October 15, 2012 by alexandermarkrobertbishop
I’ve been settling in to the house, starting to catch up with some projects that I fell behind with during a fun and relaxed summer, and now I’ve got eight days of solitude to navigate; my wife has gone back to England to visit family, including a newborn baby nephew.
I’m in a big house in a quiet, remote, rural place. Two dogs for company. Plenty of work to do, books to read, DVDs to watch, French to learn, recipes to try and countryside to explore.
One thing I am not planning on doing is drinking. It’s been a boozy summer with plenty of visitors arriving in full holiday mode; laughing, eating, drinking, sunbathing, swimming, napping – and now my belly is bloated, I’m behind on my work, my ambitions have fallen by the wayside, and now that I’ve been so spoiled I feel almost bored of having fun, it’s time to get back on track with the exercise, healthy diet and various projects. It’s time to be boring and serious!
It’s been seven days since I last drank alcohol (if I don’t count the two-and-a-half flutes of cheap champagne I imbibed three days ago at the behest of a generous host who, I felt, it would be difficult (and possibly rude) to say no to because of a double language barrier… plus, if I’m honest, I thought the booze would help ease the slightly uncomfortable social engagement along). I’m considering being teetotal for thirty days for various reasons including:
- I would like to see how I get on without alcohol in situations that make me bored or uncomfortable
- I am really fed up with hangovers
- The social lubricant often turns me into a bad conversationalist and, after over-consumption, a moody and sometimes nasty obnoxious idiot
‘Big deal!’ you may be thinking,’It’s the same for everyone!’ Yes, of course it is, but there’s more to it. I come from binge-drinking parents and I’ve been binge-drinking for over twenty years now, and I think I’m missing something: I don’t feel that I am really engaging with anyone. When I see my friends we chat about what we’ve been up to during the first couple of pints and then comes the guffawing and hilarity and, the next morning, blurred or non-existent memories of a good night, and another bloody hangover. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy it and I’m free to decline if I so chose. However, I don’t feel content with this level and style of contact with my best friends, but this is our default setting for social gatherings. I’d like to talk to them for longer and touch a wider variety of subjects before losing my ability to form a cohesive thought, let alone sentence. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but after twenty-three years of doing the same thing over and over again, the idea of doing things differently, at least sometimes, has become quite appealing.
I did give up booze for an entire year about twelve or thirteen years ago, but that was for entirely different reasons. I was deep in my first and worst depression, and giving up drinking was quite easy because every time I sank a pint or two I became preoccupied with negative thoughts about my rotten life (with the benefit of hindsight and CBT, I realise it was my thoughts that were rotten, not my life). It didn’t take me long to realise that drink was making me more miserable, at least for the duration of the drunkenness and the hangover, and so I took up antidepressants and stayed off the alcohol for what turned out to be a whole year. Then, when I was much happier and trying to party while sober (and watching drunken people have a better time than me) I started drinking again and I have never looked back since.
One thing I remember from that extended drought is what an eye-opening experience it is to sit in a pub talking to friends while they get gradually pissed, and you don’t. At the start you’re all on a par, chatting and self-aware, but gradually they slip further and further into a stupor in which they find tedious conversations interesting, pointless arguments important and bad jokes funny. It is very dull, but the same could be said by the drinkers about the holier-than-thou sober judge. Given the choice I would rather be one of the laughing buffoons having a good time for no discernible reason other than the skewed perception brought on by the drink.
So this period of abstinence will be thirty days max… and maybe less, seeing as I have nothing to prove to anyone, not even myself.