Back at the beginning of 2019, I decided to take a break from drinking alcohol. I didn’t have a bad New Year’s Eve that ended with me waking up in a foreign country or a disastrous Christmas where I found myself naked and covered in ornaments or anything like that. No, I just wanted to get healthier.
I’d found for the past few years that drinking was just taking too much of a toll on my mind and body as I grew older. The odd hangover when I drank too much had turned into headaches whenever I drank anything at all. I developed strange heart palpitations that my doctor said were probably caused by alcohol. I was getting bloated and uncomfortably heavy. I was frustrated with my constant mood swings. I wasted way too much time on drunken midnight descents into 1990s concerts on YouTube.
As the father of a couple of young boys, I worried about the toll of all this and something happening to me that deprived them of a functional father, or a father at all. Leave aside for the moment they were often the reason I drank….
So I decided to try to stop drinking again, at least until I could shed some weight and get healthier. I’d tried a few times in the past and been reasonably successful — I’d gone a few months here, six months there, etc. But there was always some social event or another where I felt it was time to take a drink, and then the cycle started up again.
This time I decided to try out a new app I’d read about on reddit’s Stop Drinking subreddit: NoMo. I downloaded it in early January and started using it, and I 100% credit my year of sobriety to the app.
It has a number of features that are useful. One I quite like is you can track how much money you are saving. Simply check your bank statements to see how much you spent on booze the year before, enter that number into the app, and it’ll tell you how much money you’ve saved each day by not drinking. I’ve saved the price of a holiday trip to another country in one year — that’s right, I was drinking away a vacation each year.
You can also connect with other people for support and that sort of thing, if that’s what works for you. I’m more independent myself, but do whatever works for you.
The feature that works best for me is the app keeps track of your sobriety streak — how many days you’ve gone without a drink. That alone is the thing that has stopped me from drinking many times over the past year. There’s always been some occasion or another where I’ve been at a party or event where there’s a table of open booze bottles, and the thing that’s stopped me from drinking is that streak. I’ve actually pulled out my phone, checked my app and thought, “Nah, I don’t want to break my streak of 157 days of no drinking just to have a beer or shot of rum.”
The effectiveness of this really struck home with me when I was on holiday in Iceland with some friends a few months back. We were staying in a hotel that had an executive lounge that offered free booze every night — good, expensive booze! What better excuse to have a drink — I’m on holiday in Iceland, and they’re giving away excellent drinks for free. I can just take a short break from sobriety and have some fun! I didn’t, though. I didn’t want to break that streak on the app. And I honestly didn’t want to have a drink, either. I liked the way I felt sober and I continue to like the way I feel sober. So I passed and went to bed early and got up early the next day and wandered Reykjavik and went for hikes and had a lovely, inspiring time that I still remember.
I’m not one to be an evangelist about sobriety or anything else. But I’ve been open about my reasons for not drinking and I’ve been pleased with the changes over the last year — I lost 35 pounds, I’m more fit, I’m happier and more level, and I feel I’m much better equipped to deal with stress. Many people have asked me about my experiences and what’s been working for me. It’s clear a number of my friends and acquaintances have their own struggles with alcohol and are thinking about taking a break. So I thought I’d mention the app and my own experiences here for those who are interested.
After all, it’s the start of a new year. What better time to transform yourself into that person you want to be?
Stay strong and have compassion for others but most of all yourself.
It’s the end of another year, and I hope you achieved all your goals and had some surprising accomplishments that you never could have predicted at the end of last year. I hope you have gratitude for all the good things that happened or came your way. If it was a hard year for you, I hope you take comfort in simply surviving and acknowledge your strength and resilience. Sometimes it takes all we have within us to survive.
I have 20 wishes for you in 2020. Add or delete as you will to make your own personalized list.
- May you find/continue the love that you deserve — even if it is simply love for yourself. That is often the hardest love of all to discover.
- May you do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. Time will not wait for you, so why wait for time?
- May you discover something that changes your world and helps you find a better, more positive place in the universe. Therapy, spirituality, kink, travel, creativity, photography, meditation, parenting, whatever it is, I hope your journey takes you to new and better places within yourself this coming year.
- May you create. Create art, create life, create political change, create a new startup. Make something new that didn’t exist before, that only you could create.
- May you be compassionate with others. We are all struggling with things no one but us can see. Remember that when thinking about others, be they family, friends, co-workers or strangers.
- May you be compassionate toward yourself. We are our own harshest critics and never stop judging ourselves. We never forgive ourselves for things we have done that no one else even remembers, let alone cares about. Recognize you are human and every moment has been a learning experience to get you where you are now. Forgive yourself. Heal yourself. Love yourself.
- May you love others. Life is too short to get lost in judgement, anxiety, competition, envy, jealousy, all those things we feel toward others when our own life fails to meet our expectations. Love each and every one of us for the random, impossible miracles we are in this universe.
- May you read a good book. May you read many good books. A life without reading is like a life without colour. You can live such a life, but do you even know what you are missing?
- May you say yes to everything that comes your way. It is easy to say no, but what change happens when you don’t try something new? Say yes for a year and see how it transforms you.
- May you say no to everything that comes your way. It is easy to say yes to everything, but you can become lost in other people’s issues. What space can you make for yourself and your dreams by saying no? Say no for a year and see how it transforms you.
- May you let go of things that no longer serve you — those household items in storage, friendships that have become toxic or at least not inspiring or uplifting, relationships where you no longer recognize each other or help each other to become better people, jobs that have become work instead of a calling. Those things served a purpose in your life and brought you to where you are. But sometimes things can drag you down if you don’t let go of them. If something no longer serves you in any meaningful way, perhaps it is time to let go of it without having to let go of the love you once had for it.
- May you think about death. We are all dying every day and we try not to think about it. We should not be concerned about death. It is the most natural thing of all, more natural than life even. Contemplate death, for thinking about death will surely change the way you think about life.
- May you think about life and what sort of life you truly want to live before death. You only have one life (in this body and mind, anyway). Live it like you want to live it because one day there will be no later for you.
- May you care for yourself. Watch Netflix. Read. Sleep. Go to the movies. Go to the spa. Ask to spend more time with friends. Meditate. Exercise. Buy things for yourself you wouldn’t normally buy. We spend so much time in life looking after others that we often forget to look after ourselves. Look after yourself.
- May you change something about yourself. Life is transformation and change, from the moment we are born to our dying breath. If you are not changing, you are not really living. Embrace change. Embrace life.
- May you see the magic in life. We live on a rock spinning through the cold nothingness of space, just near enough and far away enough from a dying star that we may exist, but that star is itself just a speck of light in a vast universe that we know next to nothing about. Every second of life for all of us has been and always will be a miracle with no clear origin, an act of magic that seems to have been generated by the uncaring and unknowable universe itself. To see that shouldn’t invoke nihilism or existentialism but instead should inspire joy and wonder. Against all odds, and for no reason at all, we are here. For a brief split second in time, we exist when there was nothing before. What else is that but magic?
- May your every action be meaningful this year. We spend so much time doing nothing but wasting time — reading celebrity gossip, following the arguments of strangers on Twitter, watching viral videos about someone else’s misfortune. Imagine what your life would be if instead you spent that time in meaningful pursuits — learning new information or teaching yourself a new skill or improving your fitness or creating a new artistic project. Where would you be in a year’s time if you did this for yourself?
- May you discover wonder again. As we grow older, we often become cynical, judgemental and skeptical. Try to remember what it was like to view the world as a child and bring back that sense of wonder again. The world is a rich, complex and wondrous place. View it as such and discover the wonder in yourself again.
- May you learn to be comfortable with yourself. We see ourselves through the lens of others and find value in our lives by imagining how others perceive us. What if you were stranded for the rest of your life on an island with no other people? What if you were the last person left alive on the earth? What if there was no one else but you? How would you live a meaningful life then? Imagine a life that would make you happy in those circumstances and then live it in our actual, present world.
- May you find the courage to do the things you once found impossible, because everything is possible at the start of a new year.
By now some of you will be aware of the controversy surrounding ChiZine Publications, the publishers of my Cross series of supernatural thrillers under the pen name Peter Roman. In light of all the information that has come out, I requested the rights back to my Cross series through Cooke McDermid and CZP agreed, so the rights have now reverted back to me. It’s a difficult situation for many reasons, not the least of which is I had a new Cross book ready to go in the series. I love Cross’s world and I do want to keep writing those stories, but I’ll have to figure out a new way to do that now.
My heart goes out to all the other writers and the readers affected by this situation. CZP published and employed many amazing, incredibly talented creators, so it’s a really heartbreaking time. I sincerely hope everyone lands in a good place for them and are able to keep following their passions. I urge you all to check out their works now if you haven’t already done so. (You should be able to do so by searching ChiZine on Google or your relevant social media networks.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me and read the Cross books to date. At the end of the day, you are why I write and will continue to do so.
For those who have been asking, yes, I am one of those authors affected by the ChiZine news. (ChiZine published my Cross series of supernatural thrillers under the pen name Peter Roman.)
I don’t want to speak about the situation publicly at the moment as I’m consulting with various people about my options. I’ll have more to say in the future. I’ll just say I’m heartbroken about it all and had no idea of the scale of complaints. I recently finished the fourth Cross book in the series, so this certainly isn’t the news I wanted to see.
You can find summaries of the situation at File 770. I can’t really speak to their accuracy, as I wasn’t personally involved in any of these cases.
- Authors Break Silence with Complaints About ChiZine Publications
- Writers and Staffers Share More Bad Experiences with ChiZine Publications
- As Authors Share More ChiZine Experiences, Others Part Ways with CZP
- ChiZine Publications Announces Interim Publisher
(Photo from Pixabay.)
My latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?, is now available in ebook format — Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, the usual suspects. Now it’s simple as opening an app on your phone to bring about the apocalypse!
Buy Has the World Ended Yet? (ebook)
You can also buy the ancient, bound physical tome if that’s more your thing. Probably makes better kindling for cooking fires after the collapse of civilization anyway.
Buy Has the World Ended Yet? (paperback)
I was surprised and delighted to see my latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?, mentioned over at Shawna Lemay’s Transactions With Beauty. Lemay is one of my favourite writers and Transactions With Beauty is one of my few must-read sites, so this is a great honour for me. And I love the photographs!
Plus, it’s probably the only time in my life I will ever be included with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Radiohead and the Rolling Stones.
A mysterious and dark superhero! A super scientist determined to learn the truth! Mechanical alien spiders! Trench warfare! My latest story, “Starseed: Or, The Strange Transformation of Archimedes Death,” is now live at Taddle Creek!
Previous: Pulp Spectacular
If you like your daily literary and culture news with a twist of the knife, Bookninja is back.
Some of you may remember when George Murray and I started up Bookninja many years ago to talk books on a more or less daily basis. I eventually left to focus on my own writing and because I had kids. Who has the time to do anything on a daily basis when you’re a parent? George grew Bookninja to global infamy on his own before he shut it down himself to also concentrate on his own life. His kids must be grown up now or something, because he’s started up Bookninja again.
Here are George’s comments on the resurrection of the ninja:
Over the last couple years, though, I realized that the unmitigated dumpster-fire known as “The Literary World” had driven me completely underground. I could barely read the news, much less comment on it. I hate living like that.
Recently I realized that when my kids ask me what to do when they feel out of place or under siege by life, I say things like: “Well, then create your own space” and “Time to sally forth with your troops and break the siege.” Which kind of makes me a hypocrite for hiding for seven years.
Further, I feel like I was always out of the loop in terms of what’s happening in the world. Bookninja gave me a chance to go out and seek out daily news that I was interested in.
So, this is me not being a hypocrite anymore. And me trying to “get out” more.
Give Bookninja a follow if you haven’t already. I think you’ll like it. Maybe if enough people start reading it George will make more comics.
UPDATED: “Starseed” is now live at Taddle Creek’s online emporium of wonders!
I’m thrilled to announce I’ve got a shiny new story in Taddle Creek’s “pulp spectacular” issue. Taddle Creek has always been one of my favourite mags – and not just because they’ve published a few stories of mine, like “Neighbours” and “The Code” (from my first book, Please), as well as “If You Lived Here” (from my second book, The Warhol Gang). They even published one of the stories that wound in my latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?
That last bit actually brings us around to my new story, “Starseed (Or, The Strange Transformation of Archimedes Death”). The story is my take on a Superman kind of story, where I imagined what would happen if someone like Superman found himself on Earth with no formidable enemies and the conscience of a man who realized no one could stop him, no matter what he did. No one, that is, except for perhaps a reluctant scientist hero by the name of Archimedes….
I’d originally considered including the story in Has the World Ended Yet? because it was a good fit for the collection in terms of content and tone. But my editor, Paul Vermeersch, felt it wasn’t quite ready when it came time for the book to go to print, and he was right. We kept it out and I worked on it for a few more drafts, until I got it to the point where I’d truly captured that pulp feel. Then Taddle Creek editor Conan Tobias asked me if I had anything for a special pulp issue he was planning and here we are.
Anyway, check out the issue if you can. It’s done up in true pulp form specially for the issue, with more wild and crazy authors than you can shake a tentacle at. Check out the table of contents if you don’t believe me!
And, as always, thanks for reading.
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems to be getting a lot of attention these days, which makes me happy. I had the chance to interview him over sushi many years ago, when I still worked in the media, and he was one of the nicest and most honest writers I’d ever met. Plus there’s all that creative stuff. He’s the kind of writer you really like to see succeed and blow up in mainstream popularity, especially given all the work he does on behalf of others.
I also like seeing American Gods get lots of attention because of that time Robert J. Wiersema went on the CBC’s Next Chapter and suggested readers of American Gods may also like my first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice. Check it out if you haven’t heard it already – the segment starts around the 41 minute mark.