period. We were both strung out, worn thin, but we were holding things together as best as we could. Because that’s what you do when you are partners. The text message was simple and although I don’t know the exact words, they were along the lines of ‘you are looking after all of us but you need to make sure you take care of yourself’ and that I should ‘maybe try to drink less.’

I knew that I had a drinking problem well before the text, but it was the catalyst I needed to change. I saw only two options - give it away entirely, or keep going the way that I was. I had tried moderation before but every time, every single time, I would be reeled back in and get caught up in the addiction and soon enough I would be drinking too much, and too often, again.

In the months following the declaration that I was giving up alcohol, I faced plenty of challenges. Social affairs, work functions, Friday nights, Saturday nights, Sunday nights, Monday nights, you get the idea. But none of these were anything like the challenges that I saw my son facing - and I wanted to face them with him - so I needed clarity, a clear mind - it wasn’t easy to give up alcohol, but I needed to do it. I knew that if I was to be there for my family that first I needed to be there for me.

Supported by my wonderful wife, I stuck at it, pushing myself into difficult situations where I knew people would be drinking, tackling the conversation with my family and friends, eventually even coming to use the ‘A’ word to describe myself without shame.

I also took up running, I don’t recall exactly why. I just decided, a few days after giving up alcohol, that perhaps I should replace an old bad habit with a new good habit. The first time I ran it was along the foreshore at Crawley, next to UWA. I managed just over 4 kilometres and I remember that I felt like I was going to die, even with the walking breaks. Just three years later and I am about to tackle one of the toughest trail running events in WA - the Bloated Goat - I am nervous, but I am confident too. Am I addicted to running, maybe. Am I happy about that, absolutely.

So, why am I writing this post today. Because it’s an important day to me, it’s the day I decided to alter the trajectory of my life. It’s kind of like a birthday. In many ways, it’s even better than that, because I know that I can eat as much cake as I like and then run it off tomorrow.

If you want to change your relationship with alcohol, there is a wonderful Australian founded organisation called Hello Sunday Morning - check them out!


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