Sam Delaney is a journalist and broadcaster. I contacted him after I found his article in the Guardian saying that he is having more fun than ever now that he is sober – and he is 7 years sober just like me!
Sam hosts two podcasts himself – one of which is called The Reset, a podcast in which he chats to guests about mental health, addiction and recovery
He has just published a new book called: Sort Your Head Out – Mental Health…without the Bollocks
In this Episode
- Sam’s drinking career got off to an early start when he would go to the park with his friends at the age of 12 – drinking cans of warm beer taken from parents’ houses
- He thought nothing of it – it was just what kids did – totally normalised
- We agreed that times have changed and that a lot of teenage drinking came from the fact that we had so much time on our hands in those days
- Time to drink, to smoke weed and get into fights was a kind of hobby to pass the time!
- Of course these days kids spend much of their spare time online which has a positive side to it
- In real terms, the stats tell us that the UK streets are safer than they were in the 1980s, in spite of constant headlines about knife crime
- Sam’s drinking didn’t become problematic until his late 30s when his lifestyle hit a perfect storm
- The combined pressures of his career, young family, hectic social life as well as maintaining his Jack the Lad identity left him exhausted – exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally
- We talked about the “false narratives” that are common among drinkers and Sam’s internal narrative was that he was doing this for the family
- The drink and drugs were acting as fuel to get him through the day and night – the fun was long gone
- Another false narrative was that it wasn’t harming anyone – whereas in fact, his wife was becoming increasingly worried
- If she expressed her concern he would become hostile and tell her not to try to control him
- We agreed that the term “rock bottom” was yet another false narrative and that the last thing we should do is wait for the rock bottom
- Far better to step off the slippery slope as soon as possible rather than think you are fine until you get to that place!
- We agreed that drinking feels like freedom at first but for some of us it becomes a prison and makes our life very small
- We lose the ability to enjoy everyday pleasures
- The example of not seeing the point of a walk in the country unless the destination was a pub says it all!
- Towards the end of his drinking, Sam would wake up each morning feeling awful and resolve not to drink that day – but of course, he always did
- He was trapped in the Groundhog Day prison of daily drinking
- He indulged in yet another false narrative – the one about if you’re drinking expensive wine then you must be a connoisseur rather than someone with a problem
- Of course, whether a bottle of wine costs £20 or £8 its still ethanol!
- One day he booked a session with a therapist at the Priory and that started his recovery
- I love the fact that he chose what he calls a “hybrid” approach – a bit of AA, a bit of therapy, a lot of reading and most importantly community support and sharing
- The modern recovery movement offers a pathway for everybody – and there is no reason why we can’t mix and match the various approaches
- We need to throw the book at our sobriety and do whatever it takes!
- With 7 years of sobriety, Sam can look back on his journey and realise that he’d been white-knuckling for the first couple of years
- It was only a work crisis that made him re-evaluate and realise that he had to go deeper
- He’d been isolated and realised that he had to “do the work”
- Part of that work has been connecting with people in recovery and having conversations for his podcast or his articles
- I’ve done pretty much the same and learned so much from my podcast guests
- One of his revelations during sobriety was that it wasn’t a binary choice – he didn’t have to choose between the Jack the Lad drinker lifestyle or the “sober serious hippie talking in psychobabble” as he puts it
- He could still be Jack the Lad but it would be a sober Jack the Lad with a bit more self-awareness and self-compassion
- I loved what he said about how boring drinking becomes after a few decades – about how nothing different ever happens
- Whereas sobriety is a real adventure and most people have no idea of how awesome their alcohol-free life will be before they embark on the journey!
- He made the very important point that when we ditch the booze we can examine our life and discover what we do that are legitimate sources of fun – what is still fun…even without the drink?
- Sam mentioned Christmas and Football as examples of alcohol-free fun!
- Conversely, what did we waste time on because they were only bearable because they were accompanied by alcohol?!
- Alcohol actually dumbs us down which can result in us spending time doing stuff or hanging out with people we don’t really enjoy
- For Sam, the realisation that he actually had much to enjoy in his everyday life only came with sobriety
- He’s written his book “Sort Your Head Out – mental health without the bollocks” for people feeling anxious, depressed and not knowing how to cope
- The book title is a clear message that this is not the usual self-help book – and is aimed at people who would probably never read a self-help book
- Bearing in mind that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, I think this book will save lives
- It’s the book Sam needed 10 years ago – when he was feeling that way
- If Sam had read this book he feels he could have avoided his 10-year descent into alcoholism
- I loved the book and it’s worth buying for the brilliant subtitles alone
- One of the subtitles is “Glamorize Rest” – or more precisely, The Grind is Bullshit, so let Glamorize Rest!
- Since the Thatcherism of the 80’s we’ve all been encouraged to keep our noses to the grindstone and it’s been a badge of honour to be “busy”
- This culture has led so many people to burnout
- It’s time for a change – to change the competitive nature of busyness and start showing off how many naps we had!
- Sam’s favourite chapter – and mine – is called “Thank You Alcohol”
- We were both driven to the point of crisis by alcohol – a crisis that opened us up to a new way of life
- Had we been normal drinkers we wouldn’t have been so incentivised to do the work and to change our lives so radically
- I asked him for tips and he quoted his therapist who recommended “playing the movie forward” when hit by cravings
- His therapist also reminded him that nobody ever regrets having had a drink the previous evening!
- We both agreed on the importance of sharing – the huge relief we feel when we realise that there is nothing wrong with us – we just got addicted to an addictive substance like 20% of social drinkers do!
- If you’re looking for a safe and supportive community where you can share your ups and downs please go to tribesober.com and hit join our tribe to read about the support we offer
- Do grab a copy of Sam’s book – Sort Your Head Out – I loved it and the chances are that you know someone battling with depression who really needs to read it
- I read it on Kindle, its available on Amazon and any London based listeners can pop down to Barnes Bookshop and get a signed copy from Sam when he pops in for his daily visit
- Check out Sam’s podcast – the Reset and you can also subscribe to his newsletter on Substack.
- He’s on Twitter @DelaneyMan and Instagram at theresetsam
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