This week's Mr. Perfect blog is written anonymously by one of our followers.
I was drinking a bottle of wine a night. Yes, that’s right, a fully functioning law student working full-time in a law firm.
From arriving home at 6pm to 11pm I had a glass of wine in my hand. Cooking, cleaning, watching television, doing the dishes. Getting up at 6am for the train and the cycle would repeat.
This went on for 9 months. I went from a happy, easy going 25 year-old to a sad, depressed and overweight guy with no discernible interests and a hollow friendship group that revolved around drinking.
But lets take this back to the beginning. I was a “normal” teenage kid. I had my first real drinking experience at a Year 11 debutant ball after-party. My parents bought a six-pack of Southern Comfort and I had them all. I passed out and lay outside on the cold grass of a rural property on the Mornington Peninsula.
I didn't drink too much after this at all.
In 2016 I went on a trip overseas for the first time to the USA, travelling around the West coast. The trip was a tour with my secondary college and another school from an eastern suburb of Melbourne.
Here I met R. R was fun, R was comforting. R was also incredibly toxic. To my self-esteem, to my confidence, to my sense of self.
R made me question everything I did, causing me to walk on eggshells and emotionally abused me to the point of debilitating social anxiety and depression that I have dealt with to this day.
On this same trip it was my friend’s 18th birthday. As a 17 year old I was unable to drink in a licensed bar but an older guy handed me a beer. Before I knew it security were escorting me out of the venue with R in tow.
Then it hit me. My first real anxiety attack. Beating heart, tightening of the chest, sweaty palms, racing thoughts, sickness to the stomach.
The feeling was pure fear, an intense rush of feelings. This continued throughout my relationship with R, to a point where social events become my largest fear, even thinking about an event in a months time brought it back.
I was anxious when going out for dinner as food become difficult to consume and even the smell of food would cause me to react with anxiety. I would need to escape the venue or run to the toilet to calm down. I spent many 18th and 21st birthdays between the party, outside and the bathroom, trying to rid myself of these terrible feelings.
Alcohol seemed to help as it made me more social. I was more talkative, less worried, I was fun to be around. I drank before an event to warm up and be ready for when I arrived. I drank at the event and even after everyone headed home.
At the time it did not seem problematic but clearly drinking nightly on the couch, in my room alone or with my family, was becoming an issue.
The alcohol relaxed me, took my mind off my anxiety for a little while. I had a couple of relationships through this time, and my drinking was problematic for them. I was spending more on beer than anything else and worried when it ran out. I was addicted.
This addiction took hold of myself for close to 10 years. The cycle repeated and I rewarded myself for working hard, having a shit day or even just because it was sunny outside.
There was always a reason to drink or a celebration. It caused huge damage to friendships and relationships. I sometimes came into the bedroom with a glass of wine, sitting on the night-stand, drinking and being zoned out, instead of having an honest and close conversation with my partner.
Before heading to university in 2014, I had sought help for my anxiety the year before and took anti-depressants. Living on campus was an alcoholics dream. 100 young wild kids doing what they wanted, whenever they wanted.
The more you drank, the more friends you gained. But the superficial level of friendship and relationships formed around alcohol became clear when you were at your lowest the next day.
The drinking continued and a relationship broke down when I moved out of university. But in 2017 I wanted desperately a new life. A new job and new direction. I had to take control.
I worked out the sort of people I wanted to meet, the hobbies I wanted to take up and where I could add value to the friendships I already had. But the drinking continued, despite any enjoyment I previously had disappearing.
This led to my consumption increasing to reach the same level of relaxation, sometimes a few beers followed by a bottle of red, sometimes two. But I still had enough energy to look for a new job that I wanted in criminal law. I got the role and then met my current partner, the most caring, supportive and loving person I had ever met. I moved out of home and started renting closer to work. It meant moving from my comfort zone.
I started fresh. I had a new second-hand car, my own bedroom, a new relationship, new job and was getting into my hobbies after work. But for the first few weeks I was still drinking.
I was left with about $100 after rent and bills so I allocated a budget for $50 for food and $50 for wine. Aldi wine became my choice. At $2.50 it was incredibly cheap and nasty, like paint stripper. I was disgusted with myself for drinking it and hid the bottles in my wardrobe.
And then came a turning point. One night in with my housemates saw us sat in front of the fire watching UFC, eating pizza and of course a glass or more of wine.
But that was the last night I had a drink. I do not know what exactly triggered it but I achieved some clarity that from the outside looking in, my life was taking shape and everything was going to plan.
My last flaw, my last crux was the drinking. I had to stop. I knew it would cause the end of my new relationship that was going great, my new job I enjoyed.
The next night was a Monday and Louis Theroux documentary was on called "Drinking to Oblivion". I saw for the first time the devastating effects that alcohol was having on these people’s health, physical and mental.
For years I had neglected to think about my health. I did not want to know what I was doing to my body even when people told me regularly how bad it was for my health. But to see someone my age being admitted to hospital to detox and seeing people being drained of fluid retention due to their livers and kidneys no longer functioning, it gave me an overwhelming clarity to focus on what I had done to my body.
It was time to seek help.
I spoke with my partner and asked if she would support me in coming to the doctor with me. It was the first time I had openly admitted to someone that I needed help.
The doctor was amazing. I was able to speak openly and freely about my drinking habits and a series of blood tests were ordered. I left the doctors office with my heart in my throat. A liver function test was going to be conducted with the results available within a week.
I spent the next part of the week worrying, researching, "ways to detox liver” or “best foods for the liver”. I stocked up on every vitamin available and was starting to take vitamin D, multivitamin and magnesium every day.
The test results came back as a "high liver enzymes count" meaning that some damage to my liver had occurred, consistent with drinking large amounts of alcohol. I felt sick. I did not know what a good number was. The doctor asked me to come back in a month to see if the liver would repair itself once I stopped drinking.
A month later, after not drinking at all, I entered the doctor’s office with some confidence. I had been going to the gym, eating well and generally looking after myself (apart from the sugar cravings and sugar binges). More tests were done, a liver scan and abdomen scan was conducted and I had a slight amount of fatty liver. The doctor stated it would reduce with time and not drinking.
I walked out of his office and committed to getting my physical health in order. I had control over my body, not the alcohol.
It has now been 3 months, 28 days and 12 hours since I had my last drink.
I downloaded an app to keep track of my habits and have saved $682.80 cents and missed 836 drinks.
But most importantly, I have regained approximately 11 days and 14.8 hours of my life back. That could be the difference between being able to see my son get married and enjoy his wedding day or be laying in hospital, waiting for a liver transplant or be dead.
It has not been easy to quit drinking, it has been extremely difficult. But it has been worth it, I have been more productive in my life, in my work and my relationships with others have improved.
I have built the confidence to volunteer with a charity and give my time to something more worthwhile than sitting in a restaurant at a winery on a Sunday afternoon, drinking a bottle of wine. Or maybe two.