Profile: The Musician Whose Sobriety Is ‘Freedom On Every Level’

Jude Rawlins is a songwriter, guitarist, producer and filmmaker who hasn’t had a drink in 25 years. He explains why his sobriety is freedom on every level.

When and why did you stop drinking alcohol?

I stopped using drugs and alcohol in December 1993 because they didn’t work for me any more. But I’d have stopped sooner if I’d had the chance.

How did people react?

Profile: The Musician whose sobriety is freedom on every level
Jude and Garbage’s Shirley Manson

The people who really mattered were fine with it, they understood that I urgently needed to change things. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have had an attitude about it over the years, and in every case I think it was because it shone a bit of a light on their own relationship with alcohol.

What was early abstinence like?

To begin with, I found a support network and I felt so liberated from addiction that the first year was a bit of a pink cloud. But the novelty of being sober did begin to wear off and things got a lot harder in the second year, I became very depressed and started having to really work to maintain my sobriety but it was absolutely worth it.

Does anything trigger you?

Nothing at all these days. My entire thinking towards drugs and alcohol has completely shifted. In the early days it was weird because you don’t always notice the gradual changes in your own thinking.

When I first stopped I’d think about booze about as often as food or other bodily functions. I’d always avoid the wine aisle in the supermarket but then one day I just realised I’d stopped thinking about it at all.

What impact has it had on your life?

There isn’t a single area of my life that hasn’t been improved a thousand-fold by learning to live without alcohol. Just being able to complete a thought, you have no idea what a massive difference that starts to make to everything you do over time. Being able to right-size one’s feelings and respond to them appropriately, always having choices no matter how difficult things might be.

Alcohol strips you of your ability to understand that living is not simply reacting to what the world throws at you. We are not meant to be human pinballs. No matter how we feel or where our thoughts might be trying to lead us we still have total dominion over how we behave. We don’t have to act out on thoughts and feelings and that is freedom on every level.

Profile: The musician whose sobriety is freedom on every level
With Angie Bowie

What alternative drinks do you enjoy?

If I want a beer I have an Alcohol-free beer, which is like decaf in that it’s not quite the same but close enough, and you can still drive. But I don’t do any social activities that revolve around drinking culture, because they are unbelievably dull to me.

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Booze wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t my original thinking, it was just some shit that got in my way and totally interrupted my life. That’s how I view it these days.

What about society’s relationship with alcohol? 

I find Britain’s attitude to alcohol to be utterly Third World. The ignorance here on all matters pertaining to addiction is almost wilful, which to me is frankly insane as well as insulting. Most so-called addiction “experts” in the UK would be laughed off the Oprah Winfrey show. Iran has better success treating addiction than we do.

It could be hugely improved if the British government and the British media took on board the World Health Organisation’s definition of addiction as an illness (every other country in the world seems to have managed it), and stopped demonising people just for being ill.

What does the future of alcohol consumption look like?

I can honestly say my experience of living without it has simplified things immensely. Life is complicated enough when you’re sober, there’s no way to do it better when you’re pissed. The bottom line is that no one needs alcohol.

There are more arguments against vegetarianism than there are against sobriety. Without exception the sober people I know handle life better than everyone else. It turns out that finding coping mechanisms that don’t involve destroying yourself is actually a really good thing.