Up before 7am – a cup of tea made, the bed stripped and sheets in the washer before 9am. Out to the shops before several of them were open, and it’s a Saturday!
What’s going on?
18 months without drinking is what’s going on… Who’d have thought it? Not me that’s for sure. Least of all when I wrote this blog on New Year’s Day 2020.
Still (as subsequent reading has helped me realise) the signs and signals were there some while before. Five years ago in fact:
And then more recently:
So how did we get here? Two books, some Lego, a flower and a podcast…
Book one, by Simon Chapple, spoke to my cultural background as a middle aged British bloke; and dealt with my conscious mind:
Reading this led me to book two, by Annie Grace, which gave me stories, science and neuroscience; this dealt with my subconscious mind:
To get through the first days in early Jan 2020 (and it sustained me through the onset of the pandemic and more) I bought myself a Lego ‘clock’ which I converted into a day counter:
The flower is the carnivorous pitcher plant. It lures unsuspecting insects in search of a pool of delicious sweet nectar. Some varieties have a gentle slope which invites you in. Indiscernibly the insects passes a point of no-return. And then ‘plop’, into the drink and a sticky end.
The argument is we’re all inexorably wandering down the enticing slope of the pitcher plant with alcohol. It’s just a question of whether we’re meandering, or marching purposefully.
Finally, regular reinforcement as been helped by a podcast series, which is so culturally different for me (largely American, deeply personal life stories, mainly from women) that I find it incredibly powerful. It gets through my residual subconscious resistance to the reality of alcohol:
In sum, it’s a bit like when I quit smoking; thoroughly disgusted with myself after smoking three packs (and drinking a skinful) at a wedding in 2001. I’ve not had a cigarette since. I think I’d just had enough – and reminding myself of quitting smoking certainly helped on the odd day I’ve fancied a drink since 2019.
I can’t see myself going back though; and this week has given me a couple of reminders why.
Heading indoors to a pub (for the first time since lockdown) on Monday to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I arrived to find tequila shots already on the table. I smiled and said:
“Sorry chaps, I’m still not drinking.”
A few disappointed and incredulous looks, but people are getting used to it now. I ordered a low alcohol Erdinger and settled in for the evening.
Two and a half hours later it was getting on for time to leave. A half-hearted shout went up for “One more beer?” Everyone was tired, we’d had a good laugh and it was a ‘school night’ so there were mumbles of “Not for me”, “I’m good” etc. But then the inevitable happened in the ‘world of men’… someone pressed the group into “one more”. Another shot of tequila. I smiled and said I’m off.
As any heavyweight boxer will tell you (if they still can) it’s the late-career, late round punches that do all the damage. Into our fifties at past 11pm on a Monday night, we have no business doing shots. That’s a younger man’s game. I’m glad to be out of it.
And so to this morning. Bright, alert, healthy, happy, well-rested and ready for my day. And the only explanation (and it takes a year for the brain to rewire, the chemicals to rebalance and the urge to hit the alcohol ‘kill switch’ and turn your mind off to pass) is the absence of alcohol from my life.
Turns out it’s no loss at all.