Alcohol Abuse: “My life has changed for the better in every possible way since becoming sober.”
Published May 9, 2023 • By Polina Kochetkova
In this interview, Pat opens up about his alcohol addiction. He has been drinking on and off for 30 years and now can proudly say “I am three years sober” and counting! Pat describes his sobriety journey, toxic friendships, AA sessions and more! What has changed in his life since getting sober? How does Pat deal with triggers and cravings? What is his motivation to stay away from addiction?
Discover his recovery story!
Thank you for agreeing to tell your story to the Carenity audience!
First of all, could you tell us more about yourself?
I am a 47 year old archaeologist living in Tofino on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. I grew up in Calgary on the Canadian prairies but have lived on Vancouver Island for the last 20 years. I am the middle son of three brothers and had a typical, privileged middle-class upbringing.
My main sport when growing up was diving, the type where you do flips off a diving board into water. I was fairly successful in my diving career managing to qualify for numerous junior world competitions. Along with the other benefits that diving gave me, the acrobatics I learnt allowed me I spent a summer working in a circus in Austria when I was 19 years old.
I am interested in health and wellness and finding out what constitutes a healthy diet, lifestyle, and exercise regime. These days I own a small archaeological consulting company, write blogs about health and wellness and enjoy surfing, paddle boarding, hiking, biking, tai chi and yoga.
You have been addicted to alcohol for many years. Could you tell us how the disease came to be in your life? At what age did you start drinking and in what context? Was it due to unhappiness? How long did you drink?
I first got drunk with some friends when I was 14 and started drinking alcohol on a fairly regular basis when I was 16. Even at that early age, I would drink to excess. My drinking started out as something to do in social situations. I was quite shy growing up and alcohol helped enormously with social anxiety and making me feel like I fit in. Drinking for me was about unhappiness with myself and as a response to stress, anxiety, and wanting to be cool and fit in. I drank, on and off, for almost 30 years and have now been sober for over 3 years.
At what point did you realize that it was not recreational alcohol but an addiction? What did you do at that point? What was your state of mind?
I realized early on in my drinking career that I had a problem with overconsuming alcohol. I was rarely able to only have a few drinks. Once a certain threshold was passed, I would drink until drunk, and hangovers could be horrible. During hangovers, I would not only feel sick and depressed but also stressed and anxious. This could put me into a downward spiral of drinking the next morning to cure a hangover only to have it happen the next day and so on.
In the later years, this could go on for weeks, or months if I wasn’t working, and would only stop when I literally couldn’t stomach alcohol and would spend the day throwing up.
What triggered you to stop drinking? What did you do to stop? Did you get help? How complicated was it for you to stop drinking?
I quit drinking many times over the years for various durations. Sometimes for a few weeks and sometimes for a few months. I tried many different methods including the Sinclair method, getting healthy, doing mindfulness practices like yoga and tai chi and just using pure will power. None of these things worked for long.
I would get sober for a few months, begin to feel better, then start drinking casually again. Every time I started drinking again with the best intentions. Thinking I could moderate my drinking this time. Only to find that within a week, I was drinking to excess every day, unable to control myself.
Quitting alcohol was the hardest thing I have done in my life. To quit long term you have to deal with your root issue or problem and continue working on it for the rest of your life. It gets easier and actually enjoyable the further you go down this road.
I did do one detox in the hospital, but I mostly quit and went through detox on my own. I finally quit for good through a combination of strategies and practices that include: affirmations, practicing forgiveness (for yourself and others), gratitude and the Wim Hoff method. Working on mindfulness and realizing deeply and fully that the present moment is all we ever truly have. And striving for a healthy life by exercising and eating well.
How did alcohol affect your personal and professional life? How did people around you view your addiction? Did they support you when you stopped? Was it or is it still a taboo subject?
Alcohol affected my personal and professional life very negatively, especially in the later years. In my 20´s my excessive drinking seemed like the thing to do and wasn’t too far from the norm in my group of friends. But later, it became very problematic. My wife at the time disliked my drinking (I am now divorced) and my work performance suffered badly. I failed at starting a company mainly because I became too stressed and unorganized with the workload and my excessive drinking habits.
My close friends and relatives were very supportive of my attempts at quitting drinking. Others not so much. People who are not supportive in these situations are not your true friends. They are usually just acquaintances who don’t want to lose you as a drinking companion and to justify their own drinking habit.
My drinking addiction is not a taboo subject, mainly because I try to talk about it often. This helps me remember my own and other peoples struggles in what is a very prevalent problem in our society. I believe too many people brush addiction and mental health problems under the table which benefits no one.
How do you handle cravings and triggers? What techniques or strategies do you use to stay sober?
I do daily affirmations and practice the Wim Hoff method of taking cold showers (only for the first few minutes of the shower, I then turn it to hot) and doing a morning breathing exercise. Both these strategies help with sleep, stress, and anxiety. I exercise regularly by surfing, paddle boarding, hiking, biking and doing my moving mindfulness practices of yoga and tai chi. I stay healthy by eating a whole food plant-based diet, both to feel good and as an ethical choice. Through my affirmations and mindfulness practices I work on forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude.
You have a blog “Pat McCashin” where you outline your sobriety and stress relief strategies among many other things. What motivated you to start this blog? Could you elaborate on “thriving in sobriety” in this age where alcohol and drugs are considered cool by today’s youth?
I started patmccashin.com to try to help others who were struggling with alcohol addiction and to show that while alcohol can be seductive it is definitely not cool or glamorous. I struggled for decades, and my older brother died at the age of 46 from liver disease due to alcohol and I wanted to help prevent others from suffering the same fate. In the blog concerning my brother’s disease and death, I try to show the ugly, unglamorous truth of alcohol addiction so others can learn from his, and my, mistakes.
Over the years of trying and failing to quit and watching my closest friend and brother try and fail to quit, I have learned a great deal about what motivates us to drink. I have also learned how to finally overcome that compulsion and live a truly happy life without alcohol. With this experience, I am in an ideal place to share the strategies and solutions that worked for me and have allowed me to truly thrive in sobriety.
Thriving in Sobriety is living a happy, fulfilling life without alcohol. My life has changed for the better in every possible way since becoming sober. I am happier, healthier and enjoy life much more than I could have thought possible while drinking.
Are there any resources or support groups that have been helpful to you in your recovery?
Any support group that works for you is worthwhile. I went to AA a few times but wasn’t really involved with any support groups throughout my recovery; however, I believe it would have made it easier. The support group here at Carenity looks good and there are many others out there. Books I would recommend include: The Big Book from AA, The 30 Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Down or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home and The Power of Now. The Big Book is a great resource even if you don’t want to go to AA. It has a great explanation of what alcoholism is and lots of good stories and strategies to help you with your sobriety journey. The 30 Day Sobriety Solution is a great resource for anyone trying to quit on their own and The Power of Now is the best book on Mindfulness I have ever read. The simple, straightforward explanations of mindfulness and how to implement them changed my life.
Finally, what advice would you like to give to members who are also affected by alcohol addiction?
I wish you the best of luck. In the process of working through your sobriety strategies, you can hopefully expose and deal with the root cause of your alcohol addiction and truly realize the potential of the best version of you.
A big thank you to Pat for this interview!
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