It’s been two years since I quit booze.
I’d wanted to cut alcohol out for ages. For a while there were lots of broken promises and fresh starts.
But I had this developing discomfort about drinking; like it was a waste of time, sapping energy which could be channeled elsewhere.
Alcohol always made me feel rubbish about myself. I cannot recall many times when it made me feel shiny and happy.
I was 14 the first time I got drunk. Before a school disco, I knocked back a can of White Lightning (years later this stuff was discontinued because of its association with under-age drinking) and remember little else.
Few snippets remain: dancing, falling over and, shortly after being busted, telling the headmaster I was called ‘Tom’ when he asked my full name.
My poor mum. At home, she looked after me as I vomited and cried and talked utter garbage. She later told me that, when I emerged from the bathroom, a bar of soap was stuck to my forehead from where I’d leant over the sink.
I was banned from school discos and made an example of in school assembly. Quite right too really but the hot lava of mortification still rolls over me when I remember it.
It put me off drinking again for a long time but as I got older, alcohol was just part of how we socialised.
I didn’t really learn. I just got better at not getting soap attached to my noddle.
In the very least booze made me feel interesting and fun. That’s just it: it feels that you’re more confident, free-spirited, charming and attractive but it’s most likely you’re not. You’re much better when you’re sober. You are the real you.
For years I thought being teetotal sounded dull. Not drinking? How boring! What about all the fun that comes hand-in-hand with holding a cool glass of white wine on a sunny evening? The dancing with wild abandon? Couldn’t possibly do that sober.
I tried hard to moderate, sticking to one or two, but it’s very tricky. It would creep back like an invasive species that’s upsetting the foundations of your home. It’s easy for two to become three – who hasn’t said ‘may as well finish the bottle’ at one time or another.
Alcohol itself makes it harder to moderate because it’s such an addictive substance; it affects you the minute you take a sip.
No booze is easier than a little bit here and there. Some people moderate and I marvel at their strength but I can’t. So I don’t try.
I became more alive to what alcohol took rather than what it gave.
One non-drinking friend in particular really motivated me to quit. The way he talked about choosing to give up alcohol sounded so freeing I felt a little envious and resolved even harder to try.
My sober curiosity gained the advantage. I followed his recommendations, planned my approach, read some books, built support networks and took the plunge.
And here we are two years later. Choosing to be alcohol free is definitely not dull: I’ve been doing more things I want and am healthier.
I feel like I’m doing OK and am probably more interesting and fun to be around but I’ll let others be the judges of that.
On top of that, I’m not unknowingly sticking soap to my head either.