I swore I’d get the second of these three blogs up on time, at the six month mark, and to be fair I’m only a month and a half behind deadline.
Anyway, I started with a rambling answer to some of the questions I was asked about why I gave up booze, and now I move onto the other questions: how is it going?
To be honest it’s going fine, now. The first week was a bit headachey, a bit hard, and the first month was the worst for cravings. For seeing a cold beer and just wanting it, or missing the taste of a good scotch (or the closest I could afford).
But that passed. I still feel strange ordering a soft drink in a bar: it just feels right, and ten years of working pubs and clubs has me hardwired to not be one of those people. Also partly because I try not to drink Coca Cola products, and beer was always an easy go-to.
Lime and soda can be a bore after the first pint, and I don’t want to mooch around your licensed premises without anything, but there’s a brave new world of soft drinks out there these days: from elderflower pressés to odd apple and mint combos to all manner of mocktails. I try and steer clear of the coffees though – I tried a seven espresso hour once, and not only did I end up behind the bar making my own, but I started having flashbacks to a war I’d never even fought.
People ask if I miss it, and that’s a tricky one to answer. I’ve got over it, almost forgotten it in my day to day life, and I’m certainly not counting down the days (months, maybe) or planning my first drink back (after Christmas I might start).
It’s situational. Many people think it would be impossible to socialise without booze, but why is that? I don’t need a drink to be with my friends. I know them, they know me, and I hope I’ve not bored them too much over the last seven months. I hope they would tell me if I have.
With strangers it can be a little harder. Booze is a great crutch and social lubricant, but I’ve found ways of building up my confidence, and stayed true to my vow to not let teetotalism stop me going out to things. Sure, I may be a little less socially easy, but I’m also less of an idiot, so it’s swings and roundabouts. And sometimes just the fact I don’t drink can be a conversation starter. And once you tell someone about your hellish former boozehound days (or whatever yarn I choose to spin) you’re practically bosom pals.
The one time I do feel awkward is when completely alone at a social occasion or in a bar. If I’m waiting in a strange pub is the only time I’ll really drink alcohol free beer – I just feel oddly exposed with a glass of coke. And I went to a (very small) movie premiere in a dinner jacket and felt totally wrong with a glass of orange juice in hand.
I’ve managed weddings well enough, including one where I knew no-one but the bride and groom (a very nice man offered me something a little stronger to take the edge off, but I’m sure Debrett’s has something to say about mixing matrimony and class A drugs). I’ve also slogged through the festival season, again helped by lots of friends and actually being up to see all the bands I wanted without a hangover. I always preferred live music to be booze free anyway.
One other place a drink would be very useful would be around women. Without the loosening of inhibitions it’s fucking impossible for me to talk to anyone I might feasibly be attracted to. Or at least, impossible to take it any further than talk. I can’t even imagine what a date would be like.
Outside of social situations I have been a lot better. Not drinking at home is probably a massive improvement. Although there have been times I’ve paraphrased Airplane’s Steve McCroskey, realising it was a bad year to give up drinking, they were few and far between.
The night of the general election, just over a month in, was one of the worst, pure rage and genuine sorrow pooling in me in a way that could only be doused by booze. Even after 48 hours awake I couldn’t sleep, and tried to kill the feeling as best I could by writing and raging and punching and going for a good long climb.
There have been a few issues, closer to home, which left me clawing for the bottle, desperate for a half gallon of wine to just numb the consciousness, but at over half way I’m determined not to give in now.
People ask if I feel healthier, and to be honest, not much. I think if I could kick other bad habits on the head, eat healthier, get my sleep patterns in order, that would help.
People have suggested mindfulness or yoga. I guess it can’t hel… only kidding, I’m not going to go that far.
Without booze it’s still tricky getting to sleep much before 3am. How do people turn their brain off? So in turn, I’m not getting to work any earlier. I’m not up with the lark at weekends, although I am at least guaranteed to get up, rather than just lie in a fug from Saturday through to Sunday.
What about better in yourself, they continue. Well a little, I guess. I’m fitting more things into my life, although my non-boozing almost perfectly coincided with a colleague taking maternity leave, so working late two to three nights a week is taking its toll.
But I’m getting on with my rowing, improving at tango, and climbing more. Plus I’m getting on with my weekends. Haven’t taken up Cornish lessons yet but you can’t have everything.
Money wise I’m the same as ever. Piss poor. I’m scared to think where I used to get the money to drink.
But I think I’ve got the support of my friends now. I haven’t lost any. They seem to have mostly gone from disappointment to grudging respect and support. Although many of them also seem keen to get me back on the booze, I suspect it’s mainly for their own entertainment.
Well the hard part is mostly over. Festivals and weddings all done, only Christmas to go and then it’s the run-in to April 1 and my first sip of freedom. I’m imagining an Ice Cold in Alex moment of pure perfection. But more on that next month.
The last rule on my list wasn’t really a rule, it was a get out clause. I put it in as an escape option, and I guess I have to stick to it.
I said after six months, I would ask my friends for opinions on whether I should go back to booze, and although we’re now past that, I’m going to ask.
I personally am determined to stick with this, so I’m going to ask for more than just a vote, I’m going to ask for convincing reasons: basically, if I’ve become boring or unbearable.
Let me know in the comments below.