For Chris Kirk, everything felt so much worse when he’d not had a drink.
“My anxiety about my golf. My anxiety about money. My anxiety about my relationships,” says the former world number 16.
The American explains most people who drink to excess and have a legitimate reason to stop “find their mental clarity gets better. Their health gets better. All these things get better”.
In April came a moment of clarity amid a hung-over haze brought on by the previous evening’s session – the father of three had to stop drinking and needed to quit golf to focus on recovering from his alcohol and anxiety problems.
Kirk felt like his cravings for a drink would be “something I was going to have to fight every 15 minutes for the rest of my life”, but since stepping away from the sport he has worked with a psychiatrist and sports psychologist, as well as implementing a 12-step plan.
Next week, after his self-imposed absence, Kirk will return to the PGA Tour for the first time in more than six months at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
Kirk had tried to quit in the past, but those attempts resulted in him returning to alcohol inside a couple of months.
In an interview with the PGA Tour, Kirk says: “For an alcoholic, if you just stop drinking on your own and do not really do anything else and just fight it every day, then everything gets worse. That was definitely the case for me,” adds Kirk.
“Everything spikes after that. I was in a really bad place, a much worse place mentally than when I was drinking.”
Kirk says part of the problem stemmed from leaving the “perfect scenario I had always dreamed of” – wife, kids and a nice house – to spending “close to 30 weeks a year on the road by myself”.
“I think my drinking was accelerated by that and maybe my fitness level and my mental capacity were probably brought down as my drinking went up,” he adds.
“I still was playing reasonably well, but not to the level I was a few years before that.”
Kirk would drink at restaurants with friends and then continue in hotel rooms or at home on his own, admitting: “There is no trigger, the trigger is me.”
He stopped drinking beer when it began affecting his weight, instead moving on to wine and spirits which he says “accelerated things”.
The four-time winner on the PGA Tour would not drink while competing and did not want to turn up to play “really hung over”, but would feel “weird” if he had not had anything the previous night.
“I was just fighting it and fighting it,” he adds. “Finally, after a couple of relapses, if that is what you want to call it, in April it was just like, ‘OK, I can’t do this anymore. I have got to change something because I am going to end up with nothing’.
“It was when I realised I just really, truly do not have control over this, because I really wanted to not be doing it and I still was.”
‘I am not even upset I am an alcoholic’
Now, as he prepares to return in Mexico next week as the world number 303, Kirk says it feels “awesome” to be starting a “new and better chapter in my life”.
“To have gone from this overwhelming fear and anxiety of the future to now just pure excitement and embracing that I do not know what is going to happen because nobody knows what is going to happen,” he says.
“You spend all this time trying to control things and control what is going to happen next and the more that I have let go of that and the more that I have embraced that uncertainty, the happier I can be every day.
“I do not know what I am going to do tomorrow. I do not know what I am going to do the day after that, but it is all good. I know that I am going to come back and play some golf and if I enjoy it and I am successful at it, then great. If not, then that is all right too.”
Kirk has also been touched by the support he has received.
“I think that the shame of all of this has gone as well,” he says. “That is why I am so comfortable talking about it. It is all right. I am not even upset that I am an alcoholic. It is fine.
“It is just something different that I have to deal with, but everybody has stuff they have to deal with. Everybody has issues. Everybody has stuff that is bothering them that they need to work on. This just happens to be my thing.
“It does not make me a bad person. Over the last few months it has made me a much better person that I have realised and have taken action to do something about it.
“Now it is my hope that someone out there will read this story and see that there is a way out.”