‘Seeing the signs of my alcohol abuse was a huge wake-up call – now exercise is my addiction’ Leave a comment


Simon Chapple, 47, is an entrepreneur and author who lives in Guildford, Surrey with his wife Michelle and their son, Robin, 16

Until a few years ago, I’d drunk every day since I was a teenager. By the time I was 40, I was drinking up to three bottles of wine at home every night. I was actually quite fit and would go to the gym and run marathons. So, because I looked healthy and worked long hours running a successful business, I felt like I deserved my drinking.

I was convinced it was helping my anxiety and stress and helping me to have fun. But at the same time, I had a permanent hangover, and though I was somehow functioning, I felt disconnected emotionally from my wife and young son, preferring to be alone and drink.

One morning, I sat at my computer to type an email and looked down to see my hands were shaking. I’d never before had physical signs of my alcohol abuse; it was a huge wake-up call.

Though I knew I had to stop, I tried everything not to let go of alcohol. Watering down my wine, longer gaps between sips, lower alcohol wine. Desperate, I went online to seek help and came across a book called This Naked Mind by Annie Grace; that set me on a path to learning about why I drank so much, and how to really put an end to it.

I finally quit drinking altogether three years ago – but that meant I had to face my past trauma, which included abandonment and childhood sexual abuse. After that, my confidence and anxiety improved and I was able to be more present and connected than ever with my family. That has transformed our relationships.

I don’t identify as an alcoholic because I don’t want a label I have to live with forever. I focus on sobriety as a lifestyle choice; I describe myself as “Simon, ex-enthusiastic drinker” or “I don’t drink, I have had my lifetime quota, that was enough for everybody”.

How I workout

I was running marathons, doing triathlons, training and going to the gym everyday as a way of convincing myself that I had earned my three bottles of wine every night. But I was deluded; a secretive drinker, drinking at home on my own and looking fit, so nobody could see I had this alcohol problem.

When I stopped drinking, rather than treating it like a punishment, I treated it like a new hobby. I booked myself into the Valencia marathon six months later in order to shift my focus off alcohol. Having that goal to train for helped and I finished it in my fastest time ever. My fitness has improved so much since then that I have learned to swim and done a few triathlons too.

Before the pandemic I would go for an hour run outside, a long cycle or a 45 minute swim in my local pool most days. But since lockdown, I bought a Peloton bike and have been doing an intense 30-45 minute session of that everyday – it’s my new addiction.

My dieting principles

I used to skip breakfast or just have a bowl of cereal.  But about a year after I quit drinking I was diagnosed with adult ADHD  (another thing I was drinking to cope with, without knowing it). The doctor who diagnosed me explained how my crashes or meltdowns at about 11am most days were my blood sugar dropping from my high-sugar diet. Now I eat a diet low in sugar and processed foods, rich in complex carbohydrates, good fats and fruit and vegetables. All foods that release their energy slowly and help stabilise my mood.

What I eat in a typical day

Breakfast: wholemeal toast, smoked salmon, avocado and two boiled/scrambled eggs.
Lunch: bagel with cream cheese or smoked salmon. Blueberries.
Dinner: meat, potatoes and vegetables.

Lifestyle asides

Sleep: I didn’t think I could get to sleep without alcohol, but I now know that drinking means you don’t go through proper sleep cycles. Now I get eight hours a night, easily.
Guilty pleasure: Playing Tour of Duty on Xbox
Sobriety tip: Write down all the things you think alcohol gives you – fun, relaxation – then ask yourself a) if it really gives you those things and b) if there are healthier ways of getting them.

How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days by Simon Chapple (Sheldon Press). Buy now for £14.99 at books.telegraph.co.uk or call 0844 871 1514

For more Midlife Fitness Files, see here





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