In mid June, about four weeks ago (just as Autumn arrived !!) I decided to take a sabbatical from booze. So, it's now a month and apart from five units a couple of weekends ago, not a drop.
Yesterday I told a friend yesterday that I was on the wagon. The second of his two-word response was 'hell'. He is, has been, and will remain, a social buddy. I'm not sure he's ever seen me without a glass. We share a drink or two and chat about happy times. Then we chat about the same things about three hours later. Then chat about the same things next time we meet.
I was walking through our village recently when I saw a man. He was somewhat overweight, a bit scruffy and appeared to be mooching with little purpose. I wondered where he was going, where he'd been. Was he happy? I was looking at my reflection in a shop window.
Fermented grape has been a constant companion. Habitually I would dive into a box of red at the going down of the sun – or much earlier in summer. Some of the stuff was actually drinkable but having it was more important than enjoying it. Ninety-five percent was pure habit – like fags.
Last time I gave up (many years ago) I ended up in psychological disarray and spent six months weaning myself off tranquillizers. There had been a lot going on then so it's not surprising I suffered a blip when I could finally think straight.
There's always pressure somewhere, things that require forgetting about or putting on the back-burner until tomorrow....then tomorrow....
When I finally faced things then, so much had piled up that it was overwhelming and there was a minor blow-up.
Not that there's anything like the same pressure nowadays but I didn't want to get into a pickle again so......
So, fear is one reason to abstain for a while, are there others? Well.......
Firstly to prove I can. To anyone in total control (or teetotal) it's not a problem of course, but was I? Only one way to find out.
Then I have a wardrobe full of medium-quality gear with which I wished to reacquaint myself. The old waistline has expanded to elastic-trouser proportions - not massive, but flobby enough to warrant a realignment. Time to get back into the 1990's chinos – they'll be back in vogue any time.
Then there's cash. Wine in France is 2 Euros a litre, so cheap you could almost run your car on it – if only someone would invent an internal consumption engine. In the UK it's five pounds a bottle, minimum, then there's no guarantee it won't dissolve your teeth. Plus, since my last continental purchasing spree, I've run out of cheap French stuff, drained the last bladder.
I also wanted to see if I could still think straight (still??). Would a new world emerge? Would things be clearer when I ditched the distorted view through the wine glass?
Lastly, I suppose, I wished to appreciate my blessings should I ever be able to count them.
So what happened / conclusions?
After a couple of days of alimentary instability things settled down. My pee turned green. I still can't think straight (which is disappointing) but worse, I've realized I can't think straight (I've have concluded that I must have been born with the condition).
I'm still porky. I think there's been an improvement but the chinos are still a good inch from meeting at the waist (although there does seem to be a jawline appearing above assorted chins).
One thing I had to conquer was the 'Six-o-Clock' habit (by refusing alcohol before breakfast). I've done that and it was surprisingly easy. I put a photo of a fat person next to the TV to shame me when I turned on the early evening news. A down side is that now I can fully appreciate all the crap on few channels we can receive in East Lancashire.
Some things haven't changed. I Still fall asleep after dinner (before going to bed) and I have realized that I don't need booze to be a pillock (which is reassuring).
I can remember how to operate the vacuum cleaner but my complexion is still blotchy. I should have bought shares in Robinsons as sales of their rather nice apple and blackcurrant cordial are up.
(Just had a random thought - is the fact that I'm writing about this troubling?)
I've finally remembered where I hid that bottle of Famous Grouse and remembered that I don't like whiskey. I've also remembered I've had some great nights in the pub that I don't remember. Wow, things are appearing out of the mist! Things I missed when pissed.
I've also realized that I can't blame anyone else for my cock-ups (even the dog, though he does miss his half of Boddingtons when we 'walk' to the pub).
There is a very touching footnote to my habit-change. Mr Ahmed from the off license has sent Jan a bunch of flowers presuming I'd expired.
So, do I need a drink? No
Do I want one? Much less that I feared I would, but at the moment, definitely no (it's 7.15 AM).
Will I drink in future? Sure, but less, and for pleasure, not out of habit. Through habit's very nature pleasure is dulled. I may occasionally have a glass of Merlot with my lump of mid-morning banana cake or a slug of rum during our Annual General Meeting (the occasion when Jan and I actually sit down and talk to one another), but overall there will hopefully be a marked decrease in piss-up related chaos.
I saw a headline in The Mail ('Femail' section – what am I doing reading that?? Good question).
'Do you comfort eat? It could be down to your cycle'
That was enough, I didn't read any more and sold my bike.
You can't be too careful – temptation, get rid!
Has my alcoholic amnesty persuaded me to change other things, like diet and exercise? I pondered this for a day or two - then saw an anaemic, teetotal, vegetarian, straw-haired stick-insect on telly. I immediately decided that too many changes at once was unwise. In her case it seemed to result in pallid, loose-fitting skin and a set of off-white choppers too big for her face. There also seemed to be a direct correlation between skeletonism and talking rubbish delivered with a ' holier than though' attitude. So no madam, you are not holier, you are cadaverous. I switch over to re-run of Frasier, a man who appreciates the finer things in life – and it doesn't seem to be doing him any harm.
Similar 'healthy' specimens can be seen jogging around the streets of towns and cities across the land, looking like an extras from a zombie movie - so I've decided to continue my sedate lumbers around the playing fields picking up dog turds.
I don't like being told what to do and because I eat healthily and do exercise regularly, I have decided to ignore skinny chops completely. Am I being Thinnist? Probably. (Do you spell thinnist like that? Is it even a word? Have I invented a word? It can go in my next book – How Not to Look Like an Inverted Yard Brush).
I respect both vegetarians (freedom of choice) and stick-insects (marvel of nature) but not human incarnations of the combined. Consequently I have decided to tackle things my own way and if that results in rotundity and rattiness, so be it.
I have a friend who is an alcoholic (I may know others who either don't admit it or don't realize). He got in trouble through boozing and, to his great credit, hasn't touched the stuff for years and years. He even avoids using alcohol wipes. He's a likeable, chatty soul who is retired but very active (almost hyper so). Among the things he does is spend time helping others who have a problem by manning a phone line for people in trouble – and there are plenty.
Mercifully I believe I have proved that I'm not alcohol dependant – I am equally incapable without it.
If you decide to go on a similar journey here are a few tips and warnings......
Drink terrible, cheap French wine – it's easier to ignore.
Before you start, get your mind in gear (if you still have one)
Remove the off-license from speed-dial
Take the Red Lion off your dog-walk route
Try and ignore anything to do with self-indulgence or that which is booze-related. You can start by watching the Health Channel - programmes include:
Last of the Summer Cordial
The small Breakfast
The Royal Sobriety Performance
Most importantly, if you do embark on the journey to relative sobriety, beware – you might discover who you really are. I warn you, it's not pretty!
Right, time for a pint.
Jo May © 2016