Why this Gosport man chose sobriety after years of alcohol abuse
Alcohol has almost become synonymous with being a musician. It was, at least, for Paul Andreas from Gosport.
During his time in a band, performing on X-Factor and singing solo, he describes how alcohol and drinking followed him around like a dark cloud which he couldn’t shake off.
At the beginning of 2021, Paul, 34, decided to go sober. He has documented his journey on a blog and the response has been overwhelming.
‘I just started writing to get things off my chest. I was completely shocked by the response,’ explains Paul. ‘We have been trained to think that we need alcohol to have a good time without realising the effect it has on us.’
Paul grew up in Southminster, Essex, with his four siblings. He recalls that even at a very young age, music was a huge part of his life. ‘I first started singing at school, mostly religious songs in church. I was the first ever boy angel in the nativity at my school,’ says Paul.
‘Singing is so important to me. I feel like it is my gift.
‘My mum and dad bought me a keyboard when I was young. Even though I didn’t know how to play, I learnt some chords and started writing my own songs.’
Paul went on to study a performing arts diploma at Plume Art College, Essex. From there, he got his big break in the music industry.
He explains: ‘It was singing, dancing and acting but my favourite part was singing. I loved my time there.
‘I got into a boyband in 2004 when I was around 17 called F4CUS.
‘It was a manufactured band and there were four of us in it. I loved it, it was my dream.
‘The parents of two of the boys in our band were our managers. Myself and another guy were very much the background singers.
‘It was an amazing experience. It’s bittersweet to look back on because being in a band was my dream but because you think that, you go along with a lot of stuff just to perform.’
F4CUS spent a lot of time gigging on the Essex circuit and at 18, Paul was thrown into a different world. ‘I don’t think I realised how much I needed or wanted alcohol when I was in the boy band,’ he says.
‘Being someone who’s gay and growing up in a tiny village, suddenly at 18 you’re allowed out to explore the world and the gay scene. I think alcohol was a way of me coping with what was a very overwhelming time.
‘Alcohol would create different versions of me.’
F4CUS got to the final round of auditions for bands in 2006. Paul, who now works as a dental nurse, says: ‘There were lots of rounds and we got to the end of it. Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul wanted to put us through, but Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh didn’t. Louis was in charge of bands that year so we didn’t make it.
‘One of the criticisms was that myself and the other backing singer should have been leading the band but that didn’t go down well and ultimately split up the band.’
This was a turning point in Paul’s life and he decided to go solo. In 2007, he released his first hit track called Changes.
Paul says: ‘Once I started earning a bit of money from it, I saved and used it to create my next album. That’s how I have created seven albums.’
Paul is currently working on his next album which is called Gospel According to Paul Andreas It is through this reconnection with faith and worship that Paul has confronted his relationship with alcohol.
He says: ‘My next album is going to focus on gospel music and the songs I sang when I was at school and in the church. I think like for a lot of people, lockdown has made them start living a very simple life and it made me rediscover my Christian faith and love for worship songs.’
Paul would not describe himself as an alcoholic but someone who did not understand their limit with alcohol and how it changed them. He explains: ‘I would become a different person when I was drunk, sometimes mean and unpleasant to be around.
‘When I was sober again, all the shame and guilt would come flooding back. I would sometimes wake up not knowing where I was or what I had done. It was a horrible fear.
Paul admits that giving up drinking was something he considered often, but he did not know quite how to start.
‘It is quite common for people not to drink but it’s not often vocalised,’ says Paul. ‘I stopped drinking on a complete whim and decided to do Dry January after New Year’s Eve last year.
‘At work we have to ask about medical history and I asked this one person about their alcohol intake. They said they had been sober for three years. I thought that was amazing.
‘They told me to download the app called Try Dry, where you can log how much drink you have consumed and how much money you may have saved from not buying alcohol. They also told me about a book called The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober by Catherine Gray.
‘I listened to it on my walks and I was completely blown away. It was about her experiences of being drunk and not in control, I felt like I could really relate.
‘My drinking pattern was getting plastered every weekend and then not drinking for a couple of days before doing it all again. It was a vicious cycle.
‘Being sober meant I had to confront uncomfortable feelings.’
Paul says that since he has been sober, he has had some honest but helpful conversations with family and friends.
‘For some people, drinking is not a big deal,’ says Paul.
‘But as a result of me stopping drinking, I have had some very useful and honest conversations with friends and family.
‘My best friend told me she didn’t really like me when I was drunk and my father-in-law said he was relieved I had stopped drinking because I was like a Jeykll and Hyde character.
‘Although it hurt to hear their true opinions, I really valued those conversations and it made me realise the sense in my choice.’
On April 30, Paul published a blog called ‘Why I Chose Me Over Alcohol’ which resonated with readers who contacted him.
He adds: ‘When I documented it on the blog, I didn’t think anyone would read it. But every person who has also sent me a message has said they found it inspiring which is always nice to hear.
‘Moving forward, I am continuing to work on the album and I am going to continue to use the blog to unpack and discuss elements of my life.
‘I am taking more care of myself and my body.’
Go to paulandreas.net to read more.