I decided to give up alcohol on the 24th of July 2012.
I get lots of people asking me why I did it and how I deal with it, especially as I am in a band and am surrounded by booze and drinkers all the time - so I thought I’d write about it.
I started drinking at a very early age. I think I first got drunk when I was 11 and steadily, alcohol became embedded in my weekend routine. I would get drunk every Friday, Saturday and Sunday without fail throughout my teenage years and when I started going on tour with Sonic Boom Six, I would pretty much drink every night. I never drank to block anything out or to numb myself from any pain or guilt I was feeling. I just drank to get really wasted cause I loved the feeling of it. I didn’t feel like I’d partied hard enough unless I was getting put to bed or blanking out. I think I saw it as a security blanket to do and say whatever I wanted. That way, I could blame my actions on the alcohol rather than blame it on myself. I really didn’t care about what I’d say or do cause that wasn’t me, that was drunk Laila.
|Two drinks Khan|
As the years went on, the routine of getting to a gig, having a couple of beers, playing the set and then getting leathered was becoming tiresome. And so began this ongoing mental battle with myself where I would say to everyone – “I’m not drinking tonight” or “I’m giving up booze for a week” or “I’m only gonna have two drinks” and then I would get drunk and go to bed angry with myself then wake up feeling really depressed cause I’d let myself down once again. I’ve lost a silly amount of days being hungover and not appreciating the great things that were going on in my life. Alcohol for me totally numbed everything. I remember one time when we did a gig at Asbury Lanes in New Jersey where it was another one of those times where I wasn’t going to drink as we had an early start the next day, which promised lots of sightseeing around New York before we flew back to Manchester. That night I got SO drunk, I don’t remember much after the gig. This meant I woke up in a foul mood, dragged my arse around New York and moaned the whole time. We were at the top of the Empire State Building and I just wanted to be in bed… and this was one of many occasions that this kind of thing happened.
|Moaning in Manhattan|
This became my ritual for about 3 years until I completely stopped drinking. Until then, I enjoyed getting drunk. The hangovers were bad but the enjoyment of drinking cancelled them out in a weird way. I would look to people for help and tell them to make sure I don’t drink too much or to not let me have a drink but that never worked, until I accepted that this was something I had to do for myself it just wasn’t going to happen. I’d often wake up feeling anxious, depressed and on edge. I love exercising and eating healthily but drinking meant I wouldn’t eat all day, get drunk, forget to eat and then binge on salty carbs when I woke up the next day to try to satisfy my raging appetite for all things bad. This happened 3 days out of 7.
At the start of 2012, I’d decided that enough was enough so I steadily decreased my drinking but often I would fall into the “I’ll just have one drink” trap and wake up feeling disgusting cause I’d managed to drink everything in sight! And then something just clicked. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to stop drinking, I didn’t make a big song and dance about it. I went out with my best friends, Maddy and Chewy, on the night of the 24th of July 2012 and I was doing well. I’d only had a couple of drinks all night but I was really aware of it and felt spiky like something wasn’t right all night. At the end of the night, Maddy brought out some Moon Shine that she’d brought back from Hungary and we all did a shot. I didn’t tell anyone then but I knew that was going to be the last drink I ever had. A couple of months ago, Maddy mentioned it to me and said how if she’d known that was gonna be my last ever drink then she would have made it more of a party!
It’s hard to describe how I did it, I think I’d just had enough of feeling crappy and having that constant feeling of fighting a losing battle with myself and the booze. I can’t give myself all the credit though, I had a look on Amazon for books that might help me and I came across Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Control Alcohol. The book didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t know already but it made me more determined to stop. There were a few things that I didn’t agree with but a lot of what he was saying really hit home. It’s definitely worth a read if alcohol is having a negative impact on your life like it was on mine and you want to give it up for good.
The first few months were difficult. It took me a good 5 months to discover the real me, my personality and what I’m like without the booze. Often people ask me if it’s weird being out with loads of drunken people and if they piss me off. At first it was hard, it was horrible and I remember once going in a mood cause I hated being out so much and Nick Horne turned to me and said, “But you decided to stop drinking.” He said it in such an honest way, it really hit home and I realised that it was me that decided to stop drinking. I’ve changed what I do, so why should the people I surround myself with do the same when they don’t want to? Since then, I often remind myself of what he said when people are being drunk or obnoxious. Also, if a night out is rubbish, then I cut my losses and go home. There’s no point in dwelling on whether a night would be better if I was drunk. I’ve had loads of shitty nights out, got drunk and they’ve got worse and ended up in arguments and fights. One last tip I use is to think about the next day, when people feel dreadful from the night before and I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed and that’s when the real fun starts!
I know lots of people that can have one or two drinks and have a great time but I will never be that kind of person. One drink was never enough. However, all of the people that I know that can do this have woken up at some point cause they’ve overdone it and vowed to “never do it again…” I got to the point with booze where it just stopped working for me in my life, it was making me sick and miserable and I knew I had to stop. Believe me, I was no Oliver Reed, and towards the end, I probably drank as much as your average person drinks – a few drinks on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday but I could never judge where the line of excess was and often went past it and then felt guilty/ashamed/disappointed in myself and then I’d do it again and again and again.
A lot of the times I’d try and fail to give up the booze - it came down to a fear of becoming boring or more importantly to me at the time (which is ridiculous) a fear of people thinking that I’d become boring but after the initial couple of months of not drinking, my friends saw how much happier I was and how much I needed to do it for myself. I discovered there are certain people who drink and have a real problem with non-drinkers, as if they’re being judged by the person who has chosen not to drink. I found it similar to certain meat eaters who are mortally offended by vegetarians. I’ve come across a handful of people like this, where the constant piss taking and even aggressive behaviour towards my sobriety has been too much to handle. The best solution I found for this was to cut them people out and not have them impacting my life in a negative way.
For me, ditching the booze has been the best thing I’ve ever done. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel completely alive. I have the best nights out where I actually feel the whole night and what’s going on around me. I think in the past I mistook a lot of the nervous energy I have within myself as a sign to get drunk and to quell that feeling but once I accepted that’s just the way I am, it got easier. Even now when I go out, I get tense and anxious and for the first hour I find it hard to relax but once that hour has passed, that feeling also passes... without the aid of anything to drink! My judgement is better, I sleep better, I look and feel so much better, I’m happy, I’m so much more productive and my brain feels like it’s been rejuvenated. The thought of never having to wake up in that haze, with my head banging, my eyes stinging and feeling sick to my stomach, makes me smile from ear to ear.
|Happy, healthy close up!|