I'll never forget the day I picked up my wife and son from the hospital after he was born. It was one of those rare moments in life when I knew nothing would ever be the same again, like the day you meet the person you know you're going to spend the rest of your life with, or when you find your passion in life. Only for me, I was going to have two of those life-changing moments on the same day.
My son was born on a Thursday in June of 2012, and I spent every moment I could with him and my wife Sarah until I met up with a few friends to 'wet the baby's head' on the Friday night. I've never been one to just have a couple drinks and go home, I have to make a night of it, and this night was no different. As my friends went home one by one throughout the evening, there I was again, last man standing, and when I woke up later that morning I was suffering from a hideous hangover.
Some people claim to wake up after a big night without feeling any adverse affects, but not me -- I get a hangover every time without fail. I pottered about the house, ate breakfast, watched some TV and rested on the couch, until I went to the hospital after lunch. I was tired and all I wanted to do was sleep, so after we loaded up the car with Sarah's belongings and secured my son into his capsule, I asked her to drive us home.
Once we were home and Jack was tucked away in his new cot, I headed straight to the couch for my customary post-big-night-out afternoon nap. I knew it was the wrong thing to do, after all, Sarah had just given birth 48 hours earlier, yet I was the one needing to sleep. I should have been keeping an eye on Jack while she got some much-needed rest, but I just couldn't keep my eyes open. I knew I'd let Sarah and my son down on a day that should have been a celebration. I decided, at that moment, to never drink alcohol again, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I spent most weekends during my twenties in a pub or club somewhere, drinking the night away and then sleeping it off. The frequency of those nights out dwindled in my early thirties, and by the time my son was born (I was 38), I was hitting the town maybe once every couple of months.
I never used to drink at home (I actually don't really like the taste of alcohol) so the idea of sitting in front of the TV with a few beers during the week never appealed to me. Like most 20-something-year-olds, my relationship with alcohol was to drink as much as I could on a night out, then deal with the consequences the following day.
Since I've started to tell my story, I've realised I'm not alone. It's incredibly common for men to collect their wives and children with a hangover, far more common than I'd thought. Australia is a country where we celebrate everything with a drink or 10; you can't go to a wedding, birthday, anniversary party or even a funeral without alcohol playing a central role. But this particular day had a profound effect on me -- I knew the time had come to give the booze away for good. The crazy thing is, I'd decided to quit in 2008, but because drinking was something I'd always done, and is such a big part of the Australian culture, it was four years later that I had my last drink.
I've since discovered that the overwhelming reason why people don't quit, even though they want to, is the fear of how their social lives are going to change. They believe they will be unable to enjoy a night out with their inebriated friends, or worse still, won't be invited to go out at all.
From my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. I still go out with my friends and have a great time, only I don't spend a small fortune or wake up feeling like I'm being repeatedly smashed over the head with a mallet. Given my now three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to jump on my head at 6 am, this is a good thing. I have more time on my hands because I'm not wasting days recovering on the couch, and I'm much healthier too.
But the most surprising realisation was that no-one actually cared that much. I'd created this reality in my head where I'd be constantly asked about my decision to quit alcohol and that my friends would try and pressure me into drinking. But they didn't -- they just accepted my decision and got on with their lives.
And why wouldn't they?
It's at this point that I realised I should have quit in 2008 when I knew I wanted to. So if you're thinking of quitting, don't wait and waste years convincing yourself it's the right thing to do like I did, because that is a complete waste of time and money. If you're serious about quitting alcohol, do it today and I guarantee it will be one of the best decisions you'll ever make.