Author of Sober In Seven and wellness coach , here to use my own experience of overcoming alcohol addiction to support you on your journey to a better healthier life.
On the face of it, Andy’s life looked great. A stellar, award-winning and record breaking career, a flash company car on the drive, great family, and money in the bank. Underneath, however, he was hiding a secret.
If you met him, you would find an outgoing guy who would smile and offer you a beer, but inside there was a relentless battle against alcohol addiction and the self-loathing that went with it.
Andy grew up in a pub on a tiny island in the Shetland Islands and as a young man, being able to ‘hold your drink’ was a rite of passage into manhood. If you weren’t able to down a half bottle of whisky and remain standing you were in some way inferior.
The patterns of behaviour laid down in his early teens led to a lifetime of over indulgence, costing him a small fortune, relationships, and ultimately a marriage.
By the time he was in his late forties, the wheels were starting to come off.
In a new relationship with a new young son, everything was in a better situation, and yet the drinking prevailed.
“Why do I do this, when the rest of my life is great?” Was a daily debate between his head and his heart.
A visit to the supermarket for the family dinner would see him walking into the supermarket, determined to ‘have a night off’ and not drink that night. 20 minutes later, pushing the trolley back to his car with the inevitable 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of gin, he felt worthless, alone and out of control.
“It’s the price I pay to be successful”, he told himself.
“When you push yourself this hard, you have to play hard”
The truth of the matter
His health was in a terrible state with sky high blood pressure, cholesterol and pre-diabetic blood sugar. This, coupled with being prescribed antidepressant meds for anxiety (oh the irony of ‘drinking relaxes me’) and the fact that he was walking with a stick due to uncontrolled gout in both knees and both ankles led to a collapse in the supermarket due to acute anxiety.
He had tried (so he thought) everything. Willpower, AA meetings, Hypnotherapy, counselling, and even seeing his GP. (“It’s OK - you are not an alcoholic if you don’t drink during the day – just try and cut down a bit”)
The moment it all changed
A few days later, something interesting happened.
Running late for a meeting, he was held at a railway level crossing in the car. Fuming at his enforced delay, he turned on the radio.
The Michael Jackson song, “The Man in the Mirror” was playing. Andy had heard the song hundreds of times before but had never listened to the words and appreciated them.
“I’m starting with the Man in the Mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways…”
That one word changed his life – ‘asking’.
As he looked at the tired eyes in the rear-view mirror, framed by dark circles, he asked himself if he was ready, and for the first time in his life, the answer came back yes.
Despondency turned into hope. What if, the answers lay inside him, and rather than beating himself up about his drinking, he sought the answers out?
He took a few days off and went back over everything he had learned about influencing psychology through professional qualifications and personal development courses.
He formed a plan – after all, if he could win healthcare industry-wide awards for influencing others, what if he turned those skills on himself?
Something inside shifted. Hope turned to excitement. Excitement turned to determination, and then into acceptance that he simply did not feel the desire to drink.
“I think I’m done” he said to Louise, his partner.
“Yeah, right” (We had been here before)
“I can’t explain it, it just feels different this time”
Days became weeks, and after a couple of months, he woke up with a sense of wellbeing he hadn’t experienced in 2 decades. Only then did he realise just how much alcohol had been taken from him.
Andy is just an ordinary guy, but probably one of the most curious people you will ever meet. He was professionally interested in what had just happened as he assumed that he was virtually beyond help.
Taking it to others
He recruited some volunteers to try the plan he set for himself, and the feedback was unanimous:
“This is amazing – you HAVE to share this”
And so the FREEDOM programme was born. It has helped thousands of people around the world to not only control their drinking, but simply move on with their lives.
Now Andy devotes his life to helping others who feel the same sense of frustration as he did.
By keeping things ‘real’ and using his own story to inspire others, he is now one of the most sought after individuals in the field of alcohol addiction, having appeared on countless TV and Radio stations.
Andy would be the first person to acknowledge that quitting drinking doesn’t make your life perfect. It does however, enable you to deal with life’s challenges more constructively which in turn makes a massive difference.
In 2018, Andy rode into Paris on his bike, having ridden the entire course of the Tour de France, raising thousands for a charity helping disadvantaged children.
Not bad for someone who a few years before had been using a stick to walk, don’t you think?
Andy often says,
“If someone went back in time to speak to me in 2015 and said in a few years’ time that you would be helping people with alcohol addiction, be a qualified ‘spin’ instructor at your local gym, and you will have ridden the Tour de France, I would have laughed in your face – you would have been talking about someone else.”
It’s amazing how your life can unfold along a different path when you have more time, more energy, better mental & physical health, better self esteem and are saving money!